Thursday, July 30, 2015


11 miles RT
Thursday, July 16

          A glorious day to be out on the trails!  We take a longer hike today (preparation for the Elkhorn Crest Trail in three weeks!) and I give the thumbs up to tackle Rock Creek Butte instead of Elkhorn Peak.  (ONLY 4 miles further!)  Luke takes the day to go with us as we are also checking out the condition of the east side of the Marble Creek Pass, a road with a rather poor reputation.  We pick Luke up at 7:45 and head for the mountains!
 8:45 we pull in to park at the top!  Yes, it takes an hour to travel about 16 miles from Baker City, but the final 5 miles are VERY slow.  It gave me plenty of time from the back seat to check out the flowers growing alongside the road: fireweed, paintbrush, gilia, goldenrod, lupine, etc.  I had my flower book with me still going over some flowers from Olive Lake area!
Back down to Baker Valley
          It is windy on top!  A cooool wind!  I took off on the trail right away, figuring the guys would catch up soon enough.  Stopped to wrap the bandana around my ears as the wind hurt!  But I love the trail as it winds north from the crest - well graded and the views are stunning south toward Sumpter Valley, Phillips Lake, and clear to the Strawberry Mts.  I love the little 'peak through gaps' that occur around the corner of each ridge, where you can see through to the Baker Valley side of the mountains: the patchwork of agriculture, the bright reflections of metal roofs, the train tracks snaking their way through the middle of the valley.
First views of Twin Lakes basin.  Our destination
is the peak at upper right. 

          Rick and Luke caught up with me as we rounded the main curve 3/4 mile up the trail where you can no longer see the truck at the pass, and the mountains circling Twin Lakes come into view.  Elkhorn Peak and Rock Creek Butte.  Our goal!  Another mile plus section of trail finally brings us to the corner where Twin Lakes themselves are visible - such beautiful little lakes nestled right at the edge of the steep dropoff.
          I had been to the top of Rock Creek Butte only once before, when Jed, Rick and I biked about 3 miles and then hiked the rest.  That was back in 2005 or so.  Luke hadn't been to the summit since the PYGS went in 1998!  It is just enough further than Elkhorn that it isn't the easy day hike that peak provides!
Mt. goat ram
Trail junction
     Under the flank of Elkhorn we pass the trail sign heading down to the lakes, and then continue high above Twin Lakes, past some bright red rock outcroppings, fields of lupine and lousewort, and through the blasted out notch to the Pine Creek side of the ridge.  This short section of trail was kliterally blasted from the rock to access the crest trail.  And a mountain goat was standing right in our path!  As we neared he just stared until, 50 feet away, he finally took off down the mountain.  A beautiful big male goat.  Speaking of which, we probably saw over a dozen during the day - grazing in the meadows, up on the rocks.  A healthy goat population!

Enroute up the flank of Rock Creek Butte
   We had to round the base of Rock Creek to a more northern ridge for the easy access to the summit (easy? No!)  Rick and Luke had been eyeballing the 'Bryan Route' on the south ridge, but decided to take the longer route.  Maybe next time we will try Bryan's route from '98.  It seems like you hike a long way around the mountain before heading UP!  My goal was the summit by noon....missed by 15 minutes, but we were close!  Luke stayed back with me and we visited as we slowly climbed through fields of lupine, dock, and tiny pink flowers, up talus slopes and loose rock.
Inuk construction

         We probably spent a hour at the top, taking pictures, calling Grandma Mac, and then building an Inuk Suk on the northern lower peak where you can look down to Rock Creek Lake.  We remembered Bob's Knob, named by Bryan.  We traced the Crest Trail up to Mt. Ruth in the far distance...a reminder of how far the Crest Trail will be in August!
Inuk guards the valley. 
         Headed down around 1:15, back on the trail by 1:50, and back to the truck at 4pm.   A good day, tired feet, and then a tortuous drive back down the road (it's always worse going downhill!) But Rick and Hondy made it fine.  
         A GREAT day!!  

Some of the MANY wildflowers!
Twin Lakes from near pass through to Rock Cr side
Fuzzy, but the three of us on top! 
Click HERE to view more pictures from the hike

Lakes Basin Peaks Loop
8 miles RT
Tuesday, July 28
Lilypad Lake and Gunsight Peak

          Jed and Andy Munn are both in town, so we all head off for a day's adventure together: Rick, Jed, Luke, Rusty, Andy, and myself.  Felt bad leaving Grandma R at home on her last day in town, but.....this is one of my favorite hikes!  
          We took two separate cars and began the hike from the Anthony Lake turnaround at the far edge of the lake.  Headed up towards Black Lake and the Elkhorn Crest Trail.  A beautiful brisk morning and we are on the trail before 9am, so the sunlight was beautiful on the peaks.  Lily Pad Lake was especially pretty in the morning light.  
          The valley behind the Lakes Basin Peaks is one of my favorites.  The far ridge looks like a cityscape as it branches off from Van Patten Butte.  The meadows far below are lush; the pond in the middle looking bigger than normal.  The hillsides are covered with wildflowers - lupine, pearly everlasting, fireweed, monkshood, sulfur buckwheat and more.  But the flowers seem to be at the end of their peak.  The season has been early and the hillsides are dry.  
Just below Angel Pass

One of the many 'chutes' heading toward ridge
          We stopped for a brief rest at Angel Pass, a final view back into the gorgeous valley to our east.  To the west Crawfish Meadows stretches out and the backwall of Lakes Lookout, Lees, and Angel Peaks form a solid granite barrier.  A short distance further on the trail brings us to a gorgeous overlook of the Dutch Flat drainage and a perfect lunch spot among the buckwheat strewn rocks.  
Approaching 'lunch spot'

Rare gilia flower
          At Dutch Flat Saddle, our loop trail branches off from the Crest trail and we head downhill for a mile or so under the wall of jagged granite rock above us.  Rick and I are surprised to find more evidence of our mystery wildflower - a species of gilia - tucked into a more dry climate on this side of the ridge.  
A little jump action!
          No mountain goat sightings today, but plenty of tracks.  We did see an elk down in one of the ski run meadows at the end of the hike.  
Explorer's Gentian
          At the top of the ski area, we scouted out a route for Luke to bring some Chinese exchange students next week up to Lakes Lookout, and then headed down the Hoffer Basin Trail to finish our loop.  The Hoffer meadows were lush with Rick's favorite flower, the gentian.  
          Jed showed me a new feature on the camera phone that helped us catch some spectacular pictures today!  Love having tech savy children!  All in all, an absolutely fantastic day of hiking!  
The five peaks: Van Patten, Gunsight, Angel, Lees, and Lakes Lookout.  We circled all but Van Patten.  
Hoffer Lake reflections
Panorama of Hoffer Lake and surrounding peaks...wonderful reflections!
Click HERE to see all the photographs from today.             

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