The pungent scent of pine needles, open meadows, views extending far to the east, mule deer, 41 degrees and partially-sunny weather. On the first Saturday of Fall I was on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. Oh, and it just happened to be opening day of deer season. I saw a young buck and four hunters along the trail. Lucky for the buck, they weren’t all in the same place.
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 autumn needles which will soon turn golden.
The trail began losing altitude quickly with the dominant trees becoming Douglas fir, a few junipers and white oak.
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. To my pleasant surprise, the vine maple leaves were at their autumn prettiest with bright reds, oranges and yellows.
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.