Casey Creek Loop 6-23-19

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Casey Creek Loop 6-23-19

Post by bobcat » June 25th, 2019, 3:05 pm

The Casey Creek Trail lives, but only just. The Forest Service has scouted the route, but it is a low priority right now with all the other rehabilitation that needs doing. It needs boots on the tread to keep it open, but there are already a few places where you’ll have trouble locating it.

I began rather late, about 9:45 a.m., at the Herman Creek Trailhead but did find one of the last parking spots. This second summer after the fire, wildflowers are now a major feature of the area, especially where there was a crown fire. On Casey Creek and the upper Nick Eaton Trails, which have received no maintenance, this can be a problem as the explosion of sun-loving plants often conceals the trails. Phacelia, penstemon, columbine, and arnica are in full bloom. The most prevalent invasive is smooth hawksbeard, a leggy-looking dandelion-like plant, which has now colonized swaths of the trail verge.

Nick Eaton Falls, Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Cascade penstemon (Penstemon serrulatus), Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Woodland phacelia (Phacelia nemoralis), Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Camp Creek, Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Smooth hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris), Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Blue field gilia (Gilia capitata), Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Tiger lily (Lilium columbianum), Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Phantom orchid (Cephalanthera austiniae), Herman Creek Trail.jpg

The lower end of Casey Creek still sports its old sign. Not far up, there’s a sawn-off log, which gave me hope. This must, however, just been an extra little gift from the trail crews who were working on the Herman Creek Trail as the rest of the way the trail has that forlorn abandoned look. Most of the fallen trees were down before the fire and are now embellished with a lustrous charcoal hue. Making a traverse less than a quarter mile in was the first time I got off track. The real trail heads through a dense clump of new maple, but a fake trail stays on a level contour and peters out. It took me half an hour to find the tread again. From there, a few switchbacks lead up to a great meadow from which you can now get a glimpse of the Columbia River as well as the Benson Plateau.

Sign for Casey Creek Trail, Herman Creek Trail.jpg
Up the lower slope, Casey Creek Way.jpg
View up the East Fork of Herman Creek, Casey Creek Way.jpg
Blue gilia in the Casey Meadow, Casey Creek Way.jpg

From the meadow, the trail generally keeps to the right side of a ridge crest, but I lost the path again in an area of crown fire where the vegetation conceals the tread. I bushwhacked up to the ridge and found the trail again on the crest. From here, there was always a scratch of a tread leading up talus slopes before making the final traverse up to the Nick Eaton crest. A couple of small cairns have been placed at the junction, which still bears the old sign, now illegible, being eaten by a tree.

Off the ridge crest, Casey Creek Way.jpg
Nearing the crest of Nick Eaton Ridge, Casey Creek Way.jpg
Sign at the junction with the Nick Eaton Trail, Casey Creek Way.jpg
View to Casey Creek Junction, Nick Eaton Trail.jpg

Then it was a long saunter down Nick Eaton, tracking down to the right at the outcrops and swishing through vast carpets of arnica. At the Deadwood junction, there are four new signs, one of them directing hikers to the Casey Creek Way!

Boulders, Nick Eaton Trail.jpg
Columbia wind flower (Anemone deltoidea), Nick Eaton Trail.jpg
Descending the Nick Eaton Trail to the Deadwood Saddle.jpg
Bear-grass, Nick Eaton Trail.jpg
Casey Creek sign, Nick Eaton Trail.jpg
Mountain hollyhock (Iliamna rivularis), Nick Eaton Trail.jpg
Trailside display, Nick Eaton Trail.jpg
Taper-tip onion (Allium acuminatum), Nick Eaton Trail.jpg
Looking to the West Fork Herman Creek, Nick Eaton Trail.jpg

Sunday was a fine cool day: you really don’t want to do Casey Creek, possibly the steepest trail in the Gorge, when it is scorching. Lots of hikers on Herman Creek, no one on Casey Creek Way except me, one person coming up Nick Eaton as I was descending.

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Re: Casey Creek Loop 6-23-19

Post by dmthomas49 » June 25th, 2019, 8:03 pm

I was going to attempt the Casey Creek Trail this past Monday. I got to the Casey Creek Trail sign at about 8:30am and was raring to go up. I lost the track in the first half mile and then again soon after that. At this point I gave up. So my boots only worked the first 3/4 mile. I would like to try this again sometime when the trail is easier to find. Sorry I gave up so easily. At 70, I don't need to over challenge myself. I continued on Herman Creek trail for another 2 miles before heading back feeling somewhat defeated. I did have a nice break at the camp area near the Casey Creek trail head. It was so quiet, the flies sounded loud. One of the quietest places I have sat in sometime.

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Re: Casey Creek Loop 6-23-19

Post by drm » June 26th, 2019, 2:41 pm

The gorge has a collection of these steep ridge/valley connector trails, like this one and Eagle-Benson, Tanner (latter 2 currently closed). In the best of times and conditions these trails are often rough going and the forest service trail maintenance teams rarely give them any attention. Eagle-Benson was reopened some years ago when the Mazamas decided to put some major attention to it. But I doubt enough boots will hike Casey to make it any easier. Unless the Mazamas choose it, or TKO gets the resources and motivation to tackle these trails, they tend to get reabsorbed.

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Chip Down
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Re: Casey Creek Loop 6-23-19

Post by Chip Down » June 26th, 2019, 6:06 pm

I was up there a few weeks ago. Considered turning back, but I knew I could get to Nick Eaton without a trail, and then take Eaton down, so I persisted. In spots, there's so little sign of a trail that I think the only way it can get re-established is if somebody goes up with GPS and flags the route.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Casey Creek Loop 6-23-19

Post by Don Nelsen » June 26th, 2019, 7:51 pm

I've hiked Casey Creek a couple of times since the fire, both times in the downhill direction. Easier to locate this trail when going downhill than when going uphill. I've found it's usually easier to locate obscure route in other places when going downhill too.

The worst part is the lower switchbacks where a lot of trees are down and some really big ones. Above that, not too bad.

Here's a track from June 15th last year.

"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Re: Casey Creek Loop 6-23-19

Post by dmthomas49 » June 27th, 2019, 1:06 pm

I agree with Don. I know on talus slope rock i.e Cooper’s Spur especially, it is easier to find the route from above. On dirt a little more difficult, but still better than from below.

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