Sunday, August 30, 2015

Iron Mountain Loop (Oregon)

On August 11, my third day of hiking in Central Oregon at AMC August Camp, it was tempting to take a break and do something a little easier, like the trip into Bend for biking, kayaking, and brews!  But instead, I hiked the Iron Mountain loop trail, and am I glad I did, because it was my favorite hike of the week.

After two out and backs, a loop trail was a great change!  You are always seeing something new.  The only out and back part was a short spur to the summit of Iron Mountain, with many switchbacks as we gained about 600 feet in a half mile.  The total hike was 7.3 miles, and we went through some mature forests, open wildflower meadows with great views, and to the top of Iron Mountain with a deck on top and 360 degree, if hazy, views.

Here is a track of our hike.  The start and end is marked with the red star, and the red arrow marks the direction of travel (counter-clockwise).  A purple star marks our main objective, the summit of Iron Mountain with its wonderful views.

Here is a three dimensional view of the area.  We hiked across the saddle between Cone Peak and Iron Mountain.  The red star  indicates where we started and ended.

We started the hike through mature forest.  Very relaxing and pretty.

After some climbing, we arrived at an open area with views, including of Cone Peak to the north, and...

Iron Mountain to the west.  That is where we hoped to have lunch.

The views from the saddle here were really great.

The shaggy-barked Alaskan cedar is rare in Oregon but fairly common in this area, our naturalist hike leader volunteer told us.  By the way, all of the hike leaders were great.

This whole region seemed to be the results on volcanos.  Look at all of this volcanic rock.

As we started the steep switchbacks up Iron Mountain, some wonderful views began to come.

Pearly everlasting is the name of this wildflower - a pretty name for a pretty flower!

You can see how hazy it was there.  Some of this is the result of forest fires.

I was the last to reach the summit with its wonderful deck.

Even with the haze, the views were plenty gorgeous from the top.

We saw lots of wildflowers on this hike.

Near the end of our hike, I think that I am celebrating actually completing a hike without taking a spill!  Also, I wanted to show that there some big trees in this area.  However, the short hike that we did after completing this one had some truly huge trees - 500 year old Douglas fir!

This hike had everything but wildlife - a good group of hikers to enjoy it with, a great hike leader, wonderfully varied views and scenery, a great cardio workout, beautiful forests, lovely open views, mountaintop views, and gorgeous wildflowers.  For that reason, it was my favorite hike of the week, although they were all so good that it is difficult to choose.  One thing I found about August Camp - you can randomly pick a hike each night and not go wrong!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Rooster Rock (Oregon)

The second AMC August Camp hike of the week, Monday August 10, was up to Rooster Rock.  It was another out and back hike, 3.2 miles each way, uphill on the way out, and downhill on the way back.  The 2,300 feet that we gained hiking up to Rooster Rock was all lost on the return.  It was rated as a moderate hike.  The views at the top were good but not as spectacular as the Dome Rock hike.  However, we explored a kind of secret side trail that led to some amazing views.

Here is a track of the hike, starting at the lower left with Rooster Rock on the right.  The hike climbed steadily through a nice forest and only had views at the very top.  The secret trail led to the north about a half mile from the view point.  The purple star shows the approximate location of the end of the side trail with the fabulous view.

Here is a three dimensional view of the hike.  I've marked the approximate location of Rooster Rock.  There was a huge cliff face there, as well as other giant rocks.

The start of the hike featured large trees hanging with Old Man's Beard lichens.

I hiked with five others.  At this point, I snapped a shot of some of them ahead of me in the thick forest.

This hike had about four major obstacles to cross on the trail.  We had to climb over some very large logs, at steep angles, and for this one, we all crawled under it using various techniques: a roll, a crab crawl, and so forth.

Very close to the summit, we paused to look at the huge cliff and rocks that made up part of Rooster Rock.

The summit had nice views to the east-south-east, which was also the direction that the sun was shining from.  It was a good lunch spot, and several yellow jackets also showed up to see if they could steal some food.  One crawled into my sandwich bag, which crossed a line, so I dispatched her.  Would I perhaps find some bad karma from this later?

After lunch, we decided to see if we could follow the secret side trail from the summit the north.  The trail book suggested a possible view of Rabbit Ears.  After a while, sure enough, we spotted the two giant pillars of stone partially visible through the trees.  These columns are very popular with rock climbers.  For me, attempting it would lead to an early death.

A while past Rabbit Ears, the trail seemed to end.  I was in the lead, and it looked like we would have to risk climbing over this huge rock.  Good views seemed to be ahead, but were they worth the risk?  We decided not!  But then, a fellow hiker spotted a faint track to the right of the rock, and scouted it out.  It was steep and narrow, requiring caution, but was passible, so I followed him out there.

And am I glad I did, because there was a fabulous view!  The two of us who went over there took turns snapping photographs of each other.  It was literally a place where if you stepped about three feet backwards, it was a very, very long way down.  So we both went very slow and carefully here.

Being an out and back, the trip back to the car was a repeat of the trip up, except downhill.  Sound easy?  Well, we still had to climb over and under some big logs, and at the very start, I took a step in a patch of gravel on a steep slope that was like stepping on ball bearings.  I took another quick and painful fall, gashing my elbow open.  It bled enough that our trip leader got out her first aid kit and patched in up.  Two weeks later, I still have a big scab on my elbow.  Two hikes, two days, two falls, two scraped up arms!

Did that spoil the trip? Heck no!  I had a fabulous time doing another great hike, and I wondered what tomorrow would bring.  It turned out that it would bring the best hike of the whole week!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Dome Rock (Oregon)

The first AMC August Camp hike of the week, Sunday August 9, was up Dome Rock.  It was an out and back hike, 2.6 miles each way, mostly uphill on the way out, and downhill on the way back.  The 1,500 feet that we gained hiking up to Dome Rock was all lost on the return.  It was rated as an easy hike, but the elevation gain didn't seem that easy, plus I was jet-lagged and hadn't slept hardly at all during the night.  But the views at the top were simply spectacular!

Here is a track of the hike, starting at the left with Dome Rock on the right.  Just to reach the trailhead for the unmarked trail was a bit of an adventure, ending with four miles on a rough gravel road.  The trail to Tumble Lake would have been very pretty, but would mean dropping over 1,000 feet to the lake and then climbing back out.

This is a 3-dimensional view of the area, with Dome Rock marked on the right.

We had a dozen people on our hike.  The trail was not marked, and early on, we took a wrong turn here.  It took over 30 minutes to figure out the correct direction, largely helped by my DeLorme GPS app on my iPhone.  It was a great group of people to hike with.

Much of the trail was narrow and without a view, but once the views started coming, they were amazing.  Here is a view of Tumble Lake over 2,000 feet below us.

There were also some cool rock formations.

From the top of Dome Rock were 360 degree views that were just fabulous.

The views were so nice that I couldn't resist asking for someone to add me to one.  Hopefully, it does not spoil the picture.

Many of us wanted to linger on the beautiful summit a bit longer, but our leader was worried about weather coming in, so she insisted that we head down after about 20 minutes.  I had a scary moment on the way down.  In a very narrow and steep section of the trail, a marmot had undercut the trail and it gave way under my left foot.  The slope was about 60 degrees, and I slid about 20 feet before I could stop my momentum.  Other than a scraped up arm, I was all right, but my adrenalin sure spiked during that time!

Dome Rock was a fantastic way to begin a week of hiking in Central Oregon!

Oregon Trails

I had a great vacation hiking in Oregon from August 8 to the 15.  Since the first and last days were travel days, I really only hiked on the 9th to the 14th.  I was near Sisters, Oregon at the Appalachian Mountain Club's August Camp, and had a blast.  It was fun being out in a new place hiking with like-minded people.  By like-minded, I mean people who like to hike!  Maybe I should say hike-minded people?

Below is a map of Oregon.  Portland, on the Washington border, is near the top left.  I circled the area where I was hiking, so it was in the mountainous part of Oregon, just west of the high desert.

I took six hikes, plus a seventh short nature hike, totaling about 47 miles, with almost 10,000 feet of elevation gain.  On the map below, I note the location of each day's hike with a letter (S for Sunday, M for Monday, and so forth).  Since we took two hikes Tuesday, which were only a mile or so apart for the trailheads, I've indicated these with a TU-1 and a TU-2.

It will take me a while to organize the photos and accounts from each hike.  As I do, I will turn each of the topics below into a link.

First, here is an account of life in August Camp, which was a total blast!

Each night in camp, the trip leaders - who are all unpaid AMC volunteers, and all excellent, by the way - describe the hikes for the next day.  There are normally six of these, two for each of the three categories.  "A" hikes tend to be either longer and/or steeper, and usually at a fast pace.  "B" hikes have moderate mileage and/or elevation gain, and "C" hikes are the shortest.  None of the ones that I did could be considered easy.  For example, my first hike was a "C" hike and was only five miles long, but we climbed steadily and gained 1,500 feet of elevation over the 2.5 miles that it took to hike to the top of Dome Rock.

Once the hikes are described, each person marks their first, second, and third choice.  In the morning, you find out where the hike leaded assigned you, which is always your first choice if there is room.  Hikes are typically limited to 12 people.

Here is my hike list for my week of hiking some Oregon trails:

Sunday - An out and back hike of about 5 miles total to the top of Dome Rock, with spectacular 360 degree views.

Monday - Another out and back hike of about 6.4 miles total, gaining 2,300 feet, to Rooster Rock, which has great views to the south and east.  There are also spectacular large rock formations, and we added about a mile at the top exploring and finding an incredible view to the west of the main hike, as well as finding Rabbit Ears!

Tuesday 1 - The loop hike of 7.3 miles included a steep climb to the top of Iron Mountain.  This was my favorite hike of the week.  I think we gained 1,800 feet and saw such spectacular scenery, including a mature forest, wildflower meadows, bald mountains and domes, and an amazing 360 degree view from the top of Iron Mountain.

Tuesday 2 - This was a short post-hike trek of about a mile in the Hackleman Old Growth Grove, with giant Douglas fir that somehow escaped the axe and saw.  Some of them were about eight feet in diameter.

Wednesday - I left the elevation gain behind for a day and hiked a loop hike around Paulina Lake, nested in the caldera of an ancient volcano.  The hike was 8.5 miles and only gained about 600 feet.  We almost always had views of the beautiful lake and often mountains as well.  We also found obsidian, which is an incredible glass - jet black and hard as flint - that is forged in the heart of a volcano.

Thursday - I hiked up to Tam McArthur Ridge, which has views of another volcanic lake.  The hike was about five miles long and gained 1,200 feet elevation.  It was an out and back hike, which turned out to be a very good thing, as you will learn from my account of the hike.

Friday - my last hike of the week, the Obsidian Trail, was my second favorite.  It was a 12 mile lollipop (4 miles in, 4 mile loop, 4 miles out) that gained about 1,800 feet.  It was the only hike of the week where I crossed streams, and had so many spectacular views and interesting features that I could have explored for several days.  Here is a photo of some obsidian that I found on the hike.  It is all over the place for miles of the hike, but you are not allowed to collect it.  So I snapped a photo and left it behind.

You can see more photos of obsidian here, and that last hike was so great that I wrote a verse about it: "Ode to Obsidian Trail," to present that night at the camp talent show.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bearfence Mountain

After my Wednesday hike to Lewis Falls in Shenandoah National Park, my ankle was hurting but not horribly, and I had time for one more short hike.  So I headed for Bearfence Mountain a few miles down the Skyline Drive, a place I've wanted to hike to for a long time.  The hike is just a mile round trip, which sounds easy, eh?  It is not!  It involves several tenths of a mile of scrambling up steep rock faces.  I had to use my hands as well as my feet, and put the trekking poles in my pack.  At times, especially coming down, I slid on my butt.  The incredible 360 degree view was well worth it.  I posted a 360 degree video on Facebook, but am not sure if I can do that here.  If you know how - comment and tell me.

Here are photos of my short, tough, and very scenic hike to Bearfence Mountain.

This was the beginning of the rocky section.

The "trail" led right up and over the rocks.  I had to go slowly and use caution.

Tough hike - but a million dollar view!  Here are a series of photos and panoramas from the 360 degree open top of Bearfence.

Looking back from the hike down - right down these rocks on my butt mainly, sliding under control!

Not easy at all, but take care, enjoy, and do it!

Lewis Falls

I had the day off Wednesday, and - ankle still gimpy after nearly 8 months - I headed to the mountains for two short hikes in Shenandoah National Park.  I am doing more hiking in the coming week, hopefully a good bit more, and I wanted to test my ankle and endurance without going nuts about it.

I did this hike as a 3.9 mile loop, and from Lewis Falls (one of the tallest waterfalls in the park) to the high point on the Appalachian Trail for the return, you probably gain about 800 feet.  So while it is not super difficult, it is not a stroll in the park either, and you will get a workout.

For wildlife, I saw a chipmunk on the trail, and when I was admiring the view of the Shenandoah Valley from Black Rocks near the high point, a friendly junco hopped over the rocks and came within 3-4 inches from my boot!

Here are some photos from my first hike of the day to lovely Lewis Falls, starting with a lovely swallowtail at the start of the hike, where butterflies and bumblebees were everywhere.

You cannot see the entire falls from the viewpoint.  It is something like 85 feet high.  Here is the top part.  I hung out here for a while, chatting with a young Mennonite family out for a hike.

Not far from Lewis Falls is the first real view of my hike.

The Lewis Falls Trail was mostly steep and rocky, but I came on this lovely level area that would be tempting to camp at - if one had water.

The loop completed with a mile or so on the storied Appalachian Trail.

I hiked a side trail to Black Rocks, with spectacular views of the Shenandoah Valley.  Click on the photo to enlarge the panorama.