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Backpack from Douglas Trailhead

Posted: June 16th, 2019, 4:57 pm
by caerfalias
I just got home from a 2-night backpack loop that I didn't see posted anywhere and thought I would share!

Day 1: We left the car at the Douglas Trailhead on a Friday around noon and followed the short winding trail past the decommissioned roadbed, around the southwest edge of the quarry to the Douglas Trail 781. I spied the westbound section of the Douglas Trail up a short scramble to the right (where we returned from) but we headed east around the edge of the empty quarry. We hiked past McIntyre Ridge Trail junction and left the Douglas Trail to join the Plaza Trail. We saw no one the entire day but we think we startled a bear in the undergrowth below the trail. We saw the very broken down sign post for the Salmon Mountain Trail and stopped for a rest and the views at Sheepshead Rock. We got off the trail slightly before the Old Baldy Trailhead and walked along a decommissioned road and then along Forest Road 4610 briefly before finding the trail again. We camped several yards up the Old Baldy Trail on a ledge covered in bear grass. The trails today felt very remote and were covered with a lot of windfall. Lots of mosquitos in this area too.

Day 2: We hiked back down to the Old Baldy Trailhead to get water. We crossed the road to what maybe was a campground at one point in search of the Plaza Creek, which we found easily. Then we set out on the Old Baldy Trail. We saw two groups of day hikers on the trail, the second group near the junction with the Eagle Creek Cutoff Trail which was our next turn. We enjoyed the incredible views from the spine of the ridge before descending steeply into the Eagle Creek canyon. There was a beautiful shady campsite at the base of the slope which was welcome after the grueling downhill on loose gravel and fallen branches. Crossing the creek was very easy; the water was maybe 6 inches deep on average and we just took off our shoes and picked our way across with a hiking pole for balance. The Eagle Creek trail on the other side of the crossing is seriously overgrown with salmonberry, thimbleberry and devil's club. We made slow going, bushwacking our way through the sunny areas and enjoying the respites of trail where only oxalis, false lily of the valley, huckleberry, and other shade lovers were growing beneath the massive douglas fir, hemlock, and red cedar. We probably walked less than 2 miles in an hour and a half, but when we saw a gorgeous campsite at 3:30 we had to pitch our tent.

Day 3: We hiked out of the Eagle Creek canyon reluctantly, passing one other tent by the river and a group of 6-8 day hikers before cutting up the slope on the western portion of the Douglas Trail. The trail takes you through 6 long switchbacks on a narrow track overgrown with oregon grape, blackberry, and wild rose... Ouch! It turns out there is something worse than bushwalking through salmonberry and devil's club! The trail leveled out for a long eastward traverse of the slope before spitting us out for about a quarter mile on another decommissioned road. Back in the woods, we were feeling tired but the trail just kept climbing closer and closer to the ridge line, skirting just south of areas where target shooters were enjoying their own kind of nature experience. We weren't sure how long it would take us to meet up with the trail where we started, but we took a break for lunch in the middle of the trail shortly after crossing a creek with conveniently placed stepping stones. After that it was only about 10 or 15 more minutes of steep uphill beneath a thick douglas fir canopy before we popped out on the ridge above the quarry. We were exhausted and our legs were torn to shreds by the bushwalking so we hustled back to the car.

All in all a quiet trip, with almost no company, along underused trails. Great trip for solitude and peace and for breaking in your legs for summer adventures!

Re: Backpack from Douglas Trailhead

Posted: June 17th, 2019, 5:09 am
by retired jerry
thanks for report, any snow?

Re: Backpack from Douglas Trailhead

Posted: June 17th, 2019, 6:08 am
by caerfalias
Just a patch or two on the Plaza Trail near the Old Baldy TH.

Re: Backpack from Douglas Trailhead

Posted: June 19th, 2019, 8:12 pm
by justpeachy
Very interesting, thanks! I get the sense that is a rather forgotten corner of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

You mentioned beargrass. Did it look pretty good on this hike? I ask because on McIntyre Ridge (just uphill from the Douglas Trailhead), the beargrass can look REALLY nice in a good year. I'm wondering if this is one of those years. This was 2009:


Re: Backpack from Douglas Trailhead

Posted: June 20th, 2019, 7:07 am
by caerfalias
Maybe not quite to that level but it made the air a bit sweet! There were lilies and neon gentians and paintbrush too. And down by the river, carpets of false lily of the valley and bunchberry. It was a great weekend for flowers!

Re: Backpack from Douglas Trailhead

Posted: June 27th, 2019, 10:27 pm
by Brianwookie
Thanks for the trip report. I'm very intrigued by this area, mostly because of the solitude.