I’m a little late in posting about our hike last Thursday. Kangaroo planned a hike to the backcountry of Silver Falls State Park, so we set out early in the morning. We parked at the South Falls parking lot and noticed that these were being installed:
Now, I didn’t get a photo of the rest of the parking lot, but it is quite large. We thought two chargers (with what looks like a two-car capacity on each one) didn’t seem like enough and that people will certainly be fighting over them! The park is quite a ways out from any town and people do come from far away, and it’s understandable that they might need to charge their electric car. I prefer my gasoline-powered vehicle and its 25-gallon gas tank that allows me to drive for quite awhile without filling up again.
We had been having quite a bit of rain and it did rain on us during this hike. The trail often looked like this (below) so we had to find ways around the puddles. I was wearing my waterproof hiking boots but Kangaroo was wearing her trail runners, so she understandably didn’t want to get into the water! We found ways around the puddles so our feet didn’t get too soggy, although Kangaroo did hit some deep mud with a couple of steps.
We walked through the main part of the park and across the highway to a campground, which was closed. Then we walked to the RV campground, which thankfully was open and had a nice clean restroom. When we hike we usually get coffee in town before we head out, and sometimes…well…it goes right through! We went through the RV campground to the nature trail and went into the backcountry from there. In the front country of the park there are many beautiful waterfalls, but in the backcountry there are some creeks but no waterfalls to speak of. Kangaroo had mapped our route on various trails, but we did check the maps at each intersection. The only problem with those maps is there aren’t any designations of “You are here” so you have to figure it out yourself, but the trails are marked well so you know which trail you’re on and which one is intersecting it.
We saw a few interesting mushrooms and fungi:
Here are some more photos:
It was a nice hike and a good workout in places, and we went about 8 miles. Kangaroo and I will hike rain or shine (or snow) so it didn’t bother us and we enjoyed ourselves as usual. Afterwards we went to the Dairy Queen and had our $7 lunches. After driving through the town of Silverton I thought we should pop back there sometime and go to the antique stores and little shops again, as I noticed a new vintage store. There are also some nice-looking restaurants that I wouldn’t mind trying out.
I came down with a cold the day of our hike and haven’t been feeling up to snuff except that I got miraculously better on Saturday and Sunday with just a little cough and sniffle. On Saturday I was preparing for our Christmas dinner we were having the next day on New Year’s Day, and of course Sunday was New Year’s Day when we had our dinner and gift-opening at Mom and Dad’s. I will do another blog post about that.
On “Black Friday” Kangaroo suggested we hike at Peavy Arboretum, which is part of the Oregon State University Research Forests. There are quite a few trails to choose from, and we can find a good loop that suits our mood depending on the day. We usually #optoutside on the day after Thanksgiving instead of going out shopping (this year many stores had “Black Friday” prices online all of Thanksgiving week, so I’m not sure why anyone would have needed to go out at all on the Friday!)
There was a lot of fall color in the forest, and although rain was expected it didn’t actually rain on us. We are almost always blessed with rain-free day hikes, but we are happy to suit up in our waterproof gear and hike in the rain as well (except Sweet Pea – she refuses to hike in the rain!).
On our hike we saw many dogs (I think 11 or 12). People often walk with their dogs off-leash on these trails and twice I thought there was going to be a dog fight, but thankfully the pups were friendly toward each other and just had a little playtime instead. Whew! We also saw a girl leading a horse with a family trailing along behind her. I think she was trying to get the horse used to different environments and surfaces, as she took it onto the large concrete porch of the OSU Forestry cabin and led it to a little stream to see if it wanted to drink. It didn’t look too enthused about the stream. The family was a dad-type person and a few kids, most of whom acted like they really didn’t want to be on a walk at all. As we passed them a second time the dad person was saying that his back was in pain again because one of the boys had pushed him. We waited for them to go by after using the Porta-Potty and taking photos at the Forestry cabin so we didn’t have to hear them arguing!
Near the Forestry cabin is a small lake along with the OSU logging sports arena. I’m not sure if they hold events here or just use it as a practice area.
Here are some photos from one of our prior trips to Peavy, we didn’t visit the logging sports arena this time.
We did a small loop this time, and probably walked about 4.5 to 5 miles, depending on which gadget you ask (phones, watches, or Garmin InReach devices). They never all say the same thing, so we usually take whatever number is in the middle if we don’t already know the mileage of the trail we’re hiking.
More photos from our hike follow:
As usual our hike at Peavy was nice and we enjoyed it, and would recommend it as a good local hike. Afterwards we went to Dairy Queen in Monmouth and each had a $7 Buck Lunch (3 chicken strips, fries, drink, and small ice cream sundae). Not too long ago it was the $5 Buck Lunch, and we are still a bit miffed that the price has gone up, ha. I did not get a photo of our lunches, oops!
Kangaroo chose to hike at Silver Falls State Park yesterday because the teacher she works with was planning to do the Silver Falls Trail Run 7 Miler and she wanted to cheer her on. The Silver Falls Trail Runs include a 5K, the 7 Miler, a half-marathon, a marathon, and a 50K, in the main park and the backcountry of the park (where there are cougars and bears 😮). The longer races are qualifiers for other races like the Boston Marathon! The trail we took follows Silver Creek and is very scenic. It is called the Trail of Ten Falls, but we didn’t see all of them. We saw South Falls, Lower South Falls, Drake Falls, Middle North Falls, and Winter Falls on this day.
I present here the first video I have ever edited! It shows us going behind South Falls and Lower South Falls, and a video of Winter Falls.
Here are some photos of our hike. We just got drizzled on a couple of times (we needed our rain jackets more going under the waterfalls) and the rain didn’t really kick in until right after we got into the car to leave. We are blessed that that is the norm for most of our hikes in rainy weather!
We stopped in the park gift shop on our way back but I didn’t get a photo of it. I should have, it is a cute log building with lots of fun stuff to buy! The log buildings in the park were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. For more info on the buildings and the park, go here. The store had a whole section of mushroom-related items, a t-shirt, a mushroom identifier card, and books, and other things. They have some cute stuffed birds that make authentic bird sounds. I picked some up and we heard two different kinds of woodpecker sounds and another bird I don’t remember the name of. They also have lots of stickers and other souvenirs.
On our way home we happened to see a sign for the Willamette Valley Pie Company and I suggested we drive over and try to find it. We had never been there and I had heard they had a nice store and, of course, pies! The Boy’s choir in high school sold Willamette Valley Pie Co. pies for their fundraisers for a couple of years and I knew that the pies were delicious. The store featured a lot of kitchen things and Kangaroo bought some towels and a spoon rest for the new travel trailer she and her Hubs just got. I keep telling her she has to think of a theme for the trailer so I can buy her things for it! Anyway, we each bought a cobbler to take home, I got marionberry and Kangaroo got peach.
I baked my cobbler when I got home and ate my serving, and as expected it was super good. As I was eating Philip was very interested, and when I was finished he came and licked the plate. I bet you didn’t know kitties liked berries! He is unusual in that he enjoys sweet foods sometimes.
We had missed most of the fall color at Silver Falls, but there were a few pretty leaves left. It was a good day and we had a fun hike!
Last week Kangaroo suggested we hike at Marion Lake and Falls up near Detroit, Oregon, so that’s where we headed Friday morning. In prior years we have seen some nice fall color there, and we looked forward to getting some good autumn photos.
Kangaroo had assured me that the trailhead did indeed have bathroom, and I was thankful for that, even though we always stop at the rest stop on Highway 22 on the way to our hikes. We also always get coffee on the way to our hikes, and since I have coffee at home too I usually need the rest stop and a trailhead restroom. A restroom is always better than trying to “go” in the woods, although this pit toilet wasn’t that much better. Whew, it smelled! Going in the woods would have been less stinky, that’s for sure.
We started up the trail and came to a major water crossing, ha.
The trail is in the Willamette National Forest, and since it is also in the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness you need to get a permit to hike here. I navigated the permit website with no problem and paid the $1.00 per person for the online permit system, and printed out our permits, which I carried in my backpack.
First, we came to Ann Lake, or Lake Ann, depending on which map you look at. The outlet for this lake goes underground and the trail is over the top of it, you can hear the water rushing underneath the rocks as you go by.
Further up the trail you come to the “secret” trail to Marion Falls. It isn’t marked and you have to look for the log with an arrow carved into it. It is a little ways past this sign on the Marion Outlet trail.
The trail to the waterfalls is easy enough to follow once you find the beginning of it. We made our way to the falls with just a few logs to climb over. The trail looked a lot more “used” since we had been there a few years before, AllTrails now has it on their site so I suppose more people have been able to find it.
We came to the trail that leads down steeply to Marion Falls, and then continues to Gatch Falls. Kangaroo felt like her feet weren’t cooperating with her, so Sweet Pea and I made our way down the viewpoint for Marion Falls.
On my way down I heard Sweet Pea call my name and looked up to see two young forest rangers, and I assumed they wanted to check our permits. They made their way to me and I got out the permits for the ranger to check. He okayed them and asked if I’d found the website easy to navigate and I said I had, it is very self-explanatory. They continued on down to the base of Marion Falls and to the next waterfall to check things out. They each had a shovel and said they always carry them to use to put out a fire or bury human waste, or anything else one would use a shovel for.
Sweet Pea and I chose not to scramble down to the base of the falls or down to the next waterfall. Someday we’ll see that one too.
After we found Marion Falls, we came back to the Marion Outlet trail and headed for Marion Lake. The lake outlet has a bridge over it that leads to Marion Mountain, which if you go there makes for a much longer hike with a lot of elevation gain.
On the way home we stopped in Detroit at a BBQ food cart and I had a pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw. It was tasty and a bit expensive. The two restaurants we used to stop at in town burned to the ground in the forest fires a couple of years ago, and while people have been rebuilding homes neither of the restaurants shows any signs of rebuilding. It’s too bad, because we enjoyed stopping in Detroit after our hikes and there isn’t much in the way of food selection there anymore.
Oops, I almost forgot to post about our hike last week! I suggested a hike to Benson and Tenas Lakes because I remembered it as a very pretty hike with good fall color. It didn’t turn out quite like I remembered (I think I must have been thinking of another lake hike?) but it was very nice anyway. (Note: Read to the end for a surprise!)
First, I drove this time and since it’s usually Marnie who drives that was unusual. The Old McKenzie Highway, where the hike is located, is many miles of very narrow road with hairpin turns. Marnie is always a good navigator and driving helper, in that she helps me see when it is safe to change lanes or to turn. This time she warned me about each hairpin turn coming up, which was helpful.
After 15 miles of slow and careful driving, we made it to the trailhead. There is a large gravel pit at the trailhead and I decided not to park near it since there were a lot of big rocks that looked like they might fall down any minute. There is a pit toilet there as well, and while it wasn’t very pleasant-smelling, it was nice not to have to “go” in the woods.
We started up the trail and realized that we hadn’t remembered so much uphill. When we got to Benson Lake, there was a couple there with an old doggo who barked as we came up. The lady hollered, “Barking friendly dog! He’s friendly!” so we promptly made friends with him and started in admiring the lake.
We hung out at Benson Lake for a little while, and then headed up to Tenas Lake. There are a few ponds (or what’s left of them) along the way, I assume they would all be full in the spring when the snow is thawing.
We got up to the largest Tenas Lake, and it was just lovely. The lady we had met at Benson Lake had struck out on her own to hike up further, leaving her significant other and the doggo to relax, since the dog had gone his limit for the day.
While we were having our snack, we noticed a lady and dog on the other side of the lake, so when we were ready to hike on we decided to see if we could get over there. We hiked on the Tenas Lake trail and saw some other nice views of the lake, but got to a point where the trail ran out and we didn’t want to bushwhack. We’re not sure if we just missed the continuation of the trail or if the other person bushwhacked, but at that point we just decided to turn around and go back to the car.
Here are some other photos of the hike:
And last but certainly nowhere near least, guess what we saw? You’ll never guess!! We saw a PORCUPINE for the very first time in the wild!! Some hikers told us they had seen it and that someone’s dog had chased it up a tree. We happened to come along when the lady from Benson Lake was looking up at it, and she showed us where it was. Can you believe it? Look how cute it is!! I mean, the face, not so much the quills. Poor guy/girl was still all fluffed up and I suppose our attention didn’t help, but we assured it that we loved it and thanked it for letting us get a photo. Well, Linda and Marnie got photos, these are Marnie’s.
Weather was super nice, we had a great hike, and seeing the porcupine was just the icing on the cake!!
(After we got down the mountain on the narrow road I noticed it was getting late and so we didn’t stop for lunch after the hike. When I was dropping Linda off she brought to my attention that we hadn’t talked about whether we would stop for food or not and I had taken her home hungry! We will definitely be discussing our lunch plans in future!)
If you want to see some cute videos of a porcupine, here is the best of Teddy Bear:
I got new hiking boots! I went to REI because my old Ahnus have a lot of miles on them and are looking a bit wonky, and I needed some new waterproof boots for fall, winter, and spring hiking. I was looking for a pair I saw advertised in an email I got from a different outdoor gear company, but REI didn’t have those. I tried on a pair of Altra Lone Peak mid-high shoes and although I wear regular Lone Peaks for summer/dry weather hiking, I didn’t like the mids as much. Then I decided to try a couple of other pairs and liked the La Sportiva pair. Then I tried the wide women’s size and I liked that better for the wider toe box. Then I was disappointed because they only came in brown and not black, but THEN I realized that the men’s version came in black/gray and would have a wider toe box. And THEN the lady helping me told me that she has these same shoes, and they are very grippy and she loves them. So I was sold, and I can’t wait to wear them on Friday for our hiking adventure! (And if they don’t work out, I can return them, that’s why I buy my shoes at REI!)
Yesterday we hiked the Waterfall Loop at Sahalie and Koosah Falls, near McKenzie Bridge, Oregon. You walk on the McKenzie River Trail for a couple of miles and then turn back to do the loop.
It was a beautiful day weather-wise, but so chilly in the morning that I had to start out in my puffy coat! Marnie’s car told us that it was 39 F while we were on our way to the falls.
We parked at the Sahalie Falls viewpoint parking lot. There is a convenient restroom there. Walking from the parking lot you shortly get to this Sahalie Falls viewpoint.
After Sahalie Falls, the trail follows the McKenzie River down to the Carmen Smith Reservoir.
There are quite a few stairs to go down on the way to Koosah Falls, if you do the loop in a clockwise direction.
It isn’t long until you get to the viewpoints for Koosah Falls.
The sound of the river and the waterfalls is loud but soothing during this hike.
Here the McKenzie River flows into the Carmen Smith Reservoir. The Reservoir is stocked with trout so is a good place for fishing and boating, but it is closed until sometime in 2023 to address sinkhole concerns. You go across the reservoir road bridge to get to the trail on the opposite side.
There is a convenient restroom available near the reservoir and right next to the trail that continues around the loop. We took a restroom and snack break before heading up the trail on the opposite side of the river.
Then we came at Koosah Falls from a different angle:
We followed the river back to Sahalie Falls:
We could see that some kids had gone down to the bottom of the falls. It is generally thought to be unsafe to do that. When they started slipping and pushing each other, we couldn’t watch lest one of them go in the water. Without a miracle it is doubtful one could survive a fall into the McKenzie River here, especially without a life jacket!
We eventually came back around to Sahalie Falls, where there is another viewpoint deck.
Unfortunately some people had carved or written words all over the railings of the upper viewpoint, which we didn’t consider kind, good, or loving no matter what their words say.
The view from the upper viewpoint was great and none of us had ever seen that view of Sahalie Falls before. None of us had hiked the Waterfall Loop before either, so that was new and fun to do. Kangaroo and I had hiked at Sahalie and Koosah Falls a few times, but had never gotten around to doing the Loop. We enjoyed our little hike and were glad to see things we hadn’t seen before! Kangaroo has expressed interest in backpacking the 25-mile-long McKenzie River Trail, and we did see some campsites available along the trail.
After our hike we decided to eat lunch on our way home and went to Takoda’s restaurant in Rainbow, after a stop at the Obsidian Grill to find that they weren’t serving lunch that day. Takoda’s is nice and I think we will stop there again. They had a big Jelly Belly jelly bean machine and since there were cream soda flavored Jelly Bellys I had to get some. They were delicious. I didn’t get a photo of the jelly beans or the little dwarf African froggies in biospheres that the restaurant had for sale. I’m sure those froggies would be a whole blog post in themselves!
We enjoyed our day and have planned a pretty hike in the same area for next week. There are several trailheads in the central Cascades that require permits, and I was able to get one for the trail we chose. Tune in next week to read about that hike!
Marnie texted and invited me to hike yesterday, and suggested either Silver Falls or the beach. I felt like a beach walk, so that’s where we went. It was supposed to be right around 60 degrees all day and cloudy to partly sunny with winds from 5 to 10 mph, so I had no idea what to wear. At first I thought I’d wear my exercise leggings and a long-sleeve merino blend top with a light jacket, but you never know how warm you’re going to be when the sun comes out. Likewise, you never know how chilly you’re going to feel when the wind is blowing, which usually happens at the beach. Would I need a warm hat to keep the wind out of my ears, or would a baseball cap do? The times between winter and spring and summer and fall are always a crapshoot regarding what to wear. I settled on the leggings and a t-shirt with the light jacket, put my puffy coat in my backpack in case I felt cold, and brought all the hats and my merino Buff with my Crocs and extra socks in case my shoes got wet. I usually bring an extra bag to leave in the car to carry those sorts of things.
We got going and stopped to get our Harvest Pumpkin lattes at Bentley’s, a local coffee kiosk next to where Linda’s Hubs works. Delicious!
Then we drove the hour and a half to Lincoln City, deciding to walk on the beach at the “D” River roadside. The “D” River is the shortest river in the world. It was a bit drizzly on the way there, and then quite foggy at the beach and a bit chilly, so I put my puffy on. We headed south on the beach for our “hike”. While we walked Aryn was playing Pokémon Go on her phone and caught lots of the little critters!
There were quite a few people on the beach and many of them had dogs. We saw a Corgi, a Great Dane, a Doberman, a Setter, an Australian Shepherd, and various ‘Doodles, along with some smaller dogs. We got there early as always, so it wasn’t too crowded while we were on the beach. The breeze became warm occasionally, which felt very strange. Usually the breeze at the beach here is cool or cold. We walked and talked for about two miles before stopping at a beach access point with a restroom. There is this statue of Joe the Sea Lion at that spot.
Here are some other photos of our leisurely little adventure.
Marnie enjoys looking for agates where the tide goes out. She has a great eye and always finds some neat things, even the tiniest of agates or sea glass. This time she found a giant agate! She saw it in the surf and went towards it but some other people had seen it too. They all had to wait for the water to go out far enough so they didn’t get their feet all wet claiming the rock. Marnie finally ran down and got it, and the other lady conceded and said Marnie could have it. She found lots of wonderful treasures today with her eagle eye! I, on the other hand, didn’t really bother to look for treasures because I seldom see them. I found a small agate and a tiny piece of white beach glass. Linda said she doesn’t know what she’s looking for when she’s beachcombing. I said I know them when I see them, I just don’t see them, ha.
After walking for four miles or so on the beach we got back to the car and went to the ’60s Cafe and Diner where we like to eat. The diner has a wide variety of food and the food is always good.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
“12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
These passages have been hard for me to get through my head, and I’ll tell you why. I ran track when I was a sophomore in high school. The Sis and The Sis-In-Law and the rest of our friends were on the track team, and I thought it would be fun to join them. Because I wasn’t fast enough to run sprints and couldn’t run for long enough to do the longer races, I ran the 400 meter race. (I am told now it’s one of the hardest races to run. Thanks for letting me know then, track coach (not).) Turns out I am just a very slow runner, and I lost every single race. I mean, I came in dead last. Every. Single. Race. I went to every practice and every meet, but since I wasn’t one of the winning team members the coaches pretty much ignored me and didn’t give me any pointers. When it was time to give out awards, I really hoped that I could get a letter just because I tried as hard as I could and ran every race regardless of my lack of talent and subsequent embarrassment, but you only got a letter if you received a certain number of points and that meant you had to win events. (Our school didn’t offer letters in choir. If they had, I totally would have gotten all the letters.)
Hebrews 12:1 talks about running with endurance, and Philippians 3:14 talks about winning the prize. Well, I ran but I didn’t have much endurance (hence my not being able to run the longer races), and I never won a prize. The only competition I’ve ever won on my own was a spelling competition in middle school, and then when it came to the bigger contest I didn’t come close to winning that one. Not being a competitive person by nature, I don’t enter contests if I know I will be competing directly against others. I don’t like competition. I mean, I enjoy winning but really don’t have confidence that I will.
So I have always been rather flummoxed when reading these Bible passages about running and winning, since now I can’t even run at all (Well, I can run half a block. Then I have to stop because I can’t breathe. Ow. Running hurts.) and I have never been good enough at anything to win any important competitions. And I am not that great at pressing on toward goals I set for myself, so there’s also that.
I have decided, however, to replace “run” with “hike” in my thinking. I can hike with perseverance and reach the hiking goal, so that speaks to me better then the idea of running. I have reached many summits (though not any 14ers, but then I haven’t tried) and have only had to turn around a couple of times, mostly because of sketchy snow on the trail. This gives me hope that although I will never be like Jesus completely, I can move forward and become more like Him as I hike through life. I’m a slow hiker, but I get places.
Obviously there is so much more to these scriptures, but that is for another post!
Don’t forget to read installments 1 and 2 of our Oregon PCT hike!
As we hiked toward Fish Lake, three horses and riders were coming along just as we had stepped over a small log across the trail. There are horse camps at various places along the PCT, and the PCT is graded for horses and hikers. Like any other area with usage by different categories of users, hikers and horsepeople are sometimes a bit at odds. The riders greeted us as we stepped aside to let them go on, but as we started up again the middle horse started bucking and having a fit when he saw that he would have to step over the log. The rider kept her seat admirably and managed to calm the horse down after a very long few seconds, as we watched from where we had stepped as far off trail as we could. We kept quiet and didn’t move so we wouldn’t make the horse more upset. They finally rode off and we were glad not to see them again! This is my concern about horses on the trail – the trail is usually narrow and there are many obstacles, horses are very big and often unpredictable, and sometimes there is no place to escape from an equine stampede! It’s always a relief when we pass horses without incident.
On the PCT in this section most of the PCT emblems are worn off the metal markers. We have come to recognize a blank, white metal diamond on a tree as marking the path of the PCT. On much of our hike we were entertained by graffiti that people had written on the diamonds, such as “Be a traveler, not a tourist,” “Just be kind,” “Born to be wild,” and other encouraging or just silly sayings. Some of them are even like the old Burma Shave signs and make a verse as you go along!
We soon came into Klum Landing Campground at Howard Prairie Lake, a large tent campground sort of in the middle of nowhere. Comments on the FarOut app said the campground had clean restrooms and showers but was mostly deserted, and we thought, “Clean restrooms and picnic tables? We’re in!” We got to the camp before anyone else did and picked a site near the restroom. The restroom was indeed clean and new, and well stocked with toilet paper, paper towels, and soap! (We didn’t check the showers but supposedly they were also quite nice.) There were no car-campers at all, a few cars pulled into the parking lot here and there but none of them stayed. We weren’t sure why the restroom was so well taken care of (I suppose just in case campers came in) but we appreciated it very much! More hikers came after we got there. A man in a pickup truck came around looking for a “tall blonde” while we were in our tents. He said he had some new food for a girl hiker because she wasn’t going to be cooking food anymore while hiking. It sounded a bit nonsensical and we thought it might have been just as well he didn’t find the girl. He said her name was Pepper.
Other than getting scraped and dinged going over logs, we weren’t too much the worse for wear by the time we got to Fish Lake. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land we walked through after Hyatt Lake was 10.5 miles of downed trees. We hit a number of log “nubbins” (what used to be a branch sticking out of a tree, now a short sharp thing sticking out in every inconvenient place on a log one has to go over) and one took a chunk out of my leg. During another log crossing I hit one and it HURT, and I told Marnie I was going to say a bad word. I managed not to, but only by the grace of God!
A lady we met both at Callahan’s and Hyatt Lake told us that the trail is better maintained in the National Forest and once we reached the Rogue River National Forest sign there wouldn’t be so many blowdowns. She was right, and it definitely made for much faster going. Marnie fell on the trail and “left a dent in it”, getting a skinned knee and leg and a bruise on her hip. I tripped on a step (I had gone up successfully many times before) going up into the cabin at Hyatt Lake and hit the deck and skinned my knee, wrenched a muscle in my back, and bumped some ribs. Thankfully, we hiked the 8 miles of lava flows between Hyatt Lake and Fish Lake without losing our balance, although I think it meant that I missed some nice views of Mt. McLaughlin and Mt. Ashland because I was concentrating on my feet so much. If you fall in the lava, at least part of you will land on a pointy rock. In fact, without a miracle all of you would land on a pointy rock. The trail maintainers have made a trail through it, but it is all either small rocks or medium rocks instead of dirt. Thru-hikers just glide over it, but hiking through the miles of lava was exhausting for us because we felt like we needed to watch every step. We were glad there were small shaded forest “reprieves” where we could rest a bit before tackling the next lava flow. I did wear my bug head net through the lava, though, because the bugs insisted on flying in my face and buzzing my ears which drives me bonkers, and I didn’t want to lose my footing because I was gesturing wildly at some insect! The lava flows were the most eventful part of the walk from Hyatt Lake to Fish Lake, so much of this is about our time at Fish Lake.
We arrived at the junction of the PCT and the Fish Lake trail and found a good sitting log to rest on there, glad to be done hiking through that lava! One trail goes two miles to Fish Lake, and the other way goes six miles to Lake O’ the Woods Resort. A thru-hiker couple came by who were also going to spend some time at Fish Lake, and we said we’d see them there later and continued our little rest time. We had been rationing our water all day since there was no water source between our campsite and Fish Lake, so we finished it up knowing we only had two miles until we could get all the soda we wanted, ha. Marnie and I both had to use the “ladies room”, and had to walk up the less traveled trail towards Lake O’ the Woods to find a spot. I walked up aways and took a spot behind a shrub, but there weren’t a lot of private spots to choose from. In the middle of things I heard a noise and looked up, and there was a bicycle coming down the trail! I was, in the least, mortified! I hunkered down as far as I could, but the colors of my sunshirt are so bright I was certainly visible, and I’m sure the cyclist was aware of what was “going” on. Thankfully he just looked politely ahead and continued down the trail, and I put myself back together and hurried back to the junction. I sincerely hoped the cyclist was staying at Lake O’ the Woods and wouldn’t be coming back to Fish Lake, and I was glad that I could change into my “town clothes” at the resort and therefore not be recognized just in case he did come back in our direction!
The trail from the PCT to Fish Lake is a joy to walk on, two miles of wide, graveled path with only a couple of hills to go up. Once again we zipped up the trail, in anticipation of a good lunch this time and in hopes of getting a cabin for the night. We arrived on Thursday instead of Friday, and I had been praying the whole day that we could get a cabin with a bathroom to stay in Thursday night so we could get our showers in our own private bathroom instead of having to use the “communal” shower. I never know what to do with my feet in those things. Do I stand directly on the shower floor? (Ick.) Do I wear my Crocs in and then just stand on top of them so I can wash my feet, and then have to put my feet in my wet Crocs to walk back to the cabin? (Also ick.) We didn’t have to answer that question though, as God answered, “Yes,” to my prayers and someone had checked out early and left Cabin 5 available to us. We had to wait a couple of hours for the cabin to be cleaned, so we had some BLTs and curly fries and milkshakes for lunch on the restaurant deck and talked to the couple we had seen at the junction. They were busy planning their resupply and their next few stops.
When the cabin was ready we gleefully scampered up to it and took our showers! You see, Fish Lake’s “rustic” cabins that we had reserved for Friday and Saturday nights don’t have bathrooms. They do have a little kitchen area with cold running water and a fridge, so at least one can wash one’s face and brush one’s teeth, but we needed showers and the private bathroom was such a blessing! God takes good care of us! (We had cleverly brought the tiny bottles of shampoo and tiny bars of soap with us from the cabin at Hyatt Lake, just in case there were no amenities like that at Fish Lake, and it was a good thing we did. There wasn’t even any soap for the shower!)
We enjoyed our time at Fish Lake, even though there was a heat wave going and the resort doesn’t supply any fans in the cabins. (This is made clear on their website.) Both days it was 90 degrees out already at around 10:30 a.m. Cabin 5 had a screen door so we could let the evening air in until bedtime and a covered porch where we could sit as the air cooled a bit, and we each kept a cold washcloth near us or on us to try to keep cool. The rustic cabin did not even have a screen door, so we opened the windows (except the one over the bed, which had a big crack in it mended with packing tape) and attempted to sleep. By the time we were both awake in the morning the cabin had finally cooled off enough to be comfortable. Unfortunately we both had to go to the bathroom in the night, but we walked there together and the road was very well lit. Neither of us likes to wander around by ourselves after dark.
We spent most of our time relaxing on the deck sending and receiving messages from our InReach satellite devices (no cell signal at the lake except AT&T) and just watching the people who were coming to the lake, which was most populated on Saturday. People brought their stand-up paddleboards, boats, kayaks, and unicorn floaties and had a great time beating the heat in the lake. There were many dogs paddling around as well and I was glad to see they all had life jackets to keep them safe. The view of the lake from the deck is partially blocked by trees, so we didn’t get photos of the lake-goers. The people working at Fish Lake, while not quite as delightful as the ones at Hyatt Lake, were perfectly nice (well, one girl was rude to Marnie, but I buttered her up by complimenting her polite little girl and she was okay after that) and the girl who worked the restaurant window was especially fun. She joked around with everyone and remembered our names and how to spell them, so we didn’t have to tell her every time. The days we were there we had milkshakes for lunch and then an early dinner, even though they were out of strawberries so couldn’t make a strawberry milkshake (the store was too far away to go get them, they said). They were not stingy with the whipped cream and it was lovely to have a cold milkshake with lots of whipped cream on the over-90-degree days!
There were chipmunks living at Fish Lake too, and at one point a little girl dropped her basket of curly fries on the ground. We watched a chipmunk stuff his little cheekies with curly fries, it was the cutest thing! They would come up onto the deck if there weren’t too many people and take food right out of your hand. I fed one some of my salad and he appreciated the lettuce and tomatoes. The next night I fed one a sweet potato fry and he enjoyed that as well. If it was a mouse or a rat, everyone would be freaking out, but chipmunks are so cute it’s okay when they beg for food, ha. They have better press, I guess!
We didn’t spend any time down at the lake ourselves, although while we were waiting for our laundry to finish we walked out to the beach near the R.V. park and took a look. The beach on that side was rocky and the water looked muddy, and that didn’t look like much fun to me, but we had seen many people going into the water from there. The sandy area was where the boat ramp went down, and since that was the nicest beach with the best access that was where most of the people sat and played. While watching the people, we also enjoyed watching the R.V.s come through and trying to figure out how much they cost! I was impressed by how they could get them down the narrow road and then maneuver them into the tight spaces in the R.V. park area. Driving goals!
While we were at Fish Lake we met other hikers including Packin’ (from New Zealand), Uncle Nomad, Tough Cookie, and Lively. We noticed Lively was very upset – there was a family tragedy and she needed to get home to the Seattle area. She and T. C. had scheduled an Uber for the next day to take them to Medford so they could rent a car and head to Washington. We talked with them for quite awhile that Saturday and hoped that they would get everything they needed.
On Sunday morning at 7:30 we were expecting to wait to go to breakfast when the restaurant opened at 9:00, and then wait for The Hubs to come get us. I expected him about 10:30 or so. We were all packed up and were about ready to go to the deck and hang out there, when we heard footsteps on the very creaky (seriously, in the night we thought we were going to wake up all the neighbors because of the creakiness) porch stairs and someone knocked on our door, and it was The Hubs! He had started from our house at 3:00 a.m. since he is used to being up around that time. We bundled our packs into the trunk of the old Avalon and started towards the front of the resort, where we found out that the Uber that was supposed to come pick up T.C. and Lively had overslept and wasn’t going to bother to come. Uncle Nomad was going to go to Medford to rent a car as well. The Hubs decided we could take them to the airport but we only had room for T.C. and Lively and their packs (barely), so Uncle Nomad said he would just go up to the highway and get a hitch. He had started out hiking but came back already that morning, the smoke was getting bad from the fires in southern Oregon and NorCal and he didn’t want to hike in it. I felt bad that he couldn’t go with us, and we hope he got to where he needed to be. We managed to get near the rental car area of the Medford airport to drop the girls off. Of course, we completely didn’t think about getting anyone’s number to be able to contact them again! After Marnie bought us breakfast at McDonald’s, we drove home.
When we were at the Brown Mountain Shelter getting water at the pump, both Sleepless and the British girl said that when they stopped having fun they wouldn’t keep going. “It’s just a hike,” they said. Marnie and I realized that we weren’t having fun on our hike. While we admired the scenery and appreciated God’s beautiful creation, we enjoyed our time at the resorts much more than our time in the woods. Being out in the woods with our packs just started feeling like a chore more than a fun trip. A thru-hiker at one of the springs said, “Now I understand Oregon. It’s so chill.” The thru-hikers were cruising along up and down while we were struggling with the climbs, not thinking it was chill at all. It was discouraging, although when we thought about it we knew we could be no match for their 1700-mile legs. In spite of all that I think we would have continued on at least to Crater Lake, if we could have found a solution to the water situation. There is a 20-mile water carry between Fish Lake and Crater Lake, which for us would have been difficult since we aren’t doing 20s. Then there are fires just past that area as well and a lot of smoke so we might not have been able to get a good view of Crater Lake even if we made it there, and obviously fires and smoke make it unsafe to hike. Most NOBO thru-hikers are flipping from Fish Lake or Ashland up to Santiam Pass (Bend) or Timberline to avoid the fires and smoke. Then once you get to Bend/Santiam Pass, you have to get a ride around the Lionshead fire closure to Olallie Lake (if someone doesn’t mind taking you down the horrible road) or up to Frog Lake or Timothy Lake near Mt. Hood. We have already done Shelter Cove/Willamette Pass to Lava Camp Lake and Timothy Lake to Cascade Locks and hadn’t planned to do those sections over.
Wildlife takeaways: We did not see any bears or mountain lions, just deer, birds, chipmunks, and the occasional squirrel. While we would love to see a bear from a safe distance, we’re just as glad none came into our space!
Thru-hiker takeaways: Thru-hikers are an amazing set of people. They were encouraging and none of them criticized or judged us (at least outwardly) when we were slow or took a long time going over logs.
Water takeaways: While it isn’t fun to carry water, you should always have a little more than you think you need. Not all water sources are reliable, even if your app says it is “flowing”. Also, drink lots of electrolytes in your water.
Food takeaways: Eat plenty of food in town, as backpacking food isn’t all that tasty. Although it might seem expensive, eat some freeze-dried backpacking meals before you go so you know whether they’re any good or not. Then you won’t end up with an inedible meal and have to deal with the leftovers. (You carry them in your trash. Hopefully it won’t be too long before there’s a trash can to dump it in.)
General backpacking takeaways: Backpacking is harder than doing things at home. It’s hard to carry a backpack. It’s hard to set up your tent sometimes. It’s hard to walk uphill. It’s hard to sleep. There’s mostly nowhere to sit except rocks and the ground, and rocks are pointy and the ground is dirty. Everything is dirty, especially your hands and fingernails. (Hand sanitizer doesn’t actually clean your hands, it just slides the dirt around.)
Central takeaway: If it isn’t fun, don’t keep doing it. It’s just a hike.
In the end, Marnie and I have decided that we don’t need to go backpacking again for awhile. We will clean all our backpacking gear and put it away carefully and be content to be at home with clean fingernails, flush toilets, and chairs to sit on while we contemplate our next adventure.