Trout Lake Big Tree – Wicky Creek Shelter Loop 05-22-16

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bobcat
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Trout Lake Big Tree – Wicky Creek Shelter Loop 05-22-16

Post by bobcat » May 25th, 2016, 5:57 pm

Low cloud cover and drizzle made me head east again to attempt one of those never-hiked (by me), never-been-in-a-hiking guide loops: a series of trails used mainly by horses on the south slopes of Mt. Adams. The route began at the Trout Lake Big Tree and went clockwise: Big Tree Trail #51-Buck Creek Trail #54-Morrison Creek Trail #39-Wicky Shelter Trail #39A- Morrison Creek Trail #39-Wicky Creek Trail #38-Big Tree Trail #51. The trails have all been logged out, including the Crofton Butte-Gotchen Creek Loop higher up the slope: this is some doing in an area that has a lot of diseased trees. WACMO (Washington Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering) publishes a great map of the area: http://www.nacmo.org/maps/WA/2013-mt-ad ... e-camp.pdf

Driving up from Trout Lake, I pulled off for a veritable convoy of rigs and horse trailers coming out. They had all been there for the Mt. Adams Endurance Ride, which had events from Introductory to 100 miles! However, they were all leaving and I saw only two riders and no one else for the rest of the day.

I first inspected the Trout Lake Big Tree, a massive ponderosa 202 feet tall, but – alas and alack – no longer for this world: I did not see a living needle on it. The tree was infested by bark beetles, perhaps the notorious California five-spined ips, a few years ago and seems to have lost the battle. In a few more years, it will no doubt crash to the ground and that particular attraction will be a decaying relic.
Trout Lake Big Tree, Gifford Pinchot N.F..jpg
Sign, Trout Lake Big Tree, Gifford Pinchot N.F..jpg
At the Trout Lake Big Tree, Gifford Pinchot N.F..jpg
I took the Big Tree Trail past several junctions with paths leading to the horse camp, and then, after crossing Morrison Creek, hiked up the canyon of the White Salmon River. This stretch of the loop is by far the most rewarding, with cliffs of platy andesite decorated with blooming penstemon and paintbrush. A few oaks and manzanitas cling to the outcroppings, but the river, which can be heard rushing below, is usually out of sight. The trail turns away from the canyon along a wide creek which comes gushing out of a massive spring.
Western red columbine (Aquilegia formosa), Big Tree Trail.jpg
Bridge over Morrison Creek, Buck Creek Trail.jpg
Harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), Buck Creek Trail.jpg
Pillar of andesite, Buck Creek Trail.jpg
Cliffs above the White Salmon River, Buck Creek Trail.jpg
Gushing spring, Buck Creek Trail.jpg
Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), Buck Creek Trail.jpg
After this, the scenery is more mundane. There are no views and the forest is scrappy, often with a dense vine maple understory, and has been logged over in the past. I joined the Morrison Creek Trail, which here runs along a decommissioned road, and passed Rainy’s Meadow, where I stopped to admire the art work. Then I recrossed Morrison Creek and took the short spur trail up to the Wicky Creek Shelter (This is the only trail that hasn’t been maintained recently).
Rainy's Meadow sign, Morrison Creek Trail.jpg
Rainy's slugs, Morrison Creek Trail.jpg
Bitter cherry (Prunus emarginata), Morrison Creek Trail.jpg
Vanilla leaf (Achlys triphylla), Morrison Creek Trail.jpg
Wicky Creek Shelter, Gifford PInchot N.F..jpg
The heaviest of several brief showers during the day came while I was picnicking under the roof, so it was a timely stopover. The shelter, constructed in the 1930s and by far the biggest in our area I think, is doing well with just a few mini-skylights in the shake roof. This is a designated camping area as well although, in addition to the shelter, the only facility is an outhouse.

I dropped down to join the Wicky Creek Trail and then the Big Tree Trail: near the junction of the two, I explored a vast hunter’s camp in a ponderosa parkland with one massive Douglas-fir. From Morrison Creek to the Big Tree, the forest is quite diseased and there is a lot of old blowdown in the understory. Continuing south, there were more unsigned junctions with horse trails (all had been used the previous day in the event) and, even though I got distracted a couple of times, I eventually found my way back to the sad carcass of the Big Tree.
Ponderosa parkland, Wicky Creek Trail.jpg
Big Douglas-fir, Wicky Creek Trail.jpg
I’d recommend this loop on a cloudy, drizzly day. You wouldn’t want to do it in the summer, when the trails would be very dusty from horse use, or during a big equestrian event; or during hunting season in the fall for that matter.

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-Q-
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Re: Trout Lake Big Tree – Wicky Creek Shelter Loop 05-22-16

Post by -Q- » May 25th, 2016, 10:12 pm

Didn't know this about the Big Tree.
Sad news indeed

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drm
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Re: Trout Lake Big Tree – Wicky Creek Shelter Loop 05-22-16

Post by drm » May 26th, 2016, 6:30 am

These trails almost always get cleared of logs early thanks to the heavy horse focus. But despite that the trails are not full of mud or horse poop and only once or twice have I actually seen horses on them. And when it is clear, Mt Adams Horse Camp has one of the best views of Mt Adams from a trailhead, at least on the south side of the mountain.

Trivia factoid: The Wicky Shelter was the site of an early/old ski hill with a rope tow.

ThePortlandeer
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Re: Trout Lake Big Tree – Wicky Creek Shelter Loop 05-22-16

Post by ThePortlandeer » May 26th, 2016, 2:14 pm

This is sad news. I watched the progress of the Mt Adams Cougar Creek wildfire last season hoping it wouldn't get too close to the Big Tree. We stopped by last year in June after climbing Mt Adams to have a peak and it looked quite infested but still alive. I liked the relatively unspoken signage and nature of such a mammoth living thing. I suppose this is the way of a forest. When this tree falls it will take others with it, letting sunlight in to spur new growth.
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Alpenglow
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Re: Trout Lake Big Tree – Wicky Creek Shelter Loop 05-22-16

Post by Alpenglow » May 27th, 2016, 6:33 am

Do you know how many miles you hiked to do that loop? Also the elevation gain and loss?
Thanks for the post. I have only been up in that area for cross country skiing in the winter.
Dream as if you'll live forever...Live as if today's your last

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bobcat
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Re: Trout Lake Big Tree – Wicky Creek Shelter Loop 05-22-16

Post by bobcat » May 27th, 2016, 7:42 am

Alpenglow wrote:Do you know how many miles you hiked to do that loop? Also the elevation gain and loss?
About 9 1/2 miles (I did some exploratory forays on other trails in addition to this) and about 1,200' EG, all on the western leg to Wicky Shelter. The trails got logged out in early May. As I said, the best part is above the White Salmon Gorge as far as the big spring. Sometime, I'd like to do the lower loop out of the Buck Creek Trailhead, which also keeps to the Gorge rim.

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