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Be on the lookout!! Fitness and Cycling articles on the way

Well everyone, it's been way too long since I updated content beyond hikes and trail reviews, and I think the site could use some fresh content. I am going to be adding fitness articles, along with introducing my second passion which is Cycling!!!..  Stay tuned, and i hope you find the site useful.  

Snowshoe Destination: Crater Lake Snow Camp, OR
Monday, January 06 @ 14:32:59 PST by Drew (52 reads)
Multi day adventures!Vicinity Location: The trailhead is 95 miles southeast of Eugene, OR in Crater Lake National Park.

Directions:
From the South (Year Round):
From Medford – Drive 63 miles on Route 62 north and east to the park's west entrance.
From Klamath Falls – Drive 44 miles on Route 97 north to Route 62 north and west to the park's south entrance.

From the North (Winter):
From Roseburg - Drive 113 miles on Route 138 east to Route 230 south to Route 62 east to the park's west entrance.
From Bend – Drive 132 miles on Route 97 south to Route 62 north and west to the park's south entrance.

From the south entrance road, drive about 4 miles on South Entrance Drive and Rim Drive to the parking area west of Crater Lake Lodge. The trailhead is on the west side of the parking lot near the lake.

There are bathrooms near the parking lot.

A National Park entry permit may be required to park at the trailhead, depending on the month.

Operating hours and seasons: Link

A free wilderness permit is required to camp overnight in the park.

Pets are not allowed on this trail.

Length and Elevation:
5.6 miles round trip Elevation gain 1,300 feet and loss of 1,300 feet. Total gain and loss is 2,600 feet. Elevation at the trailhead is about 7,050 feet. Highest point is 7,874 feet. From camp to The Watchman the gain is 1,100 feet and a loss of 400 feet.

Trail:
Crater Rim Drive.

There are no geocaches along this trail.

Trail Maps:
Topo Map, Download Garmin .gpx file

History:
The Watchman Lookout Station sits 8,025 feet above sea level on Watchman Peak, which is on the western edge of Crater Lake. The lookout was built in 1932 by the CCC and served the dual purpose of fire lookout and trail museum. The Watchman Lookout actually had flushing toilets from the early 1960’s until the late 1970’s. The water was pumped over 1,000 vertical feet from Lightning Spring.

Early fire detection and prompt suppression used to be a primary responsibility of the National Park Service. The Watchman Lookout Station was part of the fire detection network for Crater Lake National Park which included a number of National Park Service, United States Forest Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs lookouts. A trained observer, usually a park ranger, manned the lookout and kept in contact with the fire dispatcher at the park headquarters on short-wave radio. During the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps also provided observers. The National Park Service manned the Watchman Lookout Station each fire season until 1974 and it has been manned intermittently afterwards.

Since the lookout was built, there has been a major change in how wildfires are dealt with. Today many fires in National Parks are left to burn unless the fire threatens life and property. The Watchman Lookout preserves the essential elements of 1930's era fire lookout. The 360 degree panoramic view and the use of native materials that blend the structure into the surrounding landscape combine make the Watchman Lookout Station a unique and historically significant structure. The lookout was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

Review: January 13th, 2014.
Before beginning this hike, stop at the Steele visitor center and fill out a wilderness permit which contains the names, addresses, and contact information of all the hikers. The visitors center is about 2.5 miles before the crater rim parking lot. It is also required to turn in your copy of the permit when you finish your trip. The park service will search for overdue hikers.

Spring snow depths along the rim can vary from a few inches to tens of feet depending on how the snow had drifted. The hiking trail begins west of the parking area. Be sure to check out the views to the northwest of the parking area along the rim of the crater. These are some of the nicest views of Crater Lake and Wizard Island

Follow the snow-hidden road west as it drops gently down along and behind the rim. On a sunny day there are great views right at the start of the trip. Llao Rock, a massive rock formation jutting up from the lake for almost 2,000 feet can be seen behind Wizard Island and the named peaks around Crater Lake ramp up into the blue sky.

The number of people soon diminishes after the next viewpoint of the lake. On the way in, we tried to stay close to the rim which means you follow the up and down contours of the rim. Trees grow right up to the edge of the rim but there are plenty of gaps in the tree cover which allow you to gaze at the azure blue of the lake. The wind can really blow at the edge of the rim and be calm just a few steps away. There are some small, steep slopes which can avalanche so be aware of changing conditions. Also be aware there can be cornices at any spot along the rim so exercise extreme care and forethought when approaching the crater rim for a view. If you can’t see a tree between you and the edge, there could be a cornice ahead.

As we snowshoed farther along the rim, we only saw one or two other people. After a couple of miles we didn’t see anyone else. The views are wonderful at many spots along the way. We saw Mt. Shasta and Mt. McLaughlin to the south, Mt. Thielson to the north, and other tall peaks.

We found a place to camp about 400 feet back from the rim with great view to the southeast. Jeremiah and Carissa set up their tent and Johnny set up his tent in the middle of a snow meadow. I made my snow trench near the edge of the meadow. It didn’t take me too long to get the roof on the trench so I could sleep out of the wind. Johnny had a backpacking beer kit from Pat’s Backcountry Beverages and Jeremiah helped read the instructions. The beer was okay but I think bringing some cans for a short trip would be easier. After the beer brewing, we felt pretty warm in the sun and decided there was time for us to climb The Watchman.

Johnny, Jeremiah, and I put out snowshoes back on and headed along the road towards The Watchman. We mostly stayed off the ski tracks but some places were along the narrow tops of snowdrifts that we had to snowshoe on the ski tracks. Some places had tall drifts and other places the wind had blown most of the snow away and spring weather had melted the snow down to the road.

We passed another viewpoint with unobstructed views of the lake and from there we snowshoed along the road up the south side of The Watchman. We climbed steadily for about .8 mile up to a point where we decided to leave the road and head up the ridge towards the lookout tower.

For about .3 mile we travelled up the ridge on a moderate slope where it was easy to pick our way among the trees. We headed towards the southern facing slope. The trees become sparse and we could see Mt. Shasta and all the nearer peaks too.

The last several hundred feet of the slope is pretty steep but the avalanche danger was very low because there hadn’t been any snow for the week. Climbing is slow work at 7,500 feet and I needed a couple of breaks on the way up.

We got to fire lookout but the snow slope facing the lake looked too dangerous to climb. I walked around to the north side and there was an easy snow slope and climb over the railing. From there it was easy to walk to the overlook for fantastic views of the lake and from every side of the lookout.

After taking photos we headed back to camp. It took us about 90 minutes on the trip up and about 60 minutes for the trip back to camp. We got back well before dark but had taken our flashlights as a precaution.

Cooking dinner is always the coldest time of camping but my heavy mittens were really nice to have. I always use my white gas stove in the winter so I melted a lot of snow for dinner and breakfast.

It was getting pretty cold after we finished dinner so it wasn’t long before we retired to our tents and shelters. Since I my snow shelter was open to the weather, I dug a pit, put in my water, and put a lid on top. The full moon made the night bright and I was glad that my snow shelter kept the moon off of my face so I could get a good night’s sleep.

The next morning was 20 degrees and everything outside was covered in frost. I checked on my water and there were some ice crystals but it was mostly unfrozen. I walked around on the hard crust and ventured to the rim for the sunrise. To the right I could see some cornices so I was careful not to venture too close to the edge. I walked around taking in the views until the others woke up.

Things warmed up quickly with the shining and a light breeze in camp and in a couple of hours it was close to freezing. Johnny used a few snow blocks from my snow shelter to make a windbreak for his stove. We had our breakfasts and Johnny made French Press coffee.

It was nice to hang around camp in the sun and after a while, we broke camp and headed back. We didn’t see anyone else until 11:30 and we were pretty close to the parking lot. I stopped for some photos at the rim then joined the group at the car.

We stopped in at the Steele Visitor Center to turn in our permit, use the toilets, and congratulate ourselves on a great trip. From there, it was back on the road, stopping for pizza in Eugene.

Enjoy the photos!!

Gallery Pics

Switchback Steve


(Read More... | Snowshoe Destination | Score: 0)

Dayhikes: Indian Beach Trail, OR
Monday, January 06 @ 14:32:54 PST by Drew (884 reads)
Day hikes in the Northwest.Vicinity Location: 68 miles northwest of Portland in the Tillamook State Forest.

Directions: 
From Portland, take Highway 26 West to Highway 101. Take the Highway 101 South exit towards Cannon Beach. 

Drive about 3 miles and take the first exit for Cannon Beach and drive about .3 mile to the stop sign. Take a right and follow the signs to Ecola Beach State Park.

Drive about 1.6 miles along the narrow, winding road through the forest to the entrance of the park. Buy your permit here if you don’t have one, then  turn left after the entrance booth and drive about .2 mile to the parking lot.

Restrooms at the trailhead, Indian Beach, and Hiker’s Camp.

$5 daily permit or $30 annual permit needed to park at the trailhead.

Note: No overnight parking is allowed in the park.

Length and Elevation: 
9.5 Miles round trip. Elevation gain 1,971 feet and 1,070 feet of loss one way. Total gain and loss is 2,715 feet. Elevation at the trailhead is 200 feet, the high point of the trail is 1,200 feet.

Trail: 
Indian Point Beach Trail, Clatsop Loop Trail, Oregon Coastal Trail (OCT).   There is a geocache at: N 45° 56.581 W 123° 59.082 Info at Geocaching.com.

Trail Maps:
Topo MapState of Oregon MapDownload Garmin .gpx file

Review: January 20th, 2014.

This trip is mainly an out and back trail with two sections that have an alternate return route.

A gravel path leads off to the right from the west end of the parking lot. Drop down a small hill, cross on a bridge over a small creek, and enter the woods.

The trail starts climbing somewhat steeply up a few switchbacks up to the first viewpoint of the ocean. The forest here is a mainly a mix of hemlock, Douglas Fir, and Sitka Spruce.

Continue climbing through the forest, gaining 200 feet in the first .3 mile. From there it begins to follow the rolling headlands towards Indian Point Beach. This section of the trail has some muddy patches in the low spots.

After walking about .6 mile, the trail becomes much muddier and rudimentary and will be very muddy during the rainy season. The clay in the soil makes for slippery spots as the trail traverses little fingers of land reaching towards the sea.

At just under .8 mile is a trail junction that drops steeply down to Indian Point Beach. If you see a nice strip of sandy beach, you may want to drop down and walk the beach to the parking area for Indian Point Beach. If not, turn right and continue under the base of a small cliff and around a corner, then dropping down and climbing again along the narrow trail.

Drop down and cross on a bridge over Canyon Creek, then walk up to the parking lot. Indian Point Beach The crescent shaped beach is very inviting and there are nice views of haystack rocks to the south. Stop and linger for a bit, soaking up the sights and sounds of the beach. There is no tapwater in this area of the park.

To continue, walk towards the restrooms, then walk along the left side of them. 
After a couple hundred feet, there is a junction to the left for the Clatsop Loop. Continue straight uphill into the forest.

The trail climbs steadily above the bubbling Indian Creek, then loops over the creek and leaves it behind in a wide sweeping turn, continuing steadily uphill. The forest floor here is covered in sword ferns, salal, and trees that have fallen down over the ages to become nurse logs for a new generation of the forest. On a sunny day, only dappled light penetrates the thick canopy of trees that gently sway in the ocean breezes.

After climbing steadily for about 1.5 miles, you come to the Hiker Camp. Continue straight, walking past the restroom. Heading downhill, you’ll pass a tiny spring and stream. After about .1 mile there are some concrete bunkers built in World War II. From here the trail becomes less maintained and soon comes to a nice overlook of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Building and maintain the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse has been challenging. The top 30 feet of the rock had to be blasted off to build the lighthouse and storm-tossed boulders have broken windows and damaged the roof.

Venture back to the camp to see the Adirondacks. At the east edge of the camp, the trail goes off to the left. You’ll pass a couple of low spots that are muddy after rainy days, then turn to the left and walk on a short section that is nicely graveled. 
The trail quickly changes from the gravel track to a rooty, rocky, rutted path as it switchbacks up the side of Tillamook Head. There are few good views as you heading north from the Hiker’s Camp. From the top of the head, there are short boardwalks over most of the muddy spots and just short muddy spots to walk through.

The trail winds through the forest, staying fairly level as it gently rises and falls along the contours of the coast.

About .4 mile from Clark’s Mountain, above the trail on the left, there is a great example of a clothespin tree. There is a gap in the roots big enough to crawl through. The tree was logged years ago and you can see the slots the lumberjacks cut into the trunk to wedge in the springboards they stood on to saw through the tree. There are several example where the lumberjacks cut slots for springboards into the trees to cut them down but there are still some old growth trees along the trail.

You’ll need a gps to know when you reach Clark’s Mountain. It is a treed knoll without a view. Just to the left of the trail are some nice little areas where you can sit and take a break and listen to the sound of the wind in the trees and of the ocean far below.

Clark’s Mountain is about 5 miles from the trailhead and it is at an elevation of 1,200 feet. There is 1,971 feet of ascent and 1,070 feet of descent to this point. If you don’t have a GPS, there is a large tree that looks like it is across the trail. The trail goes beside the tree and drops down a bit, going over some boardwalks. In about 100 feet is a toppled tree with the roots now rising vertically about 12 feet above the trail. This is the only place on the trail where you brush by this root ball. Check out the last two photos in the gallery.

Clark’s Mountain is a good point to turn around because there really aren’t any good views of the ocean north of this point.

Retrace your steps back over the boardwalks and the roots and the rocks. Once you reach the section of nicely graveled trail, you’ll know you are almost back to the Hiker’s Camp. Follow the trail back into the camp and take some time to admire the workmanship on the cedar Adirondacks.

William Clark wrote down his impressions of this area after coming here from Ft. Clatsop in January 1806. Most of the trees in the area were about 100 years old but there were much older trees that had survived some natural disaster. His journal entry of January 8, 1806 stated “The mountains, covered with a very heavy growth of pine and fir, also the white cedar or arbor vitae and a small proportion of black alder. This alder grows to a height of 60 or 70 feet and 2 or 3 feet in diameter. Some species of pine or fir on top of the point of view (Tillamook Head) rise to the immense height of 210 feet and from 8 to 10 feet in diameter and are perfectly sound and solid.” 

From the camp, return via the Clatsop Loop Trail. To take this route, go just past the bathroom and take the trail that leads off to the right. The Clatsop Loop Trail switchbacks down the hillside and then crosses a small meadow and muddy patches before coming to a nice viewpoint of some haystack rocks in the ocean. There are scrubby pines and salal along this section and the salal would quickly engulf the trail if there was no maintenance.

Coming back, you can walk down to the Indian Point Beach and follow the shoreline south for about .5 mile. Look for a break in the cliffs and a dirt path leading steeply away from the beach. Follow this steep trail and rejoin the main trail and turn right to continue heading south.

Be careful on this next section of trail because some of the wood steps aren’t level and can be very slick.

Lewis and Clark stayed in this area in 1806 and they complained about the incessant rain during the winter. You, however, have the luxury of choosing to come here on a sunny or cloudy day when the emerald green of the forest is very peaceful and a nice change from the gray days of winter.

This trail can be hiked at any time of year. There aren’t many wildflowers along the trail to be seen. This trail is good for dogs but there are cliffs. Parts of this trail aren’t good for children because of cliffs, steep slopes, and slick sections of trail. State Park regulations say dogs to be leashed on trails.
 
Enjoy the Photos!

Gallery Pics 

Switchback Steve

(Read More... | Dayhikes | Score: 0)

Metro Area Hikes: Whipple Creek Trail, WA
Monday, January 06 @ 14:32:51 PST by Drew (186 reads)
Day hikes in the Northwest.Vicinity Location:
About 15 miles north of Portland, OR in Clark County.

Directions: 
From Portland, take I-5 North to Exit 9. Turn left on NE 179th St. and drive about 1.5 miles.
Turn left on NW 21st Ave, drive about .25 mile to the gravel parking lot.

No permits are required to park at the trailhead.

There are no restrooms at the trailhead.

Trails:
Blue Trail, South Ridge Loop Trail, North Ridge Loop, Cedar Loop, Raspberry Lane with connections to various trails.

Trail Maps:
Topo Map - future, Whipple Creek Park Map from City of VancouverDownload Garmin .gpx file – future

Length and Elevation:
Distance is 1.7 miles. Trailhead elevation is 250 ft. There is 260 feet elevation gain and 260 feet of elevation loss.

Review: January 18, 2014.
There are many trails that connect to each other providing a variety of loops. Many of the trails are very muddy this time of year. Raspberry Lane and Cedar Loop trail are two trails that are nicely graveled.

Review coming soon

Waypoints coming soon.

Enjoy the photos!

Gallery Pics

Switchback Steve



(Read More... | Metro Area Hikes | Score: 0)

Dayhikes: Greenleaf Falls, WA
Monday, January 06 @ 14:32:50 PST by Drew (591 reads)
Day hikes in the Northwest.Vicinity Location:
About 36 miles east of Portland, OR in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.

Directions: 
From Portland, take I-205 North to Exit 27 towards Camas. Merge onto Hwy 14 East and drive about 31.5 miles.
Turn left off Highway 14, drive a few hundred feet, cross under the railroad tracks, then turn right at the T in the road onto Cascade Dr.
Drive about .75 mile, crossing over a couple of creeks, then turn right on Hot Springs Ave (some maps may call this E Cascade Dr.), drive about .1 mile and turn left. Drive a few hundred feet further and park in the lot which is west of Drive to Bonneville Hot Springs Resort.

No permits are required to park at the trailhead.

This is a private parking lot for resort customers. An agreement has been reported between the resort and the Mazamas granting access to the trail, but the resort has the legal right to deny access at any time. Please read any posted signs or notices that may appear. The property owners have been generous with respect to hikers by allowing parking and restroom facilities. Please do not track dirt into the hotel.

There is a restroom at the trailhead.

Trails:
Dick Thomas Trail, Two Chiefs Trail, Unnamed trails. 

There is a geocache at: N 45° 39.608 W 121° 58.556 Info at Geocaching.com 

Trail Maps:
Topo MapDownload Garmin.gpx file

Length and Elevation:
Distance is 9.2 miles. Trailhead elevation is 75 ft. There is 1,400 feet elevation gain and 145 feet of elevation loss to Greenleaf Falls. The return trip with the viewpoint near Greenleaf Falls has 250 feet of elevation gain and 1,500 feet of elevation loss. 

Review: January 5, 2014.
There are six different ways to access the trail to Greenleaf Falls. This review provides directions for the two of the routes that converge at Carpenters Lake. 

This set of directions is shorter, steeper, and passes through a couple of blackberry patches.
From the west end of the parking lot, head up the gravel road, fairly steeply uphill for about 300 feet. Where the road T’s off, turn left and walk about 30 feet and turn right on a small footpath. Navigate through a couple of blackberry patches then head steeply up the hillside. It would be a good idea to bring some hand clippers to help get through the blackberry bramble.

After climbing steeply for about .25 mile, the ascent becomes more gradual, then levels off as you approach the same elevation as Carpenters Lake. The trail crosses the outlet of Carpenters Lake on a homemade footbridge, then soon comes to a junction with an ATV trail. This is where the directions from the two starting points converge.

This alternate set of directions to Greenleaf Falls is longer, less steep, and passes under huge power towers.
From the west end of the parking lot, head up the gravel road, fairly steeply uphill. Where the road tees off, turn left and walk along a jeep trail. The track runs over hill and dale for about .2 mile, crossing a wet depression then climbing to a 4-way junction at some large power towers.

From where you first cross under the big powerlines, walk about 100 yards, going down a dip, over a small culverted stream, which is Carpenter Creek, then back up again. At the top of the next rise, turn right on an old, unmarked jeep trail which heads uphill. Walk about 100 yards, crossing underneath the powerlines again and at the end of the jeep trail is a footpath leading into the forest.

For the next .4 mile, the trail climbs for a short distance, then drops into a small gully and crosses a small stream. There is a level section of trail for, then it drops into a small gully and stream then up to an ATV road.

Turn right at the ATV road and walk up the muddy and rocky trail about .4 mile to a junction with a small trail going off to the right. This junction is just before a large grassy meadow, which was once Carpenters Lake. This is where the directions from the two starting points converge.


It was beavers that made Carpenters Lake. They built a dam at the outlet and flooded the area. Now the beavers are gone and there is only a small pond at the east end of the bog. 

Now go from the 3-way junction at Carpenter’s Lake, bearing to the right on the ATV road. In a short distance there is another 3-way junction. Bear right again, leaving the ATV trail. The ATV road that goes to the left leads to Aldrich Butte.

The trail winds along the west side of Carpenters Lake and passes through a forest of fir and alder. After about .5 mile, it crosses a small creek on a bridge and continues uphill through the forest. Continuing along the present track you’ll come to a 4-way junction with the PCT about .8 mile from Carpenters Lake. The PCT at the time of this review has a trail marker on a tree in each direction.

After the junction with the PCT, the trail climbs gently for over .5 mile, with occasional glimpses of the gorge. Hook around the edge of a small ridge then drop down into the forest of fir trees. Continue to gently gain elevation as it passes below Sacaquawea and Papoose Rocks. The cliff face of Table Mountain looms ahead, high above the trail. This trail is mostly through a forest of fir and alder with a few rocky spots where it cuts through talus slopes of basalt which slid off of Table Mountain about 700 years ago.

Greenleaf Falls is a nice waterfall that cascades down just above the trail. The falls aren’t very tall but the creek certainly rushes down the mountainside. Crossing this stream is much easier if you have trekking poles to provide extra balance as you step from rock to slippery rock.

This is a good place to turn around, but the trail does continue another couple of miles to Blue Lake Road. You could set up a shuttle hike for this trip.

Coming back, there is an old logging road about .5 mile from the falls. You can follow the track uphill about .25 mile to some nice overlooks of the Gorge. The abandoned road ends at a large rockslide. People have camped here and the campsite has some nice views of the Gorge.

The trail is mostly downhill except for one short moderately steep uphill stretch where the trail climbs a small ridge then hooks around to the right.

Follow the trail back to Carpenters Lake and if you have the inclination, walk about .6 mile and gain 500 feet in elevation to the top of Aldrich Butte.

From Carpenters Lake, choose the return route back to the trailhead.

This is a most enjoyable trail. It is safe for dogs and kids and has a modest elevation gain. The only tricky part is if you want to cross Greenleaf Creek. The creek has large, slippery rocks to cross on. If you don’t mind wading then this is not a problem but the creek is fairly swift and can be almost knee deep in some spots.

Enjoy the photos!

Gallery Pics

Switchback Steve



(Read More... | Dayhikes | Score: 0)

Backpacking Trips: Wonderland Trail to Indian Bar
Tuesday, September 03 @ 12:34:19 PDT by Drew (1743 reads)
Multi day adventures!
Vicinity Location:
About 69 miles southeast of Seattle, WA in Mt. Rainier National Park.

Directions:
From Seattle: Follow I-5 South for 25 miles and take exit 142A to merge onto WA Highway 18 East toward North Bend/Auburn. Drive 4.4 miles and take the Auburn Way/WA Highway 164 East exit toward Enumclaw for 0.2 mile.
From Enumclaw, drive about 47 miles on Hwy 410 and continue south onto Hwy 123. In about 6 miles turn right and drive about 4 miles and take the first left after the tunnel, into the parking area.

From Portland: Take I-5 North towards Seattle and drive for about 75 miles.
Take exit 68 for US-12 East. At the top of the off ramp, turn right onto US-12 and travel about 71.8 miles. This takes you past Morton and through Packwood. From Packwood, drive about 8 miles and turn north at the junction for Highway 123. Drive about 6 miles, past the Ohanapecosh Campground and turn left on Stevens Canyon Road. Drive about 4 miles and take the first left after the tunnel, into the parking area.

There are bathrooms and water at the trailhead until mid-October.

Pets are not allowed on the trails in National Parks. 

A permit is needed to park.

Trail:
Wonderland Trail with connection to Box Canyon Trail.

Trail Maps:
Topo Map, Download Garmin.gpx file

Length and Elevation:
14.5 miles round trip. Elevation gain of 2,900 feet and loss of 800 feet. Elevation at the trailhead at 3,100 feet, highest point is at 5,914 feet. Lowest elevation is 3,100 feet.

Review: October 26, 2013.
From the parking lot, walk across the street and look for the brown Wonderland Trail sign. Follow the skimpy trail over glacially scraped rocks to a sketchy trail junction and turn right. If you miss the junction you will walk onto the trail around Box Canyon after a couple hundred feet.

From the junction, the trail gently ascends through an semi-open forest with an understory of Alder and Vine Maples. In the fall there are many kinds of mushrooms and conks in the forest and the leaves are artfully strewn along the trail. In about .8 mile from the trailhead, gently descend down to Nickel Creek and cross on a single-log footbridge. About .1 mile from the creek you will pass the junction to the backcountry campsites of Nickel Creek. There is a group site and a few individual sites, along with a toilet within the sound of the creek.

From the camp, you enter a darker forest of fir and hemlock, walking about .2 mile before beginning a long, steady ascent up the side of Cowlitz Divide. Follow the trail up many switchbacks, sometimes in the silent forest, sometimes near a rushing creek, until leveling out after climbing for about an hour.

Still in the trees, you’ll pass the junction that drops down to Olallie Camp and eventually to Ohanapecosh Campground. You’ll probably see elk and bear scat in the trail and look for elk rubbings, which are where the elk have shredded the bark off little  trees while rubbing the velvet off their antlers. I saw three saplings with the bark rubbed off on this trip.

It isn’t long before the climb begins again in earnest. The rutted trail shows the effects of years of inadequate trail maintenance but thankfully isn’t usually very muddy. After navigating a few more switchbacks you’ll walk across a mountain meadow with nice views to the southeast. From here the views improve as the increased elevation travels into an alpine environment. Take a well deserved break at the first great view of Mt. Rainier along the trail. Hopefully you have chosen this trail on a relatively clear day.

Continue along the ridge, enjoying views of Mt. Adams to the southeast and Goat Rocks to the east. The trail dips and climbs as it generally follows the ridgeline for the next few miles. The philosophy of the Wonderland Trail builders was that climb every promontory to get another view of Mt. Rainier. And what spectacular views they can be. Since this is the east side of the Mountain, the sun shines at a nice angle on Mt. Rainier for most of the day, highlighting the Cowlitz glacier and Little Tahoma.

Of course nearly all views of Mt. Rainier are spectacular, there are some particularly fine views as the ground drops away from you, only to steeply rise on the flanks of Mt. Rainer, rising to the eternal snows of the summit.

After a few miles, the you pass the high point of this hike, drop down and cross a small saddle, then climb again. The trail deceptively climbs several high points. Each knoll tantalizing you into thinking it is the high point. To the northeast Twin Peaks and the Cowlitz Chimneys come into view to the northeast. The location of Panhandle Gap, the highest point on the Wonderland Trail, can be guessed by looking at a northern spine of Mt. Rainier and looking where there is a divot in the spine in the far distance. In the summer and early fall, this is about the summer snow line at 7,200 feet. By now you can see a valley carved into the slopes of Mt. Rainer. This is where Ohanapecosh River flows from the Ohanapecosh Glacier and has created Indian Bar. Indian Bar is a large, sloping gravel bar and ends in a narrow chasm crossed by a wooden footbridge. The shelter at Indian Bar is right where the gravel bar comes to a point.

Now the trail starts dropping, going through a small gully, through small groves of trees, and turning to the left, At first the trail drops at a moderate grade but soon steepens the decent with a series of wooden check steps. The trail passes through groves of trees and descending along a small stream towards Indian Bar. The view of the summit is hidden in the valley, but there are some rugged vistas at the head of the valley.

Drop down along a small stream and you will see the shelter on the left. Walk along a small creek for a bit, then step across the creek to arrive at the shelter.

The valley upstream is broad and green with a dozen waterfalls cascading down. Just below the shelter the Ohanapecosh River is squeezed into a tiny canyon and over Wauhaukaupauken Falls, then flows rapidly away down the mountain.

We hiked this in the fall, but in July the flowers are spectacular along the divide. From the shelter, it is easy to walk upstream and explore the area, perhaps enjoying mountain reflections in still pools along the river.

The shelter is home to several kinds of wildlife as you will soon find if you leave any food unprotected. You may be amazed how quickly they can chew through a pocket on your pack to get at some tasty treat. In the shelter many people have left their names or initials carved into the wood. It is vandalism but at the same time, it is interesting. As you probably guessed, the shelter was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Since its construction in 1940, it has had some lapses in repair attested to the green algae stains on the fireplace. Some new log posts and roof repairs are keeping it all dry at the present time.

Above the shelter at Indian Bar there is an open-air toilet that is not for the bashful kind. There are individual campsites across the river and through the woods.

When it is time to head back, it feels like a long climb out of the valley and along the small stream but soon the mountain views make it all worthwhile. Once back in the forest, the rest of the trip is mostly downhill. After crossing Nickel Creek, it seems too short of a time before the traffic noise intrudes and the parking lot comes into view.

This is one of my favorite longer day trips in the park with wonderful views of Mt. Rainier and the east side of the park.

Enjoy the Photos!

Gallery Pics

Switchback Steve



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Tuesday, September 03
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