Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mosier Twin Tunnels

Mosier Twin Tunnels: East Side.

Mosier Twin Tunnels trail

My son and I took a nice spring jaunt up the Columbia gorge in search of flowers, Vistas, and a little exercise.  We started out just east of Hood River at a little place called Rowena Crest. A very nice place to see some interesting wild flowers. The Balsam Root was just at the end of its season when we visited. If you walk very far around this area, make sure you know what Poison Oak looks like.



After this little scenic escapade, we headed back to Mosier to find the East end of the Old Historic Highway (at least this part of it). The West end of this 4.5 mile stretch of the old Columbia Gorge highway is located in Hood River. We didn't make it that far today. We just did the short 1.5 mile out to where the Mosier tunnels lie nestled up against the cliffs overlooking the columbia gorge. A nice little piece of history. This section of the highway had to climb up the cliffs because the RailRoad already owned the easy right or way down along the river (and presumably it would have been too costly to fill in the river 100 years ago).
The highway did fine for Model T's, but it very soon became obsolete, fell into disrepair, and the tunnels eventually filled up with debris and were closed. However, in the 1990's the trail was recovered for hiking and biking and is now a very pleasant little jaunt.
It is completely paved. Plenty big enough for everyone to enjoy.
Just keep your eyes open for occasional bicyclist going much to fast down hill. Funny, they complain about how insensitive car drivers are to their right or way and then go blasting down the hill in a pedestrian area.
Luckily, us walkers can spend a good bit more time looking up and down and around and general enjoying the view.

About a mile into the hike from the Mosier Trailhead you will come to the entrance to the tunnels. They are pretty cool. Take some pictures !!




At the East end of the Tunnels, only about 40 feet in, is a place where someone has carved a message into the rock. I have to find out the story about this. It reads (as far as I can tell): Snowbound,  Nov 19-27, 1921. Chas. Sadilik (and another name). Now that MUST be a good story. Unless some guy put it there last weekend.

SnowBound: 1921

You always see different things going one way than the other. Be sure to stop at the new scenic overview point that is right at the East entrance of the Tunnels and the local high point for the trail. There is a picnic bench there, and lots of flowers.

I need to come back here sometime with either more time, or a bicycle. The part of the trail past the tunnels toward Hood River is beckoning and from the river, it looks like it would be fun !!

stone crop



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Silver Falls: Trail of 10 Falls

Silver Falls

This is one of the 3 quintessential Oregon Hikes. And by far the most accessible. So, if you have pretty much anyone in your party, And want to see some world class waterfalls without flying to South America, this is it for you.

This unique geographic feature is about 1.5 hours south of Portland. Just far enough that it isn't completely overrun on a nice sunny day (well, if you get there early).  The hike that I did with the Intel Hiking club is about a 6 mile loop that goes down one river branch, up another, and then comes back to the parking lot.  There are unique and beautiful things to see on all 3 legs.

A map. Lets see if I can magically make a link into the Matrix:

Silver Falls Trail map

Oh, that was fun.

Anyway, There a couple of places to start this hike, but the surest place is the large parking lot at the South Falls.

The most tragic thing about this hike is that the most AWESOME INCREDIBLE and BEAUTIFUL waterfall you have probably ever seen, is like 5 minutes walk from the parking lot.  Very unexpected. Very Unique. But must too easy to get to. Makes it a little cheap.

But oh, it is wonderful.

Upper South Falls. See the people behind it?

Because we are at a big fall, and we are going to more downstream, we start out going all down hill. Don't get too comfortable with that, we have to get back to the car eventually. But all in all we are only talking about a few hundred feet give and take.  This has nothing on Dog Mountain.

The Intel Hiking club always goes the weekend of Mother's Day. That is the weekend that people walk around with numbers on their chest in nearby Silverton (I have no idea) and there is a wildflower plant exhibit at the lodge at South Falls. A good day to drop in and try to memorize some of the flowers before you head out. Personally, I like dropping in again afterwards and trying to identify the flowers that I found that I didn't remember the names.

I don't think I want to walk you through all 10 falls (and probably at least that many odd streams falling into the gorge). Instead, let me give you a general feeling.

We are starting out at the top of a lava flow from some ten thousands of years ago. The two branches of the river we are going to follow have been cutting their way back since then. That is how these steep falls get built. Over the centuries, the falls are  cutting their way backward into the lava flow.
Lower South Falls.
Behind Lower South Falls. Ain't that cool?

So you have a large cliff that is marching backwards with the years. We are just hiking the  current face of these rivers. Lets make a note in our iPhones to come back in a few mellenia to see how things have changed. If you start at Upper South Falls (and why wouldn't you, it is by the big parking lot) then you hike down the south fork river and then turn and hike up the north for river. Lots of Falls ever half mile or so, and each one is just a little different.
Western Corydalis

double falls
Fairy Bell 
Lots of flower along the way....

Fairy Bell and Bleeding Heart (and some Forest Violet, in yellow)

Yellow Fawn Lily
After you get back up the North Fork, you need to take the rim trail back up to the parking lot. This is a nice stroll through a lot of old (medium old?) forest. So big interesting trees. Some small and very nice rare flowers. This is the time of year for the Wonderful little Calypso Orchid, which can be found hiding around a half mile along the rim trail, and the yellow Fawn Lily (sometimes called the Avalanche Lily) which is found at one steep cliff face by a safety fence. Mostly on the other side of the fence growing down the cliff face.
Calypso Orchid.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cedar Butte

Cedar Butte

Cedar Butte is a short steep hike that is more about the adventure of getting there than about the actual time on the trail. This is you chance to do some relatively safe exploring of the Tillamook Forest lumbering roads and perhaps learn a bit about the history of lumbering and its affects on Nature and Oregon.

So, first some standard safety equipment. We are going to be traveling on dirt and gravel roads, some with pretty significant potholes and ruts. You don't necessarily need an Off Road capable vehicle, but you probably don't want a standard family sedan either. I would say that a Subaru Forester is fine (hey, that is what I drive) but a Prius probably is a little iffy. This is a road clearance thang. You also should have a compass and a good map. You can't trust you cell phone, you won't have a signal for much of this drive.

I think the right thing to do is to stop at the Tillamook Forestry Center. It is on the way from Portland to the Trail Head along route 8 anyway.
Tillamook Forestry Center. Check it out.

Stop in and walk around. Go up into the fire watch tower (that is so cool). If you have time, watch the 15 minute movie on the Tillamook burn. Walk out back and enjoy the views of the Wilson river, perhaps stroll a little way down the side trails. Hmmm, perhaps we shall come back and do some Wilson Trail hiking on another day.
Above all, take in the fact that this really expensive center was built with private lumbering money, presumably for the purpose of making clear cutting more romantic. I don't remember seeing any pictures of clear cuts and actual lumbering when I walked through there. Not sure why. Don't worry, we will see plenty on our little drive.
While we are here, stop in the gift store and get a map. You could make do with the free little handout they give for Cedar Butte, but if you really want some fun, get the $10 large map. That will let us explore more.

Now we get in our car and head down route 8 a few more miles toward the shore. Be looking for the signs for Cedar Butte road. It is well marked but it is a very hard right hand turn onto the old road. Cross the bridge over the Wilson and now we are on a dirt road.
This road isn't very wide and you will be tempted to drive in the center (in the ruts). There are many blind curves and with all of the people who surely must read this blog, there are going to be a lot of cars coming and going. There could also be very large lumber trucks. So driver so around curves and watch yourself.

We have a 5.7 mile drive and since we are going slow, it will take a while. I encourage you to stop often and look around. Evidence of a LOT of historic lumbering. You can see all of the cleared areas and try to guess how long ago various sections were cut.
Stay on the main road. Pay attention to little marker signs at major intersections. It was pretty easy to follow the "Cedar Butte" signs. Eventually you will come to an opening with a sign marking a place to park cars for the Trail Head.

What a beautiful view of the Clear Cut !! Off to the East we can see Kings Mountain. No snow on it. So what did I see from Saddle the other day? Ahead of us we can see some rock that is this side of Cedar Butte. We are going higher up than that.
The trail head is off to the left about 100 yards away. A little hard to find, look for the wood sign post. The first part of the trail winds through a old clear cut. Not sure why they took these trees down, they were not very big.

Then we get into the forest. The trail is going up up up. This is a very steep, but very short trail. 3/4 a mile. I did it in around 40 minutes (1 way).
This forest has sticks and branches all over the ground. It looks like a forest fire nightmare in the making. And the trees are not very old. Perhaps 20-30 years?
Here is my thought, these trees are young, growing quickly, and very crowded together. They are making a lot of branches as their lower ones die and fall off. So you get this forest floor that is filled with their debris instead of the healthy fern and sallel that you will see in a more mature forest (and further up the hill).

Keep going up. You will quickly hit the crest of the hill and follow that a ways to the summit. There is a nice place for a couple of tents in the cover of the trees at the top. No water, of course.
The Butte itself is a big rock with a nice view to the West. There are a couple of benches up there to sit on. I was lucky enough to be up there a couple of years ago when a Scout troop was putting these benches in for an Eagle Scout project. Thanks Guys !!
If you have a sunny day, sit and rest awhile. Take in the view. A little later in the summer there will be a nice selection of wild flowers. Today I only had Glacier Lily.

poor lonely glacier Lily

From the Butte. Looking West to the Sea

So, we go back down. Now, want a little more adventure and learning? Let's drive back to the main road along an alternate route. You really need the good map for this, by the way.
A Warning: At this time there is active lumbering going on on this route. Among other things, this means there are some new roads that are not on the map. Don't take those.

Go ahead down the road that the trail is beside. This takes you around to the west side of Cedar Butte. Eventually you will come to some real logging equipment. When I was there  there was a drag line and crane for pulling logs out of the valley and one of those cool log trimmer robots at the top. It was a Thursday afternoon around 5:00 and there was no one there. Not sure when loggers work. Down the road blocked by the crane is an old piece of equipment that I have visited before. We were going to go there. It is an old water tank. Probably for a steam donkey. You can see it on Google Earth :).
Back in the car. Follow the map, we are taking the Cedar Creek road back to the road behind the Forestry Center. Once you get past the lumbering, this turns out to be a much better road that the other way. Lots of designated camping sites and such down by the river. This may be a fun place to come back to some weekend. Set up a base camp and do some hiking in the area.
Could be loud in the summer, this is OHV and dirt bike territory.

Some active logging around the corner.