Category Archives: Camping
My vacation is winding down, so I really wanted a wilderness experience. As I get older, I seem to have fewer and fewer of them, and that’s a shame. I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, but yesterday I sought to rectify that absence and headed to the north side of the highest mountain in Oregon. The drive is long but the hike is shorter and easier than many approaches.
From the Vista Ridge Trailhead, the trail goes through half a mile of typical Cascade forest, then emerges into a charred landscape left over from the Dollar Lake fire in 2011. The underbrush is thriving, but here are few trees left alive over ten feet tall. Lots of silvery trunks make for an odd atmosphere, but I find it fascinating. Once I climbed out of that in a couple miles, the wildflowers started dotting the sides of the trail. I’d worried I was late, but not at all. Once I hit the Timberline Trail, I had a quick decision to make about finding a campsite. I chose to seek a new spot in Elk Cove, a big open meadow below the steep slopes of Mount Hood abutted by the massive talus slopes of Barrett Spur.
Once I made camp, I snacked and headed out on a hike to points east. Three stream crossings later, a couple of which are tricky, I made it to a nice set of rocky slabs above Compass Creek Falls. It’s hard to get a straight-on view of the falls, because it’s below the trail. I found a nice flat rock and napped briefly in the sunshine. Sleeping in the sun feels like vacation.
The flowers along the trail kept surprising me. Yellow, lavender, red, white, pink, orange. It’s such a treat to catch the mountainsides bedecked in coat of many colors. My walk back to camp was uneventful other than starting to see a lot more people. It was a good day.
My only disappointment was when I realized my camp was too far in the shadow of a massive ridge to see the comet Neowise, but that was a small price to pay for the lovely vista I had while eating a mediocre freeze dried dinner. An early evening ramble along a user path in the meadows let me see a different perspective of creek and flowers and mountain above. I took a series of photos and eventually wandered back to my tent feeling intoxicated by the beauty of the area.
I woke early today and headed out, knowing I had business to attend to at home, but also knowing my legs might not be up for another side trek. I am already thinking about my next visit to the area.
Dawn broke clear and cool over the upper Clackamas River drainage after an impromptu camping trip amid the teeming hordes escaping the metro area. Every campground was full for miles. So it goes. It was a great morning to look at clear water, tall trees, and mossy rocks. Then there was the low waterline at Detroit Lake, living the late summer reservoir life of stumps and marinas in the mud. We did a lot of walking, although we didn’t end up taking a serious hike. We simple went with the flow, something at which I do not always excel. We found gorgeous spots of placid river, and soaked up views from the dam at the foot of Detroit Lake. Ten to fifteen fishermen cast their lines right off the top of the dam. Some of them were even successful. Pretty cool.
Once we got out of the foothills, we had a decision to make. We could go to a popular hiking area like Silver Falls or Opal Creek, but we opted instead to do something a bit more unique, based on the classic on-the-fly smart phone search. Onward to Willamette Mission State Park! It was there that Jason Lee established a Methodist mission in 1834, two decades before Oregon was even a state, and survival had to come before any conversion of Native Americans. The part comprises almost 900 acres of river, lakes, orchards, and open fields. It’s just over an hour from home, yet I’d never visited. Time to change that.
Once in the park, we walked the short trail to the of Goose Lake, then drove to the viewing spot of the nation’s largest Black Cottonwood, which is not incredibly tall in comparison to redwoods or Douglas firs, but boy, that trunk is massive!
One of the cool things the park does is create what they term a ghost structure, which duplicates the basic shape of the original mission buildings. The structure was built close to the riverbank, and mosquitoes were a big problem, along with malaria. Not such a great spot, as it turns out. The mission moved to Chemeketa, now known as Salem, in 1840. Ironically, an 1861 flood ravaged the area, and the main river channel moved further west. The water below the ghost structure is now a landlocked lake most of the year.
The trails were pretty, and dotted with nut trees and apple trees. There were many walnut trees, and a lot of a few other species, which probably included filbert trees. A few deer darted through the area, perhaps looking to nosh on some apples.
Once we left the orchard area, we discovered a path to the Willamette River itself, on a quiet rocky beach with calm water that instantly make me think of Huckleberry Finn. I skipped a few rocks, which Jackie wanted to chase. Sorry, not a ball, buddy.
It was a lovely spot, and the temperature was perfect. Just visible downstream was the Wheatland Ferry. It seemed such an quaint anachronism that we had to take it.Such happenstance led us to Dayton, a cute little town which was apparently founded by Joel Palmer, part of the Barlow Road entrepreneurial team and namesake of the Palmer snowfield and chairlift at famed Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. We also chowed on great burgers at the Block House Café. Then came the Sunday afternoon traffic issues, part of which was caused by a pair of tractors on the highway, which seemed humorous yet fitting in Oregon’s wine country, and a fitting capstone for the day.
On a whim, my wife and I drove over the Cascades last night to go camping along the banks of the Deschutes River. There were no crowds, and we managed to stumble into a good campsite at the city park in Maupin, the epicenter of Deschutes rafting. After gawking at a close to full moon, we crashed. In the morning, we had a very satisfying breakfast at Henry’s, then headed downriver for some adventures. Because the ecosystems here are so different than those around Portland, it always feels like a vacation.
Something about sagebrush, rimrock, and blue skies engergized me. We popped out of the car at many spots, including one where D. and I first camped together in 1996. It brought back good memories, and Jackie Chan kept bringing back the ball we chucked. Sherar’s Falls was a sight to behold. The fishing platforms Native American constructed over the whitewater were crazy. There were also wooden ladders going right down the volcanic rock to the water. Eventually we left the river and headed back towards a main road, but it had been a great little adventure.