Bill's Excellent Adventures - Blair Lake’s Garden
Hike to wildflowers and a warm springs near Oakridge.
Hidden in the hills behind Oakridge is the perfect day’s outing (from June to November) in an unprotected wilderness west of Waldo Lake. Start with a hike through one of the state’s most diverse wildflower meadows to a historic shelter with mountain views. Top off the day with a soak in a natural warm springs pool.
The day begins in Oakridge’s real downtown—not the fast food joints you see along Highway 58. At the traffic light on Highway 58, turn north 0.2 mile on a bridge across the railroad tracks. Then turn right on First Street. The old downtown here features the reasonably priced Oakridge Hostel, the Lion Mountain Bakery, and the Brewers Union Pub.
Continue straight a total of 9.2 miles, trading First Street for Salmon Creek Road 24 along the way. Immediately after a bridge labeled “Wall Creek,” turn left on gravel Road 1934.
After 0.5 mile on this one-lane road, notice the parking area for the Warm Springs Trail on the left. The soak at the end of this short trail is likely to feel better after you’ve done the longer hike at Blair Lake.
So continue on gravel Road 1934 another 6.6 miles, following “Blair Lake” pointers at junctions. Then fork to the right on Road 733 for 1.3 miles to an intersection. At this point the trailhead is to the left 0.2 mile at a hiker-symbol sign.
The trail sets off through an amazingly diverse meadow of hellebore, dwarf willow, and all colors of wildflowers. Wear boots because of Blair Meadow’s seeps. Ahead 2.7 miles is gravel Road 730. Across the road is the 3-sided Spring Prairie Shelter, built in 1930 as a mule barn for the nearby Mule Mountain fire lookout. Before heading back, be sure to stroll 100 yards to Spring Prairie’s summit—a field of beargrass blooms— for a view of Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters.
On the drive back to Oakridge, park at the Warm Springs Trailhead and hike 0.4 mile through an old-growth forest to the 10-foot-wide pool where Wall Creek Warm Springs bubbles up. The 96° F water is relaxingly warm, but not hot enough that people are tempted to soak too long. As a result the pool is often empty, making it a very nice place for a stop on the way home.
William L. Sullivan (www.oregonhiking.com) is the author of "Oregon Favorites", available in all bookstores. Six of Bill's sixteen books are now available in electronic format at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/38219.