Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

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VanMarmot
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Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by VanMarmot » May 31st, 2010, 7:28 am

Although recent weather reports have been ambiguous, conflicting, contradictory, and largely wrong, it was rumored that Sunday would be the “best” (in a very loose and relative sense) full day of “good” weather this holiday weekend. I figured Trapper Creek (Observation Peak) was far enough east to be a little drier and, with the snow line around 3600’, that snow conditions wouldn’t be too bad. I usually take the Trapper Creek Trail (#192) all the way around to the Observation Peak Trail (#132) north of the peak but, figuring the upper (>3000’) parts of #192 were likely still snow covered, I decided to give the Sunshine Trail (#198) a try. I parked at the TH on Road 5401 and hiked the #192 trail for 3.6 mi to its junction with the Sunshine Trail.

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This is one of several trails in the area built and maintained by the Mazamas. It’s basically an upgraded use trail, generally marked with small metal tags or some charming handmade wooden markers.

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It was pretty easy to follow most of the time - sketchy in a few spots – and there were only a few major tree falls (but none that required big diversions from the trail).

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If the sun had been out there might have been sunshine on this trail as it climbed higher out of the Trapper Creek valley but, alas, the clouds would not part. It’s a trail with very few viewpoints but I was able to catch a glimpse across the valley of the scree slopes above Soda Peaks Lake.

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Flowers were sparse to non-existent under the canopy, so a tree fungus had to once again step up and offer some color.

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After about 2 mi and 2000’ of gain, the Sunshine Trail junctions with the #132 trail 1.7 mi from the summit. Heading up the #132, I encountered snow for the first time around 3700’, about 0.2 mi from the Sunshine junction, where the trail traverses the north side of the peak. It was in drifts 2-5’ high, but patchy, which meant a lot of up and down hiking for about 0.75 mi.

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I saw fresh tracks in the snow and was pleasantly surprised to find Kam (“pdxflowergirl”) and Joe on the trail ahead of me. After being unable to reach the higher TH to Soda Peaks Lake, they had camped along Trapper Creek and were dayhiking Observation Peak. We hiked together the rest of the way to the summit. The spur trail (#132A) that climbs the ridge to the summit was largely free of snow due to its more southerly exposure. The summit itself was bare rock surrounded by a tonsure of old snow. One of the best things about Observation Peak is the view it commands of the surrounding area, and of many of the NW’s major volcanic summits. But as this picture of Kam reaching the summit shows, visibility was less than 100’ in all directions.

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Had the weather been more cooperative, this is what we would have seen (taken last November).

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We parted ways on the summit – I was going back along the #132 and they were thinking about descending the Sunshine. Weather on the way back involved a confused mix of light drizzle, brief spasms of sunshine, clouds, and mists. Although there were no views, it was a good hike (13.9 mi, 3200’) and fun running into folks (again) that I'd only "met" in the virtual world of Portland Hikers.

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roadtripmom
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Re: Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by roadtripmom » May 31st, 2010, 8:31 am

My kids and I hike Falls Creek Falls on Satuday and then drove over to Trapper Creek/Gov. Mineral springs to check out the area. We saw pdx flowergirl and her partner starting their hike. I knew that was her ! I did Trapper creek 2 weeks ago and loved it. The day we went we had the entire trail to ourselves,(huge bonus for me ) we eventually lost the trail in the snow, but I will be back.
Filling my bucket, one hike at a time.
Amanda

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pdxflowergirl
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Re: Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by pdxflowergirl » May 31st, 2010, 9:36 am

VanMarmot wrote:Had the weather been more cooperative, this is what we would have seen (taken last November).

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Wow! I will definitely return. Perhaps I will try hiking in from the north TH next time? And we ended up returning along Trail #132 also after encountering some confusing signage and soft, sinking-in snow. Did you see the two guys backpacking up to Observation Peak? Their packs appeared to be at least 40 lbs and they didn't have raincovers. I gave them the snow report. Hope they were able to make the loop. They were the only other folks we came across after meeting up with you on Trail #132.
roadtripmom wrote:My kids and I hike Falls Creek Falls on Satuday and then drove over to Trapper Creek/Gov. Mineral springs to check out the area. We saw pdx flowergirl and her partner starting their hike.
Did we pass you on the footpath portion of the trail just after it leaves the rental cabins' access road? If you have curly hair, then I remember seeing you. But I don't remember seeing any kids with you?
Kam

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Excursionista
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Re: Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by Excursionista » May 31st, 2010, 11:21 am

VanMarmot wrote:recent weather reports have been ambiguous, conflicting, contradictory, and largely wrong...
No doubt. Every hike on my list right now I don't want to do in the rain and clouds. I'm jonesing for elevation and views, blue skies and volcanoes, wildflowers and hiking in shorts. I'm going to have to get out to Trapper Creek, though - that area looks beautiful in the rain. Thanks for the report!

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VanMarmot
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Re: Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by VanMarmot » May 31st, 2010, 12:20 pm

pdxflowergirl wrote:Did you see the two guys backpacking up to Observation Peak? Their packs appeared to be at least 40 lbs and they didn't have raincovers. I gave them the snow report. Hope they were able to make the loop. They were the only other folks we came across after meeting up with you on Trail #132.
I saw them - one had a canvas pack - no evidence of rain gear - I hope they had something for cover & didn't spend a miserable, wet night up there. Those 2 and 2 other dayhikers were the only folks other than you & Joe that I saw all day. Possibly the weather chased people away, but I've been to Trapper Creek more than a few times in great weather & only seen a handful of folks. It's a wonderful little wilderness area with the best views (in season) but isn't covered in most of the major OR/WA or Gorge guidebooks so it's not an obvious destination. Selfishly, I hope it stays that way...

NerDowel
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Re: Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by NerDowel » May 31st, 2013, 3:38 pm

Beware of this Sunshine trail. It has not been cleaned for years probably. There is a tremendous number of downed trees and hillsides of broken branches obscuring the trail. We also found it after a snowfall the previous week. There was 4-8 inches of snow across much of the area, but pockets of dry area as well. We were lucky to make it out without spending the night. You might not be so lucky. We were ready to spend the night. You might not be.
Last weekend ... on May 26, 2013 ... I hiked the Sunshine Trail with a group of 12 people, connecting to it from the NE end, heading SW on the Sunshine trail.
Twelve of us had split up into two groups. 8 wanted to reach Observation Point on our hike north up the trail along the eastern edge.
4 of us decided we would rather stop short of hiking up to the point, and cut west on the Sunshine cutoff trail.
The 4 of us ended up getting lost ... multiple times over the next three hours until we finally found Trapper Creek trail on the west/south end of the sunshine trail. We were able to find the trail finally halfway down, making the later half of our hike on the Sunshine Trail a walk, and not a scramble, crawl over/under logs workout.
The other eight reached Observation Point, but could not find the trail circling around it, as they had wished to do a big loop and head down the west side along Trapper Creek themselves.
They decided to back track down to the Sunshine trail and they also took that route, heading west/sw.
They ended up getting lost as well. They followed our tracks for maybe an hour or a little more but eventually lost our tracks and the trail entirely.
They decided then to bushwack south/east back to the trail along the eastern edge.

I understand the Mazamas maintain the Sunshine trail. I am making phone calls in tracking down the right people who might know when work will be done on the trail. I would help, and I know others who would too. It is not realistic or even desirable to remove the big logs. But measures should be taken to clear portions of the trail, making it somewhat clear where the trail is, or someone will get stuck up here on a hike.
The square aluminum markers on the trees were one key which helped us find the trail after we had lost it, and then to stay on it. But we would even lose evidence of them at times.



It is a beautiful area.
Attachments
blowdown.jpeg
Blowdown ... much of the blowdown was far worse than this.

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drm
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Re: Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by drm » May 31st, 2013, 6:56 pm

"4 of us decided we would rather stop short of hiking up to the point, and cut west on the Sunshine cutoff trail."

Are you referring to the Rim Trail? This cuts away from the Sunshine about a half mile from the 132 and around to the upper p[art of the Trapper Creek trail and is famously hard to follow in the last part. I've never heard of a Sunshine Cutoff trail. You really do need to be prepared for difficult navigation if traveling anywhere around the rim area before the snow is 100% melted.

I wonder if anybody has been up to Soda Peaks Lake from below yet.

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VanMarmot
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Re: Trapper Creek / Sunshine Tr / Observation Pk 30-May-2010

Post by VanMarmot » June 1st, 2013, 7:06 am

NerDowel wrote:Beware of this Sunshine trail. It has not been cleaned for years probably. There is a tremendous number of downed trees and hillsides of broken branches obscuring the trail. We also found it after a snowfall the previous week. There was 4-8 inches of snow across much of the area, but pockets of dry area as well. We were lucky to make it out without spending the night. You might not be so lucky. We were ready to spend the night. You might not be.

It is a beautiful area.
I did Observation Pk 3 weeks ago from Big Hollow, returning via the main Observation Pk trail Observation May 2013. Then there was a lot of blow down on that trail and I can see that it might have been worse further downslope on a much less used trail like the Sunshine. It is a beautiful area but not an easy one to navigate in off the "main" trails or even when there's snow on those. The Mazamas pioneered some of these lesser routes (like the Sunshine) between the Trapper Ck and Observation Ck trails, but it's not clear whether the Club has (or could) put much into maintaining them for sometime. It would be interesting to hear what you find out. I was surprised to find a Skamania County inmate crew clearing the Observation (132) trail - so even the USFS has to reach out for help with trail maintenance!

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