Saturday, June 27, 2015

Wildflower Hikes: Gordon Meadows

In the Old Cascades of Oregon, tucked against a shoulder of Soapgrass Mountain, a series of moist meadows offers one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the state. Often passed by in favor of the more well-known spots, these meadows are not difficult to reach and the variety of spring blooms is unparalleled.

Two different trailheads give access to the meadows: the west trailhead off of FSR 2032 and the east trailhead off of FSR 230 (Latiwi Creek Road). This article focuses on the latter, a three-and-a-half-mile hike past two small mountain lakes.

Driving from Sweet Home, Latiwi Creek Road is 27 miles east on Highway 20. Those familiar with this highway will recognize it as the entrance road to House Rock Campground, a lovely riverside campground that is best suited to tents and small trailers. Once past the campground, pavement ends. It is well to remember that the Forest Service considers this a "good" road. It is, in fact, quite drive-able, but very narrow in places and accented with random potholes. It is also steep at times (learn from a certain author and gear down on your way out; otherwise, you may find yourself nursing badly overheated brakes). Follow the directions to a small spur road and the trailhead. Dispersed camping is possible here, but it is mainly just a wide spot at the end of the road.

Walk into the lush Oregon forest for about 1/4 mile and watch for the first lake on your left. A little further on, the second lake appears on your right. Dispersed camping is easier at the second lake, and campers also pitch their tents near the trail in this area. The easy hike makes these lakes an excellent choice for families, and it's a great place to pack in an inflatable boat. There are also rumors of cutthroat trout in the lakes, but we have not yet pursued them.

Watch for woodland flowers as you continue uphill through the woods. After about two miles past the lakes, start watching on your left for the meadows. These are not so much a specific destination as a series of spacious openings in the forest. Wander at will into the clearings and you will find that they are liberally sprinkled with a wide variety of wildflowers.

Some hikers camp near the meadows, but be aware that snow meltoff leaves the ground quite moist, and mosquitoes love the area, as well. The meadows are best enjoyed as a delightful day hike, with camping near the lakes or in a nearby campground.

While the relatively easy access might occasionally attract a rowdy group, most hikers are here for the flowers. Equestrians and even mountain bikers enjoy this trail, as well. Don't miss this beautiful place simply because it's off the beaten path. Bring your camera, and maybe an inflatable boat. You will be glad you did.

Photographer's note: I must have spent three to five minutes trying to get a picture of this. I thought that the red and yellow spider would really look superb set against the backdrop of the blue flower. However, said spider had just settled down to enjoy a recently acquired fly and was not about to have his meal disturbed by irritating photographers. What ensued was a lengthy game of cat-and-mouse, with me lining up the perfect shot only to have my subject scurry off to the far side of the flower. In the end, this was the best I was able to do, but I am still proud of this shot and its little story.

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