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Month: May 2018

A Foray into Gifford Pinchot National Forest

A Foray into Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Just north of the Columbia River, along the Cascades, is the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. I finally had a chance to check it out as a possible adventuring area. According to the maps I have, I should have been able to go to Carson and then follow some forest routes for a ways and then follow the Lewis River west and then return home. Things turned out a little differently, and more fun.

Here is the track I followed: (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate the pictures.

From Gresham it took about an hour to get to Cascade Locks where you can cross the Columbia via the Bridge of the Gods. After some detours and short side explorations I ended up in Carson ( 1 ) about a half hour later. I gassed up at the single gas station and followed Wind River Road looking for Panther Creek Road. I found Bear Creek Road and took the next one ( 2 ), which was unmarked. It turned out to be the one I wanted.

Panther Creek Campground ( 3 ) has quite a few sites, not too crowded together. Some were reserved, and there were still a few open sites, despite the Memorial Day weekend. There is access to Panther Creek.

The road is nice and smoothly paved, 1 1/2 lanes wide. Real fun to drive on. Eventually I got to the intersection with 60 ( 4 ) and encountered a sign that indicated there might be a change in plans. The pavement soon ended and dust swirled on the gravel road. That wasn’t too bad until oncoming traffic zoomed by. Since I had the windows and roof open, there was soon dust everywhere. Falls Creek Horse Camp ( 5 ) would be a nice place to camp, and there are several trails around there.

An open spot along the road provided a nice view of Mt St Helens above the trees. I convinced one of the local bears to take a picture of me and Orion.

We got to what the sign warned about: a culvert was plugged and a small creek washed over the road ( 6 ). The original plan was to follow forest roads to ( 6a ), or even further north along the Lewis River and then head west. Large 4WD vehicles made it over fine, but without tools to level things out a little, I didn’t want to risk getting stuck, or worse, damaged. I don’t think breakdowns out here are covered by the roadside assistance coverage. And how would I contact them anyway? So, I backtrack to the intersection with 60 and head west. Poor Orion wanted so badly to cross the stream, and after watching the 4WD truck go through he had a serious case of big tire envy!

Along the way there was an inviting turn-off. After following some hillside-hugging and overgrown roads we ended up in a large meadow ( 7 ). Careful examination revealed that the flat area is actually a huge flattened pile of gravel. This might have been a gravel depot for preparing the forest roads. In the course of trying to find a route through the forest, I found several similar, smaller sites which might have been work and storage areas for road crews. All that was left was piles of gravel, trash, and evidence of much target practice.

This was a good place to have lunch and I convinced another bear to take our pictures. Unfortunately the bears are very bashful and wouldn’t let me take their picture. We had lunch and tea and said our good byes. A nice thing about this place: it was very quiet! Some wind, some birds and a few insects was all I could hear. What a place to have a cabin, and there was already an outhouse.

I was trying to find a route back to Wind River Road without having to return to 60, but failed. I got over a berm and moved a few (small) fallen trees but eventually the prepared road ran out. Again we backtracked, and continued on 60. The gravel road gave way to smooth pavement that wound through trees and we slalomed joyously along the traffic-free path until we rejoined Wind River Road ( 8 ).

It was a scenic drive to, and along, the Lewis River. McClellan Viewpoint ( 9 ) provided a spectacular panoramic view of Mt St Helens. The lakes looked pretty but trees blocked most of the view. It was getting late so I didn’t stop at any of the parks. The last picture was taken at ( 10 ).

Overall, the wilderness I passed through was rather typical, dry forest. It was pretty, but not really what I was looking for. At least I now know what it is, and may come back for some more exploring, particularly around Mt St Helens, but I think I need to aim west if I want to find rain-forest.

Equipment I need for Orion so we can go more places (because I can’t get him the big tires he wants):

  • Large folding bow saw
  • Collapsible but sturdy pick/shovel
  • Long tow strap, to reach to the nearest tree
  • Manual winch
  • Blocks to put under scissor jack, maybe pieces of 2×8 or 4×4
  • Wheel chocks
Going Around Mt Hood

Going Around Mt Hood

Some projects are finished and it’s time to go adventuring again!

The plan is to head down US Highway 26 toward Y’East (Mt Hood) and check out the trail head for an overnight hike I’m planning in mid-June. After that, just follow my hiking muse, or wherever Orion (my car) steers me. Ultimately, here is the track I followed: (Click on the map to enlarge it)

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate the pictures.

There are 5 major areas I explored. These are noted with the yellow numbers on the topographic map.

The drive from the house to Salmon River Road takes about 1 hour (Marker 1). Then it takes another 20 minutes or so to get to the trail head. I checked out the beginning of trail 793A, which starts opposite the sign to the Green Canyons campground. It has a (very) brief level section and them goes up, and up, and up. I went only 3/4 mile and climbed over 500 feet. Ultimately the climb is about 3000 feet! With an overnight pack that will be fun. After my quick mile and a half round trip, I went to the absolute end of Salmon River Road, which ends at the trailhead to Salmon Butte. That hike is 8 miles, round trip, and also climbs about 3000 feet. The main parking lot for the Salmon River trail was overflowing and there were plenty of cars here as well.

I wanted to stop at the ranger station at Zig Zag, but it was closed, so I continued along 26 and stopped at Mirror Lake (Marker 2). This can only be accessed from the uphill, or eastbound side of the highway. According to the signs, this is one of the most popular places to visit around Y’East. It is about 1 1/2 miles each way, with gentle switchbacks. You can see more comments in the picture descriptions. There was a lot of two- and four-legged traffic.

At Marker 3 I checked out Still Creek Campground. About half way around the campsites I noticed a dirt road and Orion pulled the wheel in that direction. This went through a strange collection of what looked like unofficial campsites that seem to be occupied for long durations. Eventually I found a sign leading me to Trillium Lake which was on my list of places to check out. My NW Forest Pass saved me the $5 entrance fee. It was a pretty busy place with lots of anglers, picnickers, and people enjoying the official beginning of summer that is marked by the Memorial Day weekend. I found an out-of-the-way picnic bench and made my lunch. I do not recommend the freeze-dried Pad Thai from Backpacker’s Pantry. It’s just noodles and textured soy protein and flavoring. It tastes fine but the textured soy protein has the consistency of bits of pencil eraser! Well, that’s why I’m trying it out on day trips like this. Even though it’s almost June, it’s in the low 40’s and I’m glad of the many layers of clothing. Hands were pretty cold. Another thing about the food packets: they never tear open the way they’re supposed to, and cold fingers have a hard time grabbing the tough plastic. Having a multi-tool with scissors is essential. It is unlikely that I will have a reason to revisit this park.

I returned to Highway 26 and had a choice of following it south toward some other lakes, or taking State Highway 35 north around Y’East. I chose 35 as the route that would still get me home that day. Shortly after turning onto 35 there was an unmarked dirt road off to the right (FR3560, according to the map). Again, Orion tugged that way and off we went at Marker 4 . A cliff-hanger of a drive with great views of Y’East. Eventually we were stopped by too much snow on the road. Definitely will come here again later in the summer, perhaps with Little Bear.

Marker 5 We headed home via the towns of Mt Hood and Hood River, and then west along the Columbia River. There were some nice views of Y’East along the way.

Overall, a very productive exploration. I know a little more about my planned overnight to Kinzel Lake and found a nice forest road to explore. The contrast between the west and east side of Y’East is interesting. As I came back west around the north side it got cooler and cloudy again. The town of Mt Hood on the north-east side had been sunny and warm.

Coming back along the gorge I could see the damage done by the Eagle Creek fire last summer.

Here is the day pack I prepared:

Adjustments for the future are:

  • Get a smaller tripod!
  • Don’t forget the lens filters!