Sunday, August 23, 2015

Oregon Trails

I had a great vacation hiking in Oregon from August 8 to the 15.  Since the first and last days were travel days, I really only hiked on the 9th to the 14th.  I was near Sisters, Oregon at the Appalachian Mountain Club's August Camp, and had a blast.  It was fun being out in a new place hiking with like-minded people.  By like-minded, I mean people who like to hike!  Maybe I should say hike-minded people?

Below is a map of Oregon.  Portland, on the Washington border, is near the top left.  I circled the area where I was hiking, so it was in the mountainous part of Oregon, just west of the high desert.

I took six hikes, plus a seventh short nature hike, totaling about 47 miles, with almost 10,000 feet of elevation gain.  On the map below, I note the location of each day's hike with a letter (S for Sunday, M for Monday, and so forth).  Since we took two hikes Tuesday, which were only a mile or so apart for the trailheads, I've indicated these with a TU-1 and a TU-2.

It will take me a while to organize the photos and accounts from each hike.  As I do, I will turn each of the topics below into a link.

First, here is an account of life in August Camp, which was a total blast!

Each night in camp, the trip leaders - who are all unpaid AMC volunteers, and all excellent, by the way - describe the hikes for the next day.  There are normally six of these, two for each of the three categories.  "A" hikes tend to be either longer and/or steeper, and usually at a fast pace.  "B" hikes have moderate mileage and/or elevation gain, and "C" hikes are the shortest.  None of the ones that I did could be considered easy.  For example, my first hike was a "C" hike and was only five miles long, but we climbed steadily and gained 1,500 feet of elevation over the 2.5 miles that it took to hike to the top of Dome Rock.

Once the hikes are described, each person marks their first, second, and third choice.  In the morning, you find out where the hike leaded assigned you, which is always your first choice if there is room.  Hikes are typically limited to 12 people.

Here is my hike list for my week of hiking some Oregon trails:

Sunday - An out and back hike of about 5 miles total to the top of Dome Rock, with spectacular 360 degree views.

Monday - Another out and back hike of about 6.4 miles total, gaining 2,300 feet, to Rooster Rock, which has great views to the south and east.  There are also spectacular large rock formations, and we added about a mile at the top exploring and finding an incredible view to the west of the main hike, as well as finding Rabbit Ears!

Tuesday 1 - The loop hike of 7.3 miles included a steep climb to the top of Iron Mountain.  This was my favorite hike of the week.  I think we gained 1,800 feet and saw such spectacular scenery, including a mature forest, wildflower meadows, bald mountains and domes, and an amazing 360 degree view from the top of Iron Mountain.

Tuesday 2 - This was a short post-hike trek of about a mile in the Hackleman Old Growth Grove, with giant Douglas fir that somehow escaped the axe and saw.  Some of them were about eight feet in diameter.

Wednesday - I left the elevation gain behind for a day and hiked a loop hike around Paulina Lake, nested in the caldera of an ancient volcano.  The hike was 8.5 miles and only gained about 600 feet.  We almost always had views of the beautiful lake and often mountains as well.  We also found obsidian, which is an incredible glass - jet black and hard as flint - that is forged in the heart of a volcano.

Thursday - I hiked up to Tam McArthur Ridge, which has views of another volcanic lake.  The hike was about five miles long and gained 1,200 feet elevation.  It was an out and back hike, which turned out to be a very good thing, as you will learn from my account of the hike.

Friday - my last hike of the week, the Obsidian Trail, was my second favorite.  It was a 12 mile lollipop (4 miles in, 4 mile loop, 4 miles out) that gained about 1,800 feet.  It was the only hike of the week where I crossed streams, and had so many spectacular views and interesting features that I could have explored for several days.  Here is a photo of some obsidian that I found on the hike.  It is all over the place for miles of the hike, but you are not allowed to collect it.  So I snapped a photo and left it behind.

You can see more photos of obsidian here, and that last hike was so great that I wrote a verse about it: "Ode to Obsidian Trail," to present that night at the camp talent show.

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