Some Central Oregon Hikes

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bobcat
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Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by bobcat » April 1st, 2013, 5:05 pm

Last week, I spent a few days in central Oregon with my wife and a friend. They are just occasional hikers, so the deal was that I would arrange a short outing each day in and around the other things we were doing.

1. Scout Camp Loop Trail

This is a three-mile loop dropping 660 feet into the Deschutes Canyon from the Crooked River Ranch area. The Alder Springs/Whychus Trail comes down to the same area on the opposite bank, but that trail is not open until April 1st. You get to admire all the beautiful sedimentary, ash, debris layers of the Deschutes Formation, especially in the razor-thin Rainbow Ridge. The main issue is getting in to the trailhead following all the turns in the roads (Sullivan’s directions are spot on, but I did not bank on people with advanced degrees being challenged with the little reading assignment I gave them).
View to Whychus Canyon and the Sisters, Scout Camp Trail.jpg
Deschutes River, Scout Camp Trail.jpg
Common mergansers, Deschutes River, Scout Camp Trail.jpg
Sedimentary column, Scout Camp Trail.jpg
View to Rainbow Ridge, Scout Camp Trail.jpg
2. Tam-a-láu Trail

This trail is a mile ascent up to a lava plateau called The Peninsula in Cove Palisades State Park. Then it’s about four flat miles around the rim and across the plateau taking in views of both the Crooked River and Deschutes Arms of Lake Billy Chinook. At the point is a view across to The Island, a smaller plateau that is now protected and off-limits to hikers. Vegetation on the plateau is a mix of open sagebrush country with an expanding western juniper woodland that is being heavily thinned. In the summer, this would be very hot and very noisy, with all the jet ski and boat activity, but it was peaceful and quiet at the end of March (The marina was closed).
Lake Billy Chinook from The Peninsula, Cove Palisades.jpg
Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis), The Peninsula, Cove Palisades.jpg
View to the Island and Round Butte, The Peninsula, Cove Palisades.jpg
Spreading phlox (Phlox diffusa), The Peninsula, Cove Palisades.jpg
Looking up the Crooked River Arm from The Peninsula, Cove Palisades.jpg
3. Balancing Rocks

Since we were at the Cove Palisades, we drove the few extra miles and dipped into the Deschutes National Forest to take the very short little trail to Oregon’s best collection of hoodoos, overlooking the Metolius Arm of Lake Billy Chinook.
View to the Metolius Arm, Balancing Rocks.jpg
A pair, Balancing Rocks.jpg
Tall column, Balancing Rocks.jpg

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bobcat
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Re: Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by bobcat » April 1st, 2013, 5:08 pm

4. Cottonwood Canyon

This is slated to be Oregon’s newest state park come its opening in the fall of this year. It comprises several hundred acres up and down the John Day River, on both sides, from where Highway 206 (Wasco to Condon) crosses it. We met the BLM ranger who patrols 110 miles of the river here, and he told us we could just walk on farm roads up the canyon. There is construction of the campground and facilities going on at the site of the old Murtha Ranch. You could probably hike the uplands as well, but would have to be careful about straying on to private land. Cottonwood Canyon will be the second-largest state park after Silver Falls.
Murtha Ranch barn, Cottonwood Canyon.jpg
Mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Cottonwood Canyon.jpg
John Day River, Cottonwood Canyon.jpg
Golden currant (Ribes aureum), Cottonwood Canyon.jpg
Canyon view, Cottonwood Canyon.jpg

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romann
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Re: Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by romann » April 1st, 2013, 7:43 pm

Beautiful photos, Bobcat.

Scout Camp and Tam-a-láu trails are delight. I prefer to start Tam-a-láu from the dead-end parking lot, rather than main road or campground - makes it a little longer but it's lower section is very interesting as well. Cottonwood Canyon is on my list (will depend if they allow backcountry camping when they open state park there).

Now Balancing Rocks - never heard about them until now!

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BrianEdwards
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Re: Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by BrianEdwards » April 1st, 2013, 7:53 pm

Great adventures! I've never heard of the Blancing rocks, wonder how they formed. Rainbow Ridge is another scenic wonder. Thanks for sharing
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Peder
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Re: Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by Peder » April 2nd, 2013, 7:54 pm

I did not bank on people with advanced degrees being challenged with the little reading assignment I gave them
Hopefully everything went smoothly and according to plan!? Great pictures! You even caught the mourning cloak that refused to pose for me Saturday on Augsburger in your efforts. I sure wish to visit those spots, especially the Balancing Rocks. Thank you for sharing.
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: Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by bobcat » April 3rd, 2013, 7:24 am

@romann: Thanks. I did reference your excellent Field Guide entry on the Scout Camp Trail for this. Great work!

There are still No Camping signs on the tracks in Cottonwood Canyon. However, the master plan shows "primitive camping" at some haul sites for kayakers/rafters which I'd imagine hikers could also use. The BLM ranger said the John Day is easily fordable in spots late summer into fall, so you could make a loop up one side and down the other.

@Brian: The balancing rocks have an interesting story. They were a semi-secret, word-of-mouth only, sacrifice-your-first-born-for-the-info kind of destination until 2002, when an intense fire revealed them naked to the world. The Forest Service made a trail across top of the slope to a viewpoint recently. I think they even had a sign at the trailhead, but that is no longer there. They're about 13 - 14 miles from the Upper Deschutes Day-use Area in Cove Palisades State Park. Keep going on the paved road, crossing the Deschutes and heading up onto the plateau. Coming out of Fly Canyon, the road turns to gravel at the USFS border. About a 1/4 miles on gravel, the pullout is on your right.

The hoodoos are formed by erosion. Basically a fairly thin layer of lava spread over what to my amateur eyes looks like a layer of tuffaceous sediment. The lava cracked and broke up over the eons but as erosion of the slope continued, each lava block protected the softer layer below it. When the column erodes enough, the block will fall, but the whole process will begin again (Which is why you see some hoodoos only a foot or so tall below the much taller ones).

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retired jerry
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Re: Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by retired jerry » April 3rd, 2013, 7:34 am

hmmm... looks like a winter backpack opportunity at Cottonwood

and maybe drinking out of the John Day River would be okay. I hate drinking Deschutes River water because it drains Bend, Redmond, Madras,...

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Rustygoat
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Re: Some Central Oregon Hikes

Post by Rustygoat » April 3rd, 2013, 3:29 pm

I think I'm going to have to take a side trip from seeing waterfalls and check out Rainbow Ridge and the Balancing Rocks. Very nice pictures, thanks for sharing. :)
Tim

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