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Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area Trails - 1 member in 1 triplog has rated this an average 3 ( 1 to 5 best )
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Jun 11 2019
keepmoving
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 Guides 34
 Routes 249
 Photos 2,196
 Triplogs 591

35 male
 Joined Aug 16 2006
 Portland, OR
Bull of the Woods Wilderness Area TrailsNorth Central, OR
North Central, OR
Backpack avatar Jun 11 2019
keepmoving
Backpack20.23 Miles 4,657 AEG
Backpack20.23 Miles2 Days         
4,657 ft AEG12.7 LBS Pack
 
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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Started from Elk Lake on Trail #559 and did a loop through the Bull of Woods Wilderness. Highs were in the mid to upper 80s with lows in the upper 50s to 60s. Very warm by Oregon standards.

The Elk Lake Trailhead is a bit hard to spot as it's dilapidated and blends in with the surrounding forest. Even with one eye monitoring my GPS as I crawled down the forest road I still managed to sail right past it and had to loop back to locate it. There is no designated parking area, so I found a nearby pullout at a dispersed camping site to park my truck and start the hike.

The first several miles of trail wind through heavily forested terrain as you work your way down towards the site of the former Battle Creek Shelter. The path is well worn from years of hiking boots, but it's obvious it doesn't see nearly as much use as some of the other local trails. There are multiple downed trees and the Rhododendrons are making attempts to reclaim the trail.

At the Battle Creek Shelter site I turned west onto Mother Lode Trail #558 and soon encountered the Battle Creek crossing. There was no good way to cross without getting wet, so I took off my shoes and headed across in the shallowest section I could find. The water was just below knee level and felt quite nice on such a warm day.

After letting my feet dry, I continued past the now abandoned Geronimo Trail #557 and across Mother Lode Creek where I entered a heavily burned section of forest. The trail is essentially non existent in this area. Despite my careful attempts to follow the faintest sign of trail through the downed trees and thick underbrush, I quickly found myself off trail. I knew the general direction of the trail, so I zigzagged my way across the hillside for a bit until I eventually reached the trail again.

Although I was thrilled to have reclaimed the trail, my joy soon turned to despair as I was swarmed by mosquitoes and biting flies as I climbed towards the Twin Lakes Trail Junction. I applied and reapplied DEET as I was constantly bit by the relentless bugs. Huffing and puffing my way up the hillside, I could hardly pause to catch my breath before they would start biting.

About a mile before Twin Lakes the bugs magically disappeared and I slowly dropped through the forest to the first lake junction. I was running out of daylight, so I attempted to quickly head down to the Lower lake to access the conditions and find camp. Unfortunately the lower lake is right on the edge of the burn zone and the whole area is a mess- completely overgrown, trail mostly non-existent in several areas, and tons of downed trees. After refilling my water at the lake and scaring off a couple of Elk who were resting along the shore, I headed back up to check the next lake.

The sun had already set and I was running on the very last bit of light as I raced towards the lake. Having been alone on trail all day, I was surprised to encounter two groups already set up at the lake. I ended up setting up on the very far end of the lake at the very last campsite near the lake inlet. I briefly chatted with two ladies from the larger of the two groups- turns out they are employees at the Jawbone Flats Forestry Center and they were on their annual training that they take all their new backpacking guides on.

The next morning I was up early to beat the heat and was on trail at about 0530. I first made a detour north to check out Silver King Lake before heading back south and making my way up to Battle Ax Mountain. The views from the top of Battle Ax are fantastic- I could make out Mt. Hood, Rainier, Adams, and St. Helens to my north. To the south and east I could see Olallie Butte, Mt. Jefferson, Mt. Washington, the Sisters, and more peaks then I could ever possibly remember. I had a nice lunch on the summit before making the long slog downhill and back to my truck.


Pack Base Weight: 12.70lbs
Total with Food/Water: 16.10lbs
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Battle Ax was definitely the highlight of the trip, but I would be hard-pressed to recommend this area to my fellow hikers. Having to climb over so many downed trees and push through overgrown trail really gets old after a while. Maybe in the fall the plants start to die back a bit and make things more manageable, but right now it's a bit miserable out there. The area could definitely use quite a bit of trail maintenance, especially the heavily burned section between Twin Lakes and the Battle Creek Shelter.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Moderate
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

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