Opal Creek – Jawbone Flats

No work on Friday because of the Veterans Day holiday (It’s actually Saturday) and it’s also birthday time frame for Paul and myself.  For the most part neither of us have ever had to go to school or work on our birthday and for as long as I can remember now we’ve marked the day with some outdoor activity.  This year would be no different.

Fairly busy trailhead for this rainy day

The forecast for the day was looking a bit blah.  It’s only rain though and I definitely have the gear for it.  If it had been dry and warm I may have opted for a mountain bike ride instead, but this option allowed me to bring Codi along.  He’s always pumped for a good hike.

Not exactly difficult at first

I was looking for something not too long and not too high.  I wasn’t looking for snowy conditions just yet either.  What popped up in my search was Opal Creek Loop.  This hike had been on my radar for a while now, but it can be notoriously busy in the summer and on weekends in particular.  The forest service finally put parking limitations at the trailhead because of how bad it was getting.  Please click that last link and read. (Pardon me while I get on my soapbox) I want people to enjoy the wilderness and outside in general, far too many people have no concept of the Leave No Trace principles though.  It’s also my belief that many of these same users have no idea on how to be prepared for an emergency or injury.  Even though this hike is only 8  miles round trip you can still end up in a bunch of trouble if you are not prepared.  I am always prepared to spend the night in the woods even on a day hike, maybe not in total comfort, but I could do it. (step of my soapbox).

Hope this stays put

The first couple miles are on a gravel road.  It even has some crazy wooden sections like above.  I can only imagine what kind of chaos it would cause for the few people who live/work up at the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center.  There is even an old mine shaft on the left hand side of the road.  I’d love to explore it, but common sense won out.

Old mine shaft

Not far before leaving the road and getting onto the trail proper is a pile of rusted out metal parts left over from the mining and logging days up here.  It was pretty neat walking around all of it and thinking back to how it must have been back in the day.

old tracks at Merten Mill site
Old boiler too

Just beyond the boiler and down a little herd path is the Cascada de lost Ninos waterfall.  Definitely a nice place to hangout on a hot summer day.

Cascada de los Ninos

Codi and I continued up the road a bit to cross the bridge and onto a more typical hiking trail.  It had snowed here earlier in the week and there were still remnants of it sticking in the woods.

You shall not pass…..a bridge troll impedes my progress
Snow in “dem der hils”

Given all the cars at the trailhead it was surprising that Codi and I hadn’t seen anyone but the one woman heading up the trail just as we were parking.  This would remain the status quo for the rest of the hike until we started to head out.  True to the Oregon stereotype it appears that nobody starts anything around here before 10AM.  Codi and I were back at the car just past noon and passed at least 10 hikers heading in at that time.  If they were doing the full loop that would put them back at their cars just as the sun was setting.  My motto tends to be “The sooner we start, the sooner we are done”.

some of the bridges were a bit more rustic
Walking through big and old trees
At points the trail was more like a stream

It didn’t take too long to get to Opal Pool and the falls dropping into it.  Now I can see why this is a popular swimming hole.  The water was super clear and this would be a fantastic spot on a hot day.  Having it all to myself (well, me and Codi that is) today was pretty stellar too.

super clear creek
stopped here for lunch and to listen to the rushing water

After a quick snack for Codi and myself we headed up and across the bridge to head back to Jawbone Flats.  This is the current home of the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center but was once the site of the mine and mills headquarters.  There is still a ton of old equipment kicking around and slowly rusting into oblivion.

lightly used cars for sale?
an assortment of leather belts that used to run all sorts of machines
There was well over a dozen fireplaces and boilers lying about
Buy Local!
The old mining town, now an education center

From here it was roughly 3 miles back to the car via the gravel road.  All in all it was a good hike and I got to see some pretty cool things.  There are a few more hikes in the area that are on my list of “To do” and I’d gladly come back here on a warm day to just chill along the river.

Tired doggie.  Mission accomplished!

Thanks for reading,  all the pics here


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Margaret C. says:

    Interesting narrative….. You & Codi had a challenging hike. Codi looked pooped out in the back seat

  2. adventurepdx says:

    I’ve always wanted to check out Opal Creek, esp. since my co-worker used to work for the Center years ago. But I’d probably start the hike after 10! 😉

    1. onrhodes says:

      Hahaha. We’ve been here almost 5 years now and it still cracks me up that nothing seems to happen prior to 10am around here.

      It’s a great hike for the history of the area. All the machines lying around is pretty neat.

      1. adventurepdx says:

        Y’know, people do like to sleep in sometimes. 😉

  3. I can clear up some of the parking mystery for you! We were hosting a 10-day Wilderness First Responder certification in Jawbone Flats, so most of the cars you were seeing belonged to those 25 or so participants. Glad you were able to get up there before the snows really come! Opal Creek in the fall is one amazing place for those hardy enough to enjoy it.

    Development & Communications Manager
    Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center

  4. Please excuse my fancy, dramatic word: BREATHTAKING! I don’t remember how I misse this post. These are amazing images. I’m ready to go to Oregon … I hope to see the Bridge Troll.

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