Another Cook Hill Report

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K.Wagner
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Another Cook Hill Report

Post by K.Wagner » June 11th, 2016, 2:25 pm

When I suddenly ended up with a day off, and the weather report looking promising, I knew where I was heading. After Adam's slightly negative report about his hike up Cook Hill, I just had to go see for myself.

Cook Hill from the Oregon side ....
Cook Hill-2.JPG
When I started out, it was misty and threatening to get wetter. So, as much as I hated to, I started out with full rain gear. After 15 minutes, the jacket came off. After another 15 minutes, the long sleeve shirt came off. After 10 minutes the jacket was back on. Another 15 minutes and it and the pants were off. Then the jacket was back on .... you get the picture of how the day went.

I found the poison oak, as Adam had described it. However, it never crowded the trail and was easily avoided.
Then I started to see clusters of phantom orchids. Adam had said that they were just beginning to emerge on his trip. I found them quite fascinating, SO white!
07-Phantom Orchid-S.jpg
I found the way trail, right at the big switch-back. It was easy to follow, but I did do some branch moving to help keep it open. Then, suddenly everything was green! This was the first of several encounters with cow parsnip, which I had mentally ID'd as Queen Anne's lace. When I got home, I mistakenly ID'd it as poison hemlock, and that gave me some concern! The big obvious difference is the shape of the leaves.
10-Way Trail-S.jpg
Then it became obvious that I was about to break out of the trees. That was a welcome thought. It was in here that I found a very nice, black Nike hat. Anybody loose one? It was nice to get a view. Here looking down across the lower meadow at Mitchell Point on the Oregon side. Notice the trees! Is there any question about which way the wind blows here?
14-Lower Meadow-Mitchell Pt-S.jpg
This meadow had been full of bright yellow balsamroot, but it is mostly gone now. The vegetation was so thick that I couldn't follow the track and got off a bit. But I found it again pretty quickly. A big part of the vegetation now is manroot (wild cucumber, marah oreganus). I had to use my trekking poles to thrash through the stuff.

After this first meadow, it was into delightful old growth forest. So peaceful and quiet....
18-Old growth-S.jpg
I had been moving pretty slowly, and a friendly log beckoned to me to come sit and rest awhile. I was glad to oblige, and decided to eat my lunch. That's when I looked up and saw this bucket hanging from a tree limb. Why did someone haul this bucket 1,700+ feet up here?
17-Mystery Bucket-S.jpg
Then it was through some vine maples and then the start of the summit meadows. But the trail disappeared into the vegetation! More manroot and cow parsnip. The thrashing instruments were deployed and the trail was followed.
19-Disappearing Trail-S.jpg
The meadow opened up. What a treat! This meadow was not blazing with color, the way some do, but was just this quiet, grassy strip through clumps of trees, with little dots of color. And views galore. Maybe I was really glad to see it because that meant that I was almost through the climb. Here, looking back south at where I had been.
24-Summit Meadow-S.jpg
Here is Mt Defiance, across the river. Notice the tree on left side of the picture ....
29-Mt Defiance-S.jpg
Here are a few Indian paintbrushes. Again, notice the trees in the background!
28-Indian Paintbrush-S.jpg
A short pause at the summit, and then it was down, heading north to the saddle with the communication towers. A fairly good trail, all the way. I actually saw more varieties of flowers in this stretch than I did all the rest of the hike. Then, directly under the power lines, I found the end of the old road that would take me back down. This was smooth, and fast walking. Until I got to this stand of cow parsnip ...
36-Poison Hemlock-S.jpg
This stuff was head high! Again, the thrashing implements were employed, and other than a fair amount of effort, I got through it without incident. The only real concern with cow parsnip is that if you get the sap on your skin, it makes it photosensitive, meaning that it will much more easily burn.

After that cleared up (intermittently for perhaps 1,000 vertical feet), it was easy walking. Then I got to the open talus slope that everyone has a picture of. As I was standing there, looking up, something seemed out of kilter here. Then it struck me! This was yet another example of a gorge slide! And, it explained the presence of the big boulders that I had questioned much farther down the mountain, that I had seen on the way up! If you go back and look at the opening picture, you can pick out this slide area on the left flank, mid elevation.
43-Slide-S.jpg
A couple of pictures of Chippy, who had been patiently posing for me,
42-Chippy-S.jpg
and then it was down, down, past more phantom orchids, down, down, back to the truck. Oh, of course I had to stop one last time just above the trail head to put my jacket back on.....

Some thoughts -----
The best time to do this one is probably Mother's Day to Memorial Day.
Make sure it is cool.
I think that I had a somewhat more positive experience than Adam did and will do it again, just not this year.
Last edited by K.Wagner on June 11th, 2016, 8:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Kelly
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Peder
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by Peder » June 11th, 2016, 3:54 pm

Great TR Kelly! Now I really wish to go!
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adamschneider
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by adamschneider » June 11th, 2016, 4:40 pm

K.Wagner wrote:This was the first of several encounters with poison hemlock...
I'm pretty sure that was all cow parsnip (Heracleum maximum). You shouldn't go rolling around in it and then sunbathe, but it's not especially dangerous.

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K.Wagner
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by K.Wagner » June 11th, 2016, 6:00 pm

Adam,

I'm about 75% certain that it was the poison hemlock, for 3 reasons...
1) When I broke some off, they had the very hollow stem that seem to be characteristic.
2) The stems had the purple spots that seem to be characteristic.
3) The stuff seems to be much more common around the PNW than most people are aware.
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adamschneider
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by adamschneider » June 11th, 2016, 6:06 pm

Cow parsnip stems ARE hollow, so that's not diagnostic.

But poison hemlock leaves are VERY different from your photos (they're lacier and more fern-like), so that's ruled out.

If there were indeed purple spots all over the stems, then it might have been giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum), which is trouble for sure. But it's NOT very widespread out here (yet).
Last edited by adamschneider on June 11th, 2016, 6:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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K.Wagner
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by K.Wagner » June 11th, 2016, 6:10 pm

Adam,

I will look into the leaf detail a bit later, and correct my ID if I agree.
Right now I am supposed to be getting some good clothes on so we can go out to dinner to celebrate our 48th anniversary. I'm not quite sure how this happened! :o
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Guy
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by Guy » June 11th, 2016, 6:13 pm

Great report Kelly, The area where you saw the mysterious weed is one of my favorite parts along the trail.

Pretty sure your weed is Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum). The first time I hiked though there I thought is was Giant Hog Weed but now I don't think it is, Giant Hogweed truly is GIANT!
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adamschneider
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by adamschneider » June 11th, 2016, 6:18 pm

Guy wrote:The first time I hiked though there I thought is was Giant Hog Weed but now I don't think it is, Giant Hogweed truly is GIANT!
Yeah, I just read that the stems of giant hogweed are 2-4 inches in diameter. :shock:

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K.Wagner
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by K.Wagner » June 11th, 2016, 8:52 pm

Thanks to everyone for correcting me. After looking at the leaf detail, I agree, it has to be cow parsnip. :oops: I was afraid that I was going to have to send Peder up there to do a taste test! The notations have been corrected.

Now, about that bucket .......
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Re: Another Cook Hill Report

Post by adamschneider » June 11th, 2016, 9:13 pm

By the way, if you ever DO come across poison hemlock (or its American cousin, spotted water hemlock), here's some detailed instructions on how to handle the situation: don't eat it.

Seriously, it's not like poison-oak; it doesn't make you itch. It doesn't even have the weird UV-sensitivity effects of giant hogweed (and cow parsnip, to a much lesser extent). It's just one of many plants you shouldn't snack on — like foxglove and monkshood.

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