Salmon Butte or bust!

Unidentified flower near the summit.

Salmon River Road is a popular area for outdoor recreation in the Mount Hood National Forest south of Welches and Zigzag, Oregon.  There is one official campground and many unofficial camping spots along with good fishing and a great river trail for casual hikers.  Serious hikers can also find some nice challenges.  One of those is at the end of the road where the Salmon Butte trail begins.

When I went to do that hike recently for the first time in years, I found boulders blocking the road a mile or so from the end.  Apparently the Forest Service had decommissioned the road, as they had with access roads for two other favorite hikes in the area.

Grrr. First I felt anger and frustration, but I slowly relented.  After all, as a public school teacher, I am well versed with funding problems.  Eventually I shifted to an outright positive spin.  An extra mile or so would make the hike more challenging and burn more calories.  Take that, glass-half-empty-side of my brain!

Niko on the way up.

What had been a decent dirt road in most spots was almost unrecognizable.  The road had been destroyed, whether by bulldozer design or with a lot of Mama Nature’s help after local flooding two winters ago, I wasn‘t sure.   A road I’d actually skied down a couple years earlier now had the makings of a nice mountain bike trail, albeit one with a few pointless switchbacks.

And lo, the road begat the trail…

Just over twenty minutes up from the boulders, I reached the original trailhead for Salmon Butte.   I felt good about my progress, and any remaining frustration had evaporated in the Oregon sunshine. Five weeks of sun and counting.

The trail wound through some nice forest, steadily climbing.  There were no views for thirty minutes or so, when the trail turned the corner and got some western exposure.   I have done this section part of the hike many times as an afternoon jaunt with the family.  Today only my grey muzzled dog, Niko, accompanied me.

An exercise in green

I rested briefly on a sunny rock, glancing at a convoluted forested ridge.  Salmon Mountain or Huckleberry Mountain?  After gandering at the map, I decided I was looking at both.  Onward and upward, into the long switchback grind.  The trail was not too exciting, but I broke a sweat.   Niko kept up, but it was warm, and I was glad we were in the shade.   There was no water up here, and he overheats easily these days (see my Cooper Spur post).

Mount Jefferson looms to the south, calling my name

Finally we broke out in the open near the summit, where the trail met an old logging road.  The views were better than I remembered.  I gave Niko got food and water, then took a few photos.  Finally I sat, glancing at the map and the views, reveling in the green beauty.  I couldn’t believe what a clear look I had at Rainier, although it seemed too far for photos.  Some of the local peaks were great too, like Signal Buttes (see below), Devil’s Peak, and Indian Ridge.

Mount Hood felt omnipresent, while to the south, Jefferson was a tease.  Half an hour in the sun I sat, taking my sweaty shirt off to dry, wishing that I didn’t need to return to the real world.  Where’s the optimist now?  I can never sit still too long, however, and I left smiling.

The undisputed king of the skyline: Mount Hood.

The descent was fairly fast.  I passed one couple in the switchbacks who wondered how far it was to the top.  By the time I returned to the car, I figured that I’d walked over 11 miles.  The decommissioned road didn’t bother me on the return other than some looping switchbacks taking too long.  They could have been a bit more streamlined in places, but what the heck.  It was a good day.    Salmon Butte is not going to be on top ten adventure lists, but it’s more committing now, and I figured I burned enough calories to justify a serving of cheesy garlic fries at the Skyway.  Now that’s optimistic.

About Josh Baker

"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir

Posted on September 7, 2012, in Flora and Fauna, General Hiking, Solo Hiking and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Wow…Stunning pictures! Sounds like a great hike.

  2. I enjoyed reading about this hike. I haven’t done any hiking on the West Coast, but I sure would like to. This sounds like a good hike, and your photos are wonderful.

    Thanks for visiting my site.

  3. Thanks for taking me along on the hike and I enjoyed seeing your photos as well!

  4. Hey, Josh…your “unidentified flower” is actually called Fire-Weed…it’s often the first plant to repopulate an area after a fire. We even have some of it down here in our canyons and mountains. You should see it when those pods burst open…almost like angel-hair…furry, fuzzy stuff that catches in the breeze and goes everywhere.

    I enjoyed visiting…will be back to explore your northern neck of the woods some more….

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