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Gooseneck Loop (Cottonwood Canyon) 3-20-24

Posted: March 22nd, 2024, 9:48 am
by bobcat
Before the weather turned again, I motored out to the John Day River and did this loop in Cottonwood Canyon State Park. I began at the first parking area, and took the short trail up to Sage Knob and then headed up the ridge to Peak 1443. The steppe wildflowers were beginning to bloom, and a cool westerly was blowing. The cheatgrass was still soft and not prickly.

Sage Steppe Trailhead, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Small-flowered prairie star (Lithophragma parviflorum), Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Woolly-pod milk vetch (Astragalus purshii), Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Arch to Peak 1443, Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Darkling beetle (Eleodes obscura), below Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
View from above Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Redstem filaree (Erodium cicutarium), Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Butterfly desert parsley (Lomatium papilioniferum), above Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
View to the campground, above Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Xanthoparmelia lichen, Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Gold cobblestone lichen (Pleopsidium chlorophanum), below Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), Sage Knob, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
John Day River upstream, Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg

From the little cairn on Peak 1443, I descended to the boundary fence line and followed the barbed wire, which is down in several places, to Gooseneck Gully. It’s a rugged 500-foot drop to the bottom of the gully, where the stream was still trickling, and then a 600-foot ascent to the plateau again. The carved amphitheater of Gooseneck Falls might be a worthy destination some day.

Cairn on top of Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Hood's phlox (Phlox hoodii), Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
The John Day downstream, from Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Yellow bells (Fritillaria pudica), Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Fenceline stretching from Peak 1443, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Descending Gooseneck Gully, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Slopes of Gooseneck Gully, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Top of Gooseneck Falls, Gooseneck Gully, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Looking up Gooseneck Gully, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg

Once up top again, I got excellent views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams past the windmills and power pylons. Then I followed the old jeep track along the crest of the Gooseneck peninsula, getting views of the river upstream and downstream. From the last little rise at the end of the Gooseneck, I followed the crest down, getting clear views to the Lost Corral tucked below its shady cliff at the mouth of Esau Canyon. There are cliffs at the end of the Gooseneck, so I cut down, dropping down the south slope of the east ridge, to reach the Pinnacles Trail.

Barn, windmills, and Mt. Adams, above Gooseneck Gully, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Mt. Hood from the Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Track along the Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Low pussytoes (Antennaria dimorpha), Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
View to end of the Pinnacles Trail, Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
The Red Cliffs from the Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Gold stars (Crocidium multicaule), Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Desert shooting star (Dodecatheon conjugens), Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Knob at the end of the Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Looking to the Lost Corral, Gooseneck, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg

Two hundred yards to my left, I could see the seasonal closure barrier (February through August) at the Gooseneck cliffs, so I went over to take a closer look. This is about three miles from the kiosk at the beginning of the Pinnacles Trail. (The golden eagles actually nest about a mile downriver from the barrier.)

Nose of the Gooseneck and closure gate, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Seasonal closure gate, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Closure notice posted, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg

Then it was the level hike along the old farm track, with the dark maw of Rattlesnake Canyon across the John Day. I took the Lower Walnut Trail, which runs right along the John Day in spots, and rejoined the Pinnacles Trail at the big walnut tree. This gnarly old denizen, perhaps planted over a hundred years ago by a rancher, is not leafing out yet and neither are the hackberries that are common here. However, the golden currant was beginning to bloom.

Rattlesnake Canyon and falls, from the Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Small-flowered fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii), Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Orange wall lichen (Xanthoria polycarpa) on hackberry, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Junction with Lower Walnut Trail, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
River's edge, Lower Walnut Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
The big walnut, Lower Walnut Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Golden currant (Ribes aureum), Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Exfoliating pinnacle, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg

Passing below the last cliffs, I got to thinking that I had not seen the expected bighorn sheep when, lo and behold, I spotted a small family group up Gooseneck Gully. Up on the skyline, there were a few more. At the kiosk that marks the beginning of the Pinnacles Trail, a post mentions a cougar-killed sheep four miles downriver.

Round tower, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Cliffs on the Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Decompressor, maybe, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Fern-leaf desert parsley (Lomatium dissectum), Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Under the overhang, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Sheep family in Gooseneck Gully, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Sheep on the skyline, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Kiosk at beginning of Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Cougar kill sign, Pinnacles Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg
Cliffs above, from the Sage Steppe Trail, Cottonwood Canyon.jpeg

Re: Gooseneck Loop (Cottonwood Canyon) 3-20-24

Posted: March 22nd, 2024, 4:19 pm
by Splintercat
Nice report, John - thanks! I've tried propagating Golden currant from cuttings with no luck... I'd really like to add a few to my home landscape. Lovely plants!

Tom :)

Re: Gooseneck Loop (Cottonwood Canyon) 3-20-24

Posted: March 24th, 2024, 7:38 am
by drm
From my visit up there recently, it looked on the topo like from the barbed wire fence, you could angle left where the fence ends and have a much less deep gully to cross, at the cost of a longer hike. There was a large ranch building - one of those roofs on poles (no walls) that I assume is for storing hay and keeping it dry.

Re: Gooseneck Loop (Cottonwood Canyon) 3-20-24

Posted: March 24th, 2024, 8:32 am
by bobcat
Yes, it's not really a boundary fence but I think a cattle fence, now no longer repaired, that separated a former grazing concession in the canyon from farmland above. Looking down from Peak 1443, you can see a gate in the fence. You could follow the jeep track on the other side as far as a farm road (but not as far as the barn, which is where the road goes). Then you could start angling down into the gully. However, there are vertical bands of rimrock there as well, especially on the east side, so it's debatable whether it would be any easier. Probably some deer/sheep trails to follow though. There doesn't appear to be a fence on the actual BLM boundary, and the farmer seems to be using some BLM land on top. You would have to trespass as far as the barn to enjoy a gentle crossing of the gully.

There appears to be a fence line right at the barn, well into private property. There's also a rusting harvester there. (Click to get larger map.)

Gooseneck Gully Crossing.png

The state park closure map shows the "trail" doing this from the high point on the fence line - but of course there's no real trail!

Gooseneck Trail Screenshot.png