DISTANCE
23.2 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
6105 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Out & Back

dogs on leash

birding

hiking

nature trips

walking

forest

lake

views

wildlife

snow

backpacking
10 months ago

Tough hike. Start out at the trailhead (2400ft) and after about 5 minutes enter old-growth forest. Head downhill to the aptly-named Shedd Camp shelter. The Middle Fork Santiam River (2000ft) dives through a gap in the rocks and into a very deep, clear pool (A+). Took a quick swim. To continue, you have to head up over a hump to a point upstream to cross the river. I waded across; on the way back I found a few more rocks and a log and stayed dry.

50 feet up the trail there is a large tree across the trail, a hint of things to come (more huge logs across the trail). Scramble over the log, and head upward in a general northward direction. As the trail contours upward (peaking at 2800ft) it enters numerous small canyons/ravines with intermittent streams, some of which are, to the imagination, ancient gateways to where the gnomes and fairies live. Even though this section isn't in the wilderness it might as well be.

The trail then descends to wide and shallow Pyramid Creek (2000ft) where you have to wade again. Then you back head up to a decommissioned road and wilderness boundary (2500ft). It says 2.8mi to Donaca Lake at 2900ft. Piece of cake, except for a) increasing huckleberries, and b) 12 downed logs, both of which slow progress.

Donaca Lake is pretty nice, especially for a low-elevation lake. Deep, cold, not too brushy, not too muddy. Took a quick swim. Good campsites (3 at least). No people heading in, one person heading out.

At this point I was pretty tired and estimated hiking 7 miles or so. But it was a little buggy at the lake so I decided to continue to Fitt Creek (3500ft), where it is rumored there is a great camp site with a good stream. And it doesn't look too far on the map.

However, the trail isn't maintained past the lake, and so amongst beautiful small canyons, huge firs and cedars, there is copious trail-covering brush, creek jumps, and 34 more large logs across the trail to clamber, climb, or belly crawl over/under. The berries really get thick though; I think berry production must be related to downed timber. I arrived at Fitt Creek at about 7pm, after starting out at 1pm. Tired. Good camp with a great little stream.

The next day I decided to head for Chimney Peak without my pack. Right after Fitt Creek the trail is pretty much wiped out by a morass of blown down logs and small washouts on a steep slope of rhododendrons. No footprints, ribbons, or any obvious sign anyone had gone through. Oddly, after this barrier, the trail got much better, with only an occasional log. And more fairyland canyons, berries, and bears (two bear scats right on the trail). The trail comes to a saddle and junction with McQuade Cr. trail coming up from the Quartzville Creek canyon far below.

The trail to the summit bushwhacks through bushes and a rockpile, and circles around the peak to the backside (4800ft), to end at a pile of old wood that used to make up a set of stairs; I think a lookout existed up top at one time. Given fatigue, plus the fact that the view was obscured by the Whitewater fire burning not too far away, I eschewed the scramble up the final cliffs to the top and returned to camp.

The final day I reversed the route from Fitt Creek to the trailhead, loading up on huckleberries, which are a lot easier to spot with practice.