|Coffin Mtn from the road|
On to my latest hike.....Home from the Montana trip, I was itching to check out a "new to me" trail. Coffin Mountain, near Santiam Pass had been boasting some terrific wildflower displays, and I was jonesing to visit before they all faded away.
The only drawback....the trailhead was a long drive from Portland - over 2 hours. But I wanted to hike this trail bad enough that I rose early one Sunday morning and traveled the distance. Pulling into the (very small) parking area I was surprised to see another person already there. Turns out it was Richard, a hiking blogger from Southern Oregon.
|Sunny yellow flowers|
It was fun to meet another Oregon blogger, especially someone who also hikes! Richard and I exchanged hiking info and blogging websites. He blogs at Richard Hikes and I encourage my readers to check out his humorous hiking tales.
Then, heading out on the trail first, I warned him I'd be slow because I stopped and took lots of photos.
|An entire hillside of yellow|
The trail to Coffin Mountain's summit was short. A mere 1.5 miles to the lookout tower on top, but a hefty 1000 feet of elevation gain.
The flower show started almost immediately. After leaving an old bulldozer track, the trail plunged into a lovely meadow sporting all varieties of flowers. Paintbrush, Oregon sunshine, lupine, larkspur, penstemon, columbine, and beargrass. Forward progress ground to a screeching halt.
After being passed by Richard (as predicted) and another couple, I decided I'd better get a move on. The path wound steeply up Coffin Mountain's steep slopes, a rocky volcanic plug beckoning (which I incorrectly thought was the summit).
After the first big climb, I began switchbacking through a fabulous meadow of tall beargrass stalks. The views opened up, and I could look back on the road I traveled to the trailhead. A parade of Cascade peaks rose along the skyline - including Mt Washington and the Three Sisters.
|Mountains line the skyline|
Mt Jefferson, the closest peak, anchored the northern views. However, that morning it was partially shrouded in clouds, offering only fleeting teaser views.
|Looking back down the trail|
Although I'd caught up to both Richard and the hiking couple here in the meadow, the wide range of photo subjects soon slowed me down once again.
But the flowers and views were so fantastic! How could you not want to photograph it all?
Not only beargrass, lupine and orange paintbrush also dominated the meadows.
|A most wonderful meadow|
As I trekked through the flower fields, Mt Jefferson decided to come out of the clouds.
|Killer Mt Jefferson view|
Oh, beargrass stalks with a Mt. Jefferson backdrop - views don't get any better!
|Lookout tower in sight|
After taking an extremely long time to travel through the beargrass meadows, I finally followed the trail as it began contouring around the mountain, through a forest. Breaking out through the trees, I spotted a tall cliff and the fire lookout tower.
What a great place to site a fire lookout! The tower was perched on top of a steep cliff. Views spanned 360 degrees - from Detroit Lake to the west, Three Sisters and Mt. Washington to the east. And front and center, was a killer view of Mt. Jefferson. The place even had it's own helipad.
|Wonderful place for a fire lookout cabin|
Sadly, no one was manning the tower. It was locked up tight. Even the porch area was closed off. So I had to settle for sitting on a nearby summit adjacent to the helipad for my lunch break (yeah, it was terrible, ha-ha!) A handful of people were scattered along the summit enjoying a snack and the scenery.
|Huge beargrass poofs|
Heading back down the trail, I encountered a flood of people trudging up the switchbacks. The rest of the world had finally woke up! There were several large groups and many families complete with kids and dogs. Boy was I glad I'd arose at the crack of dawn.
I normally love loop hikes, because it's fun to see different scenery on the return trip. But this trail was so great, I didn't mind traveling the same path twice. I took more photos of flowers and things I may have missed (or thought I missed) the first time through. And near the end, this lovely butterfly posed on a flower just for me.
|Final Mt Jefferson view|
A successful hike! Tons of wonderful flowers, killer mountain views, and a cool lookout tower. As I drove the windy gravel road back to civilization, I had to pull over and capture this amazing view of Mt. Jefferson against a dazzling blue sky. A great way to end this lovely summer's day.
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