Two weeks ago, I had a flex Friday off from work. I'm not one to waste a weekday off in the summer, and decided to use my time wisely for hiking. Out came the Sullivan book. What trail haven't I hiked yet? After narrowing down my choices, I decided Memaloose Lake was my destination.
The trail to this lake is only 20 miles from Estacada. It winds through a small area of old-growth forest to a high alpine lake. There is an option to continue up to a former lookout site atop adjacent South Fork Mountain. The hike is short (only about 5 miles round trip) but I figured it would be a good one because I could get my hike in and be back before evening rush hour.
Rhodies blooming by the lake
After driving a long, winding, poor quality asphalt Forest Service road I finally arrived at the trailhead. Bear and I set out through a beautiful forest of large ancient trees.
Memaloose Lake reflections
About halfway to the lake, I began to see blooming rhododendrons. These lovely pink flowers really brightened up some already-nice scenery.
Bear takes a dip in the lake
The closer I got to the lake, the more numerous the rhodie blooms. Then I came upon the shore of Memaloose Lake. There were rhodie bushes everywhere, all of them sporting wonderful pink blossoms.
On to South Fork Mountain!
Bear and I hiked around the lake for a little bit, but then I decided to continue on to the top of South Fork Mountain. After a little wandering about, I found the sign that pointed the way to the trail. The sign warned that the trail was not maintained. However, the trail was fine, with only a couple of sketchy areas. At one of the confusing junctions, a nice person had erected a rock cairn to aid our navigation.
Rhodies on the top of South Fork Mtn.
There was a little bit of climbing, but soon Bear and I crested a ridge and followed it to the summit. Rhodies and iris flowers were blooming here, and there was a panorama of mountain views. After a little bit of searching, I found the foundations to the former lookout tower.
Mt. Hood view from the summit
I chose a spot that had a great view of Mt. Hood and ate my lunch.
Parade of peaks
From my perch, I could see four Cascade peaks - Hood, Adams, Rainer, and St. Helens. They were lined up against a brilliant blue sky. In this photo, you can see three of the peaks, and Mt. St. Helens is just behind the tree on the left of this photo. A short walk to the other side of the summit revealed views of Mt. Jefferson, and distant views of Three-Fingered Jack and the Three Sisters.
Lots of iris blooming near the summit
After a nice lunch and lots of photo ops, it was time to head back down. There were many white iris flowers blooming along the trail near the top, and I tried to capture their beauty with my camera lens.
Lakeside rhodie bushes
Back at the lake, I explored a path that led around the lake in another direction. It ended at a nice lakeside campsite. This would be a nice place for a quick backpacking overnight. However, I think it is almost too close - I found a few beer cans and other trash along the lakeshore.
Cheerful pink blossoms
Finally, after snapping more photos of the rhodies, Bear and I headed back down the trail. We ran into a group of three people and a dog - the only people I saw all day on the trail.
The trail passes through a cut out in this tree
Finally Bear and I reached the car. We piled in and hit the road. Even though I left well before evening rush hour, I still got stuck in traffic on the way home. That's Fridays in Portland, I guess, one big rush hour all afternoon.
It was nice to get out - the weather was perfect, and I'm happy I timed this hike when the rhodies were in full bloom. Another great place in Oregon!