Several of us had been looking at doing both Rock Creek Butte, the 26th highest peak in Oregon and Elkhorn Peak, the 34th highest together as a dayhike for some time. We finally were able to put everything together on saturday, Sept 25th, which turned out to be one beauty of an autumn day. Dennis Poulin, Bob Bolton and I all met at the Dixie Summit campground late thursday evening. Dennis arriving from Medford Oregon only ten minutes after I had pulled in. Bob, driving from Vancouver Washington made it shortly after midnight.
Friday found us working on a list called "Oregon's 50 finest" as compiled by Edward Earl and Andy Martin. We knocked off three of those peaks by getting Dixie Butte, Vinegar Hill (great name for a peak) and Big Lookout (which was a big lookout SE of Durkee). Nothing difficult in those three other than climbing Big Lookouts last 1000 feet in almost 90 degree heat.
Friday evening, we had camped at Deer Creek Campground and that put us close to the TH so we had a reasonably early start, necessary as they (the weather people) had predicted temperatures into the low 90's in the Baker City Oregon area. What is with this kind of temperature at this time of year and just a week ago it was snowing up in the Elkhorn mountain range.
Arriving at the TH at 7:40 a.m., we were on the trail within 5 minutes and climbed up to the Twin Lake area in about an hour and a half. We had to stop and gawk at the mountain goats that were all over the mountainside just south of Twin Lakes. There must have been 40 of them in that group. The trail continued on past the Twin Lakes and climbed up via many switchbacks to a junction with the Elkhorn Crest trail, a trail that runs for over 20 miles to Anthony Lakes northward. The trail then levels out and traverses over to a saddle where you finally get a full view of Rock Creek Butte. Nice. Bob started planning on heading up the southeast ridge as it looked like the logical line and avoided the talus and scree slopes. Dennis joined Bob but I decided to try it my way and ended up wishing i had gone up the ridge like they did.
No matter, I joined them on the summit in good time and we enjoyed a fantastic panorama of peaks both north and south of us. We could look over the the Wallowa mountains and pick out Red (we think) mountain, a mountain we had done almost a year earlier. (Dennis had joined Bob and I for the first time on that one) After a snack and a chance to check out Rock Creek Lake on the north side, we had a good look at Elkhorn peak, not far from the trail junction where we had come up from Twin Lakes. It looked like about 800 feet of effort to pick it up and so that was our next objective.
While making our way down the ridge to hook in with the Elkhorn Crest trail, Bob found a huge mountain goat relaxing in an alcove on the rock face in front of him. Soon we had our cameras out, trying to capture this magnificient animal with pictures and enjoying seeing a masterpiece of nature at relatively close range. The goat soon tired of us and left his rocky perch to seek further isolation and moved out of our viewfinders, much to our chagrin.
Making good time back to the junction, Bob took a line up the ridge and Dennis and i went up the Elkhorn Crest trail a little further to see if we could get an even better line up. It turned out that Bob had picked the best line but before long, all three of us were enjoying another spectacular viewpoint and pinching ourselves to see if this day was really a dream we were having.
Baker City was visible to the east as was Goodrich Lake, 2000 feet below us. We had good views to peaks like Strawberry Mtn to the southwest and a wonderful view of Rock Creek Butte and Twin Lakes far below.
All too soon it was time to go down and we followed Bob's ridge use trail which was easier than the way we had come up. We were back at the car at 4:45 so we had had a nice 9 hour day with a couple of hours spent on two different summits. The only other people we met all day was a couple from Boise making their way under heavy backpacks to Twin Lakes. They hoped to summit Rock Creek Butte the next day along with their two dogs.
Great area, great day, great companions. It just doesn't get much better than that.