strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

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retired jerry
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strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by retired jerry » July 4th, 2013, 8:01 am

I spent 4 nights backpacking in the Strawberry Mountain area. This has been "on my list" for years. Nice because the snow is mostly melted off early in the season, but not very alpiney. Reminds me of Burnt Lake and other mid elevation around Mount Hood - trees and dirt, but much sparser and drier. Lots of recently burned areas.

It was very hot - 85 degrees (in the shade) during the day and 50 to 60 degrees at night. There were zillions of mosquitoes. Also flies but they only bit me a little. I used three layers of defense - long pants/shirt/hat, DEET for wrists/neck/face, and head net for sleeping. This also worked for sun protection. But it was uncomfortable at 6 PM, waiting for it to cool a little, with bugs buzzing around, wearing long clothing.

I started at the Strawberry trailhead south of Prairie City. I think this is the most common.

In a mile you hit Strawberry Lake. Other people were there, but the lake is big enough I could still find some solitude:
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Above the trail hits Strawberry Falls. Maybe 100 feet?
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The rest of my trip the trail left Strawberry Creek and it was pretty dry. I crossed occasional streams from snowmelt but in another few weeks I think drinking water is pretty scarce.

When the trail reached 8000 foot elevation there was some snow. This is above Strawberry Spring getting up to the ridge south of Strawberry Mountain. Snow was pretty soft so I pretty much just walked up. The combination of heat, altitude, and walking up steep slope was killer:
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Lady, son?, and dog going down snow slope:
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I think there is probably water, year-round, at Strawberry Spring.

I wanted to camp at Wildcat Basin, which was far away, so I skipped the 1000 feet and 2.5 miles to summit of Strawberry Mountain.

The loop up to Strawberry Mountain and back around High Lake and Slide Lake was almost a "gorge trail", easily followed, not too many branches across trail. Beyond there the trail was often difficult to follow, like you have to see the cut logs to see where the trail goes:
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Or the "trail" plunges into thick brush that you just have to plow through:
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Or the trail just peters out and you just have to guess where it might be and wander around until you find the trail again. The GPS helped. The trails mostly matched where the GPS said they were.

Just before Wildcat Basin was a cold stream and a flat area to sleep. There's a spring at Wildcat Basin but it was small and I suspect it goes dry later in season.

Then I went further south to Canyon Creek. Looking back at Strawberry Mountain about 2 miles away:
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That whole basin had burned, must be a couple years ago. One result is many down trees across trail.

I camped 2nd night at Bum Camp:
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I think there is water there year-round. Maybe you'de have to walk a few miles down Canyon Creek later in season.

Coyote poop? on trail:
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I saw lots of deer tracks. Saw one skittish deer in the distance. Saw another "pest" deer that wouldn't leave me alone - after I yelled at it and threw stuff it got tired of me and wandered off.

Then I went back to the Strawberry/Slide loop. Camped 3rd night at High Lake:
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This required walking on a gravel road about 1/2 mile. High Lake is only 1 mile from trailhead - there was a day hiker there fishing.

View of High Lake from above:
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Between High Lake and Slide Lake the trail goes up to about 8000 feet. View down to Mud Lake, another basin totally burned out within the last couple years:
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Going down to Slide Lake the trail was difficult to follow. Covered with snow a little. Mostly the trail was just faint.

Got back to Strawberry Lake and there was a bike:
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It was only 1 mile into the wilderness, nice view, no sign of bike tire erosion on trail so I won't expend any negative energy about this rule infraction :)

I went up to Little Strawberry Lake but there were more bugs, and the lake is small so it didn't provide any coolth. And there was a group of 8 people including teenagers that were shouting, banging on logs, and generally being teenagers, so I went back down to Strawberry Lake for my last night, which was the coolest and most bug free night of the trip.

The loop is about 17 miles. Trailhead is 5800 feet. Trail goes up to 8000 feet. Another 2.5 miles and 1000 feet if you do Strawberry Mountain. Trail goes down to High Lake at 7000 feet and back up to 8000 feet and then down to trailhead.

I probably won't go back here again. Too far away (maybe 6 hourse east on highway 26). Just not alpine enough for me. I'de rather go a little further to the Wallowas. I suppose the heat and bugs influenced me. If I lived in John Day I'de go up here frequently.

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kelkev
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by kelkev » July 4th, 2013, 8:25 am

Neat trip, Jerry. I've been to Strawberry & Little Strawberry Lakes, a few years ago in late July....no bugs that I recall. Prairie City is a neat little town with a heck of a view across those fields to Strawberry Mountain. I didn't realize that there was so much burned area up there.

Kevin
"Going to the mountains is going home."
— John Muir

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oldandslow
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by oldandslow » July 4th, 2013, 9:16 am

I have been to Strawberry Mountain twice and would not go back.
For hikers wanting to go in that direction for early season hiking, the Elkhorns and particularly the Elkhorn Crest Trail offer excellent, uncrowded hiking opportunities.

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retired jerry
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by retired jerry » July 4th, 2013, 9:45 am

Good idea about Elkhorns. There have been a number of good reports. Maybe next July.

One thing about the hot weather was I got into the pattern of getting up when it got light at 5AM and that helped.

Pin Toe
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by Pin Toe » July 4th, 2013, 9:55 am

oldandslow, any good fishing lakes in the Elkhorns?

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drm
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by drm » July 4th, 2013, 10:02 am

I think the main appeal of the Strawberries is that they have a lake basin, which is fairly rare out east. But given the altitude and the colder winters, the snow does not melt that much ahead of the Cascades. On my visit a few years ago, this time of year, there were no bugs that I remember. For me the bigger disincentive is that with all the fire damage, the mileage of maintained trails just isn't that much for a multi-day trip to justify the drive. That's how I feel about most of the smaller wildernesses on the east side.

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oldandslow
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by oldandslow » July 4th, 2013, 12:34 pm

I don't know about fishing but there are quite a few lakes in the Elkhorn Mountains below the Crest Trail.
Anthony-Lakes.jpg
Dutch-Flat-Lake.jpg
Dutch-Flat-Lake-2.jpg

VanMarmot
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by VanMarmot » July 6th, 2013, 7:14 am

We enjoyed Strawberry Mtn as a dayhike a couple of years ago, but the Elkhorns may have the edge in rugged beauty and more lakes. We also hiked Lookout Mtn - E of Strawberry in the same range. Although it has some nice views, we (sadly) can't recommend it because all of the "trails" are either roads or ATV tracks.

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woodswalker
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by woodswalker » July 6th, 2013, 8:05 am

I love the Strawberries, but I agree it's not all that alpine. I usually go up in August and you can get a bit of wildflower action around little strawberry and the upper lakes. Nothing like Hood though. I've usually had the upper lakes to myself which is a bonus in August. Mostly I like it for going car camping and doing lots of dayhiking to many diverse areas. My gr. gr grandfather had land in the area north of the Strawberries in MT. Vernon on a little creek which had hot springs. The people that bought it next developed the springs. I always wish they had kept it. Hots springs and the Strawberries nearby, that's my idea of an ideal family gathering!

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awildman
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Re: strawberry mountain June 27 - July 2, 2013

Post by awildman » July 7th, 2013, 7:54 pm

Thanks for the trip report, Jerry. This area has been "on my list" also but I've always been rained or snowed out. I think I'll explore other areas first...
Rambling on at Allison Outside

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