Justin and I had been away for so much of this summer that this past weekend we were itching to get outside and go on a backpacking trip. We ended up choosing a moderately difficult 10 mile hike which allowed us to camp at Burnt Lake. In the description our guidebook told us that most of the trail used to be an old service road therefore I immediately thought, wide trail. We thought it was a happy medium between a long day hike and a longer backpacking hike. After-all, our bodies had not gone on a serious hike in a few months.
We started our day late afternoon on Saturday and drove to the cut off road that the trail was on off Rt 26. The guidebook we were using told us we would drive on a couple small roads until the pavement ended. At that point we were supposed to turn off onto a dirt road called Zig-Zag Mountain Pass. The guidebook did warn us that the last 1/2 mile of the 4 1/2 mile road might require a 4-wheel drive vehicle during the rainy season. ”No problem” we thought, “worse comes to worse we park the car at the last half mile and hike it.”
As we drove along in our little Honda Fit we saw that the pavement was coming to an end but were confused as to where to go from there. We saw a Prius parked at an angle in front of us. ”Did we read the directions correctly…is this the trailhead or are we supposed to keep going?” we thought out loud. We inched up farther and farther until we saw a very narrow bumpy dirt road to our left. ”Ah, there it is…but why is that Prius just sitting there?” ”Oh well…” As we drove further and further we realized this might not have been such a good idea. Our very low clearance tiny Fit was certainly getting jostled around quite a bit. Justin calculated that if we went only 5 miles per hour (the safe and reasonable speed to go on this road) it would take us almost an hour which was too long in his book. Therefore he proceeded to drive 10 miles an hour then…Eeekkk slammed on the breaks for the crater like pot holes, rocks and culverts that appeared every couple feet. The idea of getting there faster was great but execution…not so much. Oh, did I mention that it was an extremely narrow road we were driving on with a sheer drop off one side for most of the way? White knuckled in the passenger side, gasping for our poor car’s sake we finally…CRUNCH…came to a point where we could go no further. Rocks do not give! Very, very carefully Justin backed the car down the road to a wider part of the road where we could park. After exiting the car we realized how amazing our little car really was. For most of the road we had no more than an inch clearance under our car! Nice little Fit!
We sat and ate our lunch in the car as we watched another small car cruise past us. Before we were done with our lunch we saw the same little car pass us again going the other way. Guess his car didn’t appreciate it either! We got our gear together and walked and walked and walked seeing various car parts along the way from the unfortunate cars who’s owners dragged up there. About 3 miles or so and an hour and a half later we got to the trail head! :) Ironically, no fires were allowed on Burnt Lake.
We figured that since the guidebook considered the rough dirt road we were supposed to drive on to be in good condition that the trail that “used to be a road” would simply be a somewhat wide trail. And that it was. The trail started out as a somewhat wide trail yet soon became a dense brush filled path. Just before entering this brush we read signs on a tree informing hikers that from September through October the forest service was using pesticides on invasive species therefore hikers were cautioned not to touch the brush. Yea…easier said than done when it’s completely covering the path!
The weather was perfect for hiking. It was fairly chilly out if you were sitting still but felt nice while backpacking. A couple hours into the hike we summited where Burnt Lake trail meets up with Zig-Zag Mountain trail. From here there was an incredible view of Mt Hood! I’m always surprised when a mountain is able to sneak up on me. It happens often here in OR. From behind a big cloud or two the mountains blend into the sky then…BAM…there it is! Pretty awesome! You can tell its the end of the summer because only the glaciers on Mt Hood remain. From this view we could see Burnt Lake and what looked to us like animals in the water. We later found out that YES, there were animals in the water! Drunkie male homosapien animals!
Down we went, 500ft in 1/2 mile to Burnt Lake. I have to say, it’s much harder to keep your balance and footing with a pack on your back. When we arrived at the lake we found that it was packed! Not only were there no open backpacking sites but the “day use” areas were also full of loud volumed groups. ”What the heck??” we thought. We only saw two vehicles at the trail head one of which was a truck and couldn’t fit more than two people and the other was a jeep that passed us as we hiked on the road carrying only 3 passengers. ”Where did everyone come from??” After looking at our map we found that there was an easy 3 mile hike leading to the lake that came in from the North that we failed to recognize when choosing the hike. Booo!
After searching around the lake we found a somewhat private spot where two trails off the designated backpacking areas converged. It was just our size! We not only found a spot to camp but still had a little daylight left to relax and read books by the crayfish infested lake. It was a beautiful lake but it seriously had honkin’ 4-5″ crayfish all along the shore line. Yeeps! We found that as soon as the sun went behind the mountain, literally within a minute the air got too chilly to sit still without a sleeping bag or additional layers.
We had a relaxing evening and ate a much anticipated dinner. After “sleeping” on our backpacking crash pads, Justin and I realized that one of a couple things happened; 1: our bodies are falling apart and can’t take the thin crash pads 2: our pads stink at providing support or 3: our bodies are not used to this abuse. Whatever the reason, our backs and hip bones were extremely sore!!
The good thing that came out of not being able to “sleep” one more second on our crash pads is that we were awake to see the fog rolling off the lake which was so beautiful! Off we went for our hike back. It’s always a little sad putting on your pack the next morning after hiking a good distance. Bones and muscles that are somewhat forgotten in the trek back seem powerfully and painfully obvious. The thought of latte’s and a big breakfast at a local cafe kept us going strong for most of the hike back. On our way back Mt Hood was hiding again in its mystical cloud cover.
We had a lovely backpacking trip but I’ll tell you what, by the time we got within 2 miles of the car my feet and Justin’s legs were screaming for us to stop. Thank heavens for hiking poles to carry my weight. By the time we had reached the car we had walked over 16 miles and made it to the Zig Zag Mountain Cafe in time to order breakfast. The breakfast was the most amazing home cooked meal ever! Of course any place that had running water was a luxury and breakfast probably would have tasted good almost anywhere…but every detail of the meal was home cooked and lovely. Yummm! I got two thick blueberry pancakes with more blueberries on top, an egg, piece of toast and 2 pieces of bacon! It was delicious!!
Long time, no blog! Justin and I have been up to our ears in work and wedding preparations…mostly work.
So, last weekend we decided to go on a lovely hike with forecasted nice weather. The particular hike we chose was in one of our hiking books named “Ruckle Ridge Hike; difficult; 8 mile loop.” This hike was in the Columbia Gorge area and started on an unmarked, unmaintained challenging trail progressing back on a marked maintained trail called Ruckle Creek Trail. We figured we’d get our bodies in gear and go for the “difficult” hike since we had not too long ago attempted a “difficult” hike and found that it wasn’t so challenging after all.
Well, a while back I had found some extra time on my hands and gone through one of our hiking books and described each hike in a couple words, labeled the challenge level and preferred time of year to hike it. The day before attempting the hike Justin brought it to my attention that I had labeled this hike as “death march on jagged rocks.” Well…let me just say that the description wasn’t too far off. It WASN’T a death march, yet we certainly could have been at risk of death as I will explain later and it wasn’t jagged rocks the ENTIRE time –only for the first 5 hours, straight up hill! That’s right people…5 hours!
When we started on our adventure it was 9:30am and at a somewhat modest temperature of about 45*F. We finally found the unmarked trail and started up…and up…and up the Ruckle Ridge. It was SO beautiful; moss and rocks everywhere!
We quickly gained elevation for lovely views.
For part of the way we were walking on an evergreen lined path because of the heavy winds we’ve had that had knocked down branches. I couldn’t help but feel like royalty as we ventured on this path.
Up to the top of the ridge we got…no, this is the top of the ridge…no THIS has GOT to be the top of the ridge. -We continue to climb.
About 2 hours into the hike Justin and I were psyched to see little flakes of snow in the air. Soon the ground was starting to accumulate this lovely snow. ”How pretty” we said; “Ooo, let’s get a picture before it melts away! ”
…more and more is accumulating. ”Boy these rocks are getting slippery” …”Hmm, I can’t really see the path anymore.” …”I have know idea where the path is!” This “unmarked” trail was indeed very much unmarked. Turning back was not an option at the point we realized it was dangerous. We just climbed straight up jagged rocks, there was no way we could get back down without hurting ourselves. Luckily and what I felt to be life saving, we found footprints! Hooray!! There were at lease two other people, as we guessed from the tracks, that were as stupid as us! At this point we knew we were either being led to find two other stranded lost hikers in the now waist deep –luckily packed–snow or to the connecting “marked” trail.
Is that a sign?? –No…but it’s a sign of LIFE! We’ll take it!
We finally get to an icy river crossing. This marked the connection between unmarked and marked trail. But first…crossing the river. Why can’t there always be bridges?? It is so stinking scary crossing rivers without bridges!! Our trusty footprint leaders brought us to a fallen icy tree that acted as our bridge. I was NOT about to walk across that thing so I shimmied myself across the icy tree. ”AHhh…unsteady…unsteady…don’t drop that…..JUSTIN! My hiking pole!!” Justin heroically fished my hiking pole out of the rushing frigid river. Good Heavens! Justin soon followed, shimmying his little behind along the icy tree.
A marked trail!!
Down, down, down we go. We have been on this trail before and enjoyed revisiting the viewpoints and creepy enchanted D. Seuss forest.
Beautiful, but boy howdy challenging!Read More
Justin and I have been wanting to go on a Mt Hood trail for a while now. There’s nothing like hiking near the beautiful snow capped peaks of Mt Hood! We originally tried to hike on the North side of Mt Hood but after driving 1/2 hour into the woods across broken roads on the side of a cliff we found a “ranger”/bouncer at the trail head turning people away. He informed us that half of Mt Hood and the surrounding region had been closed off due to forest fires! Close one!! If he weren’t there we would have hiked right into the fire!!
The trail was very desert like in the beginning with surprisingly sandy ground with very sporadic evergreen trees and low succulent-like ground brush. Throughout the trail there were wonderful views of the top peak of Mt Hood, canyons and at the middle destination of the trail, a field of beautiful wildflowers! The smell and sights were amazing!
The challenging thing about this hike was you didn’t just do the classic…up the mountain, look at the view…hike back down the mountain to your car and leave pattern. It started off as steady downhill through the desert-like terrain, down a series of steep switch-backs down a riverbed (which we had to maneuver across…something that totally scares me), up the other side of the canyon to a wonderful view point into the next canyon we would descend into. Down and up out of the next canyon to the wonderful field of wildflowers and then back through everything to get back to the lodge. The last canyon was definitely harder to climb up once our legs were feeling like jello and the “slightly downhill” on the way to the field of wildflowers felt like a not so slight uphill climb on the way back.
Beautiful trail and would be interesting doing it again when there is snow on the trail. We would have to leave a lot more time to climb though since I’m sure we would be slipping up and down those canyons. Now that I think about it, the icy river crossing and non-existent wildflower field might not be as rewarding!
|Paradise Park Hike with Dan and Rachel|
Over the weekend Justin and I FINALLY got to go on a hike The evening/weekend schedule that I had for my last job made it almost impossible to fit in hikes or camping trips. We hiked the Eagle Creek Trail again. This time instead of following another trail mid-way, we followed the Eagle Creek Trail 6 miles in to Tunnel Falls and 6 miles back the same way.
It was a nice leisurely hike which we were looking for. We didn’t want to decommission ourselves for a week after because of soreness. I think the Eagle Creek Trail is my favorite so far in OR. Well, that may not be true…they all have their unique qualities. Along this trail there is waterfall after waterfall! We even found some snow!
I was glad we went all the way to Tunnel Falls this time. It’s this beautiful steep waterfall with a cave directly behind it. We were able to walk along the cliffs and right behind the waterfall!! It was so neat! If you look carefully in the waterfall picture below you can see me on the cliff.Read More
As you all know…Living Social deals rock! Justin found a great deal on condo prices (with a hot tub!!) down in the Bend, OR area which gave us a great excuse to explore the other side of the Cascades. It was amazing how abruptly the landscape changed from the lush green grounds of Portland to dry desert land. After driving to the other side of the Cascades it was clear that the mountain ranges determine the climate of an area. It’s hard to believe until you see it for yourself.
While we were in the Bend area there were numerous trails, mountains and caves to explore all of which were surprisingly far apart. I’m not sure if it just seemed like there was a long distance between things because the land was so barren or if things really were far apart. Unfortunately for us, we hadn’t thought of possible snow conditions and found some of the attractions snowed in Next time we will bring snow shoes! Despite the snow, we were able to explore spooky Boyd Cave. Because we only had one big flashlight for the four of us that went on the exploration, we chose not to go too far into the cave. Plus, we saw frequent piles of huge boulders which had fallen from the cave ceiling. Not super reassuring!
We hiked to a hill top (the Bessie Trail ) to get a nice view of the half a dozen snow capped mountains. Beautiful!
…found a random hay bail boat by the side of the road.
The last day we were in Central OR we went tubing on Mt Bachelor which was lots of fun.Read More