Monday, August 25, 2014

Oneonta Gorge

A hot summer just would not be complete without a visit to the Oneonta Gorge! We went with some friends prepared for a summer adventure! It's a super short hike to a gorgeous waterfall with a swimming hole beneath, but it's quite a challenge.   The whole hike is through the creek itself, so most of it requires shallow wading.  One short spot is very deep and the water is always very, very cold. The grownups found it was nearly up to our shoulders this year.   But first, there's a big log jam that can only be crossed by cautiously climbing over it.  On hot days there is always a crowd there, so a good strategy is to watch how others are managing it and follow.  The log jam looks different every year, but it's always too much for very young kids and would be dangerous if not done slowly and carefully. The gorge is spectacularly beautiful with sunlight streaming in and reflecting off the rippling water.  This summer the kids found that previous explorers had made little cairns by the swimming hole.  They were excited to add to the rock sculptures. 

Adding to the cairns.
The deepest water.
Making the deep passage.
The gorge side of the log jam. 
The kids tried their luck at catching little fish at the bridge.  A colorful garter snake was fishing too.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wildcat Mountain

Hiking Wildcat Mountain wasn't quite what we expected.  The directions we found on Portland Hiker's Guide were a bit out of date and we got a bit off track. (Where it says 9.4 miles, it should be clear that it's measuring from Firwood Road and Wildcat Mountain Drive, not from the beginning of the forest road.  It mentions "a second unmarked turn 100 yards from the first junction", but there is no junction here because one road has been decommissioned.  The road ends and the option to travel further up a "deeply rutted road" to the quarry is gone since this road has also been decommissioned.)  The old quarry where the hike begins is full of trash,  shotgun shells, and the remains of objects used for target practice in defiance of signs proclaiming that shooting is illegal here. Along the trail we found pine drops, which are usually 6-8" tall, but these were closer to 3 feet tall. Whew! Everywhere huckleberries were ripe and mushrooms were beginning to bulge out of the ground in anticipation of the upcoming fall mushroom season. When we finally reached the summit of Wildcat Mountain, we found things have  changed significantly from its former days as a fire lookout site.  The trees have grown tall, and the summit is choked with rhododendrons.  A faint path could be discerned leading to a spot with a view, but we had to carefully pick our way through the bushes.  On the way back, we spotted what we assume is a geocache of many objects attached to a snag. It can only be seen from the trail if you are looking downhill towards the trailhead, so we missed it on the way up.  In the quarry, Jasper caught a beautiful little fence lizard. We don't often see lizards and this really made our day!

Shotgun shells.
This sign has taken a lot of abuse.
Photo by Jasper.
Bird's nest fungi on a pinecone.  Photo by Jasper.
Queen Anne's lace.  Photo by Jasper. 
Jasper holds the fence lizard.
The top of the giant, towering pine drops.
Bird's nest fungi.
Scouler's harebell.
Sickletop lousewort. 
Pearly everlasting.
Mt. Hood from Wildcat Mountain.
Pine drops of a more usual size. 
The geocache (?).
View from the top of the quarry.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Owl Point

Mt. Hood from Owl Point.
Owl Point is an easy, family friendly hike on Mt. Hood with superb views. On a hot day it seemed like a great idea to head for some elevation, and we found it very pleasant indeed. The trailhead is small, and must have been quite congested a bit earlier in the day, but we missed it by arriving later in the afternoon. About a third of a mile from the trailhead, the trail to Owl Point separates from the main trail, and from that point on we found ourselves alone in the beautiful forest. Ripe huckleberries    were there in profusion. It's the season for a couple of interesting plants that we found in abundance along the trail- gnome plant and pinesap. These plants do not have leaves or photosynthesize, but instead feed on fungi which in turn feed on the roots of trees.  Most of the year, you would have no clue these plants were even there. That changes in the late summer when their strange and beautiful blooms emerge from the ground.  When we were very close to our destination, we took a spur trail to The Rockpile, which has its own gorgeous view.  At Owl Point itself, we discovered the most sweeping views yet of Mt. Hood.  While much of the forest directly below us was lush and green, a vast brown swath stretched across the base of Mt. Hood.  This area was burned in the Dollar Lake Fire of 2011 which started with a lighting strike and burned 6,300 acres from late August until early October.  We discovered a "Register" at Owl Point where visitors can sign their names and read messages from other hikers. The most recent entry in the register was from two days prior.  Within the box containing the register was a nice photo of the view with landmarks noted, and a small photo album with some terrific pictures.  There was a photo taken two weeks before the Dollar Lake Fire began, and a photo taken the following summer after the snow had melted and hikers could again return to Owl Point.  We had a snack and listened to the calls of pika on the talus just below us.  Pika are very cute critters related to rabbits that live in the talus.  We are seeking out some of their haunts to confirm their presence for the Cascades Pika Watch, a citizen science project, and we heard at least three calling to each other across the rocks.  

Gnome plant. Photo by Jasper. 
Gnome plants.
Rattlesnake plantain orchid.
Gnome plants.
Mt. Hood from the first viewpoint. 
Bear grass.
What is this rusty stuff?  A mystery!
A meadow along the way which is a wetland much of the year.
At The Rockpile.
Mt. Hood from The Rockpile.
Jasper was very excited to find the register box.
A cool photo album in the register box showed pictures of the damage from the Dollar Fire.
Slime mold.
A section of the burned forest approaches the trail.
We stopped so Jasper could take this photo on the way home.