Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area, WA

This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.

Make Dark Divide a Wilderness? Good or bad idea?

Yes. Dark Divide Wilderness.
8
42%
No.
3
16%
Maybe.
4
21%
Give it "scenic area" status (i.e. Silver Star and Olallie Lake).
4
21%
Other.
0
No votes
 
Total votes: 19

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ElementalFX
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Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area, WA

Post by ElementalFX » July 30th, 2016, 3:49 am

The Gifford Pinchot National Forest website says this about this trail:
"Dark Meadow Trail begins on Forest Road 23, and then crosses East Canyon Creek. The trail passes through Douglas fir and Western Hemlock, before crossing Dark Creek (at mile 1.5), and climbing steeply toward the Dark Meadows area and Juniper Ridge Trail #261.

This trail is named after John Dark who built a cabin in the meadows in 1895 while prospecting in the area. Take a look at the huge boulders in Dark Creek as you're hiking. These are excellent examples of what melting glaciers can leave behind."



Opening Photo:
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Majestic old growth along the Dark Meadow Trail.


The Dark Divide is located right between Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, north of Indian Heaven, and south of Highway 12 and Mount Rainier. The Boundary Trail runs east-west, linking the two big volcanoes, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, together.



I wanted to scout this trail out as a possible route to the Juniper Ridge Trail and for a college research project I am doing at Oklahoma Christian University (about the Dark Divide). It is extremely rutted (caused by motorcycles and erosion). Washington Trails Association (WTA) says these trails were not built to motorized standards, and combined with the loose pumice soils and fragile meadows, these trails get extremely rutted. WTA recommends wilderness preservation for this area for its old growth, subalpine meadows, and craggy peaks. It is the second most rugged area in the Gifford Pinchot after the Goat Rocks, (and far more rugged than anywhere in the Mt. Hood National Forest aside of, perhaps, the mountain itself).


There are some major washouts along Canyon Creek and the Cispus River, meaning this is the northmost trailhead on 23 that can be accessed from the south via Trout Lake.

There are also some smaller washouts on FR-23 after FR-2329 (the turnoff for Takhlakh Lake and Killen Creek). There are also some washouts on FR-2329 just past Killen Creek TH. WTA reports that the road between Takhlakh Lake and Killen Creek TH is extremely rough.





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CalTopo Map of our hike.




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Satellite and relief view.




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Small washout on Road 23.



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Another washout on FR-23.



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FR-23 closed just past the unofficial Dark Meadow Trailhead.



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The washout on FR-23.



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A paper plate sign showing where the trail re-route begins. The old trail a couple feet ahead was washed out right along with the road.



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Foxglove right alongside the road and by the trailhead.



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This is the re-routed trail down to Canyon Creek.



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The old big log was washed out, it seems. The trail now uses this smaller, wobbly log. Good balance is needed, but a wet crossing is also just fine.



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A little bit of debris to cross on the other side of the creek.



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You want to turn right and walk along the edge of the creek to meet up with the old trail.



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Soon after following an old roadbed (converted to trail), you enter a nice, semi-open forest full of magnificent old growth.



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A giant tree around 6-7 feet in diameter! So glad that at least some of these giant trees were spared from logging.



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Another washout, this time on the trail. Dark Creek ravaged the hillside here for at least 0.7 miles along the trail.
It climbed over and around several washouts until reaching the crossing of Dark Creek.




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Looking up to Jumbo Peak–one of the major peaks in the Dark Divide, and Juniper Ridge (quite a popular hike).



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Recently logged out.



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At 1.5 miles, you reach the crossing of Dark Creek. Its not too challenging, but the last jump can be tricky.



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After crossing Dark Creek, the trail starts a very steep ascent of Juniper Ridge.



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It is extremely rutted out here (~3 feet deep in places) and hard walking.



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Once again, the trail entered another magnificent grove of old growth trees. It was breathtaking!



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A nice spread of wildflowers here! :D



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At 2.8 miles (after some backtracking down by the creek), I came to a junction with an unmarked trail branching off to the left. This trail leads to Road 2325, which would shave off a few miles and quite a bit of elevation gain from the hike, but the road has since washed out this year (and might not be repaired, as no official trails connect up with this road).



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just passed the junction, the trail enters an old clear-cut. It is nice second growth now, having an appearance of a "pseudo" subalpine forest.



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After this, the trail crosses a myriad of streams, both large and small.



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Hiking through a nice forest setting.



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Wild roses!



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After some climbing, muddy sections, and stream crossings, the trail started to open up.



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Our stopping point for the day was the junction with the Juniper Ridge Trail.



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Trail sign.



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Facing the Dark Meadows Trail, where I hiked up.



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Looking north at the Juniper Ridge Trail–the route to Jumbo Peak and Sunrise Peak.



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Lots of beargrass at the junction!



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Twilight Sparkle at the junction for EQD's annual #PoniesAroundtheWorld event. :D





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Interactive CalTopo Map Link here.




http://gpsfly.org/a/6177



-ElementalFX
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Don Nelsen
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by Don Nelsen » July 31st, 2016, 8:20 pm

Thank you for the TR, photos and the maps! I was wondering about the road conditions in the area you accessed and this helps a lot.

I hiked up to Dark Mt. from the south via FR 90 and FR 9085 with Kelly Wagner and Jamito yesterday and we all want to do some more hikes in the area and were wondering about the road conditions north of where we went in. I'm too lazy and buzy to do a TR right now so:

Here are a some of our photos from yesterday:

http://www.fototime.com/users/donnelsen ... 20Darkness

dn
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merelunacy
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by merelunacy » August 13th, 2016, 10:55 am

Great trip report and pictures! Maps are cool and the elevation profile make it even better! :D Thanks for sharing the conditions out there.

I appreciate your information about the concerns regarding motorcyclists. Although there is one thing I don't think people realize. That trail would not exist if it wasn't for the motorcyclists.

My phone has a forest map app on it that so far has been extremely accurate when following trails. I recently went up there and what caught me up about this trail was that parts of the original trail were completely gone. Looks like a washout and blowdown wiped it out. That large tree would also have killed off the trail, since this trail doesn't get much attention. The forest service is already struggling to maintain popular trails, therefore this trail would have long been forgotten.

Walking this Dark Meadow Trail, I'm beginning to think that maybe during certain seasons trails should get opened to motorcyclists as long as they maintained it (ie cutting down trees or what not). It's a lot easier carrying up a chainsaw on a motorcycle rather than hiking it in. I understand the disappointment of not getting the nature experience when someone is clearing a trail, but I think it's a bit unreasonable to expect there to be enough volunteer hours to deal with maintaining trails in such a rudimentary way (ie no chainsaws).

A solution to the volunteer hours would of course be if the government would fund what the CCC did in the great depression. Sadly the way our system is set up currently unions don't make it possible for that to ever happen again. Therefore we've got to work with what we've got. I truly believe that opening up trails might be a solution for saving some of our beautiful trails. The more trails out there, the more places people can see, resulting in more people wanting to get outside to see new places. More trails would also cut down on other trails becoming over populated.

Given I could be mistaken, however it seems there is only one way to find out.
Last edited by merelunacy on August 13th, 2016, 11:02 am, edited 1 time in total.

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merelunacy
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by merelunacy » August 13th, 2016, 10:59 am

Thought it might also be of interest that there is a pretty epic waterfall in that area.

https://youtu.be/oZEwEkKl9yA


I meant to write my own trip report, but didn't find the time. So I really appreciate that some else did. Thank you again for sharing!

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ElementalFX
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by ElementalFX » August 14th, 2016, 5:51 pm

merelunacy wrote:Thought it might also be of interest that there is a pretty epic waterfall in that area.

https://youtu.be/oZEwEkKl9yA


I meant to write my own trip report, but didn't find the time. So I really appreciate that some else did. Thank you again for sharing!
Whoa, that's a pretty tall waterfall. Impressive falls and nice video!

I am pretty torn about the Dark Divide wilderness issue, myself. On the one hand, just like you said, motorcyclists maintain those trails a lot; and if it were to become wilderness, who knows how neglected those trails might become. :?

On the other hand, added exposure due to its wilderness status might boost its popularity with the hiking community, as well as keep motorcycles from eroding out those trails trenches any deeper.
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miah66
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by miah66 » August 15th, 2016, 10:54 am

Don Nelsen wrote:I hiked up to Dark Mt. from the south via FR 90 and FR 9085 with Kelly Wagner and Jamito yesterday ...
Curious about the route you took. Did you bushwhack up to Quartz Creek ridge and Summit Prairie? Pt 4789...Curious about it and what the trail conditions were like.

Interestingly, I hiked down this Dark Creek trail once as part of a shuttle hike several years ago from Juniper Peak, where we did the entire ridgeline. Outstanding hike, spectacular views. I recall the Dark Creek portion being underwhelming in comparison, and remember little about it, save for the two creek crossings at the bottom. The wooded hill portion was on a old road bed it appeared, and from your photos, it looks like it is much more rutted than it was 4 years ago.
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K.Wagner
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by K.Wagner » August 30th, 2016, 12:27 pm

There is actually a pretty good "user" trail from the paved 9085 road up to the Quartz Ridge trail.

When I do it again, I will use another "user" trail that connects the 2325 road on the east side to the #1 Boundary Trail, just east of the Quartz Creek Trail. The road is washed out a little ways before the trail, but it is still by far the easiest way to get into the Dark Meadows area.
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Webfoot
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by Webfoot » June 18th, 2017, 8:36 am

K.Wagner would you kindly provide some details for that 2325 user trail?

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K.Wagner
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by K.Wagner » June 18th, 2017, 11:58 am

Here are the details, quoted straight from "Skamania 231 / Peak 5317" ;)

The Drive: From Trout Lake, drive north on the Mt Adams Recreation Road. In 1 1/4 miles turn left on the paved 23 road. In 19 miles at the big 23 / 90 road junction, stay right on the now wide gravel with some heavy washboard FR23. Drive 3 miles, turn right and go over Baby Shoe Pass. Then at 4 1/3 miles (about .6 miles past Baby Shoe Pass), turn left to stay on FR23. Start a long downhill grade, with more washboard. At about 6 3/4 miles from FR2329 / Takhlakh Lake Jct, turn left on FR2325 and drive over the bridge. Drive FR2325 4 1/4 miles, until you are stopped by a major slide. (The road was damaged during the winter of 2015/2016). FR2325 is scheduled for repair in the summer / fall of 2017 or 2018.

The Route: Starting Point: 3,700 feet. Walk FR2325 for 2 1/2 miles to the newly signed #264 trail on the left. From the road, head up the well used, but clean, motorcycle trail as it climbs gradually through the trees and forest glades. Soon, it is mostly huckleberry bushes. At the junction with the Boundary Trail, turn right and hike downhill to the Quartz Creek Trail Junction. Keep right to stay on the #1 Trail, and continue hiking north for another 7/8 mile to Dark Meadow and the #261 Juniper Ridge Trail junction.

Here is the map:
5317-Map-S.jpg
Kelly
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Re: Dark Creek Hike (Dark Meadow Trail) | Dark Divide Area,

Post by Webfoot » June 18th, 2017, 4:04 pm

Thanks!

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