Monday, July 29, 2013

Sheepshead Rock

The last two posts have been recaps of my 4th of July hike-o-rama weekend.  I'm now up to day three.  Ready to join me for another one?


After taking Saturday off to spend with my daughter, who was home for the weekend, Sunday I again hit the trail.  This time I teamed up with John and Jon for a trip to Sheepshead Rock.

Jon and John, my trail buddies for the day

I'd been wanting to hike this trail, as it's one of the few left to visit in my quest to finish the "100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon" book.  Sheepshead Rock is located deep in the woods east of Estacada.  If you follow the directions in the book, one must travel a dusty gravel road for 18 long miles to reach the trailhead.  But John had other plans.  He knew of another, closer access with paved roads all the way.  Although it meant a longer hike with more elevation gain, I'll take the better access every time.

Another wrong trail sign!

Arriving at John's trailhead of choice, I was surprised to discover it the same staring point of my failed quest to hike Old Baldy two years ago (which you can read about here and also here.)  Then, an incorrectly signed trail had led me astray.  Emerging from John's car, the first thing I did was head down the Eagle Creek Cutoff trail to see if the Forest Service had finally changed the sign.  Yes, the right sign was now in place (which temporarily restored my faith in the USFS.)  However, upon starting off, we discovered the trail sign to Squaw (now Tumala) Mountain instead announced itself as the trail to Old Baldy.  Oh Forest Service.......!

Mt. Hood shows her glorious self

The first part of our hike followed the trail to Tumala (aka Squaw) Mountain.  Having traversed this two years ago, I was in familiar territory.  The last half mile to the summit was truly glorious.  Huge pink rhododendrons bloomed profusely, accompanied by a few patches of delicate white avalanche lilies, with a couple of beargrass tufts thrown in.  Camera in hand, I lagged a considerable distance behind my companions.

John admires the view from Squaw (Tumala) Mountain

Finally I broke out of the forest to the top of Tumala Mtn.  A former lookout tower site, it boasts a killer view of Mt. Hood.  The clear, sunny weather meant no troubles picking her out from the surrounding green ridges.

The guys find a benchmark on Tumala Mtn

John, being a retired surveyor, was checking out the USGS benchmark on the summit proper.

Hiking down the trail with Mt. Hood over our shoulder

The mosquitoes were in full attack mode, so we didn't linger.  Jon and I doused ourselves with bug spray before heading off Tumala's summit.  It was such a great view of Hood, I couldn't help grab just a few more shots before my companions disappeared into the forest.

The photographer in action

On the way down, the rhodies called to John.  This time he couldn't resist, and out came his camera.  Not one to pass up a chance for more pictures, you know I joined right in.

Dewy avalanche lilies

Down from Tumala Mtn, we intersected with the Fanton Trail and followed it a little over two miles to the Plaza Trail.  The Fanton Trail led us down a steep, switchbacky hill (that I didn't look forward to climbing on the return trip) and then leveled out along a thickly forested ridge.  A few beargrass tufts were still blooming, and they added a nice touch to the dense green undergrowth.

A sign-eating tree!

 Not far from Plaza Trail junction is the site of an old guard station, built in the early 1900s by the US government.  Although the buildings are long gone, supposedly foundations and other remnants still exist in the forest.  John had hiked this trail once before, but didn't find anything.  This time he was determined to locate the old guard station site.

But right away we were distracted by an old trail sign that was slowly being swallowed up by a growing tree.  Photo op!

Awesome vistas on Sheepshead Rock

In the mile and a half trek to Sheepshead Rock, John kept leaving the trail, heading into the forest searching for the guard station.  We reached the turnoff without seeing so much as an old brick.  Oh well - it was time for lunch, and there was no better place to relax and refuel than a tall perch with a view.

You could see for miles

And what a view it was!  Tumala Mountain was nice, but Sheepshead Rock had it beat.  Climbing up to the top of this bumpy, rocky monolith was kind of tricky, but my friends and I were handsomely rewarded.  Miles and miles of thickly forested ridges spread out before us.  Mt. Hood, still wearing some of its winter snow, anchored the skyline.  A few brightly colored wildflowers completed the beauty.

But it was a scramble back down the rock

A gentle breeze kept the bugs at bay, and the Johns and I enjoyed a comfortable, sight-filled meal.  It was hard to tear ourselves away for the trek back, but we couldn't stay all day.  So finally down the rocks we scrambled, returning to the Plaza Trail.

Remnants of an old guard station

All way back along the Plaza Trail, John kept checking his gps, and peering into the woods, still searching for that guard station.  We were passing by the sign-eating tree once again, and John had just about given up, when Jon noticed an old stone fireplace in a clearing.

Rusty parts scattered in the woods

It was the old guard station site!  Once we'd all spotted the ancient stone fireplace, it was as plain as day.  John guessed we'd been so distracted by the sign-eating tree this morning that no one had looked beyond it into the adjacent woods.

The stone chimney is all that remains

Combing through the underbrush, I found an old rusted bucket, and a bunch of metal parts scattered about.  Jon found a brick foundation to a long-abandoned stable.  It was cool to find these artifacts from another time.  Slowly the forest was taking over, hiding what once must have been a bustling ranger station.

Still some beargrass hangin' around

Satisfied he'd found the mystery guard station, John then set off on the Fanton Trail.  The day was getting warm, and I welcomed the shade of thick forest.  Even though John was intent on getting back to the car, he did make a couple of stops to photograph the beargrass.  And before tackling the big switchbacky hill, I broke out the gummy bears (which along with cookies, are now my hiking staples) to give us all extra energy for the climb ahead.

Beargrass close-up

At the end of a hike, it's a great feeling to finally glimpse your car through the trees.  Always such a relief to release sweaty feet from hot hiking boots.  And upon your return to civilization, that ice-cold beer tastes mighty fine!

Total stats:  10.5 miles and 2700 feet elevation gain.  Another trail checked off in my book.  More awesome photos for a blog post.  Thanks John and Jon for a great day in the woods.

Sharing with:  Tuesday Muse.


  1. Looks beautiful, especially the Mt. Hood in the background ... reminds me of the Fujijama ...

  2. Always amazing to me how one forest can look so totally different from another. And that view of Mt. Hood is just WOW!

  3. Nice series- like the composition of your first flower

  4. What a great place to hike! Terrific shots.

  5. Sounds like an awesome getaway! I can't believe how beautiful Mt. Hood is. I love seeing it in the background in your photos. I must admit I am a little scared of heights so some of the photos did make me a little uneasy hah!

  6. Loved the views of Mt Hood-absolutely amazing! And the wildflowers and native rhododendrons-beautiful as always! But that old fireplace and historic site---TOO cool:)

  7. Wow! Wow! Wow! What a glorious hike - blue skies, rhododendrons, good friends and magnificent
    MT HOOD! I'm just heading out for more Aussie bush - doesn't quite compare!

  8. Wow, what a wonderful experience narrated beautifully. and these splendid pictures showing your real travel and photography.
    such a marvelous job.

  9. A wonderful post Linda -- I really felt like I was along for the hike, although I don't believe I would have been able to keep up with you all. :)

  10. That sounds wonderful, and you came back with some stunning shots! What could be better?

  11. What a wonderful weekend of hiking. Loved the benchmark - I always like running across those. But the guard station was so cool. Did you take the bucket home?


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