As the Cascade Mountains slope downward on their eastern “rain-shadow” side, the climate gets progressively drier and the forests become more open. In the transition zone between forested mountains and semi-arid grasslands is a unique pine-oak ecosystem filled with outstanding wildflower displays and surprisingly good scenery. The School Canyon Trail, perhaps the best way to sample this beautiful environment, is a particularly good option for west-side hikers tired of the waterlogged paths closer to home.
In addition to the scenery, you will get a kick out of the place names in this area. Elsewhere the map of Oregon is filled with uninspired names such as “Deer Creek” and “Lost Lake,” but here it is a pleasant surprise to see how someone with a little imagination put some thought into the naming process. Three particularly inspired examples are the low summits dubbed Felt Tip, Ball Point, and Pen Point. All that is missing is an Ink Creek for a complete set.
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