Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills)

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bobcat
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Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills)

Post by bobcat » March 25th, 2015, 11:14 am

I took advantage of a break in the weather Tuesday to venture east beyond the sprinkles and poke around the Memaloose Hills on the patchwork of federal/state lands for my first real wildflower hike of the season. Out on the western borderlands of Wasco County, the bloom is almost three weeks in advance of normal although the white oaks are still dormant and the poison oak is just beginning to leaf out. The rattlesnakes stayed home on a cool and cloudy day with a steady westerly sweeping across the benchlands.

I parked at the Memaloose Rest Area east of Mosier and hiked up the old wagon road to the pinnacles and the viewpoint that offers a vista across the Columbia to the Coyote Wall/Major Creek area. Balsamroot are blooming in profusion and the Columbia desert parsley and grass widows are at the end of their blooms. Paintbrush and shooting stars are beginning to flower. From the Memaloose Overlook, I took in the vista over Memaloose Island, which Lewis and Clark called “Sepulchar Island” on account of the fact that it served as an Indian mausoleum. At that time, several wooden structures contained the remains of the dead. In the good old days of cultural insensitivity, area residents would picnic here on weekends and poke through the piles of bones. These were removed upon construction of the Bonneville Dam and the obelisk that still stands marks the grave of Victor Trevitt, an early settler and friend of the local tribes.
Memaloose Pinnacles, Memaloose Bluff.jpg
Grass widow (Olsynium douglasii), Memaloose Bluff.jpg
Upland larkspur (Delphinium nuttallianum), Memaloose Bluff.jpg
Poet's shooting star (Dodecatheon poeticum), Memaloose Bluff.jpg
Memaloose Island from Memaloose Overlook.jpg
From the overlook, I headed south on the unsigned trail that crosses federal land, passing through grassy oak savannah densely sprinkled with blue-eyed Mary. An old side trail marks someone’s attempt to build a mountain biking course up the slope of McClure Hill (marked as ‘Hudson’ on some topo maps). However, although McClure Hill is mostly in public ownership, it is separated from the rest by private land and cannot be accessed from this direction. I crossed the little creek below Marsh Hill and then took the spur trail above its east bank past dense willows thickets and the willow/cattail pond at Wetland Spring, one of the many large springs in the area.
Northwestern balsamroot (Balsamorhiza deltoidea), Memaloose Hills.jpg
Bikaduct to nowhere, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Large-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia grandiflora), Memaloose Hills.jpg
Wetland Spring, Memaloose Hills.jpg
I hiked towards a fenced cattle pasture and along the west side of a fence to take the trail up the oak and balsamroot slopes of Chatfield Hill, known to botanizers as Castilleja Hill. Views from here extend broadly west, but the south was clouded in, so Mt. Hood was not visible. However, I could make out the previous night’s snow on Mt. Defiance. A few castilleja (paintbrush) were blooming: the place becomes absolutely brilliant with them in April.
Trail up the slope, Castilleja Hill.jpg
Harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispidus), Castilleja Hill.jpg
Columbia Gorge broad-leaf lupine (Lupinus latifolius x sericeus), Castilleja Hill.jpg
Columbia desert parsley (Lomatium columbianum), Castilleja Hill.jpg
View west, Castilleja Hill.jpg
I descended Castilleja Hill and took the user path up Marsh Hill, the lowest of the three western hills. This hill becomes a lupine fest in late April, but on this visit was not ready for prime time. The views east to Sevenmile Hill in Oregon and the Columbia Hills in Washington are expansive. It was also the point where I could mark out the trajectory for the rest of the hike.
Castilleja Hill and McClure Hill from Marsh Hill.jpg
Small-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia parviflora), Marsh Hill.jpg
From here, there are no more trails: mostly I was following deer paths or hiking across open meadows. I dropped off the south side of Marsh Hill through an understory of poison oak and crossed a marshy area that will later bloom with camas. There’s a gap in the fence at Marsh Cutoff Road, which I crossed at another downed fenceline to begin the crossing of Marsh Cutoff Meadow. This meadow is a spectacular display of grass widow in late winter, but these were already bloomed out. At the fence on the east side of Marsh Cutoff Meadow, I took an old stile under an oak tree – there’s a hanging rope to assist in the endeavor. Then I headed through a forest of oak and ponderosa pine carpeted with glacier lilies to emerge at vast Lone Pine Hills Meadow.
Castilleja Hill, McClure Hill, Marsh Hill from Marsh Cutoff Meadow, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Midget phlox (Microsteris gracilis), Marsh Cutoff Meadow, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Stile to the oaks, Marsh Cutoff Meadow, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflorum), Marsh Cutoff oak woods, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Tom McCall Point is due east, but the target here were the two curvaceous humps of the Lone Pine Hills with their tall ponderosa – although she is not “lone” any more: a tall dark stranger came in the night and there are a few babies scattered about. I crossed draws still blooming with grass widows and marshy seeps full of saxifrage and shooting stars. South of the Lone Pine Hills is the abandoned Rowena Dell Landing Strip, and from the summit, there’s a view to Rowena Dell and Lyle, Washington.
Small-flowered prairie star (Lithophragma parviflorum), Lone Pine Hills Meadow, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Airstrip embankment and Tom McCall Point, Lone Pine Hills Meadow, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Few-flowered blue-eyed Mary (Collinsia sparsiflora), Lone Pine Hills Meadow, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Looking to the Lone Pine Hills and Tom McCall Point, Lone Pine Hills Meadow, Memaloose Hills.jpg
This was the easternmost point of the hike, so I headed back west to a draw and then down it to the old Gorge Highway (U.S. 30). Across the highway is the gate to the McClure Farm, which fairly recently came into the public domain. You can step across the fence to the left of the gate and inspect the barn and outbuildings: the barn itself is closed to public entry as another species has replaced the livestock.
Barn, McClure Farm, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Bat sign at barn, McClure Farm, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Outbuildings, McClure Farm, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Then I wandered over to the old farmhouse, which has been boarded up and now serves as a maternity ward. Above the homestead is a small, fenced and locked cemetery. No headstones are visible under the foliage here but, as far as I can make out, here rest the mortal remains of William Carroll McClure (1817-1895) and his wife, Amelia Hunt Sullivan, who died a year after he did. The McClures were Oregon Trail pioneers who came west from Missouri in the 1850s (They were originally from Kentucky) in what amounted to a family expedition: old James McClure, an 1812 War veteran, and his seven sons with their families. They settled first in Yamhill County, but some including James and William, moved to this acreage in the mid-1860s. Old James McClure died here in 1878 and is buried at the top of one of the hills in an unmarked grave (Is it the pile of stones on Marsh Hill?). Other McClures and Marshes (whom they married into) are buried at the Mosier Pioneer Cemetery. Six generations of McClures inhabited the house before the Townsend family took over.
The McClure home, McClure Farm, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Bat sign, McClure Farmhouse, Memaloose Hills.jpg
View from the veranda, McClure Farmhouse, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Cemetery, McClure Farm, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Near the cemetery is another graveyard of old farm machinery and wagon bits. I walked west from here across a meadow and crossed Memaloose Creek, where bluebird nesting boxes have recently been placed. A faint trail leads down from here on the west side of the gully above Memaloose Cascades and into white oak woods with a dense understory of poison oak.
Machinery, McClure Farm, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Wagon chassis, McClure Farm, Memaloose Hills.jpg
Ravine at Memaloose Cascades, Memaloose Hills.jpg
View to Major Creek and Rocky Flat, Memaloose State Park.jpg
I followed deer trails back on to state land, passing an aspen grove and an old stone farm wall to reach the Rest Area, whose signs alert freeway travelers to the barbarians beyond the sprinklered lawns.
Old farm wall, Memaloose State Park.jpg
Aspen grove, Memaloose State Park.jpg
Rattlesnake sign, Memaloose Rest Area.jpg
Poison oak sign, Memaloose Rest Area.jpg
Sign, Memaloose Rest Area.jpg

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adamschneider
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by adamschneider » March 25th, 2015, 11:33 am

I don't suppose you have a map or GPS track of your route?

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bobcat
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by bobcat » March 25th, 2015, 6:46 pm

adamschneider wrote:I don't suppose you have a map or GPS track of your route?
Wish granted. Just a sketch, mind you - I didn't have a GPS.
Memaloose Hills sketch map.png
Solid = trails; dotted = cross-country

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adamschneider
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by adamschneider » March 25th, 2015, 8:32 pm

Thanks, that's very helpful! About how many miles do you think it was total?

And are you immune to poison-oak, or are you just insane? :)

greenjello85
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by greenjello85 » March 25th, 2015, 9:58 pm

Nice hike Bobcat! I always enjoy your write ups. Thanks for including the names of land marks and plants. My family and I hiked near there around the McCall nature preserve today to avoid the rain. I was fairly clueless on the flowers but they are beautiful right now :D
Dan

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woodswalker
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by woodswalker » March 27th, 2015, 6:27 am

Another new area to explore!!! Thanks.
Woodswalker

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bobcat
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by bobcat » March 27th, 2015, 8:36 am

adamschneider wrote:About how many miles do you think it was total
About 7 1/2 or so, I think . . .
adamschneider wrote:And are you immune to poison-oak, or are you just insane?
Lots of poison oak in the green parts shown on the map, but I try to follow deer trails, old cattle paths, etc. and attempt to avoid it. I've never gotten the rash as an adult (but I did get the rash from eating mangos and climbing mango trees as a child - same toxin: urushiol). If I knowingly brush against it with my bare skin, I wash immediately.

Having said that, I've been around it a lot and may be non-allergic although I don't want to test that theory too much! My wife gets it easily, seemingly from the same air that I breathe, and even if she hasn't been on the actual hike!

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adamschneider
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by adamschneider » March 27th, 2015, 4:07 pm

I explored the pinnacles today... there was a little poison-oak down there, but surprisingly not too bad.

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Waffle Stomper
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Re: Castilleja Hill to Lone Pine Hills Loop (Memaloose Hills

Post by Waffle Stomper » March 30th, 2015, 8:42 am

Great trip report, I must visit there one day.
"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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