Took time to scout out the Douglas trail in Clackamas Mt Hood area yesterday. Hoping to use it as a way to access wildcat mountain > kinzel lake > jackpot meadows. This trail seems inviting to me because of its proximity to Portland and that the trail starts at approx. 2400 ft. This would give a significant ele advantage over other trail heads along 26 without having to go to Govt Camp.
However, after checking it out... I may opt to climb the extra 1000 - 1500 feet. It's not super easy driving. Heavy logging trucks have left deep scars along the road. There's several shameful firepits obviously used and abused by shooters. Shells litter the ground; targets and trash left behind; saddness resonates all around as one is witness to the devastation of consistent disrespect. The stumps remind me of an amputee. Approaching the trail is like walking thru a crime scene, a cold case, a holocaust, where blood stains are branches and the debris of the dead are still everywhere.
To locate the western terminus of the Douglas Trail #781, I referred to the US Forestry and Caltopo maps. It appeared that the nearest town was "Bissell". Google maps was able to find it and derive an appropriate route by searching for "bissell, estacada, or". From there, I continued east along Harvey Rd which is gravel, single lane, and has intermittent rocky sections.
** NOTE: you will likely be without internet thru here. So cache your maps, print out paper directions, don't close Google Nav till you're sure you've found your parking spot. **
After the right turn on Harvey: .5 miles then sharp left, stay on main logging road for .75 miles then pass logging road on right. Then another .5 miles and you'll come to a T intersection. Your car should be pointing north. Turn right then about 250 ft there will be another fork. Your car should be facing east as you approach the fork. On my map, the road that goes to the east from this fork is the beginning of trial #501. So I parked my car and started trotting down the gravel road.
.6 miles down the road is where my map indicated the junction of Trail #781 (Douglas Trail) and Trail #501 (Eagle Creek Trail) and also... a Saab! Aha, I could have parked just a wee bit closer. Next time...
The gravel road continued uphill to the left (North-east-ish) and a trail continued off to the east-ish. At this point I'm getting excited thinking I've found the western end of the Douglas trail. I followed the gravel road uphil, and watching my gps, it tracked quite closely to where trail#781 was supposed to go.
But.... it didn't. After about 500 ft. The trail became wooded and appeared to be used as an ATV course. Occasional shotgun shells and primitive targets ( gallon jugs, beer cans ) were left along the trail. And also, the gps indicated I was no longer following trail#781. It looked like it was possible that the trail would shift course on the other side of a small high ele point at 2600 ft and then reconnect to what was supposed to be #781... but when I got to 2600 ft. the trail headed north and downhill and it would have needed to go south and down hill to meet back up with my intended route.
So, I turned around. Feeling happy I didn't take wifey-pooh out here without scouting it out, I trotted downhill till I got to the point where the ATV track split from my intended route. The split happened at a shameful firepit in a large turnaround in the gravel road. I looked and looked, but no trail junctions. Nothing to indicate that there was a way to continue on my intended route as displayed on the gps.
Oh well... still had fun and had a chance for much needed f5, clearing out the noise and nonsense and replacing it with woodland sounds and smells. At the junction of #501 and #781 the Saab owners were about to head out. I flagged them down to see if they had any knowledge of #781 or a connecting trail from here to get to Wildcat Mtn. It seems there is a connecting trail not displayed on my map approx .5 miles east on #501 just past the wilderness boundary. The hikers had never taken that trail and had no idea where it went, but I suspect it would have connected to #781! Map and compass are great for not getting lost... but for finding the trail? Nothing's better than experience...
As a side bonus, the hikers gave me lift back to my car half mile down the road. Thanks Jeff and Maureen!
After I got home, I looked at a trail map ( as opposed to a topo map ) from the US Forestry website. And, yes, there's a connecting trail that looks like it would have been correct. I'm learning that the topos are good, but that they aren't as up to date as the trail maps. To see if a trail map is available, google search "usda " + trail name + trail number. Example: "usda douglas trail 781". There should be a result labeled "Mt. Hood National Forest - trail name and number - USDA Forest Service". Then if there's a map, there will be a link labeled "Link to Trail description & MAP".
If it turns out that the trail maps are consistently better than topos, I'm going to be working on a way to upload them to my gps. I think there's a way to do it, but not sure how.
Here's a few pictures, not much scenery, and this was just a scouting out trip. Had very-very little time. Hope this is helpful!
Is that wildcat mountain? Snow is visible from the road
Here's map from gps showing the route to my parking spot ( in blue ), route to the Saab parking spot / 501 - 781 junction ( in green ), then the ATV trail I followed ( in orange )
Here's a close up map of the ATV trail. The red arrow indicates the direction the ATV trail appeared to be taking which would lead away from #781. The green arrow shows where I believe the connecting trail is.
Here's a screenshot from the trail map for comparison to the topo map.