Criterion Tract Loop 4-26-22

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bobcat
Posts: 2479
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Criterion Tract Loop 4-26-22

Post by bobcat » April 27th, 2022, 4:53 pm

Born2BBrad’s excellent January report gave me the beta to do a shorter (12 mile loop) on the BLM’s Criterion Tract, returning via the “walker easement” along the closed section of the Deschutes River Road.

The hike began at the gate on the river road, seven miles southwest of Maupin. A jeep track leads up from behind the outhouse. Lower down the imprint of the road is very faint, becoming more obvious higher up where it’s cut into the slopes. However, there’s an obvious singletrack trail that follows it for 3 ½ miles. This was a very pleasant gradual ascent, first crossing some low grassy benches, then plying up a rocky gully before slicing along the bunchgrass slopes. I surprised a herd of deer, got the gory eyeball from a sunning gopher snake, and strolled along to the tinkling calls of meadowlarks. Ascending higher, I appreciated some views of the river (and the return leg of my loop).

Nena Trailhead, Criterion Tract.jpg
The gate on the river road, Nena Trailhead, Criterion Tract.jpg
Looking back at the wire gate, Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Thread-leaved milk-vetch (Astragalus filipes), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Spurred lupine, (Lupinus arbustus), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Herd of does, Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Douglas' brodiaea (Triteleia grandiflora grandiflora), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
View to Mile 62 bend, Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Head of gopher snake, Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Harsh paintbrush (Castilleja hispida), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Looking to the Mile 62 bend, Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Common fiddleneck (Amsinckia menziesii), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Nena Trail rising, Criterion Tract.jpg
Cow trough, Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
White plectritis (Plectritis macrocera), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Douglas' buckwheat (Eriogonum douglasii), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Daggerpod (Phoenicaluis cheiranthoides), Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg

At 2,735 feet, I hit a private fence and turned south to follow it. This dipped me into a gully and then up past a water trough and a cow pond below a fenced spring. Following an established cow trail, I reached the corner post of the private fence and then continued down across a gully to some structures I had seen on Google Earth. This area was probably a regular stock camp. The denizens used the gully for their garbage, and there was a small structure, very roughly constructed, that may have been some kind of shelter or store room. Nearby were some rectangular layouts of rock with coils of barbed wire. From here, I continued south to join what I call Stag Point Road.

Fence line at end of Nena Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Cattail cattle pond, Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
Sagebrush violet (Viola trinervata), Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
False agoseris (Nothocalais troximoides), Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
Fence corner, Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
Detritis, Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
Rubbish heap, Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
Storeroom, Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
Wood stove and tool box, Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg
Rock foundations, Nena fenceline, Criterion Tract.jpg

From this jeep track, I made the short hike cross-country to Stag Point, the easternmost of twin hummocks, this one sporting a pole with foot brackets. There was once an antenna on top and something of wood construction, but all this has been scattered around the hillside, perhaps by ferocious plateau winds. From here, the view is down to the settlement of Dant on the Deschutes, the workings of the Lady Frances perlite mine, and the Mutton Mountains in the Warm Springs Reservation. I could see across Juniper Flat to the White River Canyon and Bonney Butte, but Mt. Hood was concealed within a thick agglutination of clouds.

View to Juniper Flat and White River, Stag Point Road, Criterion Tract.jpg
Looking up at Stag Point, Criterion Tract.jpg
Frieda Bend and Eagle Creek, Stag Point, Criterion Tract.jpg
Antenna remains and Criterion Crest from Stag Point, Criterion Tract.jpg
Dixon Point from Stag Point, Criterion Tract.jpg
Hood's phlox (Phlox hoodii), Stag Point, Criterion Tract.jpg
Looking to Juniper Flat, Stag Point Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg

I continued to follow Stag Point Road as it switchbacked downward, offering splendid views. Then I arrived at the No Trespassing gate. I knew from Brad’s report and my own confirming research that this sign is illegal, posted some distance above their property by the Portland Deschutes Club, perhaps because of the convenience of an actual gate. Thus, I continued descending, still on public land, on a deteriorating road bed. A broad low ridge just north of Dant is also under the purview of the BLM and it connects with the river. An old ranch road descends to this ridge and then I dropped down steep slopes to the Deschutes River Road.

Salt lick station, Stag Point Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Illegal trespassing sign, Stag Point Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Bend in the road, Stag Point Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Balsamroot passage, Stag Point Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
View down the broad ridge, Frieda North Ridge Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Western hawksbeard (Crepis occidentalis), Frieda North Ridge Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Looking back at the Stag Point Trail, Frieda North Ridge Trail, Criterion Tract.jpg
Above the Deschutes, Frieda North Ridge, Criterion Tract.jpg

The four-mile return along this recently graveled gated road, private but open to the walking public (though not to their bicycles), passes alternately between private and public lands. On the latter, you can try to access the river; on the former, stick to the road. There’s a bucolic residence that is the Deschutes Club’s gatekeeper’s house and a big gate where you’re asked to sign in or out (while acknowledging the right of passage for walkers). Then I passed below some natural caves sunk into a layer of The Dalles Formation below the rimrock of the Columbia River Basalts. Here and there are private fishing cabins, and there were many active osprey nests on platforms atop telephone poles. Across the Deschutes is the BNSF railroad. Hackberries were just leafing out , and I could get views back to the Stag Point plateau. There had been some dark clouds in the morning, but after midday all was a bonny blue sky with just a few white puffs.

BLM sign, Deschutes River Road, Criterion Tract.jpg
Looking back to the descent ridge, Deschutes River Road, Criterion Tract.jpg
Ramparts north of Stag Point, Deschutes River Road, Criterion Tract.jpg
Cave above the road, Deschutes River Road, Criterion Tract.jpg
Stag Point plateau, Deschutes River Road, Criterion Tract.jpg

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Born2BBrad
Posts: 1037
Joined: May 1st, 2011, 7:26 pm
Location: The Dalles

Re: Criterion Tract Loop 4-26-22

Post by Born2BBrad » April 28th, 2022, 10:04 am

I've been meaning to get back there when it was green and flowers were blooming. Looks a lot nicer there now than back in January. A lot warmer too.

Friday and Sunday are looking good. Maybe then.

Thanks for the report!
Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.
- Jean Luc Picard

Thor the Deer

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adamschneider
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Re: Criterion Tract Loop 4-26-22

Post by adamschneider » April 28th, 2022, 11:14 am

I should mention the 8-mile improvised clockwise loop that I did back in mid-March. I started from Locked Gate and bushwhacked up the cliffs, then followed existing tracks across the plateau and back down. It was a nice way to experience a range of terrain without TOO much mileage.

2022-03-16 Criterion Tract.jpg

Webfoot
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Joined: November 25th, 2015, 11:06 am
Location: Troutdale

Re: Criterion Tract Loop 4-26-22

Post by Webfoot » April 28th, 2022, 3:15 pm

adamschneider wrote:
April 28th, 2022, 11:14 am
I started from Locked Gate and bushwhacked up the cliffs, then followed existing tracks across the plateau and back down.
It looks like you followed the one gap in the cliffs, up this talus slope? That caught my eye but I feared it would be unstable. How was it?
Deschutes 1284.jpg

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adamschneider
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Re: Criterion Tract Loop 4-26-22

Post by adamschneider » April 28th, 2022, 5:37 pm

Webfoot wrote:
April 28th, 2022, 3:15 pm
It looks like you followed the one gap in the cliffs, up this talus slope? That caught my eye but I feared it would be unstable. How was it?
Not bad at all. Here's my path:

Criterion cliffs.jpg
The worst part was a short traverse (red) from the brushy slope across some talus to the cliffier bits, which were pretty solid. The part I've marked in blue was a class 3 scramble; I went up that way because it looked fun, but you could just as easily go around to the left if you don't feel like rock climbing. Above the scramble, I went to the right and walked up a gully that had a few trees in it.

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