Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

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texasbb
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Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by texasbb » June 27th, 2009, 7:16 pm

EDITED to add pictures, etc.

I hiked a loop of about 55 miles in the Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness (the Blue Mtns of WA and OR) this past week. I'll post pictures as soon as I've got them sorted out, but here are the basic stats (mileages and elevations rough, based on Google Earth and FS website and not counting elevation gains in ups/downs along the trail):
  • Day 1
  • Started at Panjab TH, 1:00PM (3200 ft elev)
  • Panjab Tr to Indian Corral(6 mi, 2400' gain)
  • Mt Misery Tr to Squaw Spring (5 mi, some ups and downs)
  • Day 2
  • Continue on Mt Misery Tr to junction with Melton Creek Tr (2 mi, ups and downs)
  • Side trip up Diamond Pk (3/4 mi round trip, 200' gain/loss)
  • Melton Creek Tr to junction with Crooked Creek Tr (10 mi, 3800' loss)
  • Crooked Creek Tr to junction with Wenaha River Tr (4 mi, 500' loss, brushiest mess I've ever hiked)
  • Day 3
  • Wenaha River Tr to junction with Smooth Ridge Tr (3 mi, 100' gain)
  • Smooth Ridge Tr to Twin Spring (7 mi, 2800' gain)
  • Day 4
  • Continue on Smooth Ridge Tr to junction with Mt Misery Tr at Oregon Butte (9 mi, 1400' gain, ups and downs)
  • Side trip up Oregon Butte (1 mi round trip, 200' gain/loss)
  • Mt Misery Tr to Teepee TH (3 mi, 700' loss but with side trip up West Butte)
  • Turkey Creek Tr to junction with Panjab Tr (4 mi, 1900' loss)
  • Panjab Tr back to Panjab TH (1 mi, 400' loss)
The Blues are all but completely melted out.

Crooked Creek Trail from the junction with Melton Creek Tr to the Wenaha River is overgrown to the point of misery. Although the creek is beautiful, I did NOT enjoy that 4 miles of pushing through weeds.

Smooth Ridge Trail is very hard to follow in some places. I lost it multiple times, spending anywhere from a few minutes to 15 minutes looking for the continuation. Once I lost it so bad I stopped and camped early (at Twin Spring) and resolved to hike back out the way I'd come, which would have forced me to go to Troy, OR, and call my wife to pick me up. But on the way back I found the barely visible real trail a quarter mile back from the spring, which of course made my day.

Thanks to drm for his early scouting, both earlier this month and a couple years ago.

EDITED: Here are the details...

I started out at about 1:00PM on the Panjab Trail. My original plan was to start at Teepee TH and go counter-clockwise. A pessimistic snow report from the Forest Service (which turned out to be completely wrong) pushed me to start at Panjab, which supposedly offered me more options. It made the trip a few miles longer. Panjab Creek:
img_2073_mod.jpg
A little under 6 miles later I reached the high meadow known as Indian Corral, and the junction with the Mt Misery Trail:
img_2097_mod.jpg
Mt Misery Trail continues through many large meadows:
img_2110_mod.jpg
Soon after Mt Misery entered forest I began to see bear scat. Look closely at the bottom right "chunk" and you'll see fish fins:
img_2141_mod.jpg
Found this just before I stopped for the night:
img_2175_mod.jpg
Day 2 continued a couple miles on Mt Misery Trail, granting this gorgeous view to Oregon Butte (the high point in the Washington Blues):
img_2182_mod.jpg
Heading down Melton Creek Trail I saw some interesting wildlife. He/she was a little hard of hearing, as none of my yo-bearing got his attention; it took a shrill whistle and a wave of my poles to get him scurrying off:
img_2281_mod.jpg
Melton Creek dead ends into Crooked Creek Trail, which I took south toward the Wenaha River. From about the junction with the Three Forks Trail, this was the brushiest mess of a trail I've ever hiked. Horrible.
img_2328_mod.jpg
Next day I headed up the Wenaha River about three miles. It's a gorgeous, powerful river in yet another Blues canyon.
img_2353_mod.jpg
I then headed up Smooth Ridge Trail. Here's a view back down the first 1500 feet or so of the Smooth Ridge Trail to the Wenaha River:
img_2395_mod.jpg
This was the most uncertain leg on my trip. The FS rep I called hinted that it might still be snow covered (wrong). The FS website hinted that it might be sketchy and hard to follow (right). On several occasions I would have to poke and search to find the trail's continuation. Once, at Twin Spring, the trail completely disappeared and defied all my efforts to vector to it with map and compass. I thought about asking this local for directions but he ran away:
img_2452_mod.jpg
I resigned myself to turning around and hiking out to Troy, OR, and calling my wife for a pick-up. I set up camp and met another local:
img_2473_mod.jpg
But the next morning I found the trail, a good 1/4-mile away from where the map put it.

Eventually, Smooth Ridge Tr opened up to a view of Oregon Butte:
img_2532_mod.jpg
Made my way up on top for some of the most dramatic 360-degree views of the trip.
img_2571_mod.jpg
I then made my way west, over West Butte, out to Teepee Trailhead, then north on Turkey Creek Trail to Panjab Trail and back to my starting point:
img_2632_mod.jpg
More pictures here: http://texasbb.net/files/Blues-2009/

Wonderful trip.
Last edited by texasbb on May 31st, 2011, 9:08 am, edited 3 times in total.

pablo
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by pablo » June 28th, 2009, 7:07 pm

I'm looking forward to the rest of your report and a bunch of pictures. To be honest, I do not recall hearing about this wilderness area until your post - I must have missed drm's posts on this topic. Really an extensive set of trails in this wilderness, I tracked the trails in Nat'l Geo Topo and they are all there and named just as you have them. Very respectable distances you covered.

Thx,

--Paul
The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

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texasbb
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by texasbb » June 28th, 2009, 8:30 pm

pablo wrote:I'm looking forward to the rest of your report and a bunch of pictures. To be honest, I do not recall hearing about this wilderness area until your post - I must have missed drm's posts on this topic. Really an extensive set of trails in this wilderness, I tracked the trails in Nat'l Geo Topo and they are all there and named just as you have them. Very respectable distances you covered.
I'm getting close with the pictures...stay tuned.

drm entered via the Wenaha River Trail at Troy, OR. His trip report: http://www.portlandhikers.org/forum/vie ... f=8&t=2165

He also did one from Panjab a couple years ago.

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ErinL
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by ErinL » June 29th, 2009, 8:01 am

I'm looking forward to the rest of this report too. Great pictures, especially of the Wenaha river and of all the encounters with the "locals". Looks like you had a great time.

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baker9903
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by baker9903 » June 29th, 2009, 8:06 am

Amazing trip! and you're so casual about the sighting of the locals!!! how close was the first bear? he looked close!

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texasbb
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by texasbb » June 29th, 2009, 4:49 pm

baker9903 wrote:Amazing trip! and you're so casual about the sighting of the locals!!! how close was the first bear? he looked close!
Sure, I'm casual now. :-)

It was quite exhilarating. When I walked up on the first bear he was maybe 30-40 yards ahead of me on the trail. I grabbed the camera and quickly squeezed off the picture in my report. He then passed over that rise and around the bend. I didn't want to catch up and surprise him so I started yelling and making noise as I eased around the bend myself. He was still headed up the trail, hadn't heard a word I said. It took a shrill whistle to get him to look back, then he skittered away.

The rattler by far evoked the greatest adrenaline shot. He was not interested in giving up his spot. I got about a half-second rattle as he moved up on the log, then he just stared me down. I decided detente was the best policy and let him have his log. My tent was maybe 75 feet up the hill.

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drm
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by drm » June 30th, 2009, 7:28 am

Sounds like a great loop - I see that you did decide on Melton instead of Crooked Creek trail the whole way through. Did you get more info on that, or just a guess? You didn't mention anything about the condition of the Melton - was it okay?

When I did the Crooked Creek trail up from the Wenaha, it was a bit brushy up to the jcn with Three Forks - north of that was like a highway as far as I went - to the cabin. How was it above the cabin? But that was a full month ago. Brush can grow a lot in a month in mid-Spring.

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texasbb
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by texasbb » June 30th, 2009, 8:17 am

drm wrote:Sounds like a great loop - I see that you did decide on Melton instead of Crooked Creek trail the whole way through. Did you get more info on that, or just a guess? You didn't mention anything about the condition of the Melton - was it okay?
I started down Crooked Creek Tr from Indian Corral and quickly hit both snow and blowdowns that left me hunting the trail. I doubt the snow would have been much problem, but the FS personnel were not able to tell me whether the trail had been logged since the bad storms of 06/07, so I decided not to chance it.

Melton Creek Tr was fine--just a typical winter's worth of blowdown, none of which was hard to cross. And from what I've read, Melton Creek probably offers better views.
drm wrote:When I did the Crooked Creek trail up from the Wenaha, it was a bit brushy up to the jcn with Three Forks - north of that was like a highway as far as I went - to the cabin. How was it above the cabin? But that was a full month ago. Brush can grow a lot in a month in mid-Spring.
North of the Three Forks junction was okay, including beyond First Creek. 'Course, Melton Creek Tr isn't far beyond First Creek, so I didn't really see that much more of Crooked Creek.

I guess I was there at the worst time for the brush. Those last miles out to the Wenaha were through thick growth almost my height for probably 80% of the distance. I spent so much effort pushing stuff back with my poles that my shoulders were near cramping when I reached the end. Probably as the summer wears on, the growth will get pushed back a bit to make it easier to negotiate.

Thanks again for your earlier reports; they were helpful to both the planning and execution of this very enjoyable hike.

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anna in boots
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by anna in boots » June 30th, 2009, 8:48 am

What gorgeous, exhilarating locals! I haven't seen (or heard) a rattle since Colorado and I miss it. The bear is just the most beautiful shade of brown. How fulfilling to be reminded of your most basic animal instincts and place in nature through such wonderful visual aids! You lucky thing!

anna in boots
Current trip reports at All Thoughts Work™ Outdoors
http://allthoughtsworkoutdoors.wordpress.com/

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drm
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Re: Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness Loop (June 22-25, 2009)

Post by drm » June 30th, 2009, 8:55 am

And the brush you had on Crooked Creek was probably similar to what turned me back farther up the Wenaha - but I had the mud in May as well.

One last question - the key one for anybody attempting Smooth Ridge into the summer - how many springs did you find? The one that you do mention you seemed to have found almost by mistake. Were there more sources or did you just stock up for long dry days?

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