On Sunday 6/9 I hiked the Gumjuwac trail to Gumjuwac Saddle and then picked up the Gunsight Butte trail. I had never hiked these trails before and they were highly rewarding.
The Gumjuwac trail starts at HW-35 and immediately climbs up the side of the ridge, a fairly grueling ascent through many switchbacks that gains 1600' in about 2 miles. There were several downed trees, as was true along Gunsight Butte trail as well, but nothing exceptional. A rock outcrop at about 1.5 miles affords nice views of the Gunsight Butte ridge and the Pocket Creek and Teacup cross-country skiing area. As a frequent skier in this area, the views of the terrain from all along the Gunsight ridge were really interesting.
The trail reaches Gumjuwac Saddle, where several other Badger Wilderness trails along with the Bennett Pass forest road come together. The Field Guide describes this road as "notorious", and indeed, just a couple hundred feet before the saddle the road was blocked by a fallen tree
The Gunsight Butte trail is a really pleasant stroll along the ridge, rising and falling to pass over the local peaks. Most of it is wooded, but there are frequent rock outcrops that allow various views. One of the best is on the first approach towards Gunsight Butte proper, where fire has opened some meadows and a rocky viewpoint looking north. From here you have amazing closeup views of Mt Hood, the big burn area on Bluegrass ridge, and in the distance Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams.
There are also views from here of Lookout Mt. and the ridge over to Flag Point.
I was too early for most of the wildflowers, but there was some phlox, and these yellow glacier lilies.
Starting at Gumjuwac Saddle there were occasional patches of snow on the trail. As the trail climbed and entered more shaded forest, the patches became more frequent. For about the last mile before reaching Camp Windy, the snow was essentially continuous.
Between hiking on the snow and scrambling up every rock outcrop along the trail to see if there was a view (often there was, sometimes not), once I got to Camp Windy, 6 miles in, it was getting late and I was feeling pretty tired. My original plan was to loop down to Badger Lake and then back up to Gumjuwac Saddle (essentially following the Gunsight Butte-Badger Lake Loop hike in the field guide). But I was reluctant to add an additional 1000' of gain to the day's adventure, and considered returning by Bennett Pass road. I did consider the possibility that the Badger Lake return, being at lower elevation, might be snow free. But it looked like the road was snow free too, so I decided to return by the road.
As it turned out, much of the first mile and half of the road was covered by snow, and more than once I stopped, looked down the slope and wondered if it would have been better to take the Badger Lake route. However, it looked like there was patchy snow in the forest on this east-facing ridge all the way down to the lake, so I suspect the trail would have had snow patches too.
In any case, the road was fairly pleasant, passing through nice forest with occasional views down into the Badger Creek valley and out into Eastern Oregon. I picked up the trail again where it meets the road and returned over Gunsight Butte. On the way down, I noticed this windfall that had been cleared since I had made my way over earlier in the day.
When I returned to Gumjuwac Saddle, I met a pair of mountain bikers at their truck, who had cleared the tree blocking the road and had cleared parts of Gunsight Butte trail. Thanks!
This was a really rewarding hike, with nice and varied views and beautiful terrain. As the Field Guide says, it's probably better in July when the wildflowers are popping.
This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
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