We traveled a short distance down Hwy 20, then turned onto a gravel road for a couple of miles. The "trailhead" was merely a wide spot in the road, so Greg wedged his VW bug behind another car. Then my hiking buddies and I once again shouldered our packs and took off up the trail.
|Echo Basin's boardwalk|
The path climbed steeply along a long-abandoned road bed, that appeared to have been used for logging activities. A thick steel cable protruded out of the ground and followed the roadway for a short distance. I later read in my Sullivan hiking book that the original forest had been logged in the 1980s, and since then alder, Douglas fir, huckleberries, and wildflowers had taken over. Also, Greg pointed out this area housed a grove of large shaggy-barked Alaska yellow cedar, which is the farthest south these particular species have established.
|Bluebells, I think|
After 3/4 of a mile, we crossed a creek and began bushwhacking through an extremely overgrown trail. Crashing through the brushy undergrowth was not a lot of fun. It was late afternoon, the air was hot and muggy, and by now I'd quite had my fill of climbing. I kept hoping we'd emerge into the clearing, but the infernal trail just kept on winding through more jungle-like vegetation. There were tons of bluebell and bleeding heart flowers decorating the woods, but I was so focused on getting to Echo Basin, I didn't bother stopping for photographs.
|LOTS of shooting stars!|
Finally, I caught up with Gene and he mentioned we were just about there. Sure enough, a few more steps and I could see the forest opening up to a huge amphitheater-like clearing. Tall cliffs rose from three sides, and at the base was a wide, green valley. A decrepit wooden walkway led hikers through this boggy meadow.
|Still some paintbrush around|
The meadow was full of tiny, magenta shooting star flowers. Although a bit past peak, Gene mentioned he'd never seen such a large concentration. Also making an appearance were a few orange paintbrush blooms, and a bunch of unusual flowers called elephantshead.
These flowers were tall tubular-like plants, with many tiny pink flowers growing off its main stem. If one looked closely you could see each little blossom looked like an elephant's head. I wish I would've taken a few close-up photos of these flowers, but that meant stepping off the boardwalk into the mucky meadow. (Maybe next time!)
|Verdant green meadow|
As expected, Greg spent a lot of time in the meadow cataloging all the plants and flowers present. Gene mentioned that normally there's a lot more flowers in bloom, and we must've timed our visit too late. No matter, I enjoyed the scenic green meadow and the unusual flowers that we found.
After Greg was finished exploring, he followed Gene and I down the return trail (the path through this meadow was a small loop that connected back to the old road). Boy was this trail rough! Lots of blow-down trees to scramble around and more thick vegetation obscured much of the tread. It appeared a trail crew hadn't performed clearing activities for several years. Both Gene and Greg voiced concerns that this lovely place might soon become difficult to reach.
|Another elephantshead photo|
If that becomes the case, then I'm doubly glad my companions insisted on visiting this special place. It was a gorgeous, serene piece of heaven tucked away in the Central Oregon Cascades.
Stats: 2.4 mile loop, 600 feet elevation gain