Angel's Rest, Oneonta Gorge, Smith Rock, South Sister, and The Lava Cast Forest, an action packed long weekend with Ricey.
Our mate came into town to visit, so we spent zero time in town! We started off by getting up bright and early, heading into the Columbia River Gorge to get to the top of Angel's Rest. It was a decent hike, not much to look at except lots of trees, until you get to the top. I forgot to take pictures of the views because I was distracted by cute little chipmunks. A quick lunch at the top then a speedy descent back to the car.
We drove back West along the Columbia Gorge to Oneonta Gorge, quickly changed into get wet clothes and scrambled over the log jam in the creek, up through nipple deep icy cold water and on to the Oneonta waterfall, it was gorgeous. The green of the moss and trees is such a brilliant green it looks almost fake.
Carrying on West along the Columbia Gorge, next stop was Multnomah Falls and a walk up to the bridge. Always a tourist trap and too many people for Ricey and I, we headed out fairly quickly. We headed back to base camp to get prepared to continue the adventures down into central Oregon.
Up early, tea's drank, we always forget a few supplies so a quick pitstop was needed before heading to HWY 26 over the Mt Hood National Forest. This is currently my favourite drive, from the urban environment you climb towards Mt Hood, through the forest you hit a peak elevation of about 6000ft, then slowly drop down the East side of the mountains to the high desert, crossing a couple of small canyons and then descending into the valley of the Metolius river before continuing out into the high desert.
First stop was Smith Rock State Park. Standing proud above fairly level surroundings with a river running through it, almost like an oasis. We climbed Misery Ridge Trail; once going over the summit, took the next right which doesn't appear to have a name and then followed the River Trail South all the way back to the bridge we had originally crossed. It was a good hike with amazing views all around, it's actually kind of surreal that these idyllic views are at almost every angle. After a quick sandwich we got back on the road towards the 3 Sisters wilderness area.
We had planned to camp at the Devil's Lake Campground which is also the start of the trail head for South Sister, however once we arrived just before dusk, we found it to be a hike in only campsite. No worries, there's plenty of campgrounds and lakes, so we continued on down Lava Lake Road, which also goes by Cascade Lakes National Scenic Byway. We ended up pulling into Elk Lake campground in the dark and rain, got a fire going and set up camp, Ricey in a tent and us in the bus. A damp dinner drowned by rain along with a few beers before hitting the sack. We woke up to find we were camping overlooking Elk lake, with beautiful views of the morning mist blowing around below.
A quick breakfast, pack up camp and drive back to the South Sister Trailhead. Somehow the day had gotten away from us, it was around noon once we got to the trail head. We started off with Ricey setting quite a pacey pace, as usual. We had 11.8 miles to cover, 4901 feet to climb and about 6.5 hours of daylight to do it. As we passed the first few groups of serious looking lightweight trail hikers coming down, we asked what time they started out, they replied "6am, you'd better get moving!" So with Ricey's cracking pace leading us up through the damp forest, we eventually came out onto a sort of moonscape, mid alpine environment. Looking back we'd already gained some good elevation as we could see out over the forest. The trail sort of levelled out through the moonscape so we picked up the pace. From the moonscape, the further we hiked the steeper it seemed to get, climbing and climbing. I believe there were 2 false summits on the way up. Just after the second, we cut straight across the glacier to the actual peak at 10,358 ft.
We sat and enjoyed the views while eating lunch. The views are pretty amazing, 360 degrees. South Sister is the 3rd highest point in Oregon after Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson, which incidentally are visible to the North. After a well deserved rest we followed a ridge to the West, it curved back round to the South and put us back on the trail we climbed up. We didn't have long to get down before sunrise so we ran, it was pretty fun and reminiscent of skiing, 100% in the moment, looking for the next foot placement so we don't end up rolling down the mountainside. My old beaten, ligament challenged knees were hating me by the time we got about halfway down. We persisted and realised we were going to make the round trip in 6 hrs if we pushed a little harder, so we did, the pace was increased and at 6pm we bounced back into the parking lot exhausted.
The sun was going down fast so we got back on the road and headed to Lava Lake Campground. The first thing we did was to collect some firewood before setting up camp. We had a good curry dinner, a few beers and watched the stars. The weather hadn't been clear all weekend, so I took the tripod down to the lake to see what I could shoot. It was amazing, no artificial light, and when I first got there, no wind. As I stood on a pier in the darkness, the sky was full of stars which were reflecting in the water. It was such a strange feeling of disorientation to be completely surrounded by the stars, I had to come back off the pier onto solid ground. I got a few shots I liked but was really hoping to get some good ones of the milky way.
The following morning we had a nice breakfast, packed the bus and headed for Portland airport as Ricey was flying out that night. Along the way we stopped at the Lava Cast Forest. A lava flow had swallowed up trees, as the moisture of the burning tree is given off, the lava solidifies in the shape of the tree trunks, leaving a strange lava flow with big columns of emptiness dotted around. If your ever on the South side of Bend, it's definitely worth a trip. We left via NF9720, I hate taking the same road back if it can be avoided. We followed it all the way back to 97 which is a main road North.
Lunch time had passed and we were getting hungry, we saw a sign for Tumalo State Park so pulled off and cooked up some lunch. It was another oasis in the desert with green lawns and trees all along the river.
Back on the road, all the way back to Portland to drop Ricey off. I hope thoroughly exhausted but wanting to come back for more.
Ricey, it was a pleasure!
On Labor Day Weekend it's best to get as far away from the city as possible, as the hoards head out to get their last weekend of camping done. Ken chose Monty Campground, and what a choice it was!
We arrived Friday night after driving through some magnificent scenery all the way from Lake Oswego, 162 miles away, about 4 hours drive, no highways. We drove over a volcano, through forests, down into a canyon, through an Indian reservation, along rivers and lakes. The 4 hours flew by as there is constantly beautiful views passing by the windows.
We had the campground pretty much to ourselves. It was basic, a pit toilet was the only facility but the location was supreme, right on the Metolius River. You could hear the river from pretty much anywhere in the campground along with the Ospreys squawking overhead. The 3 days went by all too quickly with much of the time spent hanging out and chatting while children and dogs ran around us.
I'm terrible at taking pictures at camp, I'd rather just chat and enjoy the relaxation, but here's some pictures we did get. It's mostly the last few of us leaving the campsite in convoy.
"I'm picking up some parts near Mt. Ranier, want to camp up there for a night?"
It was only meant to be an over night trip. I found an assortment of Vanagon parts listed on Craigslist and arranged to meet the seller in Elbe, WA on a Wednesday afternoon. We thought we'd explore a little then head back to Oregon for the weekend. Next thing we knew, five days had gone by.
We'd heard things about Mogfest, that when the sun goes down and the moon rises over the corn fields of Waldersee farm, crazy things happen. Well it turns out those crazy things are done by men with very expensive toys, Unimogs!
Over the weekend of August 13/14th, 9 vans of the Oregon Vanagon Overlanders took our first trip. We headed up Section 1 of the Washington Backcountry Discovery Route (WABDR), approximately 120 of miles dust and dirt roads.