Salmon Butte Trail

Salmon Butte Trail

Salmon Butte Trail starts where the South Fork of the Salmon River meets the main course of the Salmon River, and is in my main hiking area, the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness portion of Mount Hood Forest. Overall the trail is smooth and rises steadily along its length. The total length is 6.1 miles and climbs 3490 feet. Compare that to Cool Creek which rises 3200 feet in 3.3 miles.

On December 22, 2018, I headed out to give it a try. I got a late start and arrived at the trail head at 12:30. Sunset is at 4:30 this time of year, and in the mountains it would get dark even sooner. I didn’t have much time.

The trail starts out by crossing an old concrete bridge and follows what appears to be an old logging road. The roadway is covered with only light growth, probably owing to a thick and well-packed layer of gravel. It would be hard to drive now, however, due to the number of stream-worn little canyons crossing it. After 1.5 miles, the trail goes off on its own, while the old road continues off in another direction. Up to this point you can hear the South Fork in the distance.

Once I turned off the road into the trees, it was less windy and felt warmer. The path is soft and smooth. About 2 miles in there was a light dusting of snow in the clearings, and at about 3 miles there was a little bit of snow under the trees. I was passed by a young man in shorts with a dog. At 3.5 miles I was still in good shape but knew that there was not enough time to get to the top. I did not want to be stuck hiking in the forest after dark. I turned around and had a late lunch when I reached the campsite. I reached the car at 4:00 and the sun was far behind the mountains.

On New Years Day of 2019 I headed out at sunrise to try again. The sky was clear and I had the whole day to try this. I arrived at the trail head at 8:40 and started. The old road follows the river for a while and there is a strong, cold breeze blowing along it. I was glad to get to the trail and out of the wind. There wasn’t any snow on the road portion but once I headed into the trees and got a little more altitude, there was snow. After about 3 miles there was several inches on the path and that made hiking a bit more strenuous. I also had trouble keeping my hands and fingers warm. Gloves that are fine in town are not warm enough up here. I made it a little more than 4 miles and had to turn around. I just couldn’t keep my hands warm enough, and I was getting pooped out. Perhaps not getting much sleep the night before had something to do with that. Hiking in even a few inches of snow is also hard work, a little bit like walking uphill in sand.

Oh well, it will be here in the Spring.

I started back and made lunch at a convenient spot along the trail. The Indian Vegetable Korma is very good but takes half an hour to soften all the vegetables. I had to set the fuel canister on a glove. If they get too cold the fuel doesn’t expand properly. Ideally I would have a small piece of foam padding to set it on. (That is why I practice cooking on these hikes. I have to remember or relearn all the tricks I’ve forgotten.)

I found some small animal tracks. These looked like cat tracks, more like a house cat than a cougar(!) and are probably raccoon tracks.

I explored some strange ice crystals in the moss along the trail, and explored what at first looked like strange clumps of snow on some dead sticks. Looking closely at them I found ice crystals growing under the bark of some dead branches. These crystals literally peeled the bark off the branches. The ice crystals were very fine, like cotton candy, and melted at the merest breath.

I got back to the car about 3pm.

Clothes: Duluth light thermal underwear, top & bottom. REI pants and Duluth poly longsleeve shirt. Brimmed wool hat with integral earmuffs. Duluth socks.
On the first hike I wore a heavy windbreaker. Second hike was colder and I used my Duluth hoodie. Hoodie and hat were sweat soaked from the inside and always hard to put back on after resting. Only had work gloves. Need to get ski gloves. I have a small spur on the outside of left foot which has been rubbing the boot on the last few hikes. Finally thought to put a bunion ring on it and that helps a lot.

No injuries, not even to pride.

There are some other exploring options: 1) Follow along the South Fork upstream from the bridge. It looks like a trail starts here, it would be nice to see how far it goes. 2) Follow the road instead of going onto the trail at the 1.5 mile point.

Here are the pictures. You should maximize the slide viewer (in the top left corner) to properly appreciate them. Most pictures were taken with Nikon D5300 and some with my OnePlus 5 phone. The pictures are in high resolution and take a few seconds to load. You can click on the “+” in the top left corner to zoom in.


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