May 25, 2015
A few weeks ago we had intended to drive down to the Oregon Caves National Monument and do an all day hike consisting of the Big Tree trail and the Mt Elijah - Bigelow Lakes loop trail. But after calling the visitor center the day before and finding out that there was currently a light snow on Mt Elijah with forecasts of rain-thunderstorms and 43 degree temps on our hike day, we had to forego our planned hike.
But that was then and this is now. Memorial Day weather was forecast for 71 degrees and sunny, the perfect weather for a 10+ mile hike. So off we went to the Oregon Caves National Monument and another adventure.
We started our hike along the Big Tree trail at the visitor center. This 3.3 mile loop is a great hike by itself and begins a steady uphill climb the moment you leave the visitor center. On our clockwise hike out to the Big Tree we began seeing what would be a trend throughout the day -- WILDFLOWERS! They were everywhere. By hikes' end we probably saw over 30 different varieties. We came across large patches of Yellowleaf Iris', Spring Beauty, and more Snow Queens than we had every seen hiking before. What a start!
After a stop at the Big Tree, we continued on to a couple of connector trails that took us to the Mt Elijah - Bigelow Lakes loop trail. From the time our hike started till we arrived at the summit of Mt Elijah, the trail seemed to always go up and up and up. In all we climbed around 2,500 feet in less than 5 miles. The good news was that after Mt Elijah, the rest of the trail was either level or downhill.
Once we reached Mt Elijah, we took a much needed lunch break and enjoyed the incredible panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. We enjoyed the silence during our break, but occasionaly heard the wind in the trees or the frogs from one of the Bigelow lakes below. We also did our part to add a few cairns around the Mt Elijah sign before continuing our hike.
From Mt Elijah we headed down to the larger of the two Bigelow Lakes, We took a faint side trail that included some bushwhacking to make it to the shore of the lake. The frogs sang very loudly until they noticed that we had arrived - then they went quiet. The lake is very shallow but was pretty with the mountains and Mt Elijah in the background.
The trail wound through various meadows in this area which were currently decorated with large patches of Yellow Fawn Lilies/Avalanche Lilies. We could only imagine that in another month there will be even more color in these already beautiful meadows.
After hiking an abandoned and rocky road, we completed the loop and backtracked on the two connector trails to arrive back at the Big Tree trail. We completed the last half of the Big Tree trail which was all downhill, to arrive back at the visitor center -- five and a half hours after we started. We were both very tired but happy to have hiked such a beautiful area.
Since we didn't take pictures (our hike would have been 7-8 hours long if we did), you can click HERE to see some pictures that we found online of another hiker that did this loop during the month of July. The hiker included picutres of various wildflowers, the larger Bigelow lake and views from atop Mt Elijah. His entire album consists of 70 picutres - enjoy!! If you want to see the various wildflowers that are in the Oregon Caves National Monument, click HERE.
Glenn & Carol