Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/13

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justpeachy
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Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/13

Post by justpeachy » July 4th, 2013, 6:41 pm

Beautiful weather on July 4? I must be in the wrong state! No? Still Oregon? Well then, I must go for a hike on this absolutely gorgeous day! Amazingly enough I have never hiked to Elk Meadows, so I decided to rectify that today. I also "discovered" a beargrass paradise on nearby Elk Mountain!

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At the trailhead someone had posted an ad hoc notice that there was no viable way to cross Newton Creek on the Timberline Trail. This doesn't affect the trail to Elk Cove, but if any of you are planning on doing the longer loop that has you using that upper crossing, take heed.

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Beargrass began pretty much immediately. Awesome!

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There was a nice sturdy bridge over Clark Creek.

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The field guide entry shows a photo of a nice planed log across Newton Creek, but it must have washed away. Today there were just some small makeshift logs that hikers have cobbled together.

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I always get shaky knees when I have to do crossings like this. It's more psychological than anything. Fortunately I made it across without falling in the water. I stopped for a break on the other side before tackling the switchbacks. Nice view from here!

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Three different groups of hikers arrived at the crossing almost at the same time. A guy from one of the groups used the same log crossing I did, but his companion and the other two groups went upstream looking for a better way to cross. I munched my snack and watched them for ten minutes. When I packed up and continued on they were still looking for a better crossing. I wonder if they found one! (BTW, why doesn't the Forest Service install a seasonal bridge here like they do over the Sandy River on the Ramona Falls trail?)

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I passed the crazy argyle tree, which was discussed in this thread a few years ago. No one seemed to come up with an answer about what causes this.

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Yet more beargrass.

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When I reached the meadow perimiter trail I turned right and started going counter-clockwise. Came upon this rather nice view. :D

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Elephant head wildflowers were growing all over the place.

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I also saw quite a few butterflies, and even managed to photograph two of them!

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There was also some false hellebore around.

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I took the side trail to the shelter, which has a pretty stupendous view of Mt. Hood. I sat on a log, ate a snack, and admired the mountain. This was just the loveliest spot with the birds singing, the creek gurgling, the mountain right in front of me. So awesome! Also, I had the place totally to myself. I couldn't believe it!

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The mosquitoes weren't terrible but they were definitely out and about. A bit of a breeze kept them at bay for awhile, but when the breeze died down I had to move on.

Crossing the creek on the way back to the perimeter trail I heard some plops and looked down to see two frogs (or toads? I never know.) They had jumped out of the water and were perched on a log, totally unconcerned with me.

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It was pretty cool to see Cold Spring Creek up here, knowing that it eventually becomes the roaring Tamanawas Falls.

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Around on the other side of the meadow I got a good luck at the burned trees all along Bluegrass Ridge. Anyone know which wildfire this was and when? It came awfully close to the meadow!

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I finished the loop around the perimeter, but I wasn't ready to head back just yet. The one-mile jaunt up to Elk Mountain sounded good, although I had no idea what was up there. I had no description of the trail or the summit with me, but I figured at the very least I would burn some extra calories to make up for my afternoon ice cream stop. :D

The trail up to Elk Mountain is not hard to follow, but it is getting overgrown with huckleberries. I was too hot to zip on my pant legs and my legs got a bit scratched up. There's only about 400 feet elevation gain so it's not steep. I hiked on through the trees and huckleberries and then all of the sudden....

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This is where the Bluegrass Ridge trail (#647) heads north and the short spur along the broad flat summit of Elk Mountain heads east. There was beargrass EVERYWHERE.

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They should call this Beargrass Ridge, not Bluegrass Ridge. :D

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I followed the trail along the summit out to the viewpoint at the end. Much of the summit was burned in the wildfire that burned so much of Bluegrass Ridge. The beargrass don't seem to care.

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The trail ends at the old lookout site where you get partial views across the river valley.

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Looking south. I'm not positive, but I think that's Badger Butte on the left. In the distance are Diamond Peak, the Three Sisters, and Mt. Jefferson.

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I think this is Lookout Mountain.

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And Gumjuwac Saddle?

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I lingered as long as I dared, but the bugs were bad here. Not just mosquitoes but lots of flies too. I enjoyed my return walk through the beargrass paradise then started hiking back the way I came. I hadn't seen anyone for hours. Nobody at Elk Meadows the whole time I was there, and no one on Elk Mountain. I finally passed a group of about 10 people hiking up to Elk Mountain as I was coming down. One of them asked me if they were close and I said not quite, but that it was worth it to keep going because there was so much beargrass up there. "Whatever that is," she laughed. I pointed one out to her. "Oh, so that's what those are!"

As I descended the switchbacks to Newton Creek I started passing all sorts of people hiking in. It was getting pretty warm and I was glad to not be them, hiking up all those switchbacks in the heat! I made it back across the creek without trouble. On the last stretch to the car I saw a family with a three-month-old baby and then a woman with three small dogs and I wondered how they would do with the sketchy creek crossing.

I made it back to the car by 2:30, sore, hot, and tired, but very satisfied. I definitely earned the Chocolate Lover's Chocolate ice cream cone I got in Hood River an hour later. :lol:

5 hours and 8 miles
Cheryl

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pdxgene
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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by pdxgene » July 4th, 2013, 6:49 pm

OMG, that's so funny. That's you I was talking to while you finished your break before heading on up as we chuckled at the people on the other side. We have the same picture of them, yours is just zoomed in so you can actually see them :lol:

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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by justpeachy » July 4th, 2013, 7:35 pm

pdxgene wrote:OMG, that's so funny. That's you I was talking to while you finished your break before heading on up as we chuckled at the people on the other side. We have the same picture of them, yours is just zoomed in so you can actually see them :lol:
Oh that's too funny! Well, nice to meet ya! :lol:
Cheryl

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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by pdxgene » July 4th, 2013, 7:42 pm

justpeachy wrote:
pdxgene wrote:OMG, that's so funny. That's you I was talking to while you finished your break before heading on up as we chuckled at the people on the other side. We have the same picture of them, yours is just zoomed in so you can actually see them :lol:
Oh that's too funny! Well, nice to meet ya! :lol:
Ditto! I always figured at some point or another I'd run into some people on this site at random but it seems to happen very rarely. Only a few times over the years. Of course I do generally hike where and when I don't expect to see lots of others. Something about working in an arena of 20,000 screaming people I suppose... :)

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retired jerry
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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by retired jerry » July 4th, 2013, 8:00 pm

I ran into Gene a couple years ago, on the trail up to Burnt Lake of course.

He was removing red flags that he had put up previously. He missed one so I grabbed it and stuck it on his car, mainly just so he'de wonder how that flag got there :)

I know what you mean about crossings like the one over Newton, makes me uneasy. Then I look around for a better crossing which just makes me more aprehensive.

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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by Waffle Stomper » July 4th, 2013, 8:33 pm

The meadow is one of my favorite places. The planed log in the field guide hasn't been there in awhile. They put it there when they had the fire at Cooper Spur a few years ago. I hate that crossing some years there are better logs than others. I always worry that it's fine in the morning and then in the afternoon with more snowmelt the crossing may not be there or it is wet and slippery. Lovely series of photos as always.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." - John Muir

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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by Waffle Stomper » July 4th, 2013, 8:35 pm

I had to check my Flickr stream. That fire was in 2008.

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Gnarl Fire lower growing by Janice L, on Flickr
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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by Splintercat » July 4th, 2013, 9:22 pm

Nice report, Cheryl! To give some perspective on how quickly the understory recovers after a fire, here's what the hike up the cutoff trail looked like the first summer after the fire:

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Sort of a preview of what we can look forward to on Vista Ridge/Pinnacle Ridge in a few years..!

Thanks for posting -- wish I could have been hiking today, too!

Tom :)

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retired jerry
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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

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

There are similar stream crossings all around the Timberline Trail. Each year they put something new in. Just primitive. Sometimes that gets washed away...

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Re: Elk Meadows + beargrass surprise on Elk Mountain - 7/4/1

Post by kepPNW » July 5th, 2013, 7:08 am

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What a week you've had! Second of two fabulous, beargrass-laden TRs. (Hard to choose, but I think the one above is my fav!) Elk Meadows just moved up much higher on the list, but I don't like hearing that upper crossing isn't feasible. Wanted to do a loop using that. Thanks for the report!
Karl
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