6/12/18: Dome Rock, Sardine Mountain, & Phantom Natural Bridge

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6/12/18: Dome Rock, Sardine Mountain, & Phantom Natural Bridge

Post by adamschneider » June 13th, 2018, 9:54 pm

Yesterday, I did three short hikes in the mountains north of Detroit Lake. I stopped at the ranger station in Detroit to check on conditions, and they said I might be stopped by snow on the upper reaches of French Creek Road. But all I found were a few small roadside patches of snow, and the road was in excellent shape.

Dome Rock

This one is pretty well known... you start east on the Tumble Ridge Trail from a roadside trailhead on FR 2223. After about 3/4 of a mile, you turn left and uphill on the Dome Rock Trail, and you get some views of Tumble Lake below.

Pretty soon, voilà, you're on top (4859') with a 360° vista of the Cascades from Mt. Adams down to Diamond Peak, and Detroit Lake is in view as well.

On the return trip, I stayed on the ridge instead of going all the way down the Dome Rock trail. For a while, that was a fun and interesting bushwhack, but then I cliffed out and it got a little ugly. While working my way around the north side, I found this crazy jumble of rocks and trees:

Sardine Mountain

The next stop was Sardine Mountain, which no one ever talks about and which I really only knew about from my Total Eclipse map scouting last summer, but SummitPost said there was a simple route to the top. It turned out to be a super fun little hike.

I parked at Knutson Saddle (again, good gravel roads all the way) and found the "trailhead," marked by some orange flagging tape. A trail of sorts is flagged for about 1/6 of a mile through conifers and then beargrass, and then you come to a big open slope where the flagging stops.

While there is a bit of a "trail" here and there, you mostly just need to keep going up, so there's no chance of getting lost. Views open up once you're out on the slope. And the flowers are pretty nice, while they last:

Sardine's summit is a mere 0.5 miles (and 560 vertical feet) from Knutson Saddle. I really enjoyed the hike/scramble up the open, rocky slope — but I'd recommend trekking poles, especially for the descent; parts of it were a bit loose.

The view from the 4948' summit is even better than from Dome Rock, because now Dome Rock is part of the skyline.

But wait, there's more! Once on the summit, I discovered that there's another summit about 200 yards to the northwest along a rocky ridge.

Apparently (according to the breadcrumb trails compiled on the Strava heatmap), you could continue across and descend the west side of the mountain all the way down to Sardine Creek; that'd be an interesting car shuttle opportunity, if you didn't mind a whole lot of driving. But for me, it was just a fun little side-trip. Here's a view of the true summit from the northwestern ridge:
(Note that there's still a little bit of snow on the shady side of the mountain.)

Too early for most flowers, but there were a fair number of subalpine mariposa lilies in the exposed areas that probably lost their snow weeks ago.

Phantom Natural Bridge

Finally, I decided to visit Phantom Natural Bridge, which I knew absolutely nothing about. I just knew that it was nearby, it sounded interesting, and I still had two hours of daylight.

Forest Road 2223 is amazingly well-maintained until it splits off from Forest Road 520; at that point, FR 520 gets all the love, and FR 2223 is a bit neglected. It's surprisingly smooth, but the alders and salmonberries are creeping in from the sides, and the middle of the road between the tire tracks is getting rather shrubby too. And then, of course, there's the rockfall.
At one point, there was an unmovable boulder right in the middle of the road. Fortunately, my car is small enough that I was able to go around it.

This was one of the most amusing parts (photographed when I was on my way back out at the end of the day). Yes, I drove my Toyota Yaris through a rocky stream with water flowing through it, twice:

About 1/10 of a mile from the trailhead, I encountered a rougher stream that I didn't want to take a chance on, so I executed a terrifying U-turn, parked, and walked up the road.

Because I hadn't done any homework on the natural bridge, I didn't know exactly what it was, or what I was looking for. When I came to this onion-covered rocky outcrop about 1/6 of a mile from the trailhead, I thought maybe this was it:
Maybe, I thought, it's called the "phantom" bridge because you can only see it from below... or something like that. I thought I'd better bushwhack down to the north side and check it out. So I did, through slide alders and random debris, and it wasn't a good idea. I quickly realized that this was definitely not any sort of bridge/arch; it looked like a boring ol' cliff from down below.

I figured I'd better keep heading west across the talus and brush, and maybe I'd find the real bridge... and whaddaya know, I did. In fact, thanks to my ill-advised bushwhackery, I got a rare from-below view of it:

Once I'd scrambled up from underneath the arch, I found the trail and got the "normal" view, which is kind of unsatisfying in a photograph, without the benefit of parallax and/or depth perception:
Of course, I also walked out onto the arch, which was less interesting than you might think, because you can't see the hole when you're standing above it!

(For the record, the boot trail from the Elkhorn Ridge Trail to Phantom Natural Bridge is about 1/4 mile west of the road/trailhead: 44.78686,-122.24199.)

By the time I'd finished exploring the bridge, I was losing daylight fast, so I high-tailed it back to my car so that I'd be able to see the rocks in the road well enough to dodge them. (Fortunately no new obstacles had appeared while I was up there.)

None of these there destinations is worth the drive down to Detroit on its own, but they're worthwhile add-ons if you're in the area anyway — or if you want to emulate me and string together a bunch of mini-trips. Sardine Mountain was my favorite: low commitment, high reward, high "fun factor," and I like finding cool new places that I didn't even know existed.

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Re: 6/12/18: Dome Rock, Sardine Mountain, & Phantom Natural Bridge

Post by Water » June 13th, 2018, 10:25 pm

have a lookout rented in the area at end of summer and looking for little things. I like Dome rock a lot. But Sardine Mnt. would be new to explore. brave to walk out on the arch!!!

as an aside, is it not comical that within the massive FS HQ, located perhaps 5 miles as the crow flies from a place you're asking about, doesn't have a clue about the conditions? years ago I entirely stopped with any inquiry as I routinely got bizarre warnings and information so unhelpful I realized it was a waste of my time and unnecessary aggravation. On the one hand they know what is best for wilderness across a broad swath of land, yet they can't tell you if a road has snow on it?

anecdotally when I was new to the area, planning out first wallowas vacation I was trying to get as much information about the 'trail'/bootpath up the matterhorn there. Information online was much more sparse than it is today. I was really pumping the ranger station for any bits of info but they were sooooo useless. At the end of our 9 day trip the station was open so I popped in, this was the beautiful one in enterprise built around an old growth ponderosa trunk 8ft in diameter or whatnot. Anyways what do I see.. in one corner of the place (with 30ft ceilings) there's a floor to ceiling shot at ice lake, of the matternhorn and you can clearly see a bit of a path going up it... jeeeez

/end rant

nice mid-week day out -- i need one of those!
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Re: 6/12/18: Dome Rock, Sardine Mountain, & Phantom Natural Bridge

Post by adamschneider » June 13th, 2018, 10:45 pm

Water wrote:
June 13th, 2018, 10:25 pm
as an aside, is it not comical that within the massive FS HQ, located perhaps 5 miles as the crow flies from a place you're asking about, doesn't have a clue about the conditions?
Well, they can't know everything. They only have so many staff, and if none of them has been up in the high country lately, they only know conditions if people like us tell them. (Which reminds me, I gotta call them tomorrow.)

My experience with USFS ranger stations has been all over the map. Sometimes they have great info — like the guy who told me about the dispersed campsites along a particular creek, or the woman who enthusiastically encouraged me to sleep in a campground that was "closed for the season" — but sometimes they're just plain useless.

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Re: 6/12/18: Dome Rock, Sardine Mountain, & Phantom Natural Bridge

Post by CampinCarl » June 14th, 2018, 9:14 am

Nice report, I'll have to check out Sardine Mtn sometime as well as I haven't ventured up there. Been to Dome Rock / Tumble Lake and enjoyed that hike. I gotta ask, how's the throne / "toilet" rock on Dome Rock holding up? :lol: This is an encouraging report on snow levels as I'm hoping to hike Grizzly Peak in the Mt Jefferson wilderness at the end of the month, should be snow-free or close to it!

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