The pungent scent of pine needles, open meadows, views extending far to the east, mule deer, many fresh elk tracks, 34 degrees and sunny weather. On the first day of November I was on the eastern slopes of the Cascades.
The trailhead was 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, providing views all the way to the irrigated farmlands of Central Oregon. Mature Ponderosa pines dominated the landscape, interspersed with pillow-shaped basalt rock formations and tall tamarack trees with golden autumn needles.
The trail began losing altitude quickly with the dominant trees becoming Douglas fir, a few junipers and white oak with golden leaves.
Crossing a foot bridge, the original trail was rejoined and I turned uphill with a tinge of sadness knowing it was a 2,000-foot elevation gain.
For the next two miles the path stayed in an old-growth cedar-tree 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.
The great views returned and it was an enjoyable return hike to the trailhead.