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wildernessed
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PostWed Jun 21, 2017 4:00 pm 
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Access : Wolf Creek TH
Maps : GTM - Buttermilk Butte and Mazama, TOPO
Stats : 23.5 mi, 7900' r/t
Milton Mountain LO

Milton 7152' - Gardner Ridge 7961' via Wolf Creek
Milton 7152' - Gardner Ridge 7961' via Wolf Creek

Last year Steve did a recon up Wolf Creek looking for old trails long abandoned by the FS  which have conflicting locations on multiple maps following what he believed was the trail to the LO on the summit of Milton Mountain. He had some ideas about the trail going up the North Fork of Wolf Creek also. We thought "Hey another Sawtooth Wilderness Area peak" and drew up a trip plan to check it out but never got to it for various reasons, but finally it appeared to be the right time, a weather window ?, so we were making plans for an assault, then it was we would kind of be close to Storey 7821' (which we did previously from the North via SR 20 and Sandy Butte) so maybe we can loop over there weather and terrain permitting, and then we could circle back East do Mckinney, then backpack out Virginian Ridge and even possibly find some gold as we descended back into the parking lot. Well, after drawing everything out and estimating the suffering we thought Mckinney would best be left as it's own trip and Storey would be nice if we could get there dependent upon the weather, snow conditions, and terrain.
Meanwhile RichP sent me a PM to see if we were doing anything so I told him the plan and he thought it sounded interesting and he decided to join us.
We all met at the Wolf Creek TH and were backpacking in around 1630 hr. planning on getting just beyond the NF Wolf Creek and setting up camp so we could be up early to get the gain a long the ridge to Milton out of the way in the cool of the morning. It didn't take us long to cover the relatively short distance and with time on our hands we found and followed a trail that has all most been reclaimed by the forest, but not quite. We followed it up the NF and found where it crossed the creek however we decided not to follow it from that point but to make that another trip. We returned to our campsite along Wolf Creek sat around a fire and retired hoping for those "sunny skies". The trip in was nice there were plenty of wildflowers, the full creek,
good trail conditions, a few people and mosquito's.
In the a.m. I was up early under what was partly sunny skies, we packed up, and headed West for about a mile before Steve showed us the obvious trail, we had extra weight from a humid night and having to carry extra water (dry ridge until Milton, then snow to melt). The trail got down to business gaining the ridge leaving the thicker forest for more open slopes full of wildflowers, the trail came and went it's an old trail not maintained and at times is littered with downfall and / or congested by vegetation I think the final ridge push to Milton was a mess, but it's part of the process made easier by the increasing views. We made good time and setup camp just below the old LO and summit behind some trees which helped as a wind break. After a respite we headed West towards Gardner Ridge and the saddle / route up had quite a bit of snow which was generally OK with an occasional posthole in the afternoon sun especially where exposed. I thought we had two options either try and trend across the basin and hit the ridge out to Storey without the gain and uncertainty of going up Gardner and over, or go up Gardner Ridge see what we have to work with and then down it's NE ridge to Storey, we would have preferred the first, but looking at the large amount of soft snow, the slope to make the transition, the snow filled basin with multiple streams, and eventually the ponding of water from snow melt throughout the  upper and lower basin and I was quick to think, "Nope", to many variables. I just stated my opinion and hoped for something better ahead all though I wasn't to convinced the upper ridge route was going to work as we gained elevation. There was alot of snow up there but eventually we hit rock around 7700' and trended up and along the South side of the ridge until we were at 7961' the point above the ridge which drops over to Storey, great views, crappy ridge, steep and corniced high, eroded lower until it straightens out heading over to Storey possible with no snow, but still a scramble, not the desired or most efficient way over there. So we decided to just enjoy the vantage point we had, which was pretty good even with mostly cloudy skies at times, which we did, then returned to camp. The route up the North side of Storey from Sandy Butte looked great mostly bare with some snow hanging on the side of the ridge you could melt for water. We had the usual night routine and in the morning made the early long slog out down into the heat I think it was 90 degrees in Winthrop. All though we didn't get to Storey from this route it will still be there, the main focus was always Milton, the LO, and exploring the trails, and of course screw it all if there are no views, I do feel a debt to RichP as far as getting on Storey so we will have to remedy that at some point. It was a great trip overall. up.gif

Wolf Creek trail.
Wolf Creek trail.
McKinney.
McKinney.
It wasn't all open park land there were sections of blowdown, thick vegetation, and loose rocky soil.
It wasn't all open park land there were sections of blowdown, thick vegetation, and loose rocky soil.
Steve walking the snow drift.
Steve walking the snow drift.
Steve and Rich approaching Milton's summit.
Steve and Rich approaching Milton's summit.
RichP on the ridge.
RichP on the ridge.
From the low saddle off Milton a view of the basin below Gardner Ridge and the ridge to Storey.
From the low saddle off Milton a view of the basin below Gardner Ridge and the ridge to Storey.
Easy scrambling up the South side of Gardner Ridge
Easy scrambling up the South side of Gardner Ridge
McLeod and Isabela Ridges.
McLeod and Isabela Ridges.
Looking down into Wolf Creek drainage.
Looking down into Wolf Creek drainage.
Getting the views !
Getting the views !
Milton 7152' and the ridge leading to Gardner Ridge.
Milton 7152' and the ridge leading to Gardner Ridge.
Drainage between Milton and Storey that empties into North Fork Wolf Creek.
Drainage between Milton and Storey that empties into North Fork Wolf Creek.
Gardner Meadows - East Abernathy - Abernathy - Abernathy Lake
Gardner Meadows - East Abernathy - Abernathy - Abernathy Lake
Storey from the South on Gardner Ridge.
Storey from the South on Gardner Ridge.
Some nice open slopes on the saddle between Gardner Ridge and Milton.
Some nice open slopes on the saddle between Gardner Ridge and Milton.
Milton summit ahead.
Milton summit ahead.
We made fire !
We made fire !
Part of the ridge to the 7961' point on the end of Gardner Ridge.
Part of the ridge to the 7961' point on the end of Gardner Ridge.
Coffee Time !
Coffee Time !
Little Bridge Creek Butte - Midnight Mountain
Little Bridge Creek Butte - Midnight Mountain

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RichP
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PostWed Jun 21, 2017 7:42 pm 
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After a month in the flatlands of South Carolina this trip was a real butt kicker. I enjoyed our short exploration of the North Fork Wolf Creek trail which is shown on maps to start on the east side of the creek but in reality starts on the west side. You won't see any evidence of the trail from the main Wolf Ck Trail though, but it's there if you poke around. This is an old stock driveway and there is still evidence of that activity on this trail. We came across a functional gate that is a real masterwork and raises and lowers with the touch of a finger due to a counterbalanced rock. It must work as good now as the day it was built. I'd like to explore further up this drainage on some future trip.

The Milton Mtn Trail was also interesting and we followed the old communication wire for miles up to the old lookout site. The trail is actually in pretty decent shape where the tread still exists. The lookout was built in 1933 and sold for 1 dollar in 1951 when it was removed. I wonder if it's still around?

Great to get out with Rob and Steve again. Thanks for the invite.

Mountain lady slipper.
Mountain lady slipper.
North Fork Wolf Creek Trail.
North Fork Wolf Creek Trail.
Old gate on North Fork Wolf Ck. Masterfully built and still works with a slight touch of the finger.
Old gate on North Fork Wolf Ck. Masterfully built and still works with a slight touch of the finger.
Counterweight on gate.
Counterweight on gate.
The trail crosses the North Fork Wolf Ck just after the gate.
The trail crosses the North Fork Wolf Ck just after the gate.
Another view of the gate on this historic stock driveway. The gate must be well over 50 years old.
Another view of the gate on this historic stock driveway. The gate must be well over 50 years old.
Junction of Wolf Ck Trail and Milton Mtn Trail at about the 4 mile mark.
Junction of Wolf Ck Trail and Milton Mtn Trail at about the 4 mile mark.
The Milton Mtn Trail still receives some horse traffic.
The Milton Mtn Trail still receives some horse traffic.
Higher up the Milton Mtn trail disappears but is mostly on open slopes.
Higher up the Milton Mtn trail disappears but is mostly on open slopes.
Wire from the lookout days still around.
Wire from the lookout days still around.
Storey Mtn.
Storey Mtn.
McKinney Mtn.
McKinney Mtn.
Below Milton Mtn.
Below Milton Mtn.
Burn below Milton.
Burn below Milton.
The summit ridge of Milton.
The summit ridge of Milton.
Milton Mtn Lookout site 7152.'
Milton Mtn Lookout site 7152.'
Summit of Milton.
Summit of Milton.
Outhouse base.
Outhouse base.
Range marker we found on the ridge dated 8/25/1966.
Range marker we found on the ridge dated 8/25/1966.
Milton Mtn from the ridge to Gardner Mtn.
Milton Mtn from the ridge to Gardner Mtn.
Old glass insulator on Milton, one of the few relics left.
Old glass insulator on Milton, one of the few relics left.
Post for glass insulator.
Post for glass insulator.
Headed down in the morning.
Headed down in the morning.

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Brushbuffalo
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PostThu Jun 22, 2017 7:48 am 
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Good beta for a future trip to Milton LO site. Thanks, as we were just thinking about the se ridge as a logical place to find the old trail.
That gate is fascinating!

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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wildernessed
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PostThu Jun 22, 2017 9:01 am 
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up.gif We had quite an adventure out there between finding old trails, diverse terrain, the views, flowers, LO, and relics. I found a pic from Storey looking down the Ridge over to the point we were on taken in July. That stretch is doable but there is a lot of snow right now and the head two basins are holding quite a bit of melt water which is pooling in the snow.

Gardner Ridge from Storey.
Gardner Ridge from Storey.

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fourteen410
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PostThu Jun 22, 2017 9:40 am 
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Thanks for sharing. So much to explore in that area.
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HitTheTrail
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PostThu Jun 22, 2017 3:50 pm 
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I'll bet Steve the history guy loved that old gate. Looks like you guys  covered a lot of ground and new ideas. up.gif
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wildernessed
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PostFri Jun 23, 2017 6:00 am 
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HitTheTrail wrote:
I'll bet Steve the history guy loved that old gate. Looks like you guys  covered a lot of ground and new ideas. up.gif

Yeah Rich and Steve played with that gate for nearly an hour admiring the ingenuity of it, we got out to Milton which has been on his mind for quite awhile, and we solved the West Fork trail question. Those old trails are like black holes they suck you in. It starts with just checking it out and one thing leads to another.

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Brushbuffalo
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PostFri Jun 23, 2017 6:07 am 
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wildernessed wrote:
Those old trails are like black holes they suck you in. It starts with just checking it out and one thing leads to another.

Ain't it the truth? hockeygrin.gif

It is fascinating how some trails that haven't had a bit of planned maintenance in half a hundred or longer  ( think "Remmel Mountain") are still in better shape than some maintained trails. Finding old trails goes hand-in-hand ("foot-in-foot?") with the hobby of getting to former lookout sites.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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HitTheTrail
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PostFri Jun 23, 2017 6:42 am 
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Here is a photo Steve took last year from his exploring during that trip we took up to Slate Lake. The old Dodd cutoff goes from the Slate Lake basin down into the south fork of Wolf Creek.

Dodd Cuttoff
Dodd Cuttoff
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wildernessed
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PostFri Jun 23, 2017 7:52 am 
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He calls all his discoveries treasures. winksmile.gif

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RichP
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PostFri Jun 23, 2017 8:04 am 
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As Steve remarked, none of these trails would be built today and there is hardly a ridge or drainage that didn't have one at some point in time. It's a reminder that recreation was not the purpose of them either. These were working trails to drive stock or to get to mines or someplace where roads didn't exist. Many of them may have started as old traces used by the original people that lived there for hunting and travel too. I love finding old trails and thinking about those that walked them in the past.

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PostThu Aug 08, 2019 9:52 am 
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I followed the mapped trail route from Gardner Meadows yesterday up to Milton as a way to get to Storey Peak without having to make an additional trip after doing the Gardners.  I can't say I found much unambiguous remnants of the trail but the route went well with not much brush or blowdowns.

Coming down the ridge from Milton after Point 6690 I took the mapped trail rather than your more direct route along the ridge.  However messy your route was there in getting up  to Milton mine had to be much worse.  I was not happy when I could finally see what I had to get through to get back on the ridge.  Trip photos

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wildernessed
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PostThu Aug 08, 2019 10:54 am 
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👍🏻Good Stuff we systematically explored quite a bit of the area over the years the Virginian Ridge - McKinney Mountain - Wolf Creek Loop is a good early season backpack too we came in Sandy Butte from SR 20 to do Storey.

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