Sunday, July 29, 2012

Unexpected Soggy Hike

It's time again for another edition of New Hike Friday!  And today's winner . . . the Upper Salmon River Trail.  Earlier in the summer I'd hiked the lower portion of this same trail.  Now it was time to explore the upper reaches.

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger image.

Trailhead sign swallowed by the rhodies

The Salmon River Trail stretches a total of 14.5 miles from the lower portion, just south of the town of Zigzag, to it's termination, near Trillium Lake on Mt. Hood.  With a car shuttle, it's possible to hike the entire thing one-way (which I'd really like to do someday).  But today it was just Bear and I, so we headed toward the upper section, accessed from a maze of Forest Service Roads near Trillium Lake.

Waterlogged tiger lily

My old Sullivan hiking book (circa 1994) described a 6-mile loop.  Starting on the Salmon River Trail, after 0.6 of a mile I would detour onto the Dry Lake and then the Fir Tree Trails.  After 2.5 miles on these paths I'd intersect again with the Salmon River Trail, and follow it the rest of way back to my car.

Log bridge crossing

The weather report predicted sunny weather for Friday, so I went ahead and took the day off.  Imagine my surprise when I woke Friday morning to wet, cloudy skies.  Foiled by the weatherman again!  But I'd made my plans, and wasn't going change them now.  After making sure my raingear was in the car, I loaded up Bear and headed to the mountain.

This trail was anything but dry!

Driving through alternating mist and heavy rain, I began to doubt my decision.  But by the time I reached the trailhead, moisture had quit falling from the sky.  A good omen!  Or so I thought anyway...

Midway creek crossing

The first portion of the Salmon River Trail was an absolute delight.  There were flowers blooming, including some lovely tiger lilies.  We crossed a clear, bubbling stream on a nice log bridge.  The trail was wide and nicely graded.  And the rain held off.

Yep we were definitely in the wilderness!

Then my dog and I came upon the first junction with the Dry Lake Trail.  It looked a little bit overgrown, but the directions in the book said to take it, so away we went.  I didn't go very far when I ran into the first obstacle.  Rhodie bushes had grown over the entire trail.  The only way to continue was to push through them.  So that's what I did.  And as I crashed through the bushes, the leaves, still wet from the morning's rain gave me a nice shower.

Soggy doggy

I kept running into more and more bushes covering my path.  The trail was totally overgrown.  And every vegetative obstacle I encountered gave me a nice dousing as I tunneled through.  My shirt and pants began to get soaked.  Luckily, I'd thought to put my gaiters on, so my boots and socks stayed dry (the smartest thing I'd done that day).  After a half mile of busting through wet shrubbery, I finally got smart and donned my rain jacket.

Can you find the trail?

With so much vegetation blocking the path, navigation was tough.  I totally lost the trail twice.  And both times, I backtracked and Bear ended up finding the way.  My doggy saved the day!  He's better than a gps.  In one area, unsure if I was on the right track, I looked up and saw a "wilderness boundary" sign up in the tree.  I had to laugh - yep it was indeed wilderness!  But the sign confirmed that I was still on the trail (faint as it may be).

Washington Lily

After a mile of tunneling through the wet forest, I was relieved to come upon a trail sign.  It was the junction of the Dry Lake and Fir Tree trails.  Now it was a mile and a half downhill to the Salmon River Trail.  I looked ahead to the Fir Tree Trail, hopeful that it wasn't as bad as the one I'd just come from.

Happy to be back on a real trail

But the Fir Tree trail was worse!  Much worse.  The tread was fainter, the bushes more dense.  I got lost again and again, only to be helped by Bear (good dog!).  Not only busting through wet leaves, I hit every spiderweb stretched across my path (most of them in my face - ewwwww!!)  Finally, I ended up in a boggy area, where someone had tied pink survey tape into the trees.  I realized this tape marked the trail (or where it was supposed to be).  I started to follow the tape, but it took me through such dense woods, I began to fear getting lost.

Vine maple leaves already turning

What to do?  By my estimation, I'd traveled about a mile and a half.  I was probably less than a mile from the Salmon River Trail.  But the trail had vanished, replaced by pink ribbons in the trees.  The chances of getting lost were high.  But I didn't really want to turn around and hike all the way back through the wet bushes again. 

But I also didn't want to end up on the news.  So I made the difficult decision to turn around and head back the way I came, down a known path (faint though it was). 

Finally hiking on a real trail

My return trip wasn't any better than the initial trek.  The bushes were still wet (I think they saved the last bit of moisture for me).  The spiders must've worked fast, 'cause I hit a bunch more icky webs.  I again lost the trail a few more times, and was saved by Bear (good doggie!).  But we finally made it back to our first junction.  I was never so happy to see that Salmon River Trail sign! 

Bear and I were totally soaked.  My rain jacket and gaiters had kept parts of me dry, but my pants were sopping wet.  Water was starting to soak through my backpack too.  But the sun was trying to come out, and I knew things would dry.  I'd come to hike the Salmon River Trail, and now that's what I was gonna do.

Huge log across the trail made us turn around

After fighting through the underbrush, it was so nice to hike on a good trail!  The upper trail was absolutely wonderful.  It led me down a gentle grade.  After a mile, I could hear rushing water.  The trail began to follow the Salmon River, far below.  The woods thickened, and I began to see larger old-growth Douglas fir and red cedar trees.  Bear and crossed a couple of pretty burbling creeks.  I even saw a few of the beautiful but rare Washington Lilies.

Interesting plant

 Bear and I continued down this wonderful trail.  Then we came across a huge blowdown tree totally blocking our path.  I could've scrambled over top of it, but I didn't think Bear would be able to jump over (he's getting to be an old dog).  I took it as a sign that we'd gone far enough for the day.  Time to head back!

Roadside tiger lily

The only bad thing about starting out downhill was you have to climb back out on your return trip.  But the trail was so nice I didn't mind.  Before I knew it, we were back at my car.  And my pants had almost completely dried. 

On my drive back to the highway, I discovered a huge patch of tiger lilies growing along the side of the road.  You know me, I just had to stop and photograph them.  So I'll end this story with one of my tiger lily photos.

The lesson for today - never trust trail directions from a book published in 1994.  That is, unless you like adventure (and getting wet). 


  1. Gorgeous photos. Sorry you lost the trail, but I would have done the same thing. No need to put yourself and your dog in danger! I personally have done about 7-8 miles a long time ago. But I was coming in from the other end of the trail on the appropriately named Salmon River Rd, which is the street I grew up on ;) PS - I was camping at Trillium Friday night. Small world!

  2. A bit of an adventure! I love tramping/hiking though and this looks beautiful.

  3. Interesting how often the weathermen are wrong. They aren't much better here either. I admire your grit for going in spite of the rain and applaud your smart decision in knowing when to turn around. Loved the photo of the Washington Lily.

  4. Ah yes, I've been on the odd hike where I've been reduced to following the 'tape on the trees' trick! On most occasions it's fine, but there's always the worry that whoever put them there have no real idea of the correct direction either!

    On one walk I found the tape began to get less and less frequent until it vanished! That could have been the case with your walk as well, so I think you did the right thing by changing plans :)

  5. While you might have been wet...and had trouble pushing the brush looks like a fabulous day! We need to move westward - I would love doing a hike like this on a day off. There isn't much but surburbs here in Chicago...and very sculptured trails.

  6. Wow, what an adventure. Wilderness trails are often overgrown in the summer, I've found. Probably why I stick with the National Park trails although some of them can be overgrown as well.

  7. Nice post and pictures- I especially liked the ones of Bear- glad to hear you didn't get really lost and had an adventure instead.

  8. What a lucky dog to share a hike there. Very nice pic...sorry for the soggy.

  9. I love a good adventure story, but I'm glad you turned around and didn't get lost.

  10. Terrific photos here.... just great!!


Don't be shy! Please leave a comment.