Backpacking to Eileen Lake

I took a solo backpacking trip to Eileen Lake via the Pacific Crest Trail instead of coming in from Linton Lake and saw some amazing views.

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Proxy Falls and Linton Falls

My wife and I took a hiking vacation up the McKenzie River and we found some good stuff.

Here's a little timber tiger peeking out.

We hit Tamolitch Falls/Blue Pool first. The trail was pretty boring and none of the pictures were that great, so the the ones above are all you get from that section of the trip. We weren't all that impressed with Blue Pool. I understand that everyone loves the place. "Meh." Neither one of us took a single picture there.

The theme of this post is going to be "low water levels". Tamolitch Falls was completely dry and the larger waterfalls were suffering from a(nother) drought-like summer. (As dry as it was, winter has brought a lot of snow and water and it's still not enough.) Next stop was Proxy Falls, which is actually Lower Proxy and Upper Proxy and they are a ways apart.

From up on the trail before dropping down, you see a very tall waterfall. There wasn't a lot of water flowing over it, but it was still nice.

Lower Proxy was good. I imagine it would be better under higher water. Back on the trail and up to...

...Upper Proxy Falls. Yikes. Not a lot of water... However, I climbed in close to try and salvage some pictures. I know a guy who used to hike this area decades ago and he said there used to be a trail that literally criss-crossed through this waterfall. Incredible.

Sport setting to see if I can get some water droplets to freeze. When we pulled in to park at the Proxy Loop Trailhead, there was one other car. When we left, there were 5 cars and we saw one person. When we drove past after visiting Linton Falls, there were 15-20. (On the entire trip to the much larger Linton Area, we saw one guy at the falls and a couple wandering around the dry portion of the lake on the way back.)

We trekked back to the car to head up the road to one of the trails to Linton Lake.

I've tried to take pictures of this spot on the trail before but none turned out. This one isn't much, but it shows the interesting rock formation. In-person, it's really fascinating. Another spot close by has a decaying volcanic formation where the rock either cooled too soon or too late to become obsidian. It's pretty close, however.

This was the 6th time in the last 4 years that I have been to Linton Lake and while every time has been interesting and special, this time was truly unique.

Linton Lake was partially dry. This was totally unexpected and very cool. We wandered around the dry lake for a while, seeing if there was anything interesting. While this does happen periodically at Linton Lake and is nothing drastically unusual, it was the first time I had been here for it. Oddly enough, we visited almost to the day of a prior trip 4 years earlier when the lake had much more water.

We saw these odd human footprints here and there. As we slogged through the muck, we realized their oddity. Our prints, no matter how we stepped, were messy and had signs of locomotion. These were all just flat. Even if made before the water dried up, there would still be signs of locomotion. At one spot, I noticed these post-holed down at least 2.5 feet in the mud, probably about knee-high. Yet, the footprint was still nice and tidy. (And really, who wants to step in this in their bare feet?) My guess is someone had a wooden foot they were making prints with for whatever reason. Or it could be Bigfoot. The most logical explanation is always:

Moving on to slightly less nonsense...

I remember this as the first time I stopped to gaze up at that mountain to the west of the lake, though I know I did before. But back then, it was covered in fog. Almost every time, it has been covered in fog. Later at home, I looked these rocks up on Google Earth and realized this point was the only spot where you can possibly see most, if not all of the 500+ feet of Linton Falls at once. Though that also seems like it is perpetually enveloped in fog.

We started to head over to the creek in a light rain. Normally, this is about where the trail through the forest gets a bit snarly. Instead, we stayed on the dry lake bed and made some time.

Along the way, however, some of the sights were cause for pause.

This small, stinky inlet was gross. But it looked good through the camera. The smell along the dry ground wasn't the best and it bothered Brittney more than me. This was the one spot where the smell from the water even got to me.

A small delta is formed as Linton Creek meets Linton Lake and it's a very cool thing to see at pretty much any water level. Today, it was almost like a walk on a beach, the way coastal creeks come into the ocean through the sand. It is also fairly impossible to capture with a traditional picture.

A couple panoramas of the delta area.

We made our way back into the trees and quickly found something odd:

There is a pretty good campsite at the base of Linton Creek. There are log seats, a huge fire ring, some nice stuff. However, we found a make-shift bed and fire ring off to the side about 30 yards. It is a mystery why someone chose to hunker down 20 yards from the real campsite. Maybe it was raining and the tree canopy above this spot provided better shelter than the more open campsite. As we surveyed the scene, neither one of us were expecting to make a bed and spend the night right here either. I'm guessing the person who slept here had the same plans. It is a good reminder that strange things happen in the woods and that some of my trips up this same creek could have went this way as well, if not worse.

The trail sort of blows up a bit at Lower Linton Falls. It hits some brush and blowdowns and looks like it only goes to the right, which brings it to the precipice of this waterfall. On the way back, the portion of the trail that goes away from the precipice is more obvious.

This was a nice scene somewhere between Lower Linton Falls and Linton Falls.

Linton Falls was less than its typically-majestic self due to the water shortage. However, Linton Falls still gives off some of that magic regardless of flow.

The creek leading away was thin as well. The portion nearest the bank was completely dry, which was bizarre. Usually, to get to the center island, you have to do an easy-ish log crossing.

Instead, there was this:

(Note - I'm looking back at this 5.5 years later and I'm still at a loss for the water being so much lower than it typically is at this time.)

Down under the log, was this rock, which has been ravaged by water and small sediments over the years. This is a huge rock, so it's pretty interesting to see it in this condition.

This is the rock I whined about 2 years prior on a trip with Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey. I was worried about it falling on my head, as it appears to be just dangling there. I guess I'll have to keep worrying. And he can keep laughing.

Nearby, there was a huge folded-up toadstool.

How huge?

Very huge. Wish we could have seen this while it was fully open.

I blame the slug.


The Green Pool

I was looking for waterfalls that were difficult to get to and found one. There were no pictures online and no tales of anyone getting to it. It sounded perfect for an adventure.

Shadow Creek Falls sat in a valley without a trail and little else around. I figured out a way in and then started looking around on topographic maps and Google Earth to see if anything was interesting in the immediate area. It had a high probability to be a one-time trip, so I wanted to make sure I didn't miss anything.

I found a nearby body of water that looked interesting.

No, not that one.

Yeah, this one. I've been in nearby areas quite a bit, so I know that this is in the middle of a marsh. Not just the lake is wet, but the entire area is wet. What got me interested in that little pool was how clear it is. Even from Google Earth, you can see trees in it, as well as seeing all the way to the bottom. I have never seen a clear pool in the middle of a huge swamp. To make it more odd, the water from that big, brown lake flows directly past this pool on its way to a pair of large waterfalls 1.5 miles downstream. How does it stay clear? I drove 2 hours and embarked on what would possibly be a really tough off-trail hike to stand next to a 50' x 25' body of water that is only about 180' in circumference.

This is why I usually end up hiking alone.

I started off on a feeder trail to the Pacific Crest Trail. About .5 miles in, I headed off-trail. That tall beargrass was really cool. Some stretched over 7' tall.

The first part of this off-trail adventure had me optimistic. At the last minute during the planning stage, I decided to follow topo lines that gradually increased instead of just blasting through straight across further down the trail. It sounded easier and for a while, it wasn't hard. But, this clear forest soon grew into a monstrous collection of huge blowdowns and choking rhododendrons. If I'd have been closer than 2.5 hours to home, I would have turned back. It was a nightmare and I soon realized I would never come back to this place.

I slowly fought my way to the edge of the valley and plunged down.

I saw no convincing signs of humanity at any point in there. That said, I would be really curious to find out how a rock this size ended up on a narrow end while on a steep downhill.

Down into the meadow and I started to wrap around towards the green pool. Being in here is really amazing. There is something special about being in a high marsh that is indescribable unless you've been in one.

It was incredibly wet. I either sank through the grass into the water or walked across rolling grass mats. There really wasn't any solid ground at all. Most of the other marshes in the area seem to have some patches of sort-of-solid ground. As someone who has sank almost waist-deep into a mud hole, this type of terrain is pretty fear-inducing. While phobias represent irrational fears, the fear of falling through the grass and into the water and mud below is quite rational.

I came to the green pool:

First thing I did was try and dip my hand in to see if it was warm. This was difficult because without any solid ground, there is no bank. It drops straight off from grass mat into 3-4 feet of water. But, the water was not warm and was what is probably a normal temperature. It's also not quite as clear as it appears from above.

Oddly, there is very little growing in the pool. I saw little animal life in there as well. Only one or two tadpoles and that was pretty much it.

(Note - This pool reminds me of the Clearwater River in the North Umpqua River drainage.)

I took a break to process and headed the to the larger lake, only 100 short feet away.

Since it is shaped like a tooth, it will be called Tooth Lake. It is about 270' x 250', and about 1300' in circumference.

No surprises here and nothing unusual. This would be an amazing place to row a canoe. The dragonflies were everywhere. Thousands of them. Okay, one surprise. I didn't have any issues with mosquitoes at all and I never put on bug spray the entire day.

Back to the pools:

This is the Mickey Mouse Pool (my daughter saw the image from Google Earth and pointed it out immediately). Where the left ear is, there is a firm grass mat about 8-feet wide between this and the Green Pool. I totally admit that my most fearful moment of the entire trip was the first step or two across that bridge. It felt way too solid and crispy and I wondered when the last time something as heavy as me had walked right there. I have fallen into a sinkhole before and it is about as frightening of an experience as I have ever had. Thankfully, this held.

Inside Mickey was this:

A big tree that still looked in pretty good shape.

Lots of plants and animals but still very clear.

This is a zoomed-in shot of a ~2'-wide mass. I'm assuming this cloudy stuff is either from frog or salamander eggs. Maybe insect eggs? The Mickey Mouse Pool and the Green Pool probably have some small connection and this is where those tadpoles came from. Lots of life in Mickey, none in the green.

This is about where they are closest. You can see the flow from the larger lake coming under the grass mats and entering the green pool. That brown cloud stops after just a couple feet. How is it staying clear as it flows right-to-left? Mysteries to which I have no answers.

The leading hypothesis is that this is a spring, which is why it's so clear. But the fact it is so close downstream from a large murky lake still makes me wonder. Add in that nothing was really growing in it, there was just an odd tadpole swimming, and airborne insects avoided it as well, and the mystery remains.

With that, I headed on to seek out Shadow Falls, which was about 0.5 miles away. It was obvious from the start that this was going to be a pain to get back out of. It was steep with no game trails and large blowdowns.

Here's a fine example of pipsissewa, which is a type of wintergreen.

As best I could tell, this is where Shadow Creek Falls is. I looked around for a bit and saw nothing close to a waterfall. Not only that, I saw nothing geographically that would allow for a markable waterfall. The waterfall does not exist in this location. Later, I saw on lidar images that the waterfall is about 120' north of where I was. At the time I suspected that to be the case, but I wasn't up for a wild goose chase, so I headed back. If anything, I was almost afraid of the difficulty of the trek back. I had two steep sections to climb and the route above where I was standing was brutal.

More balloon remnants in the deep woods. Please do not release your helium balloons to be free and pollute everywhere.

Here's a 3-part picture of what looks to be some old trail that I found back up near where the marsh started:

Some places look like a trail but are probably just water run-off routes. Others look very much like part of an old trail system. It would be interesting to see a documented history of these meadows. Sadly, there almost certainly isn't one.

Another piece that looked trail-ish.

On the way out of that meadow, I decided to try a different path. Often, I'll follow my GPS track right back out. In this instance, since that was so difficult, I decided to wing it, since it really couldn't get any worse. I went with the path of least resistance and followed game trails to the foot of the hill. Surprisingly, this route was much, much easier and I did not break a sweat climbing out (literally). If I had known it would be this easy hitting the top, I would have spend more time searching for Shadow Creek Falls.

Once on top, it was fairly easy to pick my way down to the main trail and back to the car. It felt pretty good knowing I did not have to battle and I kind of floated back to the car.

According to the GPX from this trip, it was 6.86 miles. Going just to the Green Pool via the bottom route would be about 5 miles round trip of mostly easy travel. On the way in, once I became supremely tired of fighting the brush and blowdowns, I was certain I'd never come back. But upon finding a smoother way in and out, I am certain I'll come back at some point.


Duncan Falls

I took a solo trip back up into the Linton area to head to the bottom of the highly remote Duncan Falls.

The trail to Linton Lake is a nice one with quite a variance of scenery. I thought about taking some pictures of some of the cool things along the way, but this is the only one I took. I think this is probably the most neglected aspect of any of my trip reports to this area. Regardless of the waterfalls that lie ahead, this is a nice trail that is worth the trek by itself.

Linton Falls. I told myself that I wasn't going to take a picture of this one because I already had so many, but...I had to take one...

I headed back down the trail about 30 yards, then started the hefty trudge up to the plateau.

That little cave actually had some tinkling water going over it this time.

Just up from the cave, I saw the yellow colors of turned vine maples. The drive along HWY 242 was spectacular due to the colors. It was the most brilliant piece of road I have ever seen, which is a statement considering the name of this website. The green from the giant fir trees poking into the sky mixed beautifully with the yellow from the vine maples down lower.

Funny enough, I wore a bright colored shirt so I'd stand out as a safety precaution. I picked yellow...for all you know, I may be standing in the middle of that picture.

I did not see the pikas this trip. They were obviously using their agility moves.

Mushroom and fungus growth was intense the whole way. I saw thousands of mushrooms, hundreds of coral fungi, and a large number of bear's tooth fungus, pictured directly above. This one was the largest specimen.

These are 2 of the unnamed waterfalls along Linton Creek above Linton Falls. I was more interested in saving time this trip, so I ended up avoiding most of the rest.

This little waterfall was one we missed in August on the 2-day trip because the forest pushes you hard away from it. I saw it on Google Earth and thought it looked interesting. Oddly enough, I spaced it out completely. Right when it popped back into my head, I looked at my GPS and saw it was 75 yards straight over from my position. Right through here, I started seeing pockets of snow. I had noticed quite a few places earlier where snow had recently melted over the previous few days.

On our prior trip, I said that it looked easy to get below Duncan Falls. It does look easy, but it's not. It was actually a bit of a pain. I had to backtrack quite a ways and do 3 log crossings, the last of which was pretty sketchy. And there is a very sketchy spot along the bank right after it.

Once back into that portion of the creek, it narrows into a vertical canyon. There are massive swirls in the rock from erosion due to maelstroms of water. There are about 3 of these such spots on the short section of creek.

From up on the ridge, Duncan Falls looks 200' tall. From down below, it looks about 60. On Google Earth, it measures in at around 130' or so. While foreshortening is common in photography, it is not as common in person. Compared to what it looks like from the ridge, this waterfall looks comically stubby from below.

For comparison, this is the photo of it from the Linton Meadows trip that I took from the hill above.

While it's neat at the bottom of Duncan Falls due to the creek erosion, the falls themselves are not the point of this type of trip. The physical and mental test is what this hike is about, as well as all the great stuff you see along the way. Duncan Falls is just where you turn around at. Overall, this trek was just over 10 miles, with 6 miles of that coming off-trail.


From Linton Lake to Eileen Lake

Living in two different parts of Oregon, Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey headed down and I headed up as we went over to Linton Lake for a 2-day off-trail adventure spread over seldom-seen areas. This is a culmination of our prior trips into the Linton Lake area east of Eugene.

Linton Creek up to the Plateau

Linton Area

We started by parking near Alder Springs campground, then hiked down into Linton Lake. Jeremiah, Quinn, and I posed for the team photo by the car. Notice how I took the high ground in the picture...again...HA! Shortstuff.

"Where should we take the picture?"

"How about over there? You stand on the left."

This is what it would look like on even ground. It's hard to be good friends without pranks, jokes, and ruthlessly making fun of each other. Too much fun!

I only had a daypack, which has minimal shoulder straps and fairly nonexistent waist straps. While it's light and fairly perfect for short hikes, it's barely passable for backpacking. I realized this the first second I put it on at the car and my shoulders immediately cried out in pain. By the end of this, my shoulders and hips had noticeable bruises on them from the straps. My pack weighed in at around 25 lbs. Jeremiah's was around 35, but he at least had a real pack.

Linton Falls. Eh, it's okay... This is the lower portion. I've been here 5-6 times now and it is jaw-dropping, every single time. I had to try for a different angle, partially to get a different look than prior trips, but also to try and mitigate the partial direct sunlight.

This is the little island in the middle of Linton Creek, just below Linton Falls.

What's special about this pic? Check out the rock jutting out from that boulder. It was literally hanging by a thread. It made me a lot more nervous than it did Jeremiah. (note: It was still there 2 years later...)

We started the steep trek to the plateau:

This last picture was while we heading back down, but this is where it fit best. The second picture is the way closest to the creek. We chose the less-steep route, which is still really steep. In-person, the two are not even close.

As we hit the top of that old stream bed, we heard a strange chirping sound:

...pika. It is the first pika I've seen that wasn't yellow and shooting lightning and looked like this. I took a few pictures of this little guy and they all turned out with the little thing being blurry. Must be a sasquatch in a pika costume.

Interestingly, pika aren't known to be in this location. There's an Oregon pika research group looking for pika locations that I tried notifying but their system was obtuse. I have the GPS coordinates, eyewitness accounts, and photos of a pika well-outside of their known range...and I can't get the info to researchers? If one of them happens to stumble across this, I'm glad to help. To get my information from this trip, there's a 37-step signup process and then it won't work anyway. Or you can simply send me an email and I'll get back to you shortly...

This nice little unnamed waterfall is a very short distance above Linton Falls. It looks like the lower portion of that waterfall, only 1/3 the size.

These are called pink wintergreen and we saw along them along the game trail.

I don't remember taking this picture but the photo numbers put it right here...

The first meadow above Linton Falls was the wettest, to the point it is a marsh. There's just no dry way through it. These frogs were everywhere. I believe it is a Columbia spotted frog.

We made our way through the swamp, found dry land, then another smaller swamp within a forest, which was pretty peachy. While making our way, part of the elevated log I was walking along gave way and I began an instantaneous 6' fall. Right before I hit the ground, my eye caught a large branch hanging above and my arm grabbed it enough to change my trajectory, all within a split second. I still hit the muck, but inches away was a branch protruding up sharply over a foot from a log already on the ground. I laid there for a second, with that sharp branch poking well past where it would have jabbed completely through me, had I not had that glancing snatch of the upper branch. Jeremiah and I made eye contact and he gave me the, "Dude, that was about it for you..." look. They say it's better to be lucky than good, and I was probably luckier than good right then, but if you're going to do stuff like this, it really helps to be a little bit of both.

Another unnamed waterfall. So far, I've been too lazy to climb down and get a better picture of this one. Between this waterfall and the next pictured one, there's another, but it seems to avoid capture somehow.

The next unnamed waterfall we came upon was this little thing. It's actually a nice one, even though it's not all that tall. It was in this area where we first discussed finding a spot to set up camp. The goal was to hit Linton Meadows, which was still quite a ways ahead through unknown territory. We had a topographic map on my GPS, but it doesn't show brush or any other obstacles. We decided to chance it and venture on. This was the 3rd or 4th unnamed waterfall along this stretch.

The next set of falls was up ahead, though the plan was to avoid them and try to hit them on the way back. We split up and traveled a short distance apart to find the best route up the hills. If that doesn't make sense, you are probably right. As much as we enjoy each other's company, we both enjoy solitude immensely and this is one of the best places to do that. Brush and downed trees kept pushing me further away from Jeremiah and closer to Linton Creek. I then heard a massive roar and realized I was only about 50' from the creek. I peeked over to find this:

This is Duncan Falls and it is massive and glorious. This pic was taken on the way back. I did not expect to see this caliber of waterfall here. It's pretty lightly traveled, as you may guess. The only documented mention of this waterfall is from around 1910 by the legendary Mazamas Hiking Club, then information falls silent...until this trip report from 2013. I would think someone could have been in here between those two dates, but I'd be shocked if there were very many human eyeballs on it over that span.

It looks fairly easy to get to the bottom of Duncan Falls, too. Next time... We caught a glimpse of another waterfall just above this one, though the large blowdowns and sheer number of them made it more work than we were willing to put out to get to, especially given time restraints.

We came to the top of that ridge, then stumbled across each other. I circled back to the hard right without knowing Jeremiah started heading left up ahead of me. "Go left," is what I kept telling him while I was unknowingly quite a ways to the right by that point. Even with walkie-talkies, it's not always easy to find the other person. We ended up whistling to find each other. Another funny thing is that most everything in this area is not named, so to help us navigate, we started making up names like Deer Meadow, Surprise Meadow, Swampy Meadow, etc. There are lots of meadows.

We came up over one last, long ridge and dropped into Linton Meadow and began to hunt down a campsite as dusk approached.

We headed along Linton Creek, which is severely mis-marked on the topographic map. For a creek that is wild and tumultuous down low, it just lazily pokes along the meadow. Older Google Earth images show it has changed course many times. As we walked along it back toward the treeline, we started to hear a familiar roar. Both of us looked to the sky, expecting a jet overhead. Instead, it was Linton Creek carving holes in the meadow.

Some odd and crazy things happening under the water along here.

We ventured back a bit toward the trees and started to set camp a ways to the right of this photo of the South Sister overlooking Linton Meadows. I noticed a moving dirt clod by Jeremiah's feet as we were setting up the tent.

This small western toad was pushing it. He put it back into it's hole and covered it up a little, along with a marker to we wouldn't step on it.

With the camp set and dinner having been eaten, we decided to do the most obvious and predictable course of action for us:

grab our headlamps and go find trouble.

We headed across Linton Meadow during straining dusk looking for some animals. We found nothing but mosquitoes, so we crossed the creek and headed back, though that's not the way we came. We stumbled across a killdeer's nest and while Jeremiah was investigating it, I became intrigued by a large rock in the middle of the meadow that was about 50 yards away. By this point, it was dark and we both had our headlamps on. He followed me and we became mesmerized by this series of huge rocks that were sitting in a line further near the scree slope. As we kept walking and wondering how they got there, we walked directly into an 8-foot tall wall of impenetrable brush. It left us three choices: go back and find another way around (we're stubborn, so that one's obviously not an acceptable option), plow through the brush (impossible), or over a nearby boulder field (stupid). We tightened our dunce caps and headed slowly over the boulders and eventually made our way back to camp.

Jeremiah's tent has a mesh top so we stared at the stars for a while. According to multiple light pollution maps, where we were and the reaching surrounding area are immune to light pollution. This meant we were looking at the stars without impact from any unnatural light. They looked the same that night as they did a billion years ago. It was an incredible show.

Having hit the meadow near dusk, we didn't really get to take in the views. The next morning, we did. I woke up first and while looking out the mesh side facing this direction, deadpanned to a just-waking Jeremiah, "There are worse places to wake up." We spent a lot of effort and took a bit of a chance on camp location, but it turned out perfectly. The west edge of Linton Meadows, facing the South Sister. Everything else is tied for second.

This is a comparison of my photo with one from a trip by the Mazama's hiking club into the area back in the early 1900's, around 1908. I found it later and was able to place it about 75 yards from where I took this photo. It is kind of fascinating, that over 100 years later, we stood in nearly the same spot out in the most somewhere version of the middle of nowhere as that legendary hiking club.

We got moving and decided to head over to Eileen Lake , which was 1.5 miles away. We picked a course with the GPS map and headed out. The mosquitoes were brutally thick. I never got bit (until later), but they were an obscene pest the entire time. When we stopped moving for more than about 5 seconds, they'd swarm like crazy. They would land, but the eucalyptus spray kept them from biting.

This was dubbed Surprise Meadow because we weren't expecting it. I had never really been to this type of an area before this trip and I found it unbelievably beautiful. Peeking up behind the trees is The Husband.

We ventured on and made our way to Eileen Lake:

This is essentially the first thing you see as you pop out to the lake. It's not a big lake, but the views here are fantastic. We also saw our first human, which is odd after seeing no one besides ourselves for a day. He was tall and gangly and jogging without a shirt. He had headphones in and didn't notice us standing 30 yards away. We just stared as he ran by, reminded that we actually were not the only humans on Earth, and then went on about our day.

I tried to take one without and one with the flowers. Even after moving, the mountain stayed in almost the same spot, totally by accident.

Peekaboo!

Yes, I am easily amused.

We started heading back and of course decided not to retrace our steps. We went past Eileen Lake and onto the Pacific Crest Trail for a few hundred yards. As you leave Eileen Lake, this is what you see:

The Middle Sister in the middle of another stunning view as we drop down onto the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs through this section of the valley below.

After a couple hundred yards, we again headed off-trail and followed Linton Creek. As we crossed a tiny creek no more than 2 feet wide, Jeremiah fell in. It was hilarious. (For the record, I fell twice over both days and neither time was it hilarious.) We were going to follow the creek back to camp, so we couldn't get lost. Right?

There is meadow after meadow up here, each special in its own way.

Along here, the creek turns so sharply, the grassy part of the ess is only a few feet wide.

We wanted to go by Linton Springs, but were a little disappointed. I think we expected something spectacular. Forgive us for being greedy. We could have made it up there, but didn't see the point. (Edit - this isn't Linton Spring. This is a spot marked "Spring" a ways below Linton Spring. To quote Kris Kristofferson, "I'd go crazy if I paid attention all the time".) (Second edit - in spite of this not being Linton Spring, a later look makes me realize it is worth checking out.)

We were heading back along the creek. There are some single-track horse trails through here, but we eventually ventured off them to stick with the creek and scenery. There was some very nice looks through here. At one point, we came through some trees and over a hill that stood atop Linton Meadow. We stood for a few minutes, taking it in. We felt either like explorers from the 1800's or survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. It was a surreal experience. I didn't take a picture because the picture would take away from the emotional memory.

We packed up camp and took a short breather before heading back. Well, one of us did...We wanted to try and pick our way into the unnamed waterfall above Duncan Falls, so I scouted ahead while Mr. Lazybones took a siesta. I came back a while later and Quinn was in the same spot.

[Here you again see Quinn. What an amazing thing he is. As the three of us have gone through these adventures over the years, a bond forms for what we have undertaken together, from our shared endeavors. That transcends human-dog and instead becomes equal participants, to where I respect him not as a dog, but as "one of us". As I edit this post, Quinn passed this week and it is truly crushing to the Osborne-Gowey family. Even though he was not my dog, I still found myself mourning as I would if it were a person close to me. He was loved and absolutely will be missed.]

I found a huge swath of intense whitewater, most of it inaccessible due to the sheer and crumbly terrain. This junky pic shows the creek right when things start getting exciting. Just below this, there is some interesting stuff, but we were being pushed by the clock and unwilling to put out the effort to get in there. From this spot, there is continuous whitewater and/or waterfalls for the next 1000+ feet of creek.

In all, we did in the neighborhood of 19 miles, 90% of it off-trail (literally, I did the math, so...~17 miles). Except for a very short bit near Eileen Lake and down by Linton Lake, we were on our own, as far as navigation goes. We went over and through a variety of difficult terrains and elevations. Probably about half of the time, we couldn't see what we were stepping on due to the vegetation. Amazingly enough, by the time we got back, neither of us had much more than a minor scratch. When people ask about these trips and they naturally think about undertaking one themselves, the ability to avoid major injuries is an incredibly valuable and underrated outdoors skill to have.

The mosquitoes were unbearable, but the eucalyptus spray worked. That said, I didn't put any on for the trip back (stupid) and my forearms were eaten alive. I think I only had one or two bites up to that point.

I later read (and re-read and re-re-read) a book by the Mazamas hiking club about their adventures into this area in 1908 and (I think 1910). It is a fascinating read and I was taken aback by the fact they turned around at the ledge near Linton Falls on their way down to Linton Lake. Their reason for turning back? It was too dangerous. And Jeremiah and I plowed right up and down it. And the Mazamas went everywhere back then. That made us both feel pretty good about accomplishing what we did over these two magical days.


Linton Creek up to the Plateau

Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey and I headed back up to Linton Creek to see what we'd missed the last time. We took a much shorter trail into the lake (and an even shorter one out) and avoided intentionally making a mistake by entering the lava field, so we had a lot more time to burn on this trip.

We stopped at Lower Linton Falls and the water was much higher this time, which is odd because it's July and we were last here in October of '11. Our main goal was to explore the area above Linton Falls. The terrain is extremely steep, but there seemed to be some very interesting draws above.

The blue lines are the tracks from our last trip. The red box shows Linton Falls (next 3 pics), which is a huge waterfall. The yellow box above the red contains 450' of whitewater that is falling near vertically. We were comfortable in believing that there was going to be a very large and powerful fall above Linton Falls.

The problem is that huge drop faces the right side of the creek. Once we got to Linton Falls, we realized we could not ascend on the right because it looked like it was filled with mostly sheer rock. On the left, it was almost as sheer, so that's the way we went.

(After thinking about it, we could probably cross and head away from the creek along the right, then possibly poke back in on that big drop...)

This is truly an amazing spot.

The pictures showed the massiveness of Linton Falls a bit better this trip compared to last time.

We poked around the corner and started picking our way up the really steep terrain.

This is Linton Falls from part-way up. You can see the log on the top and compare it to its location on the previous pictures (top right). There are two small perches to get this view. A lower one 10 feet directly below seemed to be blocked a bit by trees, though it would give a better view if not for that. From this spot, there is a deep bass created, but it doesn't come through the camera speaker well.

While tackling big tasks, it's always important to take time to appreciate the small things. The spider web was just as we began heading straight up. The leaf was taken while clinging to a muddy spot along the steepness.

Once past Linton Falls, things got pretty steep. Off to the left, we noticed a small overhang under an old stream bed and we headed over to inspect. It looked desperately like a waterfall, only there was no water. Above looked like a creek, only with no water. It doesn't look like it has flowed anytime soon, but at some point, it was definitely a real creek. I wonder at what point the creek quit flowing and what caused it to do so.

The above picture shows the "nicer" portion of the steep part. For most of it, the trees are spread far apart and there is little vegetation to grab onto. Mix with loose soil and rocks that slip easily and this is a potential nightmare. In their climbing book publication from 1916, the Mazama hiking club took an expedition to this point from the east. Back then, it was still called Lost Creek before the name was changed to Linton Creek. They stopped here because it was simply too steep. We headed up.

Well, one of us did. Jeremiah climbed and I took off towards that stream bed.

I did this because I saw a white streak through the fog off in the distance. I hoped it was a waterfall, but it turned out to be a snag. I kept going up due to curiosity of the old stream bed. Towards the top, I found a nice flower.

Just inside the forest in the stream bed and a little bit off to the right of that stag above was this broadleaf arnica. There wasn't a single other one around and it presented itself to a good opportunity for some good shots.

Red soldier beetles were busy working while I was on vacation.

Filter time.

I think the bugs give this group of pictures a realistic feel as well as allowing them to look different than the other billion forest aster pics on the planet. It never crossed my mind to flick them off, though that would have made a "prettier" picture.

My sublime moment was interrupted by Jeremiah on the radio saying he was standing at the top of the waterfall and that it was a "knee rattler". I started making my way over. According to the GPS, we were ~100 yards away from each other. At one point, I stopped because I felt the ground shaking. I looked at the GPS and I was still 50 yards away as the forest floor rumbled.

Yikes! It's not easy to see from that angle, but it's probably in the 175-200+ range. There are at least two or three waterfalls falls immediately below this. After those shorter drops, the creek bends and flows into what everyone knows as Linton Falls. There are no good angles to see it from this side of the creek. Lower Linton Falls is a bit anxiety-inducing to stand over, but this one is incredible. While standing there, more than my knees were rattling. This was easily the most powerful waterfall I've seen in person. (note: 8 years and countless large waterfalls and this is still true.) It seemed to take forever to climb past it on the way down.

If all are considered separate waterfalls, then this is an incredible and unique creek. There are a few creeks in Oregon with a succession of waterfalls, but most of these are streamers, being thin drops off a mountainside. This is a full creek that flows strong. If they are considered one waterfall (my belief), then outside of Willamette Falls (the second most powerful waterfall in the United States), Linton Falls is by far the biggest and most powerful waterfall in the state and nothing is really close at #3.

From here, it was relatively easy going. There was a deer trail part of the way through the brush and there were a number of waterfalls along the way (that I did not photograph...).

I didn't think about it until I got home, but this is similar to the second-to-last picture on this post, though they were taken in two different mountain ranges and a couple years apart.

Better picture of the rhododendron.

Very cool snag. High contrast black and white makes it glow like it does in person.

This is a wolf spider with a bright blue egg sac. Saw a number of these with this coloring.

Blooming bear grass. We saw one about 3 times this size later, but it would have taken forever to get to it. Unfortunately, we did not see any bears.

We soon came to a large clearing:

When we started, we were in a typical Pacific Northwest rain forest. By the end, we had reached Central Oregon, though it was only 2.5 miles from the car to this spot above. We hit the western edge of the plateau and everything was completely different from what it was down below. The plants, trees, even Linton Creek looked completely different. I never thought I'd walk to Central Oregon over that short of a distance.

This is an amazing place filled full of floating grass, marshland, a couple small lakes, and more mosquitoes than I'd care to remember.

This is a long-jawed orb weaver in the marsh. I've shown them before and they're quite cool. This one was fairly large and it was a different color than I'm used to. You can see in it going to its "stick defense" the 3rd and 4th photos.

At this point, we were pretty tired and moving through the marsh was difficult. At times, we sunk down close to knee-level. That really slows down progress, especially after having to extend the amount of energy necessary to climb above Linton Falls. We turned around and started the descent back to civilization.

We found a green tree fog.

Jeremiah spells out "A". If I could contort into a couple S-shapes, it would represent the two of us. We were both a bit tired by this point and we hadn't even made it off the plateau yet. And here's Jeremiah screwing around. It's always good to be reminded that this is supposed to be fun, even with a grueling hike left to go.

One thing that hit home on this hike was the need to be in better shape. By the time we descended back down to Linton Lake, my hips and knees were killing me, to the point where I was more than willing to walk 100' around a downed tree than lift my legs to climb over its 3' girth. It sounds crazy, but I weighed 7 pounds less by the end of the night than I did when I woke up that morning.

We did not hit all our goals (there is just too much cool stuff in this one area), but did see some great things that few ever see and we pushed ourselves pretty hard. Some day down the road a ways, I think a camping trip to Linton Creek is in order.


Sahalie and Koosah Falls

In May on ’09, we took a trip up the McKenzie River to visit with Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey  and his family and hit some touristy waterfalls.

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Linton Area

Jeremiah Osborne-Gowey and I headed back up the McKenzie to Linton Lake and found an extremely impressive and well-rounded area.  The trail to the lake was high quality and fairly easy going, so...we left it to head down to the lake where there was no trail.  Whose bright idea was that again?  Oh yeah, mine...

Linton Lake is a fairly good-sized lake, though this just shows the narrow western point.

If you look closely at the fog…

…you can see a very large waterfall up there.  We could hear the roar from the creek and the multiple large waterfalls from about ½ mile away.

On the southwest side, there is a lava field.  The lava field is very large, relatively dangerous to cross, and would take quite a while to get through…so we headed out over it.

Interestingly, we found a few crawdads clinging to life out in the middle of the lava with no water to be seen for a few hundred yards.  Our best theory was that there are pools below the lava that connect back to the lake.  At a few places, we saw pooled water deep into the lava.

I just could not figure out how to get a nice shot, so I took one that simply documented the very cool look of algae covering the lava rocks just under the water’s surface.

If you look close, you’ll see a tiny teal-colored speck of dirt caught in the camera lens somewhere near the middle.

We didn’t keep track of how long we took to cross this, but it felt like hours.  It may look like a pile of rocks, but most steps caused cracking under your feet.  This cracking was not necessarily the rock you were stepping on, but the rocks that those rocks were sitting on.  It is very disconcerting to step on a rock and hear a hollow sounding crack 20' below where you are standing.

This picture doesn’t show it very clearly, but the same large fall(s) is (are) visible in the fog over halfway up the mountain.

These were my first attempts at taking a reflection picture.  They’re so overdone and kitchy, but I always wondered how tough it was to get a good one.

Once out of the lava field, we scooted the rest of the way around the lake towards Linton Creek.  It was moving fast and surprisingly deep, leaving us struggling to find a spot to cross.  My strategerie in these circumstances is to always hang as close to the creek as possible, leaving the game trails behind.  I took the low road, Jeremiah took the high road.

This little island was a neat looking spot that didn't translate well to pictures.  (Note - "Hey idiot, there's a panoramic feature on that camera!"),,I thought there would be a crossing somewhere nearby.  As Jeremiah slipped away up the mountain along a game trail, I hopped on out to the island.

The moss-covered log was my first option to cross.  It wasn’t as slick as it looked, but it was as skinny as it looked.  I made it out about 3 feet or so, then turned around because this little thing a ways behind me caught my eye:

"Caught my eye" from behind means I saw it a minute earlier and my brain was telling me that my current action was idiotic and to go back and take a picture of that little pretty thing and reassess."  That's not a direct quote, more like a paraphrase.

As I came back up to the log, I noticed a larger one just to my left that didn’t go to the other side, but it gave me a clear view of…

…this.  I could see this log from the skinny one, but thought it didn’t reach the island.

At this point, Jeremiah was lost on the other side.  My idea of leaving the good trail, heading down to the lake, and crossing the lava field cost us at least an hour (okay, probably 2...), while him going gonzo and leaving the creek cost us another 30-45 minutes.  If we’d have kept on the main trail to begin with, it’d have saved us at least 2 1/2 - 3 hours.  But there are many, many things worse than wasting time messing around in this area with a good friend.  In fact, there are few things better.

For whatever reason, I often end up plowing to some massive, off-trail waterfall, when my favorite thing to do is crawl up a lonesome creek with no waterfalls.  It's funny that I have the freedom to choose where to go, yet the places always end up choosing me.

This is Lower Linton Falls, which is about 85 feet or so.  I think we guessed it was about 100 at the time.  We probably could have scrambled down a little bit to get a better view, but due to our indiscretions of a dawdling nature, we just did not have the time.  (note: there does not seem to be a safe way down to the creek here for Lower Linton Falls)

This is on a little point which is quite solid.  There is a nice, large tree which allows you to lean on while you look over.

From the precipice, looking back down the creek.

The trail along the creek is technically unofficial, but it’s one of the best unofficial trails I’ve ever been on.  We made it to Linton Falls with thighs burning, as even with the good trail, it’s still pretty steep.

In person, this fall has a strong physical presence to go along with its fair looks.  Whether it’s forced perspective or the camera or the picture-taker, the pictures I took made it look a little less imposing.

There are actually more falls above what is seen in the picture (not only more of the fall, but separate ones) but because of the time issue, we headed back.

I have to say, that’s one of my favorite pictures.  A guy and his dog, an impressive piece of water (slightly obscured), a cool tree just off-center-right, the camera has moisture on the lens.  There's something endearing about the way Nikons screw up a picture that makes it look good in a way that you couldn't get if you tried and knew what you were doing.  If I was going to pick out my Top 10, this would be the first one I’d sort onto the list.

And same one with a "60's" filter.

Somehow, this did not break the camera.  I definitely didn’t plan it this way, but I ended up on a high spot and Jeremiah ended up in a low spot, turning our 2 inch height difference into a 6 inch one.  This caused his stature to more closely match his garden gnome-like features.

Out of thousands of pictures I've taken while on these adventures, this is still the only one I've printed out and hung up for my own enjoyment.

Interestingly, I have my doubts about whether we ever reached the falls that are visible from across the lake.  Sometimes I think we did and most of the time, I think we didn’t.  The falls seen from a distance bend along the right, while Lower Linton Falls, more or less, goes straight down (and is a little heavier on the left), and Linton Falls are obviously sitting on the left side of the creek.  Not to mention that the distant fall shows one good-sized fall directly above another, while the two we came across were quite a ways apart.

After staring at Google Earth for far too long, I've realized that Linton Falls, on the far right, is the lower portion of the fall visible from across the lake.  The portion on the top is a portion of the falls we were not able to see directly and is probably just out of sight.  You can see it coming down perpendicular to Linton Falls in the above photo.  (note: This was before better Google Earth images vastly improved and cleared up the debate about which part of the creek was visible from across the lake.)

Just before we made it to the car, we ran into a pack of ninjas heading to the lake for combat.  Not joking.

So, we have the beautiful mountain lake with a really interesting lava field, we have Linton Creek itself, and we have multiple large waterfalls. All separately are worth the trip, but together form one of the most impressive areas I’ve ever been to. And this definitely won’t be the last time we head in there.