Cabin Creek Ridge + Wonder/Warren Ridge [return 1/1/2019]

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Cabin Creek Ridge + Wonder/Warren Ridge [return 1/1/2019]

Post by Chip Down » June 16th, 2016, 8:16 pm

(between Starvation & Defiance)

Pablo wrote "[Cabin Creek Ridge is] one of the nicest ridge line hikes I've ever done", and I share his opinion.
Cabin Creek Ridge is easy to get to, clearly defined, not brushy, lacks blowdown, undulates just a bit, and offers a few challenges. It's damn near an ideal ridge hike, and I highly recommend it. I almost feel guilty, considering how pristine it is. But hey, it's right there in plain sight. It's not as if I'm calling attention to some secret hidden hike.

Started at 4:20, hit the Starvation cutoff, then west across Cabin Creek and up to Cabin Creek Ridge. At the high point where the trail crosses the ridge, I jettisoned any unnecessary stuff and headed up the ridge, probably right around sunrise. I was puzzled that there was no trail. Could have sworn there was a trail. Later in the day, realized it's Wonder/Warren Ridge that has a clear trail departing Starvation Trail. Like Starvation Ridge, Cabin features a grassy oak zone before the coniferous forest begins. Views to the west were nice, over towards W/W Ridge. But like Starvation, the ridge fades out before it gets to a trail, and I didn't want to make a loop of it, so when it faded out I spent a bit of time wandering around to see if a trail would show up (I mean a social trail, not a USFS trail) but soon decided to bail and descend. Looking at the map, it must have been about 2800'. Right about where the fictional Warren Lake Trail pretends to cross what's left of the ridge. On the way down, I was elated to spot "tree # 3", a mysterious tree marked "3" which I had read about here. Figured it was a needle in a haystack, so was pleased to find it.

A few challenges on CC Ridge:
#1: Briefly, the ridgecrest becomes a steep fin. Staying on ridgecrest here would be reckless. To the east, mossy and steep, then brush below. To the west, bare and steep, then grassy terraces and a game trail below. That was an easy choice. I stuck with the game trail farther than necessary before regaining the crest, so vowed to stay as high as possible when I came back. On the descent, I was surprised to find that it is possible to traverse the steep mossy east side just below the crest.
#2: There's a spot where the ridge ends, but meets a new ridge which extends past your ridge a bit, so as you look up your route you see what appears to be a big hill slightly to the west, guarded by thick brush at the base. Okay, I know that sounds confusing, but look at the map (below) around 1600' and you'll see what I mean. Turned out to be no big deal. Brush wasn't that bad, and any route up "the big hill" takes you back up to the ridgecrest, where it all makes sense again. Fantastic viewpoint here, as you regain the crest.
#3: A little rocky outcropping has to be scaled. I went east, as I think most have before me. To put it in perspective, if you plunked this down on Ruckel, it would be one of the top-three challenges on the ridge. When I saw it, I muttered an obscenity, but was confident I'd find a way up.
#4: This was nearly the show stopper for me, and must be the one that Pablo said he paused to consider before ascending. Not much can be said to describe it, just a steep rocky stretch, followed by a steep grassy/rocky section. You'll know it when you see it, but if there's any doubt, there's a tree right in the middle. I wouldn't say it was scary, but I was a little worried about the descent (but not enough to make me reconsider my plans to not make this a loop). I think Pablo said it's easy to get around this if you want, but it looked to me like considerable bushwhacking would be involved.
#4.5: Just above the crux, as the going gets easier, there's a huge breach in the ridge, and it looks like there will be no way across, but up close I could see it wasn't really a problem (the gap doesn't extend all the way through the ridge).

Perhaps fifteen minutes after the crux, the ridgecrest starts to broaden a bit, gets a bit brushy. Still fun to continue a bit, but in a few minutes I felt like I was just hiking up a steep hill. Still pretty open though, and in all the exploring I did I never hit heavy brush. I bet it would be easy to continue to a trail (Starvation to the east, or Mitchel Point to the south). Starvation is extremely close at this point, and I wish I had gone in search of it. Even though I didn't want to use it, it's always fun to bushwhack to a trail, wondering where you'll meet it. Well, I think it's fun. YMMV.

Back down on the Starvation trail where it crosses Cabin Creek Ridge, I headed west to Wonder/Warren Ridge (there seems to be some disagreement on the name). Right down at the bottom of the ridge, around the Starvation trail, the ridge is jumbled and cliffy. I figured it would be fun and challenging. It wasn't that great. Just grassy slopes and oak on the east. I stayed as close to the ridgecrest as possible, for better views and to make it more interesting. Above the cliffy part, the ridgecrest was very well defined and easy to travel. However, constant minor blowdown and heavy litter made it a hassle. It wasn't difficult, but it took a little extra effort. And there was no payback, really. This is a hike for obsessive collectors who feel the need to do every ridge in the gorge. There was a brief rocky stretch that I hoped was a harbinger, but then it was back to the same boring hike. I paused for a quick break, and checked my GPS. Hey, 1500', good. Figured I was maybe 400' from hitting the road that runs west to the defiance trail. But then, abruptly, the ridge just ended. And it got brushy. Damn. Flagged a tree, noted that the descent route was exactly magnetic north, and started wandering up. The gully to my right (west) kept getting shallower, and almost faded. Across the gully, to the west and somewhat south, was a long slope, regular and consistent, rising steeply for a considerable height. All my observations led me to conclude that I could just go west (maybe veering a bit south to be safe) and I'd run into the road. But I didn't try, couldn't bear to. I was on that road recently, at the lower defiance crossing, and spent maybe an hour or a bit more following it up. It was a nightmare (blowdown, slides, overgrown). Would I even be able to spot the road if I crossed it up here?

I headed back down, using the time I saved to enjoy a long liesurely break when I rejoined Starvation trail, and then poked around the Warren/HITW falls area looking for signs of civilization. There's some cool history around there, but I couldn't find anything besides the falls and the dry Warren creekbed. I did find the lower end of the road that goes up to the old defiance log staircase, so it was good to know where that begins. Found the bottom of Wonder creek, where it goes underground just a little below Lancaster Falls (not that interesting; it's a pretty weak flow at that point, presumably having seeped into the ground a little along the way). As I wandered, I wondered what this place looked like before HCRH construction began. I wonder if they're going to reconstruct the Warren/HITW flume. That would be a sight. On the way back to the TH, I stopped off at Cabin Creek falls, and noticed how interesting it looks at the top. Wished I had known. I crossed that creek early in the morning, pre-sunrise. It probably wouldn't have been much of a detour to follow it down and have a look around the top of the falls. Finished my day poking around Starvation Falls. Lots to explore, lots of questions to be answered. Next time. Also, next time I need to make my third visit to find that old road that crosses Defiance at 2200'. This time I'll just have to go up Defiance and start paying close attention when my GPS shows 2000'. And if that fails, well, I guess I'll move on to a healthier and more productive obsession.

An important lesson reinforced on both ridges: don't let map shading lure you into thinking a ridge is well defined. Look at the contour lines. I figured that's how Cabin Creek would end for me, but W/W ridge was a disappointment when it faded prematurely.
WWRR (Wonder/Warren Ridge Reward)
WW ridge from HCRH. Can you spot the power-line tower? Also, notice the moon peeking through a gap in the clouds.
lower wonder/warren ridge
I love finding stuff like this
looking down on challenge #3 on Cabin Creek Ridge
from the top of challenge #2 on Cabin Creek Ridge
looking into warren canyon from cabin creek ridge, very early morning
looking up at challenge #1 on CC ridge

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Re: Cabin Creek Ridge + Wonder/Warren Ridge [return 1/1/2019]

Post by Chip Down » January 1st, 2019, 8:36 pm

Fail Tale: Defiance via Warren Lake and Starvation Ridge

Tired of bushwhacking in soft new snow, so decided it's time to get back to the gorge, for the first time since May 2018 (at which time I went up Defiance, which I didn't realize until just now). I suspect I'll be working on gorge projects for the next 3-4 months or so, until the Hood foothills get a bit firm/consolidated.

Was planning to go up Starvation Ridge. Cutoff trail was closed. Continued west, then up and back east towards Starvation. Long detour. On the way, I considered following Warren Canyon to the lake. Good thing I didn't try that. I now realize it's very difficult, based on TRs, and looking into the canyon from Cabin Creek Ridge.

Crossed over Warren Creek (slightly tricky, everything was iced up). Continued up and east, on an icy trail cut into a tilted meadow. At the top (ridgecrest) turned at the power line tower and followed ridgecrest trail up/south. Oops, this isn't Starvation. It was still dark, but I could see this had to be Cabin Creek. Okay then, that could be a fun shortcut. Ha! It wasn't. Partly because I was feeling tired and just wasn't as aggressive as I needed to be, and partly because it was tougher than I remembered. The crux, maybe about 2400'-2500' or so (I didn't keep good notes) was terrifying. Looking up the step, I was amazed I climbed it a year or two ago (and downclimbed it too). I spent a great deal of time looking for a workaround to the east, finally ending up all the way down at Cabin Creek. Turned right at a little tributary, followed it up to head, continued up to ridgecrest (2600').

Continued past the "3" tree, which had lost its marker (I put it by the base of the tree so others would see it.)

As on my last trip here, a bit above 3 tree the ridge broadened and got brushy. I was more persistent this time. Was determined to go east until I hit Starvation Trail. As I suspected from looking at the map, I was only about 10 minutes away. Hit the trail around that flat rocky area around 2700'. Good thing I wasn't a little higher. The trail turns east here, so one could hike XC parallel to it and not know.

I continued up Starvation trail to that rockslide viewpoint around 3300', where I met a descending hiker who was working on the Defiance loop. I had already decided to abort, as it was nearly 1:00 (sounds crazy early to give up, but it gets dark so early now). If I had known the trail could be followed, and if I had known Warren Lake was frozen, I might have pushed on from the end of Cabin Creek ridge. It's okay though, it was a slightly satisfying day anyway. Far from perfect, but I don't feel too bad about it.

Weather: No more than a slight breeze, temps probably varied from high twenties to low thirties all day. Driest hike I've had in a while. Cool enough that dew wan't a problem, nor was snowmelt from trees. Just a faint cloudcover all day.

New experience: Music. I like to be alone with my thoughts, but I'm tired of highway noise, target shooters, dogs, kids, etc.

Next time: My unintended foray into Cabin Creek Canyon was interesting. Maybe I'll ascend it some day (someyear). Also want to take another stab at seeing frozen Warren Lake sometime. Obviously there are many days every year, but the trick is to find one where postholig isn't necessary.
Two changes this time, in blue: Fail Bail Trail around ridgecrest crux, and then at the end the ridge this time I cut over east so I could descend Starvation.
Warren Canyon as seen from Cabin Creek Ridge. That ridge on the left/east side of the canyon is almost appealing, but it seems to be a hassle to get to, and goes nowhere.
From Starvation, looking across Cabin Creek Canyon at Cabin Creek Ridge (my ascent route)
Yellow circle, and its proximity, is the crux of the Cabin Creek ridge ascent. It looks easy to the left, but last time I found it better to go around that tree on the right side, then up.
Oops, the "3" fell off. I found it a couple feet away, on the ground.
The Starvation Ridge viewpoint (not the one at the powerlines; that's much lower). Notice the lack of snow. Dog is completely bare (not shown, just to the right/east)
The slide that took out the Starvation cutoff trail.

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Re: Cabin Creek Ridge + Wonder/Warren Ridge [return 1/1/2019]

Post by Bosterson » January 1st, 2019, 9:23 pm


Based on your terrified prose, I was expecting to see a pic of the step covered in snow or something. I went straight up and around the tree climber's right as you did. You tried just going left over the shoulder and up the grassy slope to above the tree and it doesn't go? I didn't explore that side as the direct looked more fun, but I would've thought contouring left and then up would work.

Re frozen Warren Lake, not sure you're missing much - it's like a lake, except harder. Here's a 2012 photo for reference:


Surprised you didn't continue up through the Twin Pillars of Pablo to the plateau and Warren - then it'd be an easy jaunt over to the Defiance trail and down. If you were on the upper part of Cabin Creek at 1pm, I'd have thought you must be part of Tom's "After Brunch" crowd, but you started in the dark? ;) Re "finding" Starvation - recall that from the top of the cutoff, one must switchback up to the powerline ridge, so you wouldn't encounter the ridge directly off a "flat" trail like you do on Cabin Creek. I did that ridge last summer (last Gorge hike before the fire :cry: ) on a gloriously nice day; I can imagine it being more of a chore in winter if the ground was wet. Given the inversion we've been having, I'd expect you saw some neat hoarfrost spicules up there?
#pnw #bestlife #bitingflies #favoriteyellowcap #neverdispleased

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Re: Cabin Creek Ridge + Wonder/Warren Ridge [return 1/1/2019]

Post by Chip Down » January 2nd, 2019, 7:31 pm

Hey Bosterson, thanks for the feedback.

I like how you sifted through your pics of that step looking for the one that makes it look like a walkup :lol: . I was wondering if it might be snowy/icy, but it didn't seem to be, from where I could see. There was some drainage over to the east though, which made those variations less desirable. Because I wimped out on the crest route (even though I've done it before) that establishes I was in a timid mood. Wasn't feeling right all day. Not sick or anything, lust blah, listless, anxious. In my memory, getting to the base of that tree before was no big deal, getting up past the tree was tricky but no big deal, and the dirt slope above the tree was scary just because there's nothing solid to hold on to. But yesterday, just getting to the base of the tree (on the right side) was more than I could stomach. I think I've told you that my first time at Munra I chickened out, but my second time I strolled along like it was nothing. I wonder if it's typical for hikers to have bold days and timid days. I hope I never switch from bold mode to timid mode in mid-hike, or I'll have to call for evacuation assistance.

Yeah, I know Warren wouldn't have been anything special, just wanted to see it different.

You must tell me about these Twin Pillars of Pablo.

Damn, just looked at the map. Had no idea I was that close. I was essentially at the end of Starvation Trail, where it meets Mitchel Trail. Oh well, if I had done it, then I'd be regretting I didn't make Defiance.

Nope, I'm not an after-brunch starter. But yeah, it was super slow. I'll see how time that step cost me...damn, two hours from first sight to when I regained crest! Would have been so much faster if I had made an immediate decision to drop to Cabin Creek and follow it up to where it's easy to get back on crest. I shouldn't beat myself up though; couldn't have known. By the way, continuing around to the east it only gets worse, with the ascent to ridgecrest being steeper and longer, before it finally mellows out. It was starting to look like I might get boxed in, but once I was down at the creek it was no problem. Maybe I should have bypassed on the west, but that would have required an immediate drop before traversing, and I wasn't willing.

Lots of needle ice below 1000', which never melted. But no pretty frost to be seen, just a light dusting, barely enough to sparkle a bit (my windshield at home was the nicest frost specimen I saw all day).

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