2008-09-15 Ruckel Ridge - Rudolph Spur Loop

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Peder
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2008-09-15 Ruckel Ridge - Rudolph Spur Loop

Post by Peder » September 17th, 2008, 11:55 am

Monday I did a loop where I ascended to the Benson Plateau from the Eagle Creek Campground via the Ruckel Ridge and returned by the Rudolph Spur. It was a pleasant loop and considerably easier than I had expected. Both trails wander through delightful forests. Once established on the Ruckel Ridge via a reasonable path up a scree slope, the trail generally followed the ridge line in a meandering manner. There were several good viewpoints on the way:

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The initial scree slopes above Buck Point

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Munra Point top left and Beacon Rock to the right

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View over the Eagle Creek area

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As I stopped at one viewpoint, a black crow flapped by. I thought it was rather big for a crow and wondered if it could be a raven. The bird kindly beat its way back to within 20 feet of my vantage point: I could look it right in the eye and it may well have been a juvenile bald eagle (this is the best ID my bird book could come up with - any advice on this matter is welcome). By the time my camera was ready, the bird was much further away:

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For those that are nervous about doing the “Catwalk” - it is actually very easy - far easier than the hike to Munra Point. The only section you must do is the “staircase” just right of center:

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Immediately after this staircase, the path continued comfortably on the west side of the ridge. I did not bother with the excitement of scrambling along the ridge. The last hour of the path up the ridge was steeper and quite a workout. Finally the path descended slightly and crossed Ruckel Creek, where after I quickly meet the Ruckel Creek Trail # 405. The arrival on the Benson plateau is indicated by a “Sign not Maintained” warning:

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After a little searching in the open forest on the far side of the Ruckel Creek Trail, I met faint yellow spots, blazes and orange ribbons indicating the Rudolph Spur Trail about 50 yards into the forest. After a few hundred yards there was actually a faint trail:

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The trail quickly got better and was easy to follow. There were two hairpins on the trail where people going uphill had obviously missed the turn and continued straight. I did my best to block these false trails with branches. I took a long break in the first opening I encountered. The trail crosses down from right to left along the trees at the bottom of the open slope:

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Shortly hereafter is the Viewpoint 2700’ with great views down to the Bridge of the Gods:

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Hereafter, the trail descends the steep ridge of the Rudolph Spur proper (some blow down here) and continues through the forest. Here I met the “official” landmark of this trail, a log with foot holds chopped in it. The log is visible in the three following pictures:

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Another half hour of hiking brought me to the second “Sign not Maintained” warning of the day and shortly hereafter to the junction with the PCT:

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At this point I realized that there were still a full 5 miles back to my car! I found it a very enjoyable loop. The trail up Ruckel Ridge is charming and the return down the Rudolph Spur is a fun adventure.

History of the Rudolph Spur
In the Mazamas Bulletin from March 2008 Skip Smith gives the background to the Rudolph Spur Trail: According to Skip Smith, forest fires on the Benson Plateau in 1889 and 1906 created an environment suited for grazing sheep on the highland. The gently graded path that has since become the PCT was well suited for the sheep. On the other hand, the herders were keen for a faster route home and developed the Ruckel Creek Trail. Not satisfied with the rapidity of this route, the herders developed the very direct Rudolph Spur Trail! According to Skip, the Rudolph Spur trail drops 3,290 feet in two miles.

Technical Note
I used Paul’s (“Pablo”) GPS map to get me down the Rudolph Spur. As a precaution, I went early in the day, so I would have had time to re-ascend the Rudolph Spur and descend the Ruckel Creek path in case I got lost.

I would recommend going down the Rudolph Spur for two reasons: Firstly, in my experience, it is far easier to see and follow a trail when heading downhill. Secondly, the middle section of the hike below Viewpoint 2700’ is a little too steep to hike up comfortably. Furthermore, I would suggest not doing this trail in wet conditions.

The trail is thoroughly described in the Field Guide. The path is pretty continuous and rarely disappears for more than 20 feet. There are three spots where it is (or could be) difficult to find the trail, so here are some tips:
  • 1. From the Ruckel Ridge Trail - Ruckel Creek Trail junction go about 200 yards down the Ruckel Creek Trail till it weirs slightly left and starts to descent a bit more steeply. Go north into the open woods and you should quickly meet blazes.
    2. The trail goes left (looking down) from the Viewpoint 2700’ area to hit the Rudolph Spur proper.
    3. Ten minutes below the Viewpoint 2700’ you have to cross an open mossy/grassy slope. I only saw a faint yellow blaze at the top, but the continuation is pretty much directly below this blaze at the foot of the clearing.
I took a total of nine hours for the loop, inclusive of two long breaks. The time was spent as follows:
Ruckel Ridge ascent - 4½ hours
Rudolph Spur descent - 2½ hours
Return along I-84 - 2 hours.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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Arioto
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Re: 2008-09-15 Ruckel Ridge - Rudolph Spur Loop

Post by Arioto » September 17th, 2008, 7:02 pm

Gonna have to put that on my to-do list. Thanx for the great info.

pablo
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Re: 2008-09-15 Ruckel Ridge - Rudolph Spur Loop

Post by pablo » September 17th, 2008, 7:48 pm

A challenging route, great pictures, and detailed trip report, thx for posting. I think big bird is a turkey vulture but I'd get a second opinion.

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

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Peder
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Re: 2008-09-15 Ruckel Ridge - Rudolph Spur Loop

Post by Peder » September 18th, 2008, 10:11 am

pablo wrote: I think big bird is a turkey vulture but I'd get a second opinion.

--Paul

I was definitely not a turkey vulture! But my lousy picture makes identification pretty impossible. The head was dark brown with a small light brown circle around the eye. I had the luck of meeting a couple of turkey vultures in the Powers Marine Park just south of the Sellwood Bridge earlier this year:
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Many thanks for your trail description, which made my hike possible.

Peder
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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