|Bridge over Maude Creek
In mid-July I talked my hubby into a weekend camping trip near Central Oregon's Mt Jefferson. We decided to visit our favorite Forest Service campground on the banks of the North Santiam River. Half of it's sites were first come, first serve, perfect for last-minute folks like us. I had the Friday off, while dear hubby had to work until noon. Fearing all the campsites would be claimed by afternoon, we hatched a plan where I'd drive up early Friday morning, secure a site, and then be free to go hiking. Hubby would follow later in the day with the lion's share of the gear, coolers of food, and of course, the beer!
Our plan worked perfectly. I was able to snag a gorgeous secluded riverside campsite (timing is everything - I came upon it right after the previous night's occupant had vacated). After erecting our tent and setting up a few chairs around the fire ring, (to signal that the site was taken) my work here was done. Time to hit the trail!
|Dried beargrass stalks
One of the hikes I'd been wanting to cross off my list was the trek up nearby Crescent Mountain. A challenging climb to a large open ridge, this area had a reputation for stunning early summer beargrass displays. Although various hiking websites indicated the peak bloom had happened a couple of weeks ago, I was game to see what flowers might still be around.
So I drove about 20 miles from the campground, turned onto a nice (paved even!) Forest Service road and traveled a short distance on another good gravel road. I was a tiny bit worried that the trailhead might be full, but upon arrival its large parking area was totally deserted. Locking the car and shouldering my pack, I could feel the day's temperature already on the rise. It was gonna be a toasty one!
|Beargrass and lupine
The trail started out mellow enough with an easy downhill mile to lovely Maude Creek. But after crossing it's ample wooden footbridge, things changed in a hurry.
|A few daisies
The path climbed steeply through dense, viewless woods. Both the temperature and humidity began to rise, turning my trek into a sweaty slog. There were no flowers to speak of, and besides the forest, nothing interesting to see. Slowly I puffed along, wiping my brow. It was the longest 2.5 miles I think I've ever hiked!
|Finally some views!
But finally, I spotted some gorgeous Cascade Lilies, their fragrant blooms sweetening the air. As the trail wound past this lily patch, I noticed more color on the adjacent hillside. The forest appeared to be receding.
I came out onto an open ridgecrest. Views of the adjacent rounded hills spread out before me. Bright purple lupine covered the open slopes, accented by orange Scarlet Gilia. It was sure nice to see something besides forest.
|Lupine was in prime shape
I'd definitely hit the height of the lupine bloom. The tall purple flowers were everywhere! But as predicted, the beargrass was nearly done. All that remained were the tall stalks, which I thought were scenic in their own way. Judging by the large number of stalks, I could tell the rumors of plentiful beargrass blooms were true.
|Lots of mountains to be seen from the summit (Hood and Jefferson)
The meadows were chock-full of colorful flowers. Beside lupine, I noticed lots of yellow Oregon sunshine, asters, daisies, a few paintbrush, and some pretty unknown pink flowers. Even though the beargrass was done, the rest of this colorful bloom more than made up for it.
|Mt Washington and Three Sisters
The next mile was slow as I wandered through the meadows, snapping copious photographs.
|Not a bad lunch view!
Finally, the trail led me through a small wooded area sporting a few straggler beargrass blooms. Then I climbed a steep spur trail that came out on Crescent Mountain's summit. Yahoo! My climbing was finally done! Time for a good, long lunch break.
|This butterfly loved my backpack
Foundations from an old lookout tower were all that remained on Crescent Mountain's rocky apex. But the views were grand. To the north, I spotted Mts Hood and Jefferson. To the east, Mts Washington, Three Sisters, and Black Butte. Although sunny and hot, the day's clear skies made for some spectacular mountain panoramas.
|I think it was after my water hose
The early afternoon heat had brought the insects out in droves. Dozens of colorful butterflies flitted around the summit. Try as I might, they wouldn't sit still long enough for me to get a photo. But then I noticed a couple of them hanging on my backpack's water hose. The butterflies must have been thirsty, because they didn't move an inch. Finally, I was able to snatch a couple images of these beautiful creatures.
|Benchmark on Crescent Mtn summit
Rest, food and hydration were just what my body needed! After a nice long relaxing break, I shooed the butterflies off my backpack and prepared for the long, steep descent.
|Backlit beargrass poofs
I lingered in the flower-filled meadow as long as I could. It was just as nice the second time around, and I'm sure about the same number of images were captured on the return trip. The meadows were full of butterflies and it was a delight to watch them soar through the blooms.
|Three Sisters view on the return trip
Both Mt Washington and the Three Sisters were front and center as I traveled back down. Afternoon light was perfect for some nice captures.
But finally, I had to bid these wonderful meadows farewell, and endure a long punishing descent back down the boring, steep trail. It seemed to go on forever......there was nothing to see but trees, and the temps hadn't cooled down in the least. About halfway down I encountered the only other hikers I'd seen all day, a couple heading up. When finally reaching Maude Creek again, I was so hot I soaked a bandana in it's cool waters and tied it around my neck for some relief.
|Lovely pink unknown flowers
Then I trudged uphill on a hot, dusty trail. I swore that the trail stretchers had been out....a mile never seemed so long. All I could think about was the cold beer waiting for me back at our campsite (at least I hoped my hubby was there by now).
|The only butterfly who sat still
Although the first three miles weren't very exciting, the fantastic bloom in Crescent Mountain's upper meadows and the panorama of peaks at the top made this hot slog worthwhile. Now it was time to head back to our sweet riverside campsite.....and plan tomorrow's hiking adventure.
Which I'll write about in my next post!
Stats: 9 miles round trip, 2200 feet elevation gain
Sharing with: Through My Lens