Horsetail Ridge – Rock of Ages Loop 2010-10-21

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Peder
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Horsetail Ridge – Rock of Ages Loop 2010-10-21

Post by Peder » October 23rd, 2010, 11:34 am

Lurch published a wonderful Google Earth map back in May that indicated that it was possible to follow the ridge west of Horsetail Creek onto the plateau. I was tempted and immediately put a loop up the Horsetail Ridge and down the Rock of Ages Ridge on my “to do” list. Thursday I made the loop in the last day of good weather for now.

There were already two cars at the Horsetail Falls TH as I left; not bad for 8.30 am! The start of the hike up to Ponytail falls reminded my why this is one of my favourite areas in the gorge: Lots of bang for the buck; I described my version on this site a couple of years ago. I wandered up under the Ponytail Falls and then turned left onto one of the several large trails leading onto the Horsetail Ridge.
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Ponytail Falls
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Mightily well trodden for a “secret” trail!
I had expected less of a boot highway and had hoped for more wildernesses. I thought of Lurch’s “secrets of the gorge” and made a note that this trail was seemingly known to everybody except me... Thankfully Lurch was soon vindicated! A large trail leads to this view and an environmentally green flossing device:
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View to Archer Mountain
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We go green...
I really wonder who flosses here! After collecting three helium balloons (or parts thereof) under Wauneka Point Tuesday, this was somewhat of a change. The ridge trail is steep and rapidly reaches a small cliff. At the top of the cliff, the trail petered out as it reached a second cliff. I deemed myself off-trail or perhaps that the route was too adventurous for me. I descended about 100 vertical feet and then followed faint boot and game trails around the east side of the ridge until I could establish myself on the crest. Lurch was justified and I was now happy in real wilderness! Once on the ridge I quickly came to the “arch,” an outcrop that is impressive from both sides:
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The arch is on the left
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The south end of the arch outcrop
A second outcrop necessitated a longer detour on the west side, though it looked as if most people (or deer) climbed onto the top of the ridge. This was followed by a long stretch of ridge that was easy to hike, where the main attractions were animals and a Tolkien-like landscape:
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Pacific tree frog
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I enjoyed what is probably several hours of quiet and solitude in a great landscape. Coming off the ridge was a bit troublesome: After my GPS map told me that I should have hit the Horsetail Creek Way #425, there was still 0.6 miles to go, mostly through nasty blow down. I just got a GPS last month and I find that they make navigation much easier in this type of terrain. My progress was slow and I began to have doubts as to whether I had missed the trail. From the comfort of my home I can now see from Guy’s Bell Creek Trip Report that if I had just pulled right (west) upon coming off the ridge I would have saved a lot of bushwhacking. [Eric’s GPS track is found here] But then again, isn’t off-trail hiking all about branches scratching your limbs, spider webs in your hair and pine needles falling down the back of your shirt? A much grander and stylish end to this ridge hike is recorded by Raven:
raven wrote: The trail disappeared, so I pressed on walking logs, parting branches en route, and managed to surprise a bear who was on the log I was walking along, face to face only 15 feet apart.
My only encounter with the local wildlife was far more dovish:
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Rough skinned newt
I followed the Horsetail Creek Way #425 across to the Rock of Ages trail and then headed down. Just as the trail steepens I met a young couple, the first people of the day. She was extremely concerned for me and was convinced that the trail was much too steep for me to descend safely (I am at least twice her age!).
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Upper ridge on Rock of Ages
The Horsetail Ridge seen from the Devil’s Backbone:
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Horsetail Ridge is the nearer ridge
An hour after meeting the couple, I was at the parking lot after a fun 7 mile loop.

WARNING: Lurch has correctly pointed out that on the lower parts of the ridges above the Ponytail Falls amphitheatre, there is a real risk of knocking rocks down onto hikers on the main trail below. So please be careful!

Secondly, the Horsetail Ridge has steep terrain and is (mostly) trail-less. It is much more difficult to follow than the classic ridges such as Ruckel or Rock of Ages.
Last edited by Peder on October 24th, 2010, 11:25 am, edited 1 time in total.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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Guy
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Re: Horsetail Ridge – Rock of Ages Loop 2010-10-21

Post by Guy » October 23rd, 2010, 3:11 pm

Well done Peder, I think this is the first actual trip report for this route. It opens up some great new loop options & an alternative to crossing the Oneonta creek at the Horsetail / Oneonta trail junction when the water is running high.

So how many miles have you hiked this month!
hiking log & photos.
Ad monte summa aut mors

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Peder
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Re: Horsetail Ridge – Rock of Ages Loop 2010-10-21

Post by Peder » October 23rd, 2010, 5:12 pm

Guy wrote:So how many miles have you hiked this month!
Only 54 miles in five hikes, where my "conditioning" hike was 18.5 miles on the Yocum Ridge just after getting home after a month abroad! I was lucky with the weather and got in the five hikes over just nine days...
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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Re: Horsetail Ridge – Rock of Ages Loop 2010-10-21

Post by mandrake » October 23rd, 2010, 8:12 pm

@Guy: If you ever get down there and the river's too high to cross, just 'schwack north/downstream about 1/8mi pick up the trail where it crosses at a perfectly good bridge. It's muddy & thrashy, but doable. Why the trail wasn't routed here originally is a mystery.

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Re: Horsetail Ridge – Rock of Ages Loop 2010-10-21

Post by Lurch » October 25th, 2010, 1:46 pm

Wow, thanks for the kudos!

Awesome pics, definitely one of my favorite secret places in the gorge.

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Re: Horsetail Ridge – Rock of Ages Loop 2010-10-21

Post by Peder » October 25th, 2010, 2:58 pm

Lurch - thank you very much for sharing this secret trail! It's a great hike.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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