A few photos before the weeds and underbrush took over. Photos all taken on an epic complete tour of the Benson Plateau on June 29th, 2018.
After my usual near-noon start, I had to hurry to get back by complete darkness and fortunately, I made it.
I hiked every trail on the plateau and went south as far as Camp Smoky – which was at long last, appropriately named!
Except as noted, all photos were taken on Benson Way, the trail along the far western edge of the plateau. That part of the trail system burned so hot that in most of the distance, there wasn’t even a trace of soil or duff remaining and the trail was hard to find even though I had hiked it several times before and had a GPS track in my GPS to follow, just in case. I counted about 150 trees down in total and by now, (summer of 2023) there’s likely many more. Enjoy!
Teakettle Spring, as I neared the start of the plateau:
Benson Way photos: These photos look directly at the trail as it recedes into the distance.
My GPS as I returned to the start at the Herman Creek TH:
Over the past three years, I’ve made a dozen trips to the Mt. Adams area for hikes exploring areas new to me. On one of those trips, I spotted a few interesting prominences that needed some further investigating.
I started this adventure at the Williams Mine PCT trail head off of forest Road 23, about 16 miles north of Trout Lake. It was a cool 50 degrees at my 8:53 start time with a promise of blue skies and sunshine all day.
This is a popular section of the PCT and I met about a dozen day-hikers and about 20 PCT thru-hikers in the first 5.7 miles. All the PCT hikers passed me up, in spite of their heavy packs, but I kept up with a few of them, long enough to exchange a few words. I met a couple of men from the south of France, one man from Poland and one each, though they didn’t say where they were from but judging by their accents, from Spain and Germany.
A couple of PCT views:
The flowers are really nice: No beargrass for some reason.
Here are a couple of thru-hikers that have passed me up near the start of my trek. Also, note how well the new forest is coming back from the Cascade Creek fire of Sept. 2012.
I turned from the PCT at the junction of the Round-the-Mountain trail at Horseshoe Meadow and followed that for another 3/10 mile where I headed up to the first of the goals for the day.
This is a not-too-prominent bump, but I had to check it out – because it’s there! I’ll call this one Point 6294.
A nice view from the top.
Back down, I followed a path of least resistance a 1/2 mile or so to my next goal. A much more imposing feature, several hundred feet higher on the mountain.
A view along the way to the next goal:
Another nice meadow:
This got more imposing the closer I got.
Summit of point 6741:
View from the summit
View along the way to The Bumper.
I could see that was about it for the day, so I made a meandering route toward The Bumper, where I knew from past hikes there existed a half-way decent route back to the PCT through the dense newly formed forest.
I traversed for about a third of a mile checking out the sights and then made a bee-line towards The Bumper. As I made my turn to the west and The Bumper, I noticed what looked like a big pile of debris in my path. As I got closer, to my considerable surprise, it turned out to be a crashed airplane! The engine and instruments were gone so I guessed it has long been known so I wasn’t the first to find it. It looked like it was decades old and after researching it when I got home, I found it had gone down mid-winter of 1961. Wow! I was in 7th grade back then and that’s a really long time ago!
I had been on the summit of the bumper before, and it looked like this wreck could be seen from there. However, I had not seen it, nor did I recall any mention of the plane in the many TR’s I’ve read of this area over the years. I was getting a bit tired, but I had to see if it was indeed visible from the top of The Bumper, so another climb beckoned.
On the way to The Bumper
Once atop The Bumper, I could see that, yes, the plane was visible, but just barely and even so, it looked more like a snow patch so that may explain why I’d not heard of it.
The wreck is visible in this photo, taken from the summit of The Bumper, but you have to know exactly where to look.
I headed back, even finding a better way to the PCT through the dense forest to the north of The Bumper. Once on the PCT, I passed 7 or8 more thru-hikers and a couple of them had devised a great way to keep both sun and rain off of them:
This was to be a rather pedestrian hike but as we progressed up the White River a very unusual sight caught our attention: An avalanche! It appeared to have happened very recently, perhaps as recently as the past weekend when there was a heavy rain event that could have triggered it. The Snotel site recorded a period of above freezing temperatures for the 21st to the 23rd and about three inches of precipitation over that time. Enough, apparently, to trigger this avalanche.
The slide went down the west branch of the White River canyon from the White River Glacier and ended under the powerlines to Meadows. The genesis, apparently, from a huge broken-off slab below and cornice about a third of a mile east of Silcox Hut at about the 6,800 foot level. The final runout is at 4,650′ elevation. Distance between these two points is about 2.3 miles as near as we could determine.
Once as far up-canyon as we could get without going out onto the slide, (Kel didn’t want any part of that!) I decided to trek out onto the ice and do some exploring. I made my way, with some difficulty, along the top of the slide for 3/4 miles until I reached its terminus, recording what I saw. This was a fun adventure but now I have a major sunburn to deal with! My bad!
3.5 miles, 781′ EG. Hike #46 for the year.
A few photos of the adventure:
Columns of snow pushed up 12 to 15 feet high at the sides of the slide.
Here’s where I went over the edge of the slide and started exploring down its length. The apparent start of the slide in the upper right. I was able to gauge its location and elevation by lining my map up with Illumination rock in the distance.
On other snowshoe treks, we’ve crossed into the canyon here to continue up. Glad we weren’t here when this happened!
I’ll bet much of this won’t melt this year – or maybe even next year!
Looking up-canyon from where I went over the edge of the slide.
This was very difficult terrain!
Getting across this made off-trail bushwacks seem like a piece of cake!
In a few places, the slide took out some pines that lined the canyon edges. You can see their remains in this photo.
The above serac is over 15 feet high.
The final run-out of the slide:
It’s hard to gauge the scale – this thing is about 15 feet high, maybe more.
Slide terminus. You can see the Mt. Hood Meadows powerlines above. This is .95 mile from the snow-park and 1.1 miles from the Hwy 35 bridge.
This is one of Kelly’s favorites and today was the first (mostly) non-rainy day in over two weeks, so, why not!
Bunker Hill is a short, but steep hike with a nice flat start to warm you up for a relentless 1,250′ elevation gain in only 1.4 miles. Kel likes this also for its lack of rocks on the trail and a very smooth surface that’s really easy on her bad knee. Add to that a mature forest with dozens of huge old-growth firs and the chance to sight deer and even elk on occasion.
Normally, this is about 4 miles, out and back from the Whistle Punk TH but today we had to park well short due to deep snow and no possibility of parking, even if we could have gotten to the regular TH. As it turned out, we hiked 5.1 miles total.
We gave up on the access road, realizing that parking and even turning around might prove to be impossible. I backed up a quarter mile or so, found a wide spot, turned around and parked so we got an even better warm up than usual – and what a warm-up it was!
This area is notorious for its micro-climate, and it really showed off today with deep snow on the valley floor and hardly any once we climbed just a short distance up from the valley floor. Knowing this from a half century of experience in the area, we persisted through two feet of mostly untracked snow, post holing down 18″ and more. Even Kel, who usually can walk atop crusted snow, sank to her knees. For me, of course, I didn’t have a chance staying on top and resigned myself to getting a decent cardio workout hoping our previous experience would again prove correct.
Still on the valley floor, even under a complete forest canopy, the snow was still about two feet deep. The postholes shown in this photo are all from a heard of elk.
As usual for this time of year, there’s a long section of trail past the initial meadow that has a stream running across and even along it. Last March, I cut 36 rounds form nearby downed trees to make a series of stepping blocks to bridge water as much as 10 inches deep – and even more at times. Here’s Kel harvesting the benefits of that work.
I completely cleared the trail last year and only four or five small trees have fallen across it since, but all are small enough to take out with a hand saw. We removed dozens of branches today so it’s in better shape than we found it but still needs a bit of picking up. Nothing bigger than the easy step-over tree and debris shown in the next two photos.
We reached the PCT junction less than a 100′ elevation above the meadow and even there, the snow was significantly less deep. By the first switchback in another 50′ elevation, we could avoid the snow altogether and soon there was hardly any at all.
There are many truly ancient old growth trees here, also on the east side of the hill, should you choose to come in on the PCT from that side. I think the density of big trees is even more on that side, but the parking is minimal and today it would have been non-existent.
Once on top, no snow at all so we sat down and enjoyed a well-earned break and enjoyed the view.
The 400 trail west from the Wyeth TH is one of Kelly’s favorites for the solitude it usually provides, not to mention the great views. It’s 8 miles out-and-back and only gains about a thousand feet in that distance.
It looked as if the gorge was going to shut down due to ice storms for a few days, so we gave it a shot ahead of the storm, though the wind and temperature was daunting.
We arrived at the TH just before noon after visiting my trail elf friends on Lower Archer on the way. They were busy reconstructing a bridge and both Kel and I wanted to see how they were doing and give them a thumbs up.
It was 26 degrees when we started out Wednesday, but the wind wasn’t too bad. The parking area was a very slippery sheet of ice but once we got onto the trail proper, the traction was great and there was only snow underfoot the rest of the way.
A few hundred yards farther, the “summer” TH was decidedly lonely:
This new bridge over the creek is a nice addition to a previously sketchy crossing: Kel got ahead of me when I had to go back to the car and lock it. That’s her, just before reaching a few fallen logs in the right-center of the image. It took me another ten minutes to catch her – she was on a roll today.
This trail has quite a few sections that are rocky but today, with just the right amount of snow cover, it was smooth as silk:
That’s Indian Point on the right, 2,000 feet above us:
A look back – Wind Mountain on the far left and the snow-covered meadows of Dog Mountain to its right.
The forest burned in the Sept. 2017 fire, but the upper canopy is intact the entire way, and the blackened trees create an interesting contrast.
Along the way, we spotted this huge rock not far from the trail, and I just had to climb it!
We met a couple of folks coming back at the very start of the trail so we can’t claim first tracks. However, their tracks stopped at the two-mile mark so it was first tracks
after that. Only deer had preceded us the rest of the way:
There are about 15 trees down on the trail but only three of any size. This smallish one is an easy walk-around.
This one was more of a problem. Kel rolled her eyes when I said, “just back up a few paces and take a run at it”. So, she did, but first she pulled her Wonder Woman cape out of her pack and Voila, problem solved. 😉
In another hundred yards or so, yet another big one down. This wasn’t much of a problem, though.
Continuing to the Herman trail junction, I took a quick look to see if any more big trees were down for future trail work and only found a few mid-sized ones.
This is the view looking up the Herman Creek trail: Three trees in sight and all could be cut with a hand saw. Good, because this is the start of the wilderness area.
There were also three at the start of the Gorton Creek trail: Not sure why the sign is crooked. It looked like it was purposely installed that way. Too much Christmas egg nog?
On the way back, we were treated to a stiff headwind and a temperature of 19 degrees and less. Bracing, but we were dressed for it and glad to have had a great day in the woods
The Lower Archer Falls trail is one of those rare gorge hikes that will usually find you totally by yourself, immersed in a beautiful, quiet mature forest. This hidden gem not only offers solitude, but adventure as well.
The trail is challenging at times, but easily followed for the two and a half miles until it intersects with the very popular Archer Mt. trail system.
The route starts off of Hwy 14, at MP 29.9. Park in the St. Cloud parking area on the south side of the Hwy and walk directly north, across the RR tracks and the Hwy and straight into the woods where you will find a trail. The trail enters a mature forest that’s grown up on the site of an early homesteader’s land. Their grape vines and even a few ornamental shrubs still flourish, a half century or more since anyone’s lived in the area. Here’s a view of some of the grapes, hanging from the forest trees as much as 30 feet above the ground. This photo taken in Sept, 2022.
4/10 mile up the trail, here’s the view of Lower Archer Falls in “normal” water flow:
Here are my friends Guy and Chiyoko approaching the falls: A perfect spot on a hot day!
Here it is in flood:
And in Winter:
There are five bridges in the first 4/10 mile of the route, the second of which posed the biggest problem to construct and now (temporarily) poses the would-be hiker a little bit of a challenge.
Here’s the bridge in winter (Feb. 12, 2021)
Here’s my friend Guy showing how to cross: Using the handrail fastened to the small, upstream-side log and walking on the larger log.
Using not-quite-perfect maple for a span like this isn’t ideal, but it was available close by, and Scott (the Scott in Scott’s Point) figured it would last ten years or so before needing replacement.
No one expected failure so soon, but there it is. The smaller log failed, dropping most of the handrail down and making the crossing difficult.
When some of the guys went out to work in January, the log broke again, right in the middle, making the crossing even worse.
Here’s Scott, getting it done:
Scott removed the remains of the handrail first:
We cut off one end of the broken log and repositioned it nearly level with the stream and held in place by the next broken section:
Now we could cross with relative ease though care still needs be taken.
Now to deal with the problem of replacing the broken log.
At the second switchback beyond the bridge is an 80′ fallen cedar. 53′ of it appears to be sound wood, at least sound enough to use for a replacement for the broken log. Here it is, as found:
Tom, Seamus and Jim went out earlier this week and cut off the part above where the cedar split into two leaders and delimbed the whole thing.
Nice work, guys! Here’s what it looked like when Scott and I showed up Friday morning as we got ready for the first pull.
Scott set up five separate pulls (maybe six, I lost count) and we eventually, inch-by-inch, got the log down and half turned around.
In this photo, I’d cut the top off the log leaving about 34′ remaining. We need at least 30′ to span the creek, but a few more feet may be helpful, depending on where exactly it’s placed.
Turning the log around;
The log was resting on the dirt in the middle, and you can see a bit of rot in this photo. It doesn’t go more than an inch, so we think it will be fine.
After five and a half hours of non-stop work, here is how we left it: I estimate this thing weighs about 2,000 lbs, so we were careful with each move.
Scott wants to pull the left-hand end over the top of the good log and slide it across and drop it into place on the west side. We will wait for a dry day – Should be fun!!
Update, Jan 19th:
A huge 5 1/2 foot diameter old-growth fir had fallen in the storm of Dec. 27th and Scott thought we could use it for the bridge. So far, we de-limbed it, cut it to the correct length then moved it to the side and then rolled it down the hill.
Photos, starting with what it looked like when found, cut and moved: This log weighed about 3,000 lbs. at first so we had to take great care in moving it!
We planed off 6 to 8 inches of one side of the log and cut off 30 inches of the big end to make it lighter. Then we rigged up a pulling system and got one end placed on the west end of the bridge. Scott, being an avid downhill skier with a season’s pass at Meadows finally suffered a big fall, breaking his left knee. It will be the second week of May until he’s ready to resume so all work but a few preliminaries are on hold until then.
A few pics of the progress:
The cedar log in place:
Preparing the fir log:
As of August 2023, the big fir is partly in place as is a railing so it’s safe and easy to cross – with care. Once the fir log is in place and rotated so the flat side is up, we will move the remaining maple log and the task will be finished. Our hope is that the bridge will long outlast us.
The trail continues past the waterfall but has not been cleared this summer so may be difficult to follow in places.
I’ve worked to clear the trails in the Multnomah Basin for over twenty years, but this was the first time I’ve worked with a Trails Club work party. This first group of photos taken on Saturday, November 26th, 2022.
Jeff Lawton invited me along, so I showed up with my trusty battery chain saw and got to work. Here’s Jeff, on the job with his brand-new Makita battery saw and Paul, starting to work with his gas saw, (on the right).
This photo’s staged – Paul finished this one off.
There were some nice messes along the road in the basin.
I think this photo was taken on the road between the brown gate and the green gate.
Lunch camp on the basin road. Glen on the left, then Cindy, and Linda sitting down.
Enjoying a few moments rest before starting back.
A few photos of the work done along the road.
Here’s a few before and after photos during earlier work trips along the trails in the basin. I didn’t start in earnest with this project until I replaced my saw with a back-packable gas saw in 2005. That worked well, but the Stihl battery saw, introduced in 2010 really made the job fun: No problems starting, no hearing protection needed and only ten pounds. Besides, when the battery was done, I was usually tired and ready to stash the equipment and continue on with a hike. I had grown tired of the many downed trees and had to do something about it.
On March 1st, 2020, I went up to the basin with my friends, Guy, Chiyoko, Pascal and Kazuko. Here’s Chiyoko, Kazuko and Guy crossing one of the bridges in the basin.
We had lots of real messes to clean up that day: Guy and Pascal showing off our hard work.
More before and after pics:
A nice rest at the lodge before heading back. We cleared every trail in the basin that day, taking out about 70 logs.
I even lassoed son Paul in on the project the week before: Here’s a few pics from Feb. 26th, 2020:
Having Paul along is great – I cut, he moves!
Here’s a real mess I did alone on Feb. 20th, 2020: The start: Stage One:
Stage Two: Done – except for that big log in the distance:
It was bigger than it looked once I got over there: Done!:
This is only a small sampling of work done in the basin. I usually work alone and usually don’t take photos. This last was an exception.
There’s nothing better than getting together with true TFF’s and hitting the trails. Even better, is turning it into an epic death march hitting major gorge landmarks and living to tell about it.
Saturday, August 20th, 2011, promised to be a perfect day, with clear blue skies and barely a hint of wind. I rendezvoused with Eric (AKA Ragnar or EP) and Mark (AKA Mayhem or Way to GO!) at the Herman Creek TH at 7 AM, way early for me but if pressed, I can do it! The guys moved the start time so I could get my sorry butt out of bed in time to make the date, too. They must have really wanted to see me suffer! To make the day perfect, the Portland high temperature that day ended up at 96 degrees, and likely about the same in the gorge.
We hit the trail at 7:06 with Eric wearing his customary 100 lb. pack (This helps equalize the fact he’s 25 years younger than me). – just kidding, at least about the pack – it’s usually about 30#+ though.!
First, we headed up via the Gorton Creek trail and tagged Indian Point. I don’t remember if I climbed to the top of the spire, just because, but probably.
Here’s Mark taking a selfie at IP:
Afterwards we headed directly to Deadwood Camp and then up to Ridge Camp.
As we passed by the Wyeth trail junction, we bumped into a guy that Eric and Mark knew, so we all got a picture taken:
A deer posed for us along the way:
Then a long slog downhill 500 vertical feet to the SW trail up to Mt. Defiance passing by North Lake on the way.
We were totally out of water by then, finding Eric’s water purification pump not working properly.
The trail gods smiled on us when we met a guy who had just climbed Defiance with gallons of extra water for training weight. He gave us all we could carry and off we went, confident that we weren’t going to expire from dehydration after all. Our hero:
On the way back down from Defiance:
After coming down from Defiance, we suffered through a mile and a quarter of hot road walk to access the route up to Green Point.
Eric, enjoying the road slog:
The view back towards Defiance from Green Point:
We survived, tagging GP and now it was all downhill for the 9.4 miles of the rest of the trek. We passed by Ridge Camp once more and hiked a couple of minor uphills to tag the HP of Nick Eaton Ridge.
HP of Nick Eaton Ridge:
Scene along the ridge: I remember thinking: this has a ton of dead trees, it’s going to be bad when this burns as it inevitably will.
Yep, it burned up in the fire of 2017:
Then it was down the steep, narrow Casey Creek trail to the Herman Creek trail and back to our cars. I had to get back home by 7, so after okaying my plan with Mark, ran back to my car the remaining four miles.
This turned out to be 28.1 miles and 7,328′ EG, 11 hours, 8 minutes.
I’ve been Jonesing to get back to Nesmith for a couple of weeks since I learned that the trail is open again. Closed since the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, I was curious to see how it has fared and how some of my favorite old-growth forest icons were doing. Sadly, none of my favorite oldest and gnarliest trees survived. The good news, however, is that the trail is in decent shape, all but a couple downed trees are gone from the route, and it’s been brushed out in its entirety.
One of the more majestic of the old-growths in better days:
How it looked on the 3rd:
Here’s what’s left of a 10′ diameter cedar. (The stump in the center of the photo) It appears the top has completely burned away, and the remnants have fallen into the canyon:
The Nesmith Trail always was rocky and also steep in many places and that hasn’t changed but there are a few new stone steps here and there and that’s an improvement.
The trail has burned up to about the 3200′ level and after that it’s just as it was before the fire.
I was expecting a little snow over the trail higher up so was surprised to see it starting at under 2k’, intermittent until about 2400′ and continuous after that, reaching a depth of 7 or 8 inches by the summit. I wished I’d thought to bring my micro spikes for traction, but I survived, even on the return when I really needed them. It was about 40 degrees at my start time of 8:15 and just below freezing at the summit with a light breeze, just enough to make me zip up my jacket.
Snow laden vine maple still with a full complement of green leaves!
I was making the first tracks as I approached the summit. The entire way, for that matter. This final bit to the summit is part of an old road leading to the fire lookout that once graced the highest spot.
Here’s the view at the very summit:
On the return, it started raining lightly about a mile and half from the TH, but it wasn’t too bad.
9.1 miles out and back and about 3920′ EG. hike # 103.
The gorge is an amazing place at any time but even more so on those choice occasions when the thermometer heads for the basement. The first couple of weeks in January, 2017 were noteworthy with a persistent cold weather system keeping the gorge especially chilled. I concentrated on the Eagle Creek trail, logging 65 miles and over 10k’ EG over seven days. Then the increasing accumulation of ice and snow forced the road to be closed and that was that for a few days. This is the story of one of those days, Thursday, Jan. 5th, 2017.
By the 5th, the cold had been continuous since early on the 1st, below freezing all day and dipping in to the mid to low teens overnight. I wanted to hike as far as I could on the trail, taking in what I knew would be some great views of icy waterfalls.
Unusual for Eagle Creek, the TH was deserted but at 14 degrees on a weekday, not unexpected! On the way, I paused briefly at Horsetail falls for a photo presaging what I’d see later:
At the start of the trail the icicles were growing:
The trail became increasingly difficult less than halfway to Tunnel Falls:
After over 6 miles, I finally made it to Tunnel Falls, and it was amazing. This was the first time I’d ever seen it so iced up. I walked through the tunnel and took a couple of apprehensive breaths before continuing: