Saturday, January 31, 2009

Opal Creek Wilderness w/ the Boys

We started out on a lovely Saturday afternoon. The goal-explore the wonders of the Opal Creek Wilderness in the Cascades-north of Detroit Lake, east of Salem. It didn't matter how far we got, we just wanted to enjoy the journey.

The boys were each given pictures of things that we might see along the trail. This really kept them interested as were searched for the next sight around the bend.

The trail was an old mining road that wandered into the thick forest where we immediately found unique sights. Here Shane discovers the remains of an ancient fir tree that had another tree grow on the outside of the trunk. The roots you see extend into a trunk of the new tree that was about 30 feet tall.

Woodpeckers work...

A short jaunt in, found us at Gold Creek.

One of our favorite sights. Play this video to see a stream that looks like it flows out of this tree.

Green was everywhere. The moisture was incredible. You really see how the wet air in the seas of the Pacific NW flows inland, hits these mountains and just dumps. The tree on the right was covered with moss so thick from bottom to top that it looked like a thick velvet coat.

Green. A photo by Shane.

Drake takes a moment to smile for a picture along the trail. The snow was melting, but off the trail, there was still about 18 inches of crusty stuff.

This is one of the mines we discovered along the way. Gold and Silver were mined in this area and the remnants of those activities are scattered around. An occasional mine rail car can be found rusting away by the trail. A mine, half dug then abandoned will remain open. This one is closed about 10 feet in and now serves as a bat habitat.

The canopy above from the photo gallery of Shane. The 5 year old has a knack for photos.

You can see the opal color of the river. The mineral content in these waters is amazing. This is just downstream from the beginning of the Little North Santiam River which begins at the confluence of Battle Axe Creek and Opal Creek.

After an afternoon of cool finds, we found a flat spot and set up camp. Here we are the next morning, Super Bowl Sunday, eating hot oatmeal. It's amazing how good most any food tastes on the trail!

Soon after the kids were ready to hike further in to find more interesting stuff. After a few miles, we came upon Jawbone Flats-an old mining camp converted to an environmental education center studying old growth trees.

Suddenly after a few miles of a sinuous old mine road that had clung to the hillside 100+ feet above the river, the trail flattened out and the mining camp appeared. There are about 20 out buildings of offices, residences and more lovingly restored. They are composting, reusing everything possible, generating power via PV and a waterwheel. The place was enchanting.

Old parts from early mill, timber and mining days were strewn about the place.
Mill wheels...


Battle Axe Creek is a dramatic flow from the steep mountains above.

We reached Opal Pool with just enough spunk left to smile for a picture before heading back out.

Opal Falls. Note the rock that fell and balanced in the middle of the picture and the falls. To give you a sense of scale, that rock is three feet across.

Opal Falls. Cacophonic or symphonic? Definitely the latter.

We started back and Drake made a great discovery. He found the largest fir tree in the area-circumference 23 feet!!! Wow, was this tree straight and tall. We could only guess it's in the 500-600 year old range.

You never really know how things look from the kids' perspective until you hand 'em a camera. Here Shane snaps a view of Drake and I hiking out.

I'll never forget these trips with the boys. Each trip is better than the last. They are such troopers going along with dad's crazy schemes into the wild. The only whining during the weekend came from me (and yes, I've learned my lesson). All in all they did 5+miles in two days, braved a January overnight and saw a lot of one of kind things. Pretty nice.


  1. Very Cool I like the Opal creek area and the Bull of the Woods. It looks like you guys a great time so did you camp at Cedar flats or more by Jawbone flats ?

  2. What a great adventure with the kids! Can't wait to try it myself one of these days when it gets a little warmer... Bob