Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

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bobcat
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Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

Post by bobcat » August 24th, 2017, 7:24 am

A trio of 60-somethings decided on a reprise of the loop taken by pablo (one of the trio) in another era, the end of the previous decade (2010): http://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewt ... =10&t=5345

Indeed, pablo apologized for the current conditions of this loop several times during the day. In my exchanges with him, I had gotten the distinct impression that, well, the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire will probably have taken care of that iniquitous slide alder that inconvenienced him the first time around.

Another motivation was that this year is the 10th anniversary of Trailkeepers of Oregon, which grew out of an inaugural work party on the old Vista Ridge Trail (All this history is meticulously codified in the ammo box at Owl Point). We decided to hit all the features of the old Vista Ridge before committing ourselves to the shortcut back to the Pinnacle Ridge Trailhead along the abandoned Clear Branch Road.

I should note that this 10th anniversary is especially sweet because the Hood River Ranger District has decided to recognize the re-existence of the old Vista Ridge Trail down to Perry Lake and, probably, reincorporate it into its maps (It’s already on everyone else’s maps due to the stubbornness and perserverance of Splintercat in his singular passion).

We met up at the Clear Branch Dam on Laurance Lake and decided to bite off a bit of the day by car-shuttling and parking pablo’s rig at the Elk Cove Trailhead (which would necessitate yet another short, steep bushwhack: candy to his palate). On the far side of the dam wall, we resumed the Laurance Lake High Loop Trail. Well, it’s not a loop although a paper map weighted by stones at the trailhead still shows a loop (!!!) – the actual loop proposition for a mountain biking trail probably became mothballed with the 2009 wilderness additions. As we discovered, the trail is very well-maintained (pablo remarked as such, compared to 2010; Michael, who maintains trails himself, complained about a slight slipping of the upslope).
Map on ground, Laurance Lake High Loop.jpg
Heading up, Laurance Lake High Loop.jpg
We switchbacked up, getting ever more expansive views of the north face of Mt. Hood, the Pinnacle (exposed by the Dollar Lake Fire), and Laurance Lake below with its bevy of weekend picnickers. Even along the ridge crest, the route was open and free of debris. Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier appeared through the trees. After 2.9 miles, we reached the decommissioned 1612-460 road (Bear Creek Road) and hiked along to a viewpoint where the road had slid away.
Laurance Lake and Mt. Hood, Laurance Lake High Loop.jpg
On the ridge, Laurance Lake High Loop.jpg
On 1612-640, Laurance Lake High Loop.jpg
Mt. Hood and the Pinnacle from 1612-640, Laurance Lake High Loop.jpg
Pablo apologized in advance for the ruggedness of the cross-country excursion we were about to commit, but in fact, cross-countrywise, it was a piece of cake or at least liquorice-marmite-rhubarb pie. He only fell down twice (He may think we didn’t notice), and I collapsed once (but that was because my shoelace got snagged). Often our route followed an overgrown logging track along the rim. It was an easy jaunt up to the Perry Lake Road, FR 1630-660 although most of the flagging mentioned in previous reports has now disappeared.
Vestige of road past the slide, off-trail, Laurance Lake High Loop.jpg
On FR 1630-660 near Perry Lake.jpg
We perused little Perry Lake and then the concrete foundations of the old guard station. Next, it was on up the old Vista Ridge Trail through a skirt of huckleberries with the fruits becoming withered before even fully ripe. Michael pointed out his pruning and branch-lopping efforts of two weeks before. There were a couple of expansive viewpoints to take note of; our first named destination was Alki Point, which offers views east to the Hood River Valley and north to Rainier and Adams. Next on the agenda was Owl Point. We rummaged through the ammo box here: Splintercat has placed in it an entire history of the refurbishment of the trail, and also a photo album of years of snapshots; there’s also a summit register.
Perry Lake, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Second foundation, Perry Lake Guard Station, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Looking to Mt. Adams from Alki Point, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Owl Point junction sign, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Hood from Owl Point, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Pablo and Michael examining Owl Point history, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
From Owl Point, we repaired to the Rockpile, also indicated with handwritten signage. there were more scenic vistas to the Hood. From the Rockpile, we plunged through the huckleberries to Katsuk Point. I think we all agreed this was the highlight of the old Vista viewpoints: a wide open promontory with what looks like a vision quest pit and an old cairn (Katsuk Point was also the only feature that none of us had been to). On to Red Hill: we turned off at the meadow and ascended the cinder slope to yet another vista of Hood. Coming back down, we tripped on the old telephone wire that ran from the Perry Lake Guard Station to the Timberline Trail (pablo showed the route on his printed map). Bobcat led the others astray on the descent (I seem to have trouble departing from Red Hill: this is the second time I’ve faced the wrong way), but we eventually reconnected with the trail.
Katsuk Point, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Pablo on Katsuk Point, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Pit and Mt. Hood, Katsuk Point, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
FR 2840 at the Clear Branch from Katsuk Point.jpg
Atop the yellow part of Red Hill, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Mt. Hood from Red Hill, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
The Perry Lake wire, Red Hill, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
View to Katsuk Point, Old Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
It was out to the junction with the new trail and then a decision about when to descend to the shortcut of the Clear Branch Road (decommissioned FR 2840). Pablo said we were making “good time”, and there was a feeling that it was plain sailing all the way home. Michael had a map showing an ancient trail connector, but we didn’t find it. The descent was short, but injurious to bobcat, who impaled his upper thigh on a broken off branch and lost a few dollops of blood. Once at the road, ploughed up, lumpy, decorated with blooming fireweed and pearly everlasting, we heaved sighs of contentment. I mean what could go wrong on an obvious track leading back to civilization?
View to the Pinnacle, Vista Ridge-FR 2840 shortcut.jpg
Coming down from the Vista Ridge Trail.jpg
Pablo’s 2010 report mentions slide alders, the difficulties and evils of, etc. We had no mature slide alders. They had been slashed down by Dollar Lake fire crews to make a firebreak of the road and were now carpeting the tread, making it extra crunchy. We slid down and scrambled up to cross the ravine of the Clear Branch: here the road had been washed out before the fire. From this point, pablo’s 2010 trip had been a stroll in the park on a still active road. Not so after the decommissioning. The road surface is entirely ploughed up; every culvert has been removed, necessitating a plunge through regurgitating slide alder on numerous occasions; in addition, devil’s club and blackcap raspberry, the most viciously thorned of our native berries, have chosen to colonize the tread. All this in a carpet of slashed old slide alder and conifers executed to make a firebreak. At times, it was like walking on a brushpile while swimming through blackberry bushes punctuated every now and then by a refreshing whiff of devil’s club. Pablo chose to take the high road and leave the track; he claimed it was freer and made him “move faster” (When he came back down to the road, he was behind me). Michael and I stayed with the misery of the established course: we knew it was leading somewhere definite, and it gave peace of mind in a devil’s club kind of way. A final section of the road was covered with firebreak/decommissioning brush and we found it easier to simply plod a track along the soft bank.
FR 2840, the nightmare begins.jpg
Crossing the Clear Branch, FR 2840.jpg
Blackcap raspberry (Rubus leucodermis).jpg
View to Mt. Hood, FR 2840.jpg
Branch of the Clear Branch, FR 2840.jpg
We finally came out at the Pinnacle Ridge Trailhead, now behind schedule, and took the pabloesque shortcut down a steep slope through more blowdown forest to the Elk Cove Trailhead, where shuttle rig awaited. A satisfying though unexpectedly challenging day, with excuses to be made to spouses and some Neosporin patching of bloody divots to follow . . .

The GPSers say it was 13 miles and 2,400 feet EG. Here’s a link to Michael’s track:

https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/tra ... 523760b0a/

pablo
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Re: Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

Post by pablo » August 24th, 2017, 12:08 pm

Hey bobcat,

A great day, great company and thx for putting this together. I have to take exception to one thing in your report and that is:
[pablo] only fell down twice (He may think we didn’t notice)
I was simply leaning in to analyze interesting ground features, not falling at all - sort of a ninja move I've perfected.

The #9 wire find on Red Hill was nice.

Remember how we followed a use trail and boot prints from the last culvert before the Pinnacle Ridge TH? I was looking at our track in Google Earth and it turns out that creek (unnamed?) has a waterfall upstream from our crossing which explains to me why folks would travel that piece of decommed road. Wish I'd known - would have been worth a visit. NW Waterfalls link to the waterfall.

https://www.waterfallsnorthwest.com/waterfall/18877

Obviously to make this a loop actual humans could comfortably travel will take some work but it would have most everything you'd want in a hike, a couple of lakes, big views, streams and even a waterfall.

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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Splintercat
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Re: Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

Post by Splintercat » August 27th, 2017, 11:04 am

Nice report, John & Paul! Great photos -- very helpful in conveying the connection from Perry Lake to Laurance High to the USFS. Still working on that. :-)

Best quote:

"...it was like walking on a brushpile while swimming through blackberry bushes punctuated every now and then by a refreshing whiff of devil’s club."

Beautiful! :lol:

BTW, I was up there for the eclipse, and enjoyed seeing your entries in the Owl Point log.

Tom :-)

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bobcat
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Re: Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

Post by bobcat » August 28th, 2017, 7:03 am

Tom,

Here is one more photo (from Michael) - the first challenge in constructing a connector to Perry Lake: the slide on Bear Creek Road, essentially where the High Loop ends.
Traversing Bear Creek Road slide.jpeg

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Re: Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

Post by Splintercat » September 2nd, 2017, 5:46 pm

Thanks, John. I haven't been to that spot in 10+ years, but I recalled being able to walk around (north) of the slide area to avoid crossing it... maybe it has grown since then?

Tom

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Re: Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

Post by pablo » September 2nd, 2017, 8:02 pm

Splintercat wrote:Thanks, John. I haven't been to that spot in 10+ years, but I recalled being able to walk around (north) of the slide area to avoid crossing it... maybe it has grown since then?

Tom
To avoid brush on the ridge above the slide I led the party through that traverse - and I'd done this in my earlier visits. Seemed logical at the time but now that you mention it, an easier more trail friendly route likely exists to the north.

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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Re: Laurance Lake-Owl Point-Clear Branch Road Loop 8-19-17

Post by Splintercat » July 23rd, 2020, 5:47 pm

Circling back to say (three years later) that bypassing the slide John mentions in his report and photos is a rough alternative -- extremely brushy and not really any better for off-trail explorers if the slide surface is reasonably dry and safe to cross. A someday-trail here would definitely work in the bypass, but with much brush clearing and tread work.

Great re-reading this report, John (and Paul) -- epic journey! I'm heading up to Old Vista Ridge this weekend to scout for our annual TKO outing (tentatively this fall, due to COVID), looking forward to being there.

Tom :-)

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