Monday, April 07, 2008

Tours with the Clackamas River Basin Council

Changes to My Hiking Tours

Due to the heavy snowpack (see post just below) and the continuous unseasonably cold weather, I'm forced to change the destination for the first tour in the Cascade Mountains. The original location tops out at 4900 feet (1500 meters) and according to the SNOTEL sites there is as of yesterday eight to nine feet of snow still lurking about at that elevation. As the sites display a weeks worth of data, we know that only 18 inches melted off in that period.

After reviewing several options, I've settled on a 2.5 mile (4 km) loop trail at Clackamas Lake. Though this will be early in the season flower-wise, this hike offers open water, wetlands, springs, old growth fir and some historic Forest Service structures. Elevation change is perhaps 70 feet (21 m).

As an optional longer tour, those wishing more time on the trails will continue on to Timothy Lake, following the northeast side of the Oak Grove Fork of the Clackamas River, returning along the other bank. This is a 6.2 mile (10 km) loop with only 100 feet (30 m) elevation change. Included is a mile and a quarter (2 km) along the lakeshore of Timothy, skirting two campgrounds.

Meeting time and place remain the same, 9 AM at the Estacada Ranger Station.

Clackamas Lake

And what about the following two tours? If too much snow still lies on the ground, I will push the earlier hikes to the next date. So the Right Angle tour will replace Bull of the Woods, which will replace Olallie Highlands. No matter how this falls out, any missed tour will be on the list for next year.

The Original Post:

More than just a hike!

Leader Bryon Boyce will provide a running commentary on wildflowers, geology, and other natural history points of interest.

The Natural City Tour will meet at 9 AM at the offices of the Clackamas River Basin Council.

The later three tours will meet at the Estacada Ranger Station to accommodate those living farther out. 9 AM for all.

April 27th - The Natural City Tour

Our urban area is blessed with a variety of natural areas which feature remnants of the diverse "valley floor" habitats. Many of these areas are little visited even by those active in preservation work. This tour visits three outstanding examples in two locations. In the morning see the newly linked Camassia Natural Area (The Nature Conservancy's first purchase in Oregon) and West Linn Wilderness Park, home of the largest and oldest firs in the urban area. The dwarf oak savannas of Camassia are unique, and the quaking aspen pond is unusual locally.

Camas and Corn Salad at Camassia

Camas and Corn Salad at Camassia Natural Area

This tour is timed to catch what is probably the best flower display in the Portland urban area. The effects of the Missoula Floods are especially obvious here. Hopefully the osprey nest will be occupied.

In early afternoon we will visit Mount Talbert, the first Metro acquisition to be developed and opened to the public. The 750 foot extinct volcano has high quality natural vegetation little affected by invasives. The remnant wet oak savannas are receiving preferential management, including fir, cottonwood and brush removal. This woodland type was once common in the urban area. Some uncommon plants are present. The area is large enough to host deer, coyote, owls and in winter pileated woodpeckers.

Meet at the Clackamas River Basin Council offices (street address and on web link to map) at 9 AM. Bring lunch, water and hiking shoes or boots. Dress considering the weather. Expect generally good trails with a little rock hopping. There will be two to three hours on the trails, depending on discussion and picture taking.

June 22th - Right Angle Viewpoint

This outing into the lushly forested Western Cascades includes open wildflower areas and a sampling of features that illustrate the ancient volcanic history of the region.

After driving up the Molalla River past the interesting Molalla Eye, the hiking trail weaves between the Molalla and Clackamas drainages, and between Forest Service and BLM land. The unsigned route was long abandoned but has been reopened during the past few years. Baty Butte aka Old Whitespot

Old Whitespot aka Baty Butte from near Right Angle Viewpoint

At Right Angle Viewpoint on the Clackamas side, drought-prone unstable soil on an ancient pyroclastic flow prevents tree growth, and provides the 180 degree viewpoint. Spires formed by volcanic action in the volcanic flow still stand. To the north is Old Whitespot (on the maps as Baty Butte) and Mount Hood, to the east Thunder and Fish Creek Mountains, and southeast Olallie Butte and south Mount Jefferson. The white spot of Old Whitespot is an ancient creekbed filled with white pumice, and now dissected, leaving a U-shaped display in a large little-vegetated area. We will also visit an overlook above a glacial valley and onto the lower slopes just below the white spot.

Easy to moderate 3-4 miles hike with a cumulative elevation gain of 5-600 ft. Trailhead is about 4500 ft and the highpoint is 4900 at Right Angle Viewpoint. Milage and gain are approximate as the route is not on maps that show trail milage or elevations.

July 13th - Bull of the Woods

Expect wildflowers and views on this 6.4 mile long round trip. Natural rockgardens and meadows are seen as we pass over to the shoulders of Dickey and South Dickey Peak to Bull of the Woods Lookout at 5523 ft. This is the westernmost ridge which features plants more common to the east.

Purple Cardwell's Penstemon

Cardwell's Penstemon enroute to Bull of the Woods

The lookout was built in 1942 and is the only surviving one from the WWII era in the Mount Hood National Forest. It was formerly available for rent from the Forest Service, but is currently undergoing restoration. Mules have been put to use for this project, one of the first uses of either horses or mules in decades in the area.

An 825 ft. elevation gain along this ridge just east of Pansy Basin. A easy to moderate hike at 250 ft. gain per mile.

July 20th - Headwaters High Elevation Loop

Visit the under-appreciated highlands of Olallie Scenic Area. Most of the area underwent sheet glaciation rather than valley glaciation, resulting in flatter terrain and so many lakes and ponds that many have never been named. This 5 mile partial loop hike will pass well over a dozen water bodies. Other features include wide-ranging views with the glaciers of Mount Jefferson only 9 miles distant, glacial striations in bedrock, wildflowers, and a mixed woodland vegetation with subalpine variations.

Mount Jefferson

Mount Jefferson from Olallie Highlands

This is a easy to moderate hike with a 900 ft. elevation gain, most of which will be on the way up Double Peak to the high point of 5900 ft. The route meanders between the Clackamas, Santiam and Deschutes watersheds.

Map to the start of the April tour:

View Larger Map

Map to the start of the Summer tours:

View Larger Map

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Return of the Osprey

We first heard and then saw osprey March 27th, two days earlier than last year. Their distinctive and frequent high-pitched calls make them impossible to miss.

This species is recovering from low populations earlier in the 1970s and 80s. We did not observe them until 1991. In the subsequent year there were three - the parents and their single offspring who sometimes followed them and sometimes not.

These birds mate for life, and the father does all the hunting while nesting is underway.

Trees are the favored perches for osprey. They will wait for a likely meal to surface and then dive feet-first into the water very rapidly. Sometimes they hover like a kestrel waiting for the fish to surface. Once a fish is caught, they carry it in the most aerodynamic way possible - face first. Rarely if hungry they will catch small animals but well over 99% of their diet is fish.

Trees are also needed for nesting sites - and only large trees will do. They have been known to use cliffs and various man-made structures for nesting sites. As suitable sites can be rare with the lack of old forests, nesting platforms can be made that they find very useful! Some studies have found that these purpose-built designs actually increase the number of hatchlings, as they are more stable and require less nest building by the birds.