Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
Post Reply
User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 1955
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

Post by bobcat » July 16th, 2015, 11:33 am

This exploration continues a series of excursions over the last few years in the area between Badger Lake and Barlow Creek. Many of the trails here are little used and some are abandoned. This particular loop cobbles together the lower three miles of the Boulder Creek Trail, the Boulder Lake/Little Boulder Lake Trails and old forest roads as well as parts of the Forest Creek and Hidden Meadows Trails.

Being a purist, I decided to begin at the official south end of the Boulder Creek Trail even though I knew it had been mostly obliterated by a 45-year-old clearcut on a square of private holding within the national forest. I drove up FR 4870, which departs from the infamous Badger Lake Road (FR 4860) near Wamic Road, motoring my way through the encroaching snowbrush and actually found a trailhead sign where it was supposed to be.

The verbiage dates the sign: Crane Creek’s name was changed back to Boulder Creek in 1977 (It had been Boulder Creek before, until 1924, when the Forest Service decided there were too many Boulder Creeks in Oregon). You can tell the place is little visited: the sign is in pristine condition and is punctuated by not a single bullet! The “trail” used an old forest road, which very soon enters the clearcut, to descend to the creek in about ¾ mile. The clearcut was not replanted, and woody shrubbery, dominated by snowbrush and manzanita, makes navigation difficult. Someone has pruned out the first few snowbrush bushes, but after that I was tunneling, shoving, and blundering my way through. Where the remains of the road track seem to end, I traversed a short distance to a talus slope and descended along its edge to the creek.
Trailhead sign, Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
Snowbrush blockade, Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
There’s another old trail sign here and soon I entered unlogged old growth at USFS boundary markers, passing the pair of low cairns which would herald the closure of my loop. The old mile markers are all still in place: tiny etchings on them, dated between 1977 and 2007 attest mainly to the frustrations of hunters (“no bear” “no deer” “no elk”: I’ve seen all these critters down this valley, but today it was just a lot of deer). Also, once on USFS land, the trail is actually maintained!
Aspen grove, Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
Onto Forest Service land, Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
One-mile marker, Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
It’s a steady 2 ¼ mile lope through the shady woods to the junction with the Boulder Lake Trail. The old growth is dominated by some large Douglas-fir, noble fir, and Engelmann spruce. For the most part, the trail keeps away from the creek and sticks to the drier forest at the foot of the slope, but as you get closer to the junction you pass through the pocket meadows and bogs that are typical of this valley floor all the way up to Crane Prairie. At the footbridge over Boulder Creek, I chatted with a couple of mountain bikers, a group that uses these trails far more than hikers, and then headed up to Boulder Lake.
Big noble fir, Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
False bugbane (Trautvetteria caroliniensis), Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
Columbia monkshood (Aconitum columbiana), Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
Trail through pocket meadow, Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
Three miles! Boulder Creek Trail.jpg
Footbridge over Boulder Creek, Boulder Lake Trail.jpg
Boulder Creek at the crossing, Boulder Lake Trail.jpg
Spinning Lake, Boulder Lake Trail.jpg
At Boulder Lake.jpg
The lake was sparkling and visitor-free. I made the traverse over to Little Boulder Lake. The huckleberries are ripe, but sparse – I’m guessing it’s going to be an “off” year. From the second lake, I headed out to the closed FR 4881-123 spur and made the traverse above the valley, getting splendid views across to Grasshopper Point. I took the Forest Creek Trail where it crosses the spur road and descended to the 4881-121. The lower end of the Forest Creek Trail has been obliterated by clearcuts, so you have to walk the road ¼ mile across Swamp Creek to pick up the Hidden Meadows Trail.
Little Boulder Lake.jpg
View to Grasshopper Point from the 4881-123 spur.jpg
Turtle head (Nothochelone nemorosa), Forest Creek Trail.jpg
Chinquapin nuts, Forest Creek Trail.jpg
On the Forest Creek Trail.jpg
Forest Creek trailhead on the 4881-121 spur.jpg
This trail descends through clearcut territory with the same private ownership as at the beginning of my loop. It veers away from the original track of the trail and follows an old logging road. I took a diversion and crossed Swamp Creek on a rotting road bridge to try and find any remains of the old Ledford Cabin. I found nothing definitive (This section was clearcut at least 35 years ago), but near the site of the cabin at a small bog, someone had set up a critter cam over what looked like an elk convening spot. My next goal was to search out the “sign museum” on the old alignment of the Hidden Meadows Trail: this is described in Ken and Ruth Love’s classic Guide to the Trails of Badger Creek (1979, rev. ed.). Floundering about, I stumbled upon the old junction sign for the Forest Creek and Hidden Meadow Trails. All signs of trail treads have been expunged, so that discovery was pure serendipity. I bushwhacked back across Swamp Creek, but soon realized that any of the artifacts that the Loves describe would have been removed or destroyed with the clearcutting: most of the trees here are under 30 years old.
Abandoned bridge over Swamp Creek, near Hidden Meadows Trail.jpg
Critter cam, Ledford Cabin area, near Hidden Meadows Trail.jpg
Mountain meadow knotweed (Polygonum bistortoides), Ledford Cabin, near Hidden Meadows Trail.jpg
Bog paintbrush (Castilleja suksdorfii), Ledford Cabin, near Hidden Meadows Trail.jpg
Sign museum description from Love and Love.jpg
Old junction sign, Ledford Cabin area, near Hidden Meadows Trail.jpg
Back on the Hidden Meadows Trail, I descend to FR 4880, the road to the Boulder Lake Trailhead. There was a hiker sign at the pullout here last year, but that has now disappeared. I walked down 4880 to the first spur on the left, 4880-013. This spur traverses north up the valley on a level contour. At first it is vehicle accessible in shady secondary woodland, but soon it degenerates into one of those snowbrush tunnels and ends at a scrappy bracken meadow. Although there is no trail here, the loop using this road is occasionally used by adventurous mountain bikers, and I descended straight down to the creek across a large log with a constructed ramp. A massive log hangs ten feet above a brushy bottomland and reaches Boulder Creek itself. Another broken tree bridges the creek and an enterprising biker has carved a staircase up the opposite bank. This leads to the two cairns mentioned earlier.
Lower end of Hidden Meadows Trail.jpg
Snowbrush alley, FR 4880-013 spur.jpg
Goldenrod, aster, fireweed, FR 4880-013 spur.jpg
Log bridge above bottomland, Boulder Creek.jpg
Log crossing, Boulder Creek.jpg
Carved ramp to trail, Boulder Creek crossing.jpg
Then it was the floundering up to the old road bed, more battles with snowbrush, and back to the trailhead. A more merciful loop (and a better drive) would be to leave out this part and begin the loop at the Boulder Lake Trailhead.
BoulderCreekLoopMap.png
(sketch, not a GPS track)

User avatar
miah66
Posts: 2029
Joined: July 6th, 2009, 8:00 pm

Re: Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

Post by miah66 » July 16th, 2015, 1:33 pm

That is fascinating about the sign collection. Too bad it's not there anymore. Reading that passage from the book is sad, as most of us assume, many old trails have been converted into logging roads and then abandoned to be reclaimed by brush and lost forever.

You always do the coolest stuff!
"The top...is not the top" - Mile...Mile & a Half

Instagram @pdxstrider

User avatar
Double Tree
Posts: 198
Joined: September 6th, 2012, 10:51 am

Re: Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

Post by Double Tree » July 17th, 2015, 11:06 am

Nice report. I remember the mileage signs when we did that section of trail a few years ago. In another section, it got so boggy that it was more like bushwacking since the trail was basically nonexistent. (Must have been a wetter spring). Cut logs and flags helped but I'm an off-trail wimp, so we turned around. I like nice, wide, real trails.....
Kelly

User avatar
kepPNW
Posts: 6313
Joined: June 21st, 2012, 9:55 am
Location: Salmon Creek

Re: Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

Post by kepPNW » July 17th, 2015, 11:16 am

Always enjoy how you find "the trail less traveled!" :)

Apology in advance for possible thread-drift, but how do you manage to attach so many photos to your TRs? I thought there was a limit (15?) that most folks who embed directly ran into. Is there some trick to including in 30+ attachments?
Karl
Back on the trail, again...

(Photos · PortlandHikers)

User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 1955
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

Post by bobcat » July 17th, 2015, 4:05 pm

kepPNW wrote:how do you manage to attach so many photos to your TRs?
I think capacity has been increased? Not sure, but a few years ago it was 15 for me, too, and then at some point - maybe a year ago or so - I realized it would take more. Or it could be the particular vortex that I live in, one of those time/space anomalies that seem to happen to me all the time . . .

User avatar
bobcat
Posts: 1955
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Re: Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

Post by bobcat » July 17th, 2015, 4:13 pm

Double Tree wrote:In another section, it got so boggy that it was more like bushwacking since the trail was basically nonexistent.
The really boggy part is north of the Boulder Creek-Crane Prairie Trail junction. It was easy to follow last fall, when I did some brushing out of the Crane Prairie Trail (Still a lot of trees down, though). In spring/summer it's lush and difficult to follow and, since bikers can't get through there anymore and hikers hardly ever go there, fewer people are making tracks. It's a prime candidate for a boardwalk of some kind.

User avatar
kepPNW
Posts: 6313
Joined: June 21st, 2012, 9:55 am
Location: Salmon Creek

Re: Boulder Creek-Swamp Creek Loop

Post by kepPNW » July 17th, 2015, 5:07 pm

bobcat wrote:
kepPNW wrote:how do you manage to attach so many photos to your TRs?
I think capacity has been increased? Not sure, but a few years ago it was 15 for me, too, and then at some point - maybe a year ago or so - I realized it would take more. Or it could be the particular vortex that I live in, one of those time/space anomalies that seem to happen to me all the time . . .
I haven't tried bustin' the limit, myself, in some time. Heh, hope I didn't jinx anything! ;)
Karl
Back on the trail, again...

(Photos · PortlandHikers)

Post Reply