Larch Mountain 5/7/14

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arlohike
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Larch Mountain 5/7/14

Post by arlohike » May 9th, 2014, 8:05 am

I've been wanting to try the Larch Mountain hike for the first time this year, but the Benson Bridge closure had me putting it off. I knew I could start from near the Oneonta Gorge or from Wakheena Falls, but I didn't want to add any more distance than was needed for my first attempt. Then I noticed the small trailhead about a mile west of the Multnomah Falls lodge on the historic highway 30, which seemed like the closest alternative. My birthday fell on a Wednesday this year, so I decided to take that day off and go for it.

When I had passed by that trailhead before, it seemed to only have room for a few cars, so my only worry was not finding a spot there. But on Wednesday at 9:30 am there was only one other car, and it actually has room for 6 or 7, so that was no problem. In case you haven't been there, the #400 trail obviously leads out of the parking lot to the East. But if you walk along the road about 10 feet to the West you'll see that it also heads up that way. After about a mile, it hits the Larch Mountain Trail above the Multnomah Falls Lodge at the 2nd of the marked switchbacks.

I knew I was in for a special day when I hit those switchbacks and started climbing up to the top of the falls with nobody around. All the various lookout points and the creek area at the top with the little stone bridge were completely deserted, due to the off-peak time and the bridge closure. It felt like quite a birthday present having all of Multnomah Creek to myself for a few hours. I was even alone at Sherrard Point for a while, until one, then two more hikers arrived. I saw a few more at various points on the way back down.

For a first-timer, I found the trail to be very well marked at every junction and had no problem finding my way to the top. I had been to Sherrard Point by bike before so I knew how things were laid out up there. If you're not familiar with it, you'll pass some picnic areas before the top, then finally the trail will split off to the left at a clearing. If you go straight you'll reach the bathroom and parking lot, or you can go left and keep going left (North) until you climb some stairs up to Sherrard Point.

I saw just a few small patches of snow around the top; another hiker told me this was unusual and there was often snow into June. This was a warm, sunny day with a forecast of 66 for Corbett. My keychain thermometer showed about 55 in the woods at the base of the climb and in the sun at the top, and about 45 in the woods at the top. So apparently going into the woods takes 10 degrees off the forecasted temperature and going up to that altitude takes another 10 off. My core was warm from the climbing, but I was happy to have a hat and gloves for the last couple miles.

The round-trip took me about 6 hours 45 minutes, including lots of photo stops and a half hour lunch break on Sherrard Point. My iPhone GPS gave me a total distance of about 17.2 miles. Looking at the maps posted for the Benson Bridge closure, the extra distance to the alternate trailhead should have added only .8 miles to what is listed in the field guide as a 14.4 mile hike. I don't know where the other two miles came from. My GPS could be overreporting the distance, but it usually underreports it. My legs sure felt it because I was dragging my feet by the end and happy to reach my car.

Overall, though, this was a day to remember and definitely one to do again. Photos to follow:
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The morning sun at Weisendanger Falls.
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A waterfall of wildflowers.
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Wildflower up close.
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A nurse log with a thriving family.
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The trail was well-marked and easy for a first-timer to follow.
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A few rockslide areas gave me a chance to soak up some sunshine.
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This clearing at the junction with road 315 was an unexpected sunny oasis about two miles from the top.
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I was enchanted by a grove of these white-barked trees about a mile from the top. Can someone identify them for me?
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One little patch of snow hiding in the shadows.
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At first my only company at Sherrard Point was this bird and a chipmunk.
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Mt. Hood majesty.
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Some maps show the Gorge Trail as I found it, dipping down to a trailhead. Others show it as the Ak Wanee Trail going straight across and skipping the trailhead. I saw this plaque for the Ak Wanee Trail, but didn't see any trace of an older route bypassing the trailhead.
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The final steps toward the road and my car.
Last edited by arlohike on May 19th, 2015, 9:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Splintercat
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Re: Larch Mountain 5/7/14

Post by Splintercat » May 9th, 2014, 8:14 am

That's a great idea for getting around the Benson Bridge, arlo! Nice report and photos, too -- I'm surprised at how little snow you ran into up there..!
Can someone identify them for me?
At that elevation, I would guess a young stand of noble fir.

Thanks for posting!

Tom :)

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bobcat
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Re: Larch Mountain 5/7/14

Post by bobcat » May 9th, 2014, 10:18 am

Nice report. It looks like summer is here! I like the photo of the crossbill on the fence!

"Larch" was the actually the timber industry trade term for noble fir. In addition to the Gorge's Larch Mountain, there's the one near Silver Star Mountain and one in the northern Coast Range, none of which have larches growing on them!

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arlohike
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Re: Larch Mountain 5/7/14

Post by arlohike » May 9th, 2014, 10:51 am

So those are noble firs that were called larches? At the time I thought, "Well these must be the larch trees of Larch Mountain," but then I looked up larch trees on Wikipedia and they looked nothing like these.

Thanks also for the bird ID. I hadn't noticed the "crossed bill" but now I see it! :D
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raftingdog
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Re: Larch Mountain 5/7/14

Post by raftingdog » May 9th, 2014, 7:20 pm

Getting Back To Car.... best reward of hiking and especially backpacking

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greglief
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Re: Larch Mountain 5/7/14

Post by greglief » May 11th, 2014, 7:45 pm

Thank you for the report, especially the photos of the Western Corydalis (Corydalis scouleri). I love those wildflowers! :P
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