Memaloose Hills Loop

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bobcat
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Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by bobcat » May 27th, 2012, 9:46 am

I have just returned from a nine-week trip to South America, but my wife demanded an outing, so we went east and, as part of the day, walked the four-mile loop on use trails across patches of public land in the Memaloose Hills.

Rough sketch of the track (non-GPS):
Memaloose.JPG
We began at the Memaloose Rest Area at MP 73 on I-84, east of Mosier. A trail leads west from the restrooms to join a maintenance road that spins off the entry ramp. We did a brief wrestle with our consciences as we passed around the No Unauthorized Entry sign on the gate (I suspect this is to deter overnighters, whom I have seen camped up here before, and also any contamination of the spring waters which service the rest area and campground in the state park) and headed up past a wooden water tank in lush Douglas-fir/big-leaf maple woods. The road bed soon enters more open oak/ponderosa grasslands with views to basalt pinnacles and across the river to the Catherine and Major Creek drainages.
View to Major Creek, Memaloose State Park.jpg
Orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa), Memaloose State Park.jpg
Cotton's stickseed (Hackelia diffusa var. cottonii), Memaloose State Park.jpg
Memaloose Pinnacles, Memaloose State Park.jpg
From a viewpoint at a curve in the road, we headed east on a use trail to the Memaloose Viewpoint, which gives a commanding vista of Memaloose Island and the Washington side, from Coyote Wall to the Klickitat River. From the viewpoint, we crossed the Old Gorge Highway and picked up the trail heading into oak woods still blooming with paintbrush, balsamroot, and lupine. At times, we noted other faint trails branching off, but we kept to the main track and crossed a boggy stream before rising up the open slopes of Marsh Hill, the 822’ prominence on the topo map, which gives great views of orchards and Mt. Hood to the south, Chatfield Hill, McClure Hill, and Mt. Defiance to the west, and McCall Point and Sevenmile Hill to the east.
Abandoned boardwalk, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Common paintbrush (Castilleja miniata), Memaloose Hills.jpg
Crossing the little creek, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Bi-colored cluster lily (Triteleia grandiflora howellii), Memaloose Hills.jpg
After lunch, we dropped off the hilltop due south of the summit and picked up a sliver of a trail heading gradually down the slope in an easterly direction. The track rapidly disappeared among a lush growth of grasses and poison oak, but we continued heading down a short, steep section to an open field. We walked left along the fringe of the field and took a gap between copses of oak to pass a pond with camas still blooming and reach the Old Gorge Highway on the other side of a buck-and-rail fence.
View southeast from Marsh Hill, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Columbia frasera (Frasera albicaulis var. columbiana), Memaloose Hills.jpg
We turned right on the highway and soon passed the intersection with the Marsh Cutoff. Two hundred yards from here, on our right, we saw gravel FR 775 leading north across an open field. We stepped over the fence/gate and walked down the road, which leads to a quarry. Where it dropped downhill, we headed east across the field to pick up a trail heading down the slope to a rocky draw above a seasonal waterfall. As I stepped close to snap a photo of some blooming buckwheat nestled against a boulder, a furious rattling caused me to jump back in alarm. My face had been about six inches from a four-foot rattler curled up under the rock! The snake continued to vigorously rattle and readjust its coils, so I decided not to step closer and entice it into a photo pose. Since there is already a Rattlesnake Falls across the river in Klickitat County, I now dub this trickling cascade Diamondback Falls.
Above Diamondback Falls, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Slender godetia (Clarkia gracilis gracilis), Memaloose Hills.jpg
The vestiges of a trail dropped to join an abandoned jeep track, where we turned right and switchbacked downhill in an understory of poison oak. The track, now flagged, entered more open parklands, crossed a fenceline, passed one of the few aspen groves in the Oregon Gorge and joined the pet section of the rest area to complete the loop.
Poison oak (Rhus diversiloba), Memaloose Hills.jpg
Aspen grove, Memaloose State Park.jpg
Note #1: Much poison oak, rattlesnakes, and ticks in season

Note #2: 76 species observed in bloom; April is really the best month for a flower show here (but I was in Argentina) although other blooms, such as frasera, take up some of the slack in late May.

Note #3: Some day I need to walk from Memaloose to The Dalles, which you can do all on public land.

pablo
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by pablo » May 27th, 2012, 7:03 pm

Hello Bobcat,

Nice report & photos, what does the route from Memaloose Park to The Dalles look like?

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

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Peder
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by Peder » May 27th, 2012, 8:04 pm

Bobcat - That looks like a beautiful loop. I have downloaded your map and plan to visit when I am in the area. Thank you.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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Peder
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by Peder » May 27th, 2012, 10:28 pm

I found the map below here.
memaloose-hills-loop-map-draft1-low-res.jpg
From "On Mt Hood"
So a longer hike is also possible!
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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bobcat
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by bobcat » May 28th, 2012, 8:26 am

Thanks for the additional map, Peder. There is indeed a spur to the top of Chatfield Hill. I haven't been to the cemetery yet.

@Pablo: Here's my best rendering of routes to The Dalles:
MemalooseTheDalles.jpg
Solid red: Routes I have done on trails, roads, abandoned jeep tracks

Dashed black: Cross-country routes I have done

Dashed green: Connections I haven't explored yet

Looks like it would be about 10 miles or so one-way from Memaloose Viewpoint to the Sevenmile Hill Road. Access from there is The Dalles Public Works yard. Since I am botanically-oriented, the best time for me to attempt this would be mid-April - mid-May.

This is all on public land except around McCall Point and both sides of Rowena Dell, which is Nature Conservancy.

John

pablo
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by pablo » May 28th, 2012, 8:06 pm

Thanks John for posting a map of the longer route (and to Peder for digging up the other map) - very interesting. Do you think the ridge labeled 'Crates Point' going down to highway 30 on the east end of Seven Mile Hill is legal?

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

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bobcat
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by bobcat » May 29th, 2012, 7:47 am

Pablo,

No, most of the Crates Point Ridge is privately owned. I use the Wasco County Tax Lot Map to figure out who owns the lots.

John

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Peder
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by Peder » June 2nd, 2012, 8:39 pm

John - I had planned to hike some of Paul's ("Pablo") ridges on Mt Defiance today but rain made me drive further east. So I ended up at the Memaloose SP without maps or waypoints! My idea was to do a loop from the highway rest area going past McCall Point (perhaps to Sevenmile Hill), down the Rowena Plateau and then following your "trails" back to the rest area.

I went off route pretty early and did McClure Hill and thereafter wandered east a little south of your track. Two red-tailed hawks (I think) kept me company for about 1/2 a mile, screeching at me and overflying me at a respectful distance:
DSC06257a.jpg
Get out of here!
DSC06263a.jpg
Planning the next flyby!
When I hit the Marsh Cutoff I did not find a continuation (I should have gone a little south) and furthermore I was a little spooked after walking across lots of land without trails. What if I was no longer on public land and met a landowner telling me "Get off my land!" So I headed to the cemetery (I did not find it, unless is is a small fenced off area with nothing inside) and from there back to my car. A fun area that I look forward to visiting again with proper maps. Some of the signs were also a little weird:
DSC06265.jpg
So I'm allowed to hike in this field? Should I just climb over the fence?
DSC06266.jpg
So is there a trail here? How does this work?
Finally, you can continue to take pictures of flowers without a lingering fear of rattlesnakes: Your friend forgot to look left & right before crossing Hwy 30.
DSC06268.jpg
Dead
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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bobcat
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Re: Memaloose Hills Loop

Post by bobcat » June 3rd, 2012, 7:20 pm

Peder,

Yes, if you don't have specific references, this area is hard to get around. In fact, I went back today to tie up some of the gaps in a Memaloose/The Dalles route. I would say I was about 90 percent successful and will post on the Off-trails forum when I get my act together (which will be a few days).

If you went up McClure Hill, as opposed to Chatfield Hill or Marsh Hill), you must have crossed private land. I met the landowner here a few years ago (His dog came rushing out to make acquaintance with my dog's rear end) and he's a nice guy, so he'd probably forgive an inadvertent trespass.

Thanks for the reassurances about the rattler. However, upon closer observation, I see that your rattler was Frieda. My rattler was Fred. Frieda is Fred's second cousin twice-removed. There was no love lost between Fred and Frieda, but on principle I think Fred will use it as an excuse to lash out at passers-by, so I will avoid his rock for a while.

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