Monday, July 20, 2015

The Fifteenmile Trail In Spring

Sigh....still playing blog catch-up, it's embarrassing to admit how far behind I've become.  This post is from Memorial Day (Yes, I know.....way back in May)  Despite the lateness, I hope you enjoy it.

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!)

Oregon anemone

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."

Droopy lupine

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.

Bitterroot bloom

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.

Photography break

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.

Calypso orchids

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

And good photo ops too!


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!)

Tick check

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


  1. It all sounds delightful! (Except for the tick!!) If the flowers were as beautiful as I remember them you had a wonderful day. I was lucky enough to see meadows of flowers way up in the mountains of Washington and BC more than 45 years ago! Oh dear! That is so long ago!! Thanks for the memories!

  2. Love your posts, always fun... and this one was no exception!
    Nice to see all the springtime wildflowers, especially now when it's been dreadfully hot.
    Next time you hit exit 49, heading for MSH... wave!

  3. I am lauging at you being embarrassed about being behind in posts so to make you feel really good,let me tell you I have not finished my post from Malawi and I returned from there last September and have never stared my post about South Africa. either and there is MORE so be still my heart!! this was a lovely hike too much for me adnI was thinking if I had those poles how would I take photographs!! ANyhow I loved seeing you all making your way through the tree with lovely views and very beautiful wild flowers.

  4. Hello Linda, wonderful report on your Fifteenmile trail hike. The views and wildflowers are just gorgeous. I love the Calypso Orchid. Nice to see the ladies outnumbered the men on this hike. Awesome photos, thanks for sharing your day! Enjoy your week ahead!

  5. A really nice way to celebrate a holiday! I love seeing the western wildflowers as they tend to be different from the ones we see here east of the Rockies.

  6. Those hikes that have the uphill at the end are always the hardest for me! Great pictures, I especially loved the calypso orchid shot, just perfect! :-)

  7. I just love those hikes where the up is at the end...NOT! ;-) Looks like a great day on the trail with a great group of people! The orchids are gorgeous!

  8. What a great hike - and you walked quite a long way too!

  9. That Orchid was stunning! What a great hike! :)

  10. Those calypso orchids are gorgeous! I know it shouldn't be, but I'm always surprised how similar your hikes look to the ones I do in the mountains. Are the trails in the Cascades really like that even though 500 miles separates our favorite spots?

  11. Hiking with friends and family is an interesting way to experience joy and sustained togetherness!

  12. Another long one! You captured the elusive Calypso - so lovely. Your wildflowers begin blooming much earlier than ours.

  13. Beautiful, Linda! And it looks as if you all enjoyed it, too! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  14. Another nice area. You have some lovely forests there.

  15. Looks like a really fun group of people.

  16. What a wonderful day. And your photos are delightful. That Oregon anemone is so pretty. And those orchids!

  17. Great hike, but the beer and pizza at the end sounds best!

  18. How nice to hike with a group of friends and see so many wonderful spring wildflowers! along the way! Those tiny Calypso Orchids are exquisite and so special to see.

  19. Seems that you had a wonderful time with all. Beautiful flower clippings!

  20. How many pairs of hiking boots do you wear out each year? Tom The Backroads Traveller

  21. I hope that someday I recover my stamina from the Lyme disease. Hiking like this would be such a joy! The wildflower pics are beautiful I will never forget the first time I saw a field of Indian Paintbrush...

  22. Don't apologise Linda. We love every instalment and would hate to miss an outing with you, your camera and your great outdoors. What a wonderful day with such good friends. I can hear all your laughter.

  23. What a great hike. Lucky John!

  24. What a fun hiking group and your shots are fabuous no matter how "behind you are". I don't think you really can ever get too far behind and think of all the joy you will get later in looking at all of your adventures

  25. What a beautiful hike! I love all the flowers.


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