Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

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happilyretired
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Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

Post by happilyretired » February 7th, 2024, 6:07 am

More good-for-January weather, so I was off for another hike. This time I drove just past Oakridge to Eugene to Crest Trailhead #2 (which amazingly enough, is accurately shown on Google Maps) and hiked up to the summit of Heckletooth Mountain, about 5 miles away and 2000 feet up.

Trailhead parking is easy, though there's only space for a couple of cars. It took me a few minutes of casting around to figure out where to start this hike; there's a sign with a hiker icon at the parking, and a slight trail that leads downhill into a network of logging and other access roads. None of the maps I had along or in my phone was terribly accurate here (or later in the hike, for that matter) though OnX Maps was pretty close. Anyhow, the trick is to just follow the most major gravel road on a pretty level walk through well-logged woods.
P2060002.jpg
Opening road walk
After a little less than a mile the road makes a turn to the left and starts heading gently up the slopes of Aubrey Mountain. At this point there's a beat-up sign indicating the Eugene to Crest trail. It's not at all obvious, but if you stay on the road you're on the Aubrey Mountain trail, or at least leading to that trail, which for some reason isn't listed on the Willamette National Forest's web site. Anyhow, I made the turn on to the Eugene to Crest trail.
P2060003.jpg
Start of this leg of the Eugene to Crest trail
The trail switchbacks fairly steeply up the face of the mountain until it gets to about the 2400' level. Along the way it passes through a couple of open exposed areas, which would probably offer decent views in better weather. I was in drizzle and cloud most of the day, so it didn't turn out to be much of a view hike for me.
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Headed up the face of Aubrey Mountain
Here the trail becomes very easy, basically staying at the same elevation for the next couple of miles. It's a bit narrow in spots, but there was next to no storm debris on this sheltered slope. There was also next to no evidence of human passage; it's had much less traffic than most of the other Oakridge-area trails I've tried. Ferns and berries (and of course poison oak) encroached on the trail pretty frequently.
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An easy walk across the mountain
At the far end of Aubrey Mountain, the trail comes to a T intersection, where turning left allows you to continue making a loop, and turning right heads towards Heckletooth Mountain. There's a sign posted here warning of an area closure due to the 2021 Kwis fire, but according to the latest closure map this area is now open.
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Heckletooth Mountain to the right
Not only is the trail open, but it's in good shape, despite the fact that it runs mostly through a burn area from here on up. It's clearly been reconstructed with the help of the local mountain biking community. At one point they took advantage of re-routing through a firebreak to put in some slalom curves.
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Thanks for the trail, mountain bikers!
From the junction to the top, the trail mostly varies from "steep" to "very steep." I definitely slowed down on this section, and there were a few wet rocky parts that required a fair bit of care. I wouldn't want to hike this section with kids. Or with mountain bikes coming the other way. Fortunately neither one of those circumstances applied today. At one point you have the choice between a trail straight up the ridge, or one that switchbacks a bit more gently. I took the shorter route up and the longer one down.
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Steep to the left, gentle to the right
The last hundred yards or so to the top are on rocky ground. The clouds were pretty dense around me at this point. The occasional glimpse I got showed that there would be views on a different day.
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Approaching the top
Just as I got to the summit, the cold rain started. In fact, within five minutes it was sleet instead of rain. So I didn't stay too long on top; just long enough to take a few photos and text my wife (the cell service on the summit is better than I get at home in Eugene). By the time I was a few hundred yards back down the trail, the sleet stopped and the sun was peeking through a break in the clouds.
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Heckletooth Mountain summit
I made my way cautiously back down the steep grade to the T intersection at the bottom.
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No kidding!
Along the way I did start to get some views, at least of the surrounding hills. The trail at this point is on the northern slopes, so the views are down into the Salmon Creek watershed.
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A bit of a view at last
I turned right at the T intersection, and quickly popped out on FR 207. There's a trailhead sign here, but it's largely hidden. I would have missed it if I'd walked the loop in the other direction (though the track on AllTrails is pretty accurate for the loop).
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Trailhead on FR 207
FR 207 climbs back up the slope of Aubrey Mountain, gaining about 800' in elevation along the way. It's a well-packed gravel road, and someone came through with a chainsaw after the most recent storms to clear a bunch of downed trees. A few more have come down since, but it's still easily passable.
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Heading up FR 207
At the end of the road the Aubrey Mountain Trail starts (it's the middle of the three obvious ways out of the clearing at the end of the road). This trail has quite a bit of storm debris down, since it's much closer to the top and more exposed than the way I came out. After half a mile or so it pops out into a little meadow, which is a nice break.
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Meadow on Aubrey Mountain Trail
From here, the trail merges with an old road cut, well overgrown, that I presume was once a logging road. This makes a few switchbacks down the west side of Aubrey Mountain, and eventually comes back to the point where I turned off on the Eugene to Crest Trail. And with that, the loop was complete and there was just the easy road walk back to my car.

Overall, this route was around 11 miles. Some time I'd like to hike a longer chunk of the Eugene to Crest trail, but that will have to wait for another day.

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retired jerry
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Re: Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

Post by retired jerry » February 7th, 2024, 6:44 am

what is the eugene to crest trail?

TrailPerspective
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Re: Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

Post by TrailPerspective » February 12th, 2024, 7:50 am

P2060006.jpg
Headed up the face of Aubrey Mountain

Dang, that ascent section up Aubrey Mountain looks legit! I would think with the mud it could create an unstable footing scenario, perhaps trekking poles or just walking to the side on the grass for more traction.....

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happilyretired
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Re: Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

Post by happilyretired » February 12th, 2024, 9:52 am

retired jerry wrote:
February 7th, 2024, 6:44 am
what is the eugene to crest trail?
There's a page from the Willamette NF on it:
The concept of providing a continuous trail from Eugene, Oregon to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail began in the early 1970's. While the trail officially opened in 1994, it was never fully completed and not all segments of the trail are connected or completed.
They also have a downloadable brochure on it with horrible maps. As far as I can suss out from better maps, it is possible to go continuously on trail from where I started just outside of Oakridge all the way to the PCT near Waldo Lake, which would be about a 30-mile hike.

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retired jerry
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Re: Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

Post by retired jerry » February 12th, 2024, 12:04 pm

the brochure:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DO ... 588934.pdf

I wonder how bad the road walking segments are

There have been posts asking about this before

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happilyretired
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Re: Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

Post by happilyretired » February 12th, 2024, 3:53 pm

Thanks for linking that, I meant to and forgot.

The Hwy 58 segments at least I don't think I'd want to walk. Not a lot of shoulder and not always the best drivers in the world on that road.

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retired jerry
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Re: Heckletooth Mountain 02-06-2024

Post by retired jerry » February 12th, 2024, 4:25 pm

maybe they'll eventually put some trail segments for the worst road walks

Portland to crest would be another good one.

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