Observation Peak the Long Way
Posted by Josh Baker
The guidebook suggested that the Trapper Creek Wilderness was undiscovered, a hidden gem. I suppose it was right, but after a 13 mile hike with a deceptive amount of elevation gain, l was focused on my sore legs, worried that I would barely be able to walk the following day. As it happened, some stretching, anti-inflammatories, and a decent night’s sleep helped me get through it. Then I looked back and appreciated where I had been and what I had seen. Trapper Creek is a really nice wilderness, not far from the Portland metro area. It has a gorgeous stream, at least one stunning waterfall, rugged ridges, tremendous old growth and other unique flora, and one stellar summit with views of five volcanoes. And that’s just one hike.
I began by heading up the Trapper Creek drainage . The trail is not always streamside, but the forest is very pleasant. I wanted to do the big loop, as it’s known, but in a less popular direction. The loop offers a chance to gradually climb a canyon, or scale a series of forested ridges, either way ending with a spur trail hike to Observation Peak. By heading up a steep path to the ridge trail, I thought I might save a little time. The Big Slide Trail is a rugged, intermittently maintained path. It was still relatively easy to follow, but it was steep in spots, and there was one spot where the direction was counter-intuitive. Once I reached the Observation Trail, the slope mellowed out a bit, never getting close to steep again on the climb.
Views of mountains appeared through the trees. First, the nearby Soda Peaks, and later, the white bulk of Mount Adams to the east. Once I reached the junction with the summit spur trail, I started feeling pretty good. Proximity to a peak always gives me a little more pep in the step. So it was in this case, and this summit was worth the hike. Vistas in almost all directions were spectacular. It was the end of May, yet Mounts Jefferson, Hood, Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier, along with the Goat Rocks, still showed plenty of snow. A few other hikers came and went while I soaked in the views, snacked, hydrated, and rested. One couple planned on camping on the summit. I was a bit jealous even as I knew I would never camp right there. The descent would require at least three hours, and I was heading into unknown territory, so when a few more groups reached the summit, I decided it was time to go.
Interestingly, once I crossed over and reached the top of the Trapper Creek Trail, I saw only one other person. Later, I discovered there are shorter routes to Observation Peak. That explains the modest crowds up there. Oh well. I needed the exercise, and exercise I got. The Trapper Creek Trail descends gradually for a long time, eventually crossing a gorgeous creek with deep pools. The path then gets steeper, the tread barely there at times as it shuffles down the canyon wall. There was a sign at one point saying no horses allowed, as the path was too narrow. And so it was. One big reward came with a view of a waterfall across the canyon.
Once I got reached the bottom of the canyon, I just wanted to be back at the car. This section of the trail was not that scenic, and the trail actually climbed quite a bit over rolling terrain. Then I reached creekside and thought I was done climbing. Ha ha. Fooled you. The Deer Creek cutoff was supposed to be a shortcut. Having already hiked ten miles, I found it difficult to get psyched for the short steep climbs. There were a few gorgeous spots on the cutoff, including the creek crossing. My pace slowed. I’m too old for this, I remember thinking. Once I passed the turn to the Big Slide Trail, I was in familiar territory. I plodded onward, and found myself happy to reach my ride.
About Josh Baker"The world is big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.” ― John Muir
Posted on June 5, 2016, in Adventure, Flora and Fauna, General Hiking, hiking, Mountains, Navigation, Outdoors, Peakbagging, Solo Hiking, Uncategorized and tagged Hikes near Portland, Pacific Northwest adventures, Pacific NOrthwest hikes, Southwest Washington hikes. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.