Thanks to drm’s timely updates, I took advantage of the five-day window that Bird Creek Meadows was open this year (two weeks before that were canceled because of smoke). It was also my wife’s birthday, so I was under pressure to lay on something not too strenuous but suitably impressive.We did the almost figure-of-eight loop (7 ½ miles): Bird Lake Trail-Round the Mountain Trail-Trail of Flowers-Viewpoint Trail-Mountain Climbers Trail-Round the Mountain Trail-Bluff Lake Trail.
We paid our $5 at Mirror Lake. The welcome party informed us that they were also working on the cattle fence, at least on the Rez side. The 2015 fire devastated the area around Bird Lake, and the first stage up the Bird Lake Trail was through the blackened snags of canopy fire. However, the blueberries had turned crimson and the meadow grasses were golden. There were one gentian and one subalpine daisy still in bloom. By the time you get to Crooked Creek Falls, you’re out of the fire zone, and from there to Hellroaring Viewpoint it’s unscorched open parkland.
Taking the Climbers Trail down the rim above Hellroaring Meadows, we soon entered the fire zone again although this time the burn was patchy. Cows have been all over the area, and because the trails haven’t been hiked a lot, there are a couple of spots where cow trails are a distraction. Then we headed back to the meadows and took the Bluff Lake Trail through a total burn back to Bird Lake. The campground area looks like a World War I battlefield: all the trees have been logged, so I assume they’ll reinstitute the campground at some point. It will be a rather exposed affair.
On the way back, I stopped at the Pine Way Trailhead. The trail itself hasn’t been maintained, but I found the trailhead sign lying on the ground. The route appears to be a major cow path these days (as it was in the past), so should be hikeable even without human maintenance.
This forum is used to share your experiences out on the trails.
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I think there is some questions about whether campers will want to camp at a burned out location like Bird Lake. Bench Lake is not burned at all right around the lake and is a much larger and nicer lake, though Little Mt Adams blocks views of the main mountain. The old Forest Service campsites there wouldn't take much effort to rehabilitate. The road would need to be improved for the last two miles.
The one thing I recall about Bench Lake is that it had a gazillion mosquitoes.
I also forgot to mention that the road in has been been completely fixed up (at least as far as Mirror Lake and Bird Lake); just a regular good gravel road now.
Also, the Aldo Leopold quote has been moved from the Mountain Climbers Trail to the Round-the-Mountain Trail. I saw no sign of the Dry Creek Trail, which went straight from the Bird Creek Meadows Trailhead on the east side down to Bluff Lake, so I assume it's been officially abandoned. It doesn't appear on their current maps. The picnic tables in the Bird Creek Meadows backcountry picnic area look in sad shape although they were untouched by the fire.
My recent visit was my first, so I don't know how bad it was. To the climber's trail #20, it was pretty rough, but after the #20 trailhead, where the road to Hellroaring drops down abruptly, it was much worse. When I was at the #20 TH, a vehicle came roaring through and dropped down that road, and the driver was in for a surprise. I heard some violent scraping. A moment later, I heard it continuing, so I assume the oil pan didn't get torn off. When I went down that road (the day before), I know I was the first visitor of the season, and I had to clear a fallen tree. (Funny, I've only had to do that once before, and it was also on Adams.)
Oh! I had read about that, but forgot to look for it. Good thing I didn't waste time looking for it.
edit: I see drm agrees about the road: