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Fifteenmile Creek Outing
The pungent scent of pine needles, open meadows, views extending far to the east, 60 degrees and sunny weather. In early Fall I was on the eastern slopes of the Cascades.
The trailhead was the parking area for the 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 beginning to 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 knowing it was a 1,700-foot elevation gain. I was beginning to dread the ascent because, for some reason, my strength was ebbing. Maybe it was due to the unseasonal heat.
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 turning 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. It was a slow, tough climb. After taking a break, I got a little bit of a second wind. The return hike to the trailhead was much more like “work” than “fun”, but I was sure glad to see the Jeep at the trailhead.
More fuel loading on the forest floor
Takes a lot of work to keep the trail open
Open stretches of the trail on ridge tops