Set off for Santiam

Hike offers post-fire forests and mountain views

Despite the potentially disastrous effects a multiyear, recording-breaking drought will have on the people and wildlife of western Oregon, there is a small consolation prize: early season hiking near the Cascade Crest. Typically trails in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness are under snow through late June, but with snowpack in the Willamette Basin at an abysmal 8 percent of the normal snowpack for that area, the majority of snow below 6,000 feet has already melted.  Continue reading 

Exploring Henline Falls

Cascades of water near an old mine

A hiker at the base of Henline Falls. Photo by John Williams

Gold was first found in the Opal Creek Watershed in 1859. The legacy of the ensuing gold rush left many hillsides up and down the narrow valleys dotted with mine shafts. Silver King — the group of mines near Henline Falls in the Willamette National Forest — today exhibits little of what was once a bustling mining operation. The exception is a 1,700-foot-long shaft right next to the falls. Over the years silver, lead, zinc and gold were pulled out of the mines near Henline Falls. Thankfully nearly all signs of mining have been washed away.  Continue reading 

Waldo Lake Wilderness

There are 85 miles of trail that cross nearly every part of the Waldo Lake Wilderness, but the Black Creek Trail is one of the best. After a short walk through an older plantation, the forest quickly transitions to a very impressive forest dominated by ancient Douglas fir nearly 7 feet in diameter and 250 feet tall.  Continue reading 

Browder Ridge Ramble

Wildflowers, strange hemlock and stunning Cascadia views

Browder Ridge. Photo by John Williams.

Old-growth Western hemlock, Douglas fir and Alaska cedar blanket all slopes of the Browder Ridge near the junction of Hwy. 126 and Hwy. 20. You can hike this trail from west to east, east to west or arrange a shuttle. In my opinion, this hike is best done from the eastern trailhead at Gate Creek.  As we set out up the trail I was quickly reminded how steep this section of the trail is, covering nearly 1,400 feet in just less than 2 miles. The impressive and ever-changing forest gives you the sense of being far from any roads and helps dull the pain in your calves.  Continue reading 

Santiam Wagon Road

Combining history and outstanding hiking, the Santiam Wagon Road from Mountain House to House Rock passes through impressive old-growth Douglas fir forest and passes a waterfall and a large boulder that both Native Americans and American settlers used for shelter. Continue reading 

A Day in the Menagerie

Trout Creek to Rooster Rock

The Menagerie Wilderness is relatively unknown to those who aren’t rock climbers or from nearby, and the Trout Creek Trail showcases a good taste of what the Menagerie Wilderness outside of Sweet Home has to offer. This area was protected primarily because of the plentiful rock pinnacles, which are favorites of climbers and threatened birds. Even if you aren’t a rock climber, the unique forest that blankets the area is reason enough to visit. Towering Douglas fir, western hemlock, Western redcedar and Pacific madrone all surround the trail. Continue reading 

Winter at Silver Falls

Waterfalls and icicles abound

Silver Falls State Park is Oregon’s largest state park, with more than 9,000 acres to explore. The early American history of the area included private ownership of South Falls. The owner pushed old cars into the canyon and charged 10 cents to see the falls. Thankfully that insane use of such a fantastic area has ended. Early logging removed much of the massive trees that once surrounded the incredible falls in the area. American activity around Silver Falls in the early years of settlement was based primarily on exploitation. Continue reading