Bald Butte — Friday, May. 5, 2000
This hike to the old lookout site on Bald Butte provides panoramic views over the Hood River Valley, a strenous 2,300' elevation gain in 4.2 miles, and cheery displays of wildflowers. From I-84 at Hood River, Oregon, take Exit 64 and go south on State Highway 35 for 14.8 miles. Just one mile beyond the Hood River Ranger Station, turn left on Smullen Road. At the first curve, turn left onto a gravel road signed Oak Ridge Trail. The parking area is on the right in 200 yards. Our group of 16 hikers, participants on a Trails Club of Oregon outing, followed the Oak Ridge Trail through a dry forest of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine. As we climbed the ridge, the path broke out into open Oregon white oak savanna grassland. The cheery balsamroots greeted us in profusion while Mount Hood gleamed white across the Hood River Valley. Other flowers blooming either on the grassy slopes or in the woodlands included lupine, larkspur, Indian paintbrush, desert parsley, glacier lily, chocolate lily, trillium, calypso orchid, Oregon anemone, dagger pod, prairie star, red-flowering currant, vetch, ballhead waterleaf, great hound's tongue, blue-eyed Mary, agoseris, and yellow bells. At 2.5 miles and 1,950' elevation gain, the Oak Ridge Trail intersects a gravel road on Surveyors Ridge. We walked north a few yards on the road and then turned left onto the Surveyors Ridge Trail. This path follows the crest of the ridge before descending to a saddle below four parallel sets of enormous powerlines and its terminus with a dirt road. This jeep track winds uphill to Bald Butte's summit meadows. From the site of former lookout tower, the view on a clear day includes Mount St. Helens, Mount Rainier, and Mount Adams to the north as well as a glimpse of Mount Jefferson over the shoulder of Mount Hood. Clouds on this day blocked Mount Jefferson and Mount Rainier from our view.