Saturday, August 31, 2013

Whetstone Mountain

Half the adventure was just getting to the trailhead....

Fireweed along the road

I had a Friday off and yearned to hike one of Sullivan's 100 trails on my ever-shrinking list.  The climb to Whetstone Mountain was today's winner.  Although the hike itself is not difficult (a mere 4.8 mile trek with 1100 feet of elevation gain), getting to the trailhead was.  The remoteness of the area was the main reason I'd waited so long to check it off my list.

This trailhead sign has seen better days

The drive itself took nearly three hours.  Not totally because of distance - accessing this trail required lots of bumping around on narrow, winding, gravel Forest Service roads.  Not conducive to fast travel.  The trailhead was in the middle of absolute nowhere - even farther than the Bagby Hot Springs parking area (I know because I drove right past it). 

Bear is ready to go!

After passing Bagby, pavement quickly turned to gravel.  Watching my odometer, I came upon an unmarked road at the correct mileage.  Was this the way?

Taking a leap of faith, I turned down this narrow dirt track.  It didn't take long to realize the road had not seen any maintenance for quite some time.  Trees and brush became denser, and grew closer and closer to the gravel edge.  I came to areas where there was barely room for my car to squeeze through their branches.  It was a true tunnel of vegetation.  Hmmmm........ more than once I hoped I wasn't lost!

Huge old growth trees

I hit a couple areas where water had completely washed out the roadbed, creating huge potholes.  Gingerly, I steered my car through these bumps, praying it wouldn't bottom out.  I came upon one intersection that I thought was my turnoff, only to travel a short distance into a dead end.  No, it wasn't fun nor easy to turn my car around on that rocky, narrow "road" that dropped off on one side.

And huckleberries!

But things redeemed themselves in another mile when I came into a clearing chock-full of blooming fireweed.  Needing a break to read my map and go potty, photographing their bright petals made a good excuse to stop.  Then it was back on the road, resuming my hunt.  Not far from the wonderful fireweed meadow, I finally found the last intersection, with - yahoo - a sign to the trailhead.  Relief!  A short distance, and more bouncing over potholes later, Bear and I arrived at our destination.

Beautiful forest

Being it was such a production to reach this far-flung place, I was surprised to see three other cars in the parking area.  A lone man was loading his backpack, preparing to hit the trail.  We exchanged hellos and compared notes on our eventful drives in.  Then the guy took off, leaving me to get ready.

Large fungi

It was past 11 o'clock when my dog and I finally hit the trail.  Since the Whetstone Mountain Trail is not very well-known, my expectations were low.  But after a short downhill ramble, I came upon an incredibly beautiful old growth forest.

Wilderness area sign

The woods were full of amazingly large Douglas Firs.  Big patches of huckleberry bushes covered the forest floor.  Ferns, big and small grew prolifically.  And I discovered a bunch of cool giant fungi stuck on the side of some trees.

Bear quenches his thirst from a small pond

The huckleberries appeared to be ripe, so I sampled as I went.  Most of the berries were not quite ready and tasted sour.  But once and awhile I'd get a sweet one, and that kept me picking and eating.

Salmonberry bush

Huckleberries won't the only things ripening.  Continuing my trek, I began to see bright orange and red salmonberries lining the trail.  Although I think they're edible, having never tried them, I didn't want to take a chance.  So instead of being eaten, these beautiful berries got a photo session.

Colorful salmonberries

The trail kept climbing, sometimes rather steeply.  The day was becoming hot and humid, and I slogged along, hoping for the summit.  (Shouldn't it be right around the bend?)  On one of the switchbacks, I passed the man I'd seen earlier in the parking lot.  He too commented that the climb seemed to be taking forever.

Great vistas from Whetstone Mountain

But a final switchback led me to Whetstone Mountain's bald, rocky summit.  And, boy oh boy, what amazing views!  The rumpled green hillsides of the surrounding Bull of the Woods Wilderness spread out before me.  And a panorama of peaks lined the horizon in all directions.  To the south, Mt. Jefferson and Olallie Butte, to the west, the hills of the Opal Creek basin, and to the east, a distant Mt. Hood.  These wonderful vistas were totally unexpected from such a remote, unknown peak.

Looking towards Mt. Hood

Once a lookout tower location, all that remained were a couple of concrete foundation piers, with rusty bolts and nails sticking out.  If nothing else, good photo subjects.

Old lookout tower footing

I eagerly unpacked my lunch.  This would be a great spot to sit and enjoy my sandwich.  But no sooner had we arrived when a cloud of large, biting flies descended upon my dog and I.  Although they generally left me alone, those flies had it in for poor Bear.  They swarmed his body, landing in a cloud on his back.  Agitated, Bear kept shaking, moving around, and snapping his jaws at those pesky intruders.

Mt. Hood is barely visible through the haze

After five minutes, I realized we needed to leave.  My poor dog was being eaten alive by flies.  They were bothering him so much, Bear wasn't able to eat or drink.  Reluctantly, I packed up my food, and led Bear off the summit.

A few wildflowers still around

Although the trip to the top of Whetstone Mountain was a long, uphill slog, my return was fast and easy.  I zipped down the summit trail, past the salmonberries, until I found myself back at a little pond.  Bear happily guzzled the pond water, while I busied myself taking photos of some gorgeous vine maple leaves, just beginning to change color.

Fall colors are coming fast

The rest of the return trip was uneventful.  As I was nearing the parking area, I noticed clouds building through a forest clearing.  Today's forecast of thunderstorms appeared to be right on.  Guess it was a good thing Bear and I didn't dawdle on the summit.

Thunderhead building over the road

Of course, the only bad thing about driving a long distance on a bad road to reach your trail, is you must return the same way.  So once again, I carefully wound my car through the brushy path, over the potholes, until finally reaching civilization in the form of pavement.

Another hike checked off in my book!  This one, although short in distance, was a doozy to reach.  And my poor car took a beating - once I got home, I noticed lots of paint scratches along the entire length of the body.  Sigh - I apparently didn't avoid all the branches.  Good thing my car is getting old, I guess. 

But it was a fun adventure and, as always, great to be outside on a beautiful summer day.

Sharing with:  Weekly Top Shot.


  1. Sounds like mid September would be a good time to catch those berries ripe, if the wildlife doesn't eat them all first!

  2. I love Huckleberries! Mom used to make the best pie-wow an incredible view of Mt. Hood, even with the haze. Gorgeous photos. Just wish the flies hadn't put a little damper on the adventure-
    Warm Hugs,

  3. A beautiful place with some wonderful photos #WeeklyTopShot

  4. You always have to most wonderful adventures! Absolutely gorgeous photography as always too :)

  5. your documentation of your excursion♫ My WTS:

  6. I'm glad it wasn't all bad. The scenery is jus awesome! Hope Bear survived.

  7. Great share Linda . Even though you say Mt Hood was barely visible ~ it still took my breath away .

  8. From the look of these photos..I would say the drive and the hike were well worth the effort. Those salmonberries are quite beautiful!

  9. What a thrill to enjoy your lovely photos of this trip. Have a great weekend.

  10. Some really lovely vistas - well worth the drive and the hike.
    Love that last wildflower shot!

  11. Wow, I've never even HEARD of salmonberries. Will check them out to make sure they don't grow around here. Can't wait for the day you title your post, "I've finished all 100 hikes in Sullivan's book." Bet you've already got your next challenge picked out.

  12. Hi! Very beautiful mountain photos. I like them very much. The fireweed flower photo is very cool too. Fireweed flowers are very popular in our country too.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Beautiful scenes from your trek. Bear looks like a great hiking pal.

  14. Beautiful! Thank you for joining in 'Weekly Top Shot #98' Hope to see you next Saturday for #99...

  15. Fantastic photos - I really loved the huge old trees and the fungi. I've never eaten a huckleberry.

  16. This sounds like a great trip.

  17. Even getting there was an adventure - well done for persevering. I think our fireweed is in its seeding phase now, but it's a couple of weeks since I've been out of the city so I'm not sure. Have never heard of salmonberries, but they have a lovely, jewel-like appearance.

  18. Looks to me like the slow, bumpy ride was worth it in the end. :)

  19. Wow! the berry shots..well, I love all of them!!

  20. Whew! Sounds like an adventure...and you had a sweet friend along. I've never seen huckleberries or salmonberries. I enjoy your photos :)

  21. That is quite the adventure - the drive sounds longer than the hike!

  22. I love Bear!!! And your posts....and your photography.....and I have you an award at my place. If you don't want to participate that's fine..I almost didn' your blog so much...have a great day!!

  23. I love the huge tree - it's massive! And Bear taking a little water break is so cute. He seems like the perfect hiking companion!

  24. Beautiful trees, berries and vista--so gorgeous! Yep, I know about those kind of Forest Service hubby took me on one earlier this year. Let me just say I got OUT of the car while my hubby turned it around ;)

  25. loved reading about this trek ;-) thanks for leaving a comment on my blog too :)


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