Poison Creek TrailI left my house in Medford, Oregon Thursday afternoon, August 3, 2006 and headed to Idaho to tag some County Highpoints. Well it takes me 8 hours of steady driving just to get out of Oregon and into Idaho. It was dark by then, so I headed to the Payette County Highpoint and found a place to spend the night up in those hills. In the morning, I tagged the Payette Highpoints and then drove next door to Gem County.
The trailhead for Poison Creek Trail is just over 30 miles from Hwy 52, so it took a while to get there. This is a nice drive and the surrounding grass covered hills gave way to hills that were covered with trees. I followed directions provided by the CoHP organization and specifically Ken Jones report from 2001 to find the trailhead. These were good directions and I drove right to the Poison Creek Trailhead.
There isn’t much room at the end of the room, but I managed to get turned around and off the road. I put on my pack and headed up the old roadbed. The brush was very healthy, but the trail was easy to follow. It looked like someone had driven over the small berm at the trailhead and drove up the trail, around the switchback and up to the clearing. Why do people do this?
In the clearing I spotted the trail heading off to the left and now the trail turned into more of a trail and less of a road. I came to a nice wooden bridge across Poison Creek and then the trail turned more northerly. I guess this was the trail. It looked more like a wide cow path. Lots of hoof prints and cow plops. The trail went in the right direction, so I followed it uphill. The trail had a nice slope without being too steep. I easily gained elevation. There were several forks in the trail from the cows heading down to Poison Creek for a drink. I kept to the uphill trail, passed a salt lick area, and passed through open areas filled with wildflowers.
After an hour or so, the trail became less distinct because of the cows. They had been making their own trails more left and right than straight ahead. I left the trail and continued in a northerly direction toward the summit. The footing was good, but I had to bypass some brushy areas. I took to the trees bordering the brush and it was easy walking under the trees. It looked like the cows used the shade of the trees as a refuge from the hot sun. Strange, I hadn’t seen any cows yet.
Soon, I could see a peak in the distance on the horizon and my GPS pointed in its direction as the summit. It was still a distance away and I had more work to do. Uphill, no trail, cross country, through clumps of trees, the ground covered with wildflowers. This was really turning into a pleasant hike. It kind of reminded me of the old movie The Sound of Music. I didn’t see Julie Andrews or hear and music, but the hills were still alive with the sounds of nature.
As I approached the summit, I noticed that the summit area was covered with hundreds of butterflies. What a nice way to welcome me to the summit. On the summit, there was a makeshift memorial with bunches of plastic flowers and a solar powered night light. I don’t know what all that was about, so I left it alone. I looked around for a register, but couldn’t find one. There are nice views in all directions. It looks like you could get to the summit from Cascade Reservoir to the north or from Snowbank Mountain to the south. It would be a longer hike from either of these, but it wouldn’t be a difficult route from either one.
I ate my lunch and then headed back down. I followed my track on the GPS to find the trail again to get back to my truck. This might not have been necessary, but I find that it gives me verification that I am heading in the right direction. The miles went quickly heading down and I arrived back at my truck about 3 hours after I started. It was hot by the time I got back to the truck and I wanted to be back on the summit with the gentle breeze cooling me. The total hike was about 5.7 miles and the elevation gain was about 2,100ft. Next I headed off to Blaine County and Hyndman Peak .