Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Vacation Stage 3: The Final Hours Elapse (Part Three)

So, now we are up to yesterday. We woke up early, had a bagel and a cup of coffee in hand by 6:30, and were east-bound on Highway 126. Our destination was just east of Blue River, Oregon: Ollalie Mountain Trail.

We arrived by 8:30, after 14 miles on a gravel road that mostly went up. It was a much wider gravel road than the one we drove Tuesday, but it seemed just as infrequently used. At the trail head, one guy in an ancient Land Rover was cooking breakfast. He seemed not to want to be disturbed, which was great, because I didn't want to disturb him. Monkey and I got our shoes on, swung our pack up, and hit the trail.

The first mile and a half of hiking was nice. Some good elevation gains, some picturesque bear grass. The only drawback was the ubiquitous Cascades mosquitoes. They are heinous in the summertime, but, as long as we kept a good pace and frequently re-dosed with OFF!, we were okay. The problems began after the two-mile mark, where we expected to find a trail marker and a right-bearing trail. After three miles, we realized we had made an error. We came to a downed tree (one of many) and beyond that, we saw the trail, flat and running through a meadow, seem to peter out. We decided to turn around, since we were supposed to be climbing a mountain, and we hadn't gained more than ten feet in the past mile and a half.

A mile back up the trail, we found our mistake, as the trail did jog off to the right, but was poorly marked by a tiny sign about ten feet off the trail that had weathered to the same gray color as the dead, bark-less tree it was nailed to. So, with little comment but a shrug, we headed up the way we should have in the first place. A friend of mine always says, "Sometimes, you have to get off the trail to get on the trail." I think that is terrible advice, but, in this case, that seems to be exactly what we had done.

We knew we were on the right trail, now, since we immediately began to gain elevation. Before long, we were switching back through a meadow, huffing, puffing, sweating, and loving it. As we reached the summit, the trail swung halfway around the mountain, providing us with great views of the western valley and magnificent views of the summits to the east and north, the Sisters and Mount Jefferson. However, the view from the summit was worth every errant step we had taken: a nearly panoramic view from nearly 6000 feet of the surrounding Willamette National Forest.

A weathered lookout shack still stands at this summit, along with the remnants of a concrete helipad. This used to be a fire lookout, and a spectacular lookout it was. the shack is cinched closed with a wire and tension strap that keeps the shutters over the still-intact glass windows and the door, but campers sometimes unleash the strap and spend an evening on the mountain top. It must be a wonderful place to wake in the morning, and, save for the normal wear of time gone by with no maintenance, the shack is in pretty decent shape. Maybe some other time, we might choose to wake up on this gorgeous summit.


Anonymous said...

Hi there!
I just took a look at your blog - what fun to read about your hikes and the rest of the week in the Emerald City! What an excellent source you must have regarding trail protocol. You should ask Meg about the green tree we saw on our hike to triple falls.
Enjoy the great rockies-hope you see some cool stuff- maybe even a unicorn hanging out with the mountain goats.

La Fashionista said...

Sounds breathtaking. And I am hearing the subversive siren song of that shack!