French Creek Ridge separates the Little North Santiam and North Santiam drainages. It is a rugged remnant of the Old Cascades: domes of columnar basalt, outcroppings of platy andesite, and lots of scree. Because the ridge runs from west to east, there are extensive views from various high points: north to Mt. Hood and summits in Bull of the Woods, such as Whetstone and Big Slide, and south to Sardine and Coffin Mountains and an expanse of the high Cascades from Olallie Butte to the Three Sisters.
I began at the trailhead off of FR 2207 and hiked east along a brushy road bed into the Opal Creek Wilderness. The trail gains gradually, passing into old growth ridge forest of Alaska yellow-cedar, noble fir, mountain hemlock, Douglas-fir, and silver fir. I skirted the talus slopes on the north side of the Marten Buttes, with their lush thickets of goat’s beard, thimbleberry, and salmonberry, and hiked along an open crest to an outcropping of andesite pinnacles near Boulder Peak. Pikas squeaked their alarm calls in the extensive scree slopes.
From here, the trail drops to the junction with the faint Byars Peak spur trail. I continued left on the French Creek Ridge Trail, plunging down on a flagged track through dense brush - mostly white rhododendron and huckleberry. I came away from my tussle with these bushes sporting a few bloody scars that I can show off at parties, passed a couple of small ponds and headed up the slopes of Mt. Beachie. The trail traverses Beachie on its northern slope, but it’s a short bushwhack up to the summit, which is forested on the north side but gives good views east to Battle Ax and Elk Lake as well as south down to Geiber Lake and the central Cascade peaks.
Returning to the trailhead, I crossed FR 2207 and went west on the trail, heading up into lush old growth forest on the north side of Dog Tooth Rock before dropping and then ascending to a magnificent viewpoint just off the trail. From here, it was a steep descent down to little Cedar Lake, nestled in a saddle on the ridge. Opal Lake is a mile down in the valley using a tie trail that drops from here to FR 2207 (Because I was feeling lazy and it was over 90 degrees, I chose to drive to the Opal Lake Trailhead after this hike).
The trail rises steeply to cross an exposed rocky plateau before dropping to an old parking area. I continued to hike along an open ridge from here. Where a fallen tree has come down on the trail (It has been cut for hiker passage), a spur leads up to the Phantom Bridge, a natural rock arch about 50 feet high that frames the montane forest below (It’s difficult to get good photos because of the angle, so you’ll just have to go there to appreciate it).
8.2 miles round-trip to Mt. Beachie; 5.2 miles round-trip to the Phantom Bridge from the FR 2207 trailhead.
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Ah, I was just posting elsewhere that I was thinking of doing the Opal Creek hike (off the Must See list) this weekend, so I was very interested to read this TR!
lol, nice.Dog vomit slime mold
Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.
-- T.S. Eliot
Great TR and pictures Bobcat! I had to look up the "Dog Vomit" Slime Mold after seeing the picture as the name cracks me up! My wife said to me "Yep, that's the stuff I clean up when our dog can't hold it in". Seriously though, we really do appreciate the attention given to naming/labelling the flowers and locations for all your pictures.
This is the top of the Opal Creek watershed. Worse road access, smaller trees, but better views.hlee wrote:Ah, I was just posting elsewhere that I was thinking of doing the Opal Creek hike (off the Must See list) this weekend, so I was very interested to read this TR!
lol, nice.Dog vomit slime mold
I would consider this area must-see as well, but then again, I'm kind of obsessed with the Opal Creek / Bull of the Woods area as a whole.
Author of Off the Beaten Trail, 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region and PDX Hiking 365. Website: www.offthebeatentrailpdx.com