Barrett Spur, Elk Cove via Vista Ridge Trail (Post Wind Event 2020)

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Barrett Spur, Elk Cove via Vista Ridge Trail (Post Wind Event 2020)

Post by marmotman81 » October 3rd, 2020, 10:30 am

As parts of the Mount Hood National Forest were reopened again after the fires have calmed down, I decided to head to Elk Cove and Barrett Spur via the Vista Ridge Trail. Even though the Dollar Lake fire left massive destruction, it has also created an explosion of life, in the form of wild flowers, and I have enjoyed this route very much. I expected to encounter some downed trees, after the historic wind event we had, but I never imagined it would be even close to as bad as it turned out being.
Fortunately, the forest service had cleared the road of the trees which had fallen on the road itself. But, the final fork in the road (1650) was missing its sign. I took the correct fork, but ended up turning around as the fork was not on my GPS. The other fork (which WAS on my GPS) had not been cleared of trees, though, and after narrowly skirting by three different sections of downed trees, I reached a section that was impassible. I returned to the first fork, and of course, the trailhead was just a little ways further. Oops!

At the trailhead, there was a sign saying to expect downed trees, and the trail itself may not be passable. There were two other cars at the trailhead already, and so I figured if it wasn't passable, they'd be coming back and I'd meet them before too long. So, I headed off.

The first 1/2 mile or so (before reaching the wilderness permit station and trail junction with the old Vista Ridge trail) was just fine - nothing to speak of. But right as I reached that station were several large trees down. I could see the permit station, and so I was able to crawl through, but it was a mess. Fortunately, this was just about to the point where the burn area was.
While I love live trees, when it comes to crossing trees that have been blown over, there is a significant advantage to crossing a tree that was burned several years ago and is no longer ridden with branches, or even bark. In the next couple of miles, before reaching the Timberline Trail junction, I crossed, climbed, crawled, or detoured around 125 trees that had fallen into/over the trail (that does not count the hundreds of others which were OFF of the trail). But, fortunately, most of these were in the burn area, and weren't too bad. A couple of times,where multiple trees fell on top of one another, climbing over them became precarious, but I made it alright.

Another bad spot came as a large pile of trees fell just before a switchback. I climbed over the pile expecting to see the trail continue, but there was so much debris, it was hard to tell whether the trail was under the debris, or not. I turned around, and once I did, I saw the trail switchbacking the other way. I took a few branches from the debris pile (there were just a few to choose from) and constructed an arrow so that hopefully others wouldn't make my mistake.

As you can imagine, it took a bit longer than normal to get to the Timberline Trail, but from there, I don't recall seeing another downed tree until I retraced my path, home.

That said, my efforts were WELL rewarded.

I found the well marked boot path up, and ate my lunch at the saddle just below the final pitch up to the summit of Barrett Spur.
I did not have the stamina, after climbing over so many trees, to make it up to the final summit, stopping just shy, at its false summit, as my legs started to cramp up.
I figured I could either complete the summit and skip Elk Cove, or descend from there while still continuing the loop to Elk Cove. Seeing the beautiful fall colors below, I chose to go to Elk Cove. I followed the somewhat obvious boot path down, always keeping Dollar Lake in view as my guide, and eventually reached the Timberline Trail again, and then to Elk Cove.
The return was brutal - my legs are still angry with me, but the worst section was, again, at the registration station. Because the trail junction sign was buried under stacked trees, I forgot there was a junction, and when I spotted a trail on the backside of the debris pile, I began to follow it. I hadn't gone more than about 100 yards when I decided it was much more difficult than I remembered, and should head back and make sure I was on the right trail. Once there, I discovered that you needed to part the branches and crawl through the "wall", but there, sure enough, was the correct trail.

Overall, it was a phenomenal hike - the fall colors were as radiant as ever, the skies were crystal clear, and the snow on the upper slopes of Mount Hood was fresh and clean. But, I would not recommend it if you have knee problems or trouble with lots of stairs.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Barrett Spur, Elk Cove via Vista Ridge Trail (Post Wind Event 2020)

Post by Don Nelsen » October 3rd, 2020, 12:47 pm

Thanks for the TR and the trail condition info. Nice pics too.

"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Re: Barrett Spur, Elk Cove via Vista Ridge Trail (Post Wind Event 2020)

Post by Openminded2 » October 6th, 2020, 10:14 am

Thank you so much, this was on my list but maybe I'll join a trail team now!
It can’t be anything that a cup of tea won’t help

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retired jerry
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Re: Barrett Spur, Elk Cove via Vista Ridge Trail (Post Wind Event 2020)

Post by retired jerry » October 6th, 2020, 11:44 am

That's weird, I was there via Cloud Cap, Timberline Trail

Totally normal. No down trees or branches or anything.

The high wind must have been localized to below the Timberline Trail. Like a tornado or something.

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