The original plan for Tuesday 6-28 was to take the Eugene to Crest Trail from just east of Oakridge (Aubrey Mnt TH) as far east as possible and then turn around to be back at the TH by 2:30. Everything started right leaving home early and hitting Lowell Reservoir in early light.
Getting to the trailhead is easy (but use GPS, there are not signs) and it’s right outside Oakridge with room for maybe 4 cars. The first .6 miles winds along a twin track through private lands to forest lands and a battered sign.
From the sign, it’s up the hill to the top of the ridge (the north side of the valley, facing south). My timing caught the sun over the ridge. This was one of the very few open meadows as the rest of the trail is fully within different forests.
Everything was going great until …
It wasn’t just closed; there were crews working with chain saws and their truck was at this trailhead just west of Heckletooth Mountain near the Mule Mountain TH. That closure busted the plan, and options were few … decision was to continue up / over Mule Mountain on Audrey Mountain loop back to TH and then reverse back up and over – hiking the loop both counter-clockwise, and clockwise.
Most of the hike was traveling through different age forests that were either logged / replanted, logged and left to grow back naturally, or burnt and grown back – probably the oldest trees <50 years, with most <25 years. But, after the June rain and weekend heat, everything was green / vibrant.
Just as the forests were busting out, in the several meadows, the wildflowers were just as explosively beautiful.
Side-bar: Water. The last few years have been low water / rain / snowpack years in the central cascades giving wildfires all they need to rage. This year, at least north of Crater Lake, the June rains / snows are helping. Lookout Point resevior has the most water I’ve seen in years – full to the rim; the upper resevoir near Oakridge is filling up as well. Huge sigh of relief … here is Lowell Resevoir on the way home (same view as first pic).
Summary: Aubrey Mountain loop is a poor trail for a great hiking experience. The forests were young and took all my environmental training to catch the transition nuances from forest types. There is no water either. I can see mountain bikes using this trail more than foot folks. The trail was in good conditiion with a few spots of over-growth from grasses and a couple small muddy spots. I did not see another human being or large mammal – though deer tracks were plentiful near TH. My timing was perfect for the wildflowers and the bursting forest growth – without those, I’d find a different hike.