The pungent scent of pine needles, open meadows, views extending far to the east, mule deer, an amazing diversity of wildflowers and sunny weather. In late June I went hiking on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. The trailhead was at the parking area for Fifteenmile Forest Camp in the Mt. Hood National Forest, roughly 60 air-miles east of home at an elevation level of 4,600 feet.
The trail descended alongside Fifteenmile Creek, designated as a Wild & Scenic River in 2009, before meeting the Cedar Creek Trail at a bridge crossing. This trail slowly dropped down the nose of the ridge lying between Cedar and Fifteenmile Creeks, providing views all the way to the irrigated farmlands of Central Oregon. Mature Ponderosa pines and tamarack trees dominated the landscape, interspersed with pillow-shaped basalt rock formations, manzanita, huckleberry, succulents and many wildflower-covered meadows. Along the way I spotted a mule deer and saw fresh sign of elk and bear.
The trail began losing altitude quickly with the dominant trees becoming Douglas fir, juniper and white oak. In two more miles the trail reached the point where Cedar Creek flowed into Fifteenmile Creek. I had now lost roughly 2,000 feet of elevation. Crossing a bridge, the original trail was rejoined and I turned uphill.
For the next two miles the path stayed in old growth cedar-dominated habitat along the Creek. Then the work began with the trail quickly gaining elevation to reach the top of the ridge north of Fifteenmile Creek. (At this point I chastised myself for hiking a trail with all of the elevation gain on the return trip, especially on a hot and humid day.)
On top of the ridge the great views returned. Now it should have been a relatively easy two-mile hike to return to the trailhead, but I let myself get dehydrated and weak making for a slow go. Was I happy to see my SUV at the end of the trail? Yes!
All in all the trek was 11 miles in length with 2,000 feet of elevation gain.