|The gang is ready to go!|
My hiking buddy John said he'd heard reports of nice wildflower blooms along the Fifteenmile Trail. Having previously hiked this area in the fall (see recap here) I knew what a gorgeous place it could be. Eager to see what springtime would bring, I suggested John schedule a group hike for Memorial Day. One thing I like about John - he's good at taking advice.
|John on the bridge|
Memorial Day morning, a large group of happy hikers gathered in Hood River. Our ranks swelled to a whopping nine, and for once the women outnumbered the men (six to three!)
Our group shuffled into three cars, and after a cruise down Hwy 35, another up Road 44, and navigating a maze of Forest Service roads, we arrived at Fifteenmile Campground, the trailhead for today's trek.
|John and his "hiker harem"|
A historic moment for one of his hikes, it's not often women are the majority. I just had to get a photo of John and all the ladies. For the rest of the day, we teased John about his "hiker harem."
After several last-minute potty breaks and some clothing adjustments, our group was ready to go. Gathering for a quick pic at the trailhead sign, we headed down Fifteenmile Trail. A short distance later, we arrived at a trail junction, crossed Fifteenmile Creek on a nice bridge, and began to climb up the Cedar Creek Trail.
|Our first big view|
Today's hike was a loop between two paths. The Cedar Creek Trail would take us along the south side of the creek's deep canyon. We'd follow this trail for 5-ish miles before descending to cross the creek, and hooking back up with the Fifteenmile Trail. Our return trip would follow the canyon's north rim, via the Fifteenmile Trail.
Because this area was east of Mt. Hood, and in the rain shadow of the Cascade range, the forest was predominately Ponderosa pine, cedar, and manzanita. I did spot a couple of different wildflower varieties too, such as this lovely pink Bitterroot bloom.
|Heading back to the trail|
After hiking through forest for a mile or so, our group came upon a clearing, complete with a nice rocky viewpoint. Time for some photo ops!
|Doreen and Jon in motion|
And some shots of my friends in action. Doreen laughed when I crouched down low to capture a different perspective.
|Passing by some big Ponderosas|
Then it was back into the forest again.
We occasionally passed by areas sporting wildflower patches, and progress would stop while the photographers among us brandished their cameras.
|Big blue sky|
We couldn't have asked for better weather. Blue skies and sunshine - and fairly mild temperatures. Perfect!
|Lovely yellow flowers|
Although this trail doesn't see much hiker use (ours was the only party all day) we were surprised by three separate groups of mountain bikers. The bikers were always very courteous, and immediately slowed down when passing by, but the speed at which they approached was unnerving. After the first encounter, my friends and I began warily looking over our shoulders.
|Heading down to the creek|
After four dusty miles down the trail, we finally began our descent into the canyon to Fifteenmile Creek. The ridge's very top produced the most amazing wide-open vistas of surrounding forested hills, and Central Oregon's farmlands beyond.
|Trail junction at the halfway point|
After a long, steep descent down a rocky trail, my friends and I finally reached Fifteenmile Creek. And it was a sight for sore eyes! Not only was this the junction with our return trail, there was also a creekside campfire ring, complete with two large logs for sitting. Perfect lunch spot!
|Ready to go after lunch|
And everyone was famished. Nearing one o'clock, tummies had been grumbling for awhile. We all spread out our lunches and chowed down. Too busy filling my belly, I neglected to get any pictures of our lovely little break area.
Bellies full, bladders empty, after lunch our group was ready to tackle the remainder of this hike. The good news - completion of the Cedar Creek Trail meant we were over halfway done. The bad news - we'd now have to regain the elevation lost during our descent to the creek (about 2000 feet). Yup - our return trail would be all uphill.
|Trekking pole line-up|
But luckily the majority of this trail meandered through thick woods, so we'd be in shade most of the time. And the climb was fairly well-graded, with only a few steep spots. (At least those are the things I told myself to make it better!)
|John is king of the rock|
So away we trudged, up, up, and more up. Luckily, there were a few nice wildflowers to distract us from the task at hand. I even spotted a small patch of rare pink calypso orchids.
|Scenic break spot|
Around the halfway mark, we came upon a large open area with some big, flat rocks. More wonderful views, and nice places to sit while enjoying them.
|Ann and Doreen take a breather|
We passed by another rocky outcrop, and I noticed a few more colorful wildflowers blooming amidst the stony soil. This patch of penstemon was especially lovely.
Then someone noticed a tick crawling on the back of Jon's neck. This sent us all into immediate itchiness, and we ladies began frantically checking each other's necks and hair. Fortunately, no more ticks were discovered (and yes, someone quickly swiped that tick off of Jon!)
The final mile of any hike is always the longest, and this trek was no exception. Footsore, hot, tired, and dreaming of beer and pizza, I could've swore the "trail stretchers" had been up to their tricks again. Never was a trailhead sign such a welcome sight!
|The final push|
It was great to see a favorite fall trail during a different season. Once again, the Fifteenmile Trail delivered. The terrain variety, abundance of wildflowers, and fantastic views make this hike a year-round winner. Another wonderful day in the woods!
Stats: 12.8 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain.
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday