Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tam MacArthur Ridge (Oregon)

On Thursday, August 13, I took my fifth Oregon hike with the Appalachian Mountain Club August Camp.  This time, we went up Tam MacArthur Ridge, a 5 mile total out and back that climbed 1,200 feet up to a ridgeline overlooking a lake.  It was a fun hike, once again, but a little lonely - thanks to a very basic mistake that yours truly made!

Let's start with a track of the hike.  We started and ended at Three Creek Lake.  See the big purple star on the map - more about that later.  Let's just say that I got very familiar with that area!

Here is a 3-D view of the hike.  We started and ended at the red arrow - up to the ridge and back out.

From a little bit of elevation over Three Creek Lake, here is a view of our destination - Tam MacArthur Ridge.

There were 13 of us on this hike.  Here are some of us admiring the views.

I am not sure, but I think this might be some of the Sisters Range.  Note the glaciers.  South Sister is the third highest mountain in Oregon, and I think is the highest that can be hiked without technical skills.

Three Creek Lake lies 1,200 feet below.

I mentioned that there were 13 of us?  Well, by the time I took the pictures above and the one below, I was in a group size of one, thanks to a decision making error on my part.

A group that large gets a little strung out.  I was probably in the middle, with about 6-7 ahead of me.  I came around a bend, and there were three of them sitting on a log in a shady spot.  One of them said "We're taking a little break - men to the right, women to the left."  I counted 3, subtracted from the number ahead of me, and realized that there were 3 or 4 still ahead.  I didn't need a bathroom break, so I kept walking to catch the others.  Mistake #1.  I walked.  And walked.  I came to a trail junction with a horse trail.  Odd that no one was waiting at the junction. So I kept walking.  Mistake #2.  After a good 20-25 minutes, having come to the ridge without meeting anyone, it dawned on me that everyone was taking the break back in the woods, not just three hikers.  So I turned back, thinking I would just meet them on the trail.  So I walked back until I reached the spot where the break had been, and this is what I saw:

How had I missed them?  Then only thing I could think of is that they had taken the horse trail.  So I could either go back up hunting for them, or I could sit my butt down right here and wait.  Staying put was the clear winner, even though I would miss out on more scenery.  So I sat in the shade and relaxed - this is where the purple star on the route map is.  I ate lunch.  I explored right around a bit - leaving my pack at the log.  I talked to people who were hiking up and down.  If they hiked up, I asked them to look for a group of 12 and tell them that Art was fine and waiting for them down the trail.  I even saw a couple of riders:

My one fear was that they would divide up and search for me at the top, but I was pretty sure that Eva, our hike leader, would not let that happen.  Better to have one person separated from the group than three or four.  And after two hours of waiting, who should appear than the other dozen!  I was happy to see them!

We hiked down together, pausing for a few more wonderful views:

And we ended the hot day with a cool and refreshing swim in Three Creek Lake, with Tam MacArthur Ridge looming above us.

I made several fundamental mistakes to get separated from the others.  First, I assumed that only three were taking a break - and worse, I didn't ask for confirmation.  Eva gave me advice afterwards when we linked back up - don't count the people at a break, count the packs.  And memorize your hike leader's pack!  If it is on the ground, then the hike leader is nearby.  Second, I did not stop at the trail junction, assuming that the others were just ahead and hadn't stopped because it was a horse trail.

But I also did several things right.  First, I eventually realized that I was ahead and instead of keeping going or waiting where I was, I backtracked.  Second, when I got back to the break spot and everyone was gone, I waited there instead of going back up looking for them all.  And third, I sent word up with ascending hikers, and as it turned out, at least one of them contacted the group and told them that I was fine and waiting.

It was not my most fun day of the week, but fun enough, and I learned some things!


  1. Oh that lake is beautiful.
    Sorry you got separated from the hiking group but glad it all turned out right in the end. Sounds like you won't let it happen again. I too have learned some things and will keep them in mind if I ever hike with a group.

  2. Yes, it is good to know the ground rules for group hiking. Mistakes on my part but not any that lead to a catastrophe, so I am glad of that! Yes, it is a beautiful lake, and also so refreshing appres hike!