In 2009, one of Splintercat’s WyEast Blog posts devoted itself to Tamarack Rock, a then unnamed pile of andesite between the Surveyors Ridge Trail and Surveyors Ridge Road. A poll was held on Oregon Hikers (at that time Portland Hikers) to give the prominence a suitable moniker and the location now supports a pin on Google Maps.
This was hardly a remote hike although few hikers actually do it, but I hadn’t hiked this southern section of the Surveyors Ridge Trail and decided to include Shellrock Mountain as well. The mountain biker maintained trail runs close to Surveyors Ridge Road, and the first part of the trip was in a construction zone – the Dog River Pipeline Replacement Project, which began this summer and is scheduled for completion in December, 2023.
I parked at the junction of Surveyors Ridge Road (FR 17) and FR 1720 near Brooks Meadow (off limits) where the bikers’ Super Connector Trail comes in from the Knebal Springs Trail. I followed the Super Connector about half a mile to a tie trail that connected across FR 17 to the Surveyors Ridge Trail, and then headed north. This was a pleasant amble, with the rumble of the occasional truck percolating through the woods from off to my right. Then I reached the spot where I had to cross the pipeline construction corridor. There was a large section of replacement pipe ready for burial. The Dalles Watershed has removed the old Douglas-fir pipe, which was laid over 100 years ago and buried barely under the surface, recently losing over a million gallons of water a day in the spring. The pipeline begins at a waterworks south of Cooks Meadow, harnessing the upper flow of the Dog River for diversion into the South Fork Mill Creek.
Just north of the pipeline crossing is Tamarack Rock, which has an easy ascent route from the south side. Views towards Mt. Hood and Mill Creek Buttes, in The Dalles Watershed, were slightly hazy. I found a few of Splintercat’s “artifacts” – the cross memorializing Alfred West, a wood block for Nicholas Ryan Hansen (the beer can is nailed in, part of the display), and a new bird house type structure (but way too vulnerable for any bird to nest there) also inscribed for Hansen. At the summit is the gnarled western larch which gives the rock its name. It should be noted that “tamarack” is most accurately used for the eastern larch, but that European settlers in the Pacific Northwest also began to use it for the local species.
Then I continued along the trail, which here generally runs just to the west of the ridge crest. There are clearcuts (which offer views) and shady older growth, with a mix of conifers. The trail detours out around a promontory that offers a great viewpoint. Later, a sign points to a viewpoint to the south slope of Shellrock Mountain, which is a scree slope of andesite plates that early settlers called “shellrock.” The trail continues up the east slope of Shellrock, and I began the short bushwhack to the summit just past the high point. There was just a tangly skirt of ocean spray to break through before I hit the open east slope, which is less shellrocky and has a scattering of relatively ‘exotic’ shrubbery like sagebrush and gray rabbitbrush.
At the summit, there’s a large cairn designed as a seat that faces towards Mt. Hood. From the summit ridge, you can also get excellent views north to the Shellrock Badland Basin and down to the Hood River Valley. The only remains of the lookout is a tangle of rusting communications wire. Down the west ridge is the USGS volcano monitoring station striving to pick up a rumble of activity from Mt. Hood.
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