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Eightmile/Lookout mtn/Fret creek/Fifteenmile 6/19-20/2021

Posted: July 10th, 2021, 12:13 pm
by rllcat
Catching up on trip reports. Opening picture:

Hood from High Prairie trail

My partner and I have JMT permits (NOBO) for August, so we're trying to get in a number of training backpacking trips before then. Our constraints for the weekend were 1) want to get a 20+ mile day in on Saturday, 2) need to be back in Portland by 12pm on Sunday, 3) trail (and road access) conditions from fires/wind storm/snow, 4) a little low on energy for trip planning, so somewhere familiar-ish was good. Last summer our first backpacking trip of the year was the Fifteenmile Creek loop, which we loved, so going back to the same area (where mountain bikers have cleared out the trails!) seemed like a good plan.

We drove out Friday evening and camped along FR 44. Lower Eightmile Crossing and Eightmile Crossing camps were both full, and Underhill had a big group/family camping there, so we just camped in a spot along the road.

Saturday morning we drove to the Underhill TH, parked, and walked along the road to Eightmile Crossing. Especially at 8 am it was not a bad walk 2 mile walk - not too hot and only 2 cars. It was already a gorgeous day.

Road walk and morning sun

We discovered this interesting water wheel thing at Eightmile crossing. Seems maybe like it's generating power but we couldn't quite figure it out. Any ideas what it is?

Water wheel?

At Eightmile day use area we filled up on water (from the creek, no running water there) and used the bathroom... which seems to have been exploded by a tree.

bathroom explosion

the culrpit

We hiked up from there to Fivemile Butte Lookout and got our first mountain views on the switchbacks up.

Rainier and Adams through the trees

Lots of wildflowers along the trail.


Red flowers - scarlet gilia maybe?

Small purple flowers - maybe Jacob's ladder?

More purple flowers - Oregon Anemone?

Our original plan was to do a loop around the Bottle Prairie/Knebal Springs trails before heading to Fifteenmile creek, but the clear day made us reconsider - we decided to try going up Lookout Mountain instead, and then if that was ok snow-wise try taking the Divide Trail to the Fret Creek trail.

The Lookout Mountain trail starts out going along a nice creek

We had a decent number of mountain bikers throughout the Eightmile trails and on the Lookout Mountain trail. Mostly we just had to keep an eye and ear out. The mountain bike groups keep up the trails really well in this area, so I'm willing to step out of the way for them. They were always good about saying "there's x more bikers coming behind me."

At the top of Lookout Mountain trail we turned right and walked on dirt FR 4420 for around a mile to High Prairie. No cars on the road, just a few mountain bikers.

phlox along the road

The parking lot at High Prairie was fairly busy (although not nearly as busy as it can get later in the summer). Wildflowers filled the meadow and there was a gorgeous view of the mountains.

High Prairie meadows and views

Heading up to Lookout Mountain there were some occasional patches of snow and one larger snowfield - I think other TRs/snow reports have indicated those are all pretty much gone.

Lunch on top of Lookout Mountain had gorgeous views of all the mountains, plus views of the S-503 fire that had started the night before.

Helens, Rainier, and Adams from on top of Lookout Mountain

Hood from Lookout

Looking south - Jefferson, Three Sisters, and S-503 fire

From Lookout Mountain we headed on the east Divide Trail towards Fret Creek. There were some occasional snow patches and blowdown, but nothing too hard to navigate. The Fret Creek trail had a bit more blowdown, but I think only one spot was a little challenging. There were a few folks camped at Oval Lake, but otherwise we didn't see anyone on either trail.

Oval Lake

Also met a new friend??? Not quite sure what kind of friend....

Animal skull on a log

By this point - maybe 17 miles in - we were getting pretty tired. We planned to fill up on water and take a break and soak our feet at Fifteenmile campground. Unfortunately, the mosquitoes had other plans and while we did soak our feet we did not get the nice relaxing break we had hoped for. All the campsites at Fifteenmile camp were full, and those block access to the creek through the campground. Instead we went across the road - there's a small foot path that leads to creek access.

From Fifteenmile camp we headed down the Fifteenmile creek trail. I just love this whole area.

Golden hour rocks along the Fifteenmile creek trail

Our hope was to camp at the intersection of the Fifteenmile, Cedar creek, and Underhill trails - there's a really nice spot there right by the creek crossing. Unfortunately when we pulled in at 8pm after 23 miles there was already someone there (turned out to be a trail runner/fast packer - wow, I'm always impressed by these folks). He said it was fine if we wanted to camp there too, but we decided to follow some notes from a previous TR that mentioned camping in the meadows a bit further down the Fifteenmile trail.

We found an ok spot to camp (somewhat established so not too completely damaging to the meadows), but the water access there sucked (started climbing through a swamp). Since we had to go back to the junction anyway we just decided to camp there. Our new friend was heading to bed, and he was very gracious about us taking the other tent spot. Luckily the creek is decently loud there, so I think the sound covered up our setup noises. We got dinner going as the sun set, hung our bear bag, and collapsed in bed (with some advil to ease the ache in my feet and hips - longest day I've ever done).

Tent spots

Fire ring

We got up and going fairly early the next morning, setting out on our 3 mile hike out down the Underhill trail. The trail is not noted at all from the signs at the junction.

Trail sign, no mention of Underhill trail

We climbed up the ridge, and it was already pretty hot in the sun at 7 something, but very pretty.

Heading up the ridge

We got a final glimpse of the mountain before dropping back down and out to our car.

Final mountain shot

And made it back to Portland right on time!

Re: Eightmile/Lookout mtn/Fret creek/Fifteenmile 6/19-20/2021

Posted: July 10th, 2021, 1:40 pm
by retired jerry
The water wheel at eightmile crossing is to keep fish out of the canal

The rotating, perforated drum is to let water through, and leaves and stuff flowing down the stream gets carried over the drum and then continue flowing down the stream. If you just had a screen to keep fish out, it would clogged with leaves. Clever design

Once, the canal flow was cut off. There were just some pools left. There were a bunch of stranded fish. My wife and I rescued them with a bucket and released them back in the stream. The rotating mechanism isn't perfect.

I do what I'm instructed to by the wife :)