Benson Plateau via Herman Cr./PCT June 29th, 2018

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Don Nelsen
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Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Vancouver, WA

Benson Plateau via Herman Cr./PCT June 29th, 2018

Post by Don Nelsen » July 3rd, 2018, 12:29 pm

Cars in the lot at Herman Creek: 12
Other hikers: 8 + 5 runners (a fire crew getting some exercise?)
Dogs: 3
Mosquitos: None in the burned areas, lots on the unburned parts of the plateau
Temperature: 60 – 65, light wind

I was pleased to see that most of the Benson Plateau escaped the ravages of the recent fire but the parts that are burned are really burned! On the plus side of that, the most-used trails escaped the fire and most of the campsites are fine. The entire west edge of the plateau is burned though, much of it very burned.

I got my usual late start for this hike, hitting the trail at 11:53. A nice light wind was drifting through the forest and it was a perfect day for a long adventure. I passed four hikers right away and then a group of five runners came by. I asked the last in the line who they were and was told they were a fire crew. I don’t know if they were a forest fire team or the local Cascade Locks crew but nevertheless, nice to see them out there.

The connector trail from Herman to the PCT is totally burned over but most of the canopy looks like it will survive. Losing the thick moss on the rocks and all the underbrush sure makes this a different hike than before. Fortunately, that massive bridge over Herman Creek survived unscathed and not a mark on the wooden decking.
The PCT has been well resurrected where needed along here and all the way to Camp Smokey I could see evidence of tread work and tree removal. There are still three big trees over the trail but only one is a problem. Difficult to get under for those with a big pack and probably impossible for an equestrian:

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Teakettle Spring is flowing but the area around it is badly burned:

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The area around the spring:

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Once on the north ridge of the plateau, the fire damage escalates and is about as bad as what I’ve seen on Nick Eaton:

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There are some undamaged areas though, like this campsite along the trail:

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Once at the junction of the PCT and trail 405B, Benson Way, the canopy is mostly spared but the forest floor is mostly toasted right down to, and in places, even including the roots. This trail never was a very good one and has always been narrow and rocky. Now it is covered in downed trees and very rocky! I counted 55 trees, 4” or more over the trail and 8 or 9 big ones, a foot or more in diameter. All are easy enough to step over save one:

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The junction with Benson Way and the Ruckel Creek Trail is unburned and the campsite is fine. Once across the creek, it’s a short way back in to the burned area and it gets worse fast. Also, even more trees are down on this part of the trail, but again, most are easy enough to step over. Only one is a problem: (the bigger one in the distance.)

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Lots of trees down in this section and I lost count at about 80. Probably 100 or more but only 7 or 8 that are a foot or more in diameter and all the rest are inconsequential.

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The farther south I hiked, the worse it got and I lost the trail a half dozen times, even though it goes pretty much straight though this area. It’s just that it is burned so badly, there is no soil or even roots left to see where the trail was. Fine – I love a challenge!

Some nice morel action here and there:

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As I reached the far south end of the plateau, the burn was less , but still burned:

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Most of the trees don't look they will make it:

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I decided to take a look at Camp Smokey so headed that extra ½ mile down to check it out. Boy, it will take quite some time for this area to recover!

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The overall goal for today was to hike all the trails on the plateau so I hiked back up the PCT, crossed the plateau on trail 405 and 405C. Then I backtracked on 405C and finished the rest of 405 back to Hunter’s Camp. Then it was back across to the PCT on 405A and then I backtracked the part of the PCT I’d missed. At that point, I decided I’d better really start moving fast if I was to get out by dark having accomplished my goal for the day. My route in red:

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I had planned to be out by dark but that goal went unmet:

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Last edited by Don Nelsen on July 3rd, 2018, 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Everything works in the planning stage".

Brian95
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Joined: June 25th, 2018, 10:13 am

Re: Benson Plateau via Herman Cr./PCT June 29th, 2018

Post by Brian95 » July 3rd, 2018, 3:31 pm

We definitely passed each other on the trail; I was the one coming down the Herman Creek trail near the powerlines around noon in the Multnomah Falls shirt! I thought I recognized you as somebody from this site but wasn't quite sure at the time.

Amazing trip report. I've been planning to go up Herman, to Wahtum, then down the PCT as a backpack sometime in the next few weeks so interesting to see photos in the other half of the area.

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mjirving
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Joined: July 5th, 2011, 10:40 am

Re: Benson Plateau via Herman Cr./PCT June 29th, 2018

Post by mjirving » July 3rd, 2018, 10:28 pm

Well done! that's a worthy day-hike...and extra credit for all the trails on the plateau! That's next on my list of re-hiking all the open trails on the Oregon side of the Gorge, post-burn. Thanks for the insight!

Mike

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MarkInTheDark
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Joined: August 11th, 2008, 3:58 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Benson Plateau via Herman Cr./PCT June 29th, 2018

Post by MarkInTheDark » July 10th, 2018, 6:58 am

great report!

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