FILLING HOLES IN THE PERSONAL MAP


I spend far too much time looking at wilderness maps, hours looking at places I haven’t been, wondering what’s out there, and whether I have the health and the years left to get into those places.  Mind you, I’m not complaining.  I’ve been blessed far beyond most in what I’ve seen.  But I long to see more.  I always will.  I have large maps of the Oakridge, Oregon area, which include both the Diamond Peak and the Waldo Lake Wildernesses.  I have one of The Three Sisters Wilderness, others of the Mt. Washington, Drift Creek, Rock Creek, and Cummins Creek Wildernesses.  These are in addition to the Sullivan books I have which describe every major hike in Oregon, most of which I haven’t done or will do.  I bought a map of Olympic National Park the other day at REI.  I backpacked Olympic in the late ‘80s but haven’t been back since ’92. I’ve been staring at the map a lot this past week, deciding that I’ve got to go back there next summer for a few days.

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Oakridge area map: the town is upper left, Waldo Lake upper right

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A selection of books and maps.  Other than the Coast book, I’ve done maybe three hikes in the other three books.  Terrible.

A couple of years ago, I found places like Moon Point/Young’s Rock, which I got in my craw until I finally drove out there and hiked nearly 3000 vertical feet, past Young’s Rock but not to Moon Point, being stopped by snow.  I found that the bottom part of the hike was too long to lead, additionally with a really nasty climb out in the open,  so six weeks later, I went out there, drove 3 miles up a Forest Service Road and found a way to the trail, taking it to the top and seeing Moon Point.  I led the hike about a month after that, so others could see it, without having to hike more than about 2000 vertical feet.  Such a deal.

A friend told me about Foley Ridge, not far from Eugene, so I went in there twice this past year, the first time to Substitute Point, which is the closest spot to Eugene over 6000 feet.  Beautiful place.  Then, a few weeks later, I did a solo 21.5 miler in to the Three Sisters Wilderness to see some of the most beautiful Cascade scenery imaginable.  The whole area burned a month later.  I’m so glad I went when I did.

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Husband Lake and South Sister before the fire

I looked for a long time at walking around Waldo Lake, Oregon’s second largest, starting not long after I arrived here in 2014.  I never got around to doing it, but I never forgot it, either.  Finally, I said the what the hell, I was going to do it.  I went mid-week and had a great hike—20.3 miles, nobody out there, nice lake, and 4 miles of trail with ripe huckleberries alongside that I could grab without stopping.  Did the hike in just over 6 hours and tried to lead it last week, but it rained too hard, and there was snow, too, up there.  I have limits.

Because of wanting to do something the day I couldn’t do Waldo, I had looked at the map and found a couple of trails that were used mostly used by mountain bikers.  One looked interesting, Heckletooth Mountain, a low elevation foothill.  I figured since the Club hadn’t had hikes here, it might not be very interesting.  On the other hand, I kept looking at the mileage and the fact it was close to Eugene, and thought why not?  I put it on the schedule to see if others wanted to come along, and I got three takers.  I later learned a fourth person was packed and ready to show up, then woke up to heavy rain and went back to sleep.  Couldn’t say I blamed him.

That morning, we were getting pounded by an atmospheric river event, a nice term, where there is a stream of moisture extending—in this case from Japan— to the Pacific Northwest.  We didn’t bear the brunt of it, but we got plenty of rain.  It hit the night before and was coming down hard when we four met at the local community college parking lot—Randy, the most experienced, Steve, the strongest, and Lynn, the fastest. I provided the idea.  And the car.

What the heck, we all had rain gear, and I wanted to see how good—or bad—my waterproofing was.  It wasn’t a cold rain for autumn and predicted to end by noon.  So off we went, 42 miles later almost missing the trailhead outside of Oakridge.  We started off with the trail’s having flowing water, a good sign in autumn, and when we took our second break about 3 miles in, I mentioned that the hike to Heckletooth might be a mile more each way than I anticipated.  I set a turn around time for 10:45.

Lynn piped up, “Well, if we are within a half mile, I want to do it.”  Liked her attitude.

We hiked through absolutely stunning yellows of Big Leaf maples and oranges of Vine maples.  It was great.  At times, I thought the sun was coming out, because it was so bright with yellow. Everybody was doing fine, and we climbed steadily the last two miles to Heckletooth, where the map showed the trail would go by the summit, not up.  Turned out the map was wrong.  We climbed to the top of the 3670 foot mountain, about a half mile vertical above Highway 58 below us, and looked out on dense fog.  You can’t have everything, but I liked the rain and loved the colors, even if I couldn’t see too much.

Each of us had been up Highway 58 probably three dozen or more times and never once knew this mountain was so close.  Nobody knew what a Heckletooth was, which turned out to be an implement for cutting grass last century—or maybe THAT last century, since I tend to think of the 19th century as last.

It was chilly on top, as our sweat plus the wind quickly cooling us.  We moved back down the trail a little for shelter and maybe a 5 minute lunch.  Randy wasn’t feeling well and didn’t eat, which explained why he was lagging 50 yards back when he can usually out climb me.  Steve had a big breakfast, not that it seemed to slow him down any.  Lynn ate faster than I, so I grabbed a protein bar and started eating it on the way down.  Everything I had on was wet with rain or sweat, but I was warm, and we were moving.

The colors were fabulous.  We stopped to take pictures, or I should say I did.  Lynn had one of those fingerprint locks, which is a great idea unless one is hiking in pouring rain and has a wet thumb.  I took what pictures I could easily take without drenching the electronics.  We came back down the way we came, 5.5 miles instead of 4, and went by a trail junction to Aubrey Mountain, which is a bit lower but reportedly has good views.  Not wishing to hike an extra 5 miles, we kept going back to the car.  Normally, I might have done Aubrey, but this day was enough.

Near the bottom, Lynn said that that Heckletooth ought to be a regular fall hike on the schedule.  I agreed, so much so that I put Aubrey Mountain on this weekend and figured I would go alone if nobody else were interested.  Got one taker so far, and Lynn is really upset that she had something else scheduled.  It’s going to be sunny and dry.

 

 

 

 

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