Time: 4:30 pm is a little late in the day to start a hike. (But it's summer, right? It doesn't get dark until 9:00 pm or so, right?) Um, it's almost September. And while I've been out playing hard all summer, the earth has continued it's steady rotation around the sun and it now gets dark at 8:00 pm.
Distance: Sure, the turnoff is only a little ways beyond Estacada. But then it's another 13 miles on Forest Service Roads. Actually, these FS roads weren't so bad. These roads were paved almost the entire way to the trail head. Still, they're twisty-turny. So we started hiking at 6:10 pm. (Did I mention that it now gets dark at 8:00 pm?)
More on distance: Sure, the map says it's only 1.5 miles to the lake. And you gain 500 feet of elevation, which means that, while the trail isn't steep the entire way, it's still a climb. And when you get to the lake, you're still not at the viewpoint at the top of the mountain. Oops. That's another .8 miles and another 700 feet of elevation gain. Plus there's a sign on that section that says, "Trail Not Maintained." Hmmm...
Meanwhile, here are a couple of photos from our brief moments at the lake.
What can I say? Liberty's tall. Hard to aim the camera. But we were both smiling.
On to the top of South Fork Mountain! (Boring name...who names these places? Why not Memaloose Mountain? By the way, did you know that "memaloose" means "burial ground" in the Chinook jargon?)
Wow - what a view! Even with the smoky haze from forest fires, we could see all the way from Mount Ranier near Seattle to Mount Thielsen near Crater Lake!!! Think of it. We were at 4800 feet elevation, and we could see mountain peaks all the way from the northern border of Washington to the southern border of Oregon. We could also see the following mountains in between: St. Helens, Hood, Adams, Jefferson, Olallie Butte, two of the Three Sisters, Three-Fingered Jack, and (maybe) Bachelor.
Mount St. Helens in the left, background.
Mount Hood, with sunset on the slopes.
Sunset! Uh-oh...we gobbled our sandwiches. Before we started hurrying down that steep (unmaintained) trail, I called Mark. (We did have cell reception from the top of the mountain.) My message to him went something like this:
"Hi honey, we're at the top of the mountain above Memaloose Lake. It's 7:30 and we're just now starting down. There's a full moon, so we should be fine. But if we're not home by midnight, you'd better call Ken--he's been on this trail before--and come get us. Oh, and bring me a jacket. I forgot mine. Bye!"
We reached the lake again with enough daylight to see what we were doing. After that? Well, let's just say it got darker. And let's just say that both of us forgot to bring flashlights. But Liberty did have a "flashlight" app on her cell phone. Which was getting low on power. So we used it on the three stream crossings and a couple of other places where the trail got a little dicey. Other than that, we kept the phone powered off. Liberty called it "hiking by Braille." I called it "hiking-along-behind-that-shadowy-person/thing-up-front-and-trying-not-to-fall."
End of story...yes, we made it home safely. No, Mark (and Ken) didn't have to come rescue us. Yes, I stayed warm enough just by hiking--no chills or shivering. Yes, we made it back to Oregon City
at 10:30 pm a little late. And yes, we had a wonderful time! The kind of adventure that memories are made of, for sure.
Oh, and the full moon? Yup, it was really bright...on the other side of the mountain. If we had stayed out on the trail until midnight, we could have read a book. For us, on the west side of the slope, not so much. But it really was a blue moon! The second full moon in a calendar month. They're rare. There won't be another blue moon until July 31, 2015.
I've already put it on the calendar for another night hike.