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Cottonwood Canyon trails - 2023-4-27

Posted: May 21st, 2023, 10:10 am
by Jett Powered
I got lucky with perfect weather for hiking and camping in eastern Oregon. Sunny and 74 with enough wind to combat the heat and make it interesting. This part of the state is new to me so I was excited to see it in person. The drive out was beautiful and I was a bit mesmerized by the farmland and the incredible number of wind turbines.

I tried to be smart about my preparations and set out for my hikes with lots of water, a big hat, and sunscreen. I'm new to hiking in this kind of weather and don't do well with being dehydrated so I really focused on staying ahead of the game. My hydration strategy was to set a 30 minute timer and finish one bottle every 30 minutes before refilling and resetting. I did get a bit of sunburn on my calves but nothing terrible.

Gooseneck Loop Trail
Before leaving Portland I called the park and talked to a very helpful ranger. He suggested a new 8 mile trail that wasn't on many maps yet: Gooseneck Loop. It starts at the campground and takes you up the hills, along the ridge above the Pinnacles trail before descending and meeting up with Pinnacles which loops you back to camp. The trail wasn't very obvious in a lot of places but there's really only one direction to go and eventually there's a barbed wire fence and a decently worn path to follow. I saw a lot of cougar scat in this section. Eventually I arrived at a somewhat steep and slippery section of grass with no obvious trail, just more fence to follow. This route was leading me to an even steeper rocky area that would require some scrambling. This probably wouldn't be a big deal for many but the combination no trekking poles, increasingly gusty winds, and a slippery hillside signaled it was time for me to turn around. I fully intend to try this one again sometime.

The view from that trail was fantastic. It gains elevation quickly and you're able to see the park the whole time. It was fun to watch my car turn into a tiny white dot 1000ft below. Lots of wildflowers in bloom and I didn't see anyone else on the trail.
The well-worn section of the trail closest to the campgrounds.
The first of the wildflowers.
The trail gains elevation pretty quickly.
I'm loving the view from up here!
More wildflowers. I'm not much for plant identification...
Occasionally one of two mountains peeks out over the hills. Anyone recognize that tip?
This section of trail sees a lot less traffic than the lower bits.
Hello pretty flower, what's your name?
I really didn't make it that far, but it was still a great hike.
to be continued...

Re: Cottonwood Canyon trails - 2023-4-27

Posted: May 21st, 2023, 10:16 am
by Jett Powered
Lost Corral Trail
After a short break in camp I drove to the Lost Corral trailhead on the other side of the John Day River. There was a ridiculous amount of cougar scat along the first mile. This trail follows the river and has zero elevation gain. While it offered some nice views of the hills and cliffs on the other side of the river, it wasn't the most interesting hike so I only did a few miles. I did enjoy the many little birds fluttering about ahead of me.
River on one side, cliffs on the other.
The dirt sections were a nice break from all the rocks.
I took a nice little break whenever I found some shade.
Pinnacles Trail
Took another break and did some work setting up camp before heading to the Pinnacles Trail. It passes though the campgrounds so access is very easy. Just like Lost Corral this trail follows the river and the portion I did had no elevation gain. The trail itself was mostly dirt, especially compared to the very rocky Lost Corral. My feet were getting tired so I was glad I saved this one for last. The sun was pretty relentless. It kept getting lower in the sky but seemed like it was never gonna dip behind the hills.
to be continued...

Re: Cottonwood Canyon trails - 2023-4-27

Posted: May 21st, 2023, 10:19 am
by Jett Powered
Finally back at camp for the night it was time for a beer and dinner. The sun refused to set and I did a fair bit of hiding in the shady part of my campsite. The campsites here are really nice. Even though there are very few trees to provide shade or privacy the drive-up sites were great. I typically avoid this kind of camping as my goal is always solitude. The drive-in sites had both a small pergola and a wind-block that also served as a source of shade in the late afternoon. I was really glad to have made a reservation in advance. Per advice from the ranger I had one of the odd-numbered sites closest to the river.

Venus was bright and clearly visible long before sunset. I was looking forward to using my tripod for some night sky photography but the sun continued to hang in the sky. When it finally dipped behind the hill I could sense everyone in camp breathing a sigh of relief. It was a gorgeous night full of stars.
Cottonwood Canyon State Park is a gem and I intend to return and hike the whole Gooseneck Loop.

The drive back was beautiful. I had to stop to enjoy the view of two mountains in the distance. Is that Mt. Rainier on the right?
Hello mountains!

Re: Cottonwood Canyon trails - 2023-4-27

Posted: May 24th, 2023, 2:00 am
by Naturebat
Jett Powered wrote:
May 21st, 2023, 10:19 am

The drive back was beautiful. I had to stop to enjoy the view of two mountains in the distance. Is that Mt. Rainier on the right?


Great trip report! I love that place. Thanks for sharing. That mountain on the right is Mount Adams in Washington.