Monday, August 2, 2010

Memaloose Lake Hike

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!

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