Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saddle Mountain on a Perfect Day in June

   Back in June 2012 Eli and I were looking to do a hike on a Friday, somewhere other than the Gorge where we had been hiking most weekends prior.  A friend at work had suggested Saddle Mountain near the coast.
   Nearly to Hwy. 101, a quick right turn off of Hwy. 26 and up an old paved road for a few miles, surrounded by lush forest with views of the clear cut devastation just beyond the trees.  Up to the large parking lot lined with campsites.  It was a Friday around noon and the lot was full with maybe 40 cars.
   On the trail we found beautiful lilies in bloom near the parking lot and the forest floor carpeted with green Oxalis.  The path began rather gentle, heading east and then rounding the corner.  At mile 1 I heard what I now think is a male grouse seeking a mate.  We had heard the sound a few other times in various forest locales around Northern Oregon and spent some time trying to research it's source.  When we had first heard that low grunting sound we though perhaps it to derive from a territorial Elk who was close but well camouflaged.   I had brought my field recorder along and was able to capture a decent recording of this strange forest sound.
   Nearly 3/4 of a mile later after winding up the hillside some more, the trail began to get steeper with sections of exposed rocky areas.  In sections the trail was outfitted with wire mesh for traction and to slow erosion.  The views of the surrounding hills were getting more incredible as we ascended.  Finally down out of the last section of forest, over a spine, the "saddle", and up the winding way on the other side, we had made it to the top of the Coast Range. We found few other hikers that were resting and taking in the amazing view.  Pacific ocean to the West, Cascade peaks, Ranier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, and just barely present, Jefferson were all there.
   After about 15 minutes everybody else had left and Eli and I were there alone, in the sun, no clouds, barely a wind, stillness.  We stayed at least another 45 minutes, unable to move. We barely talked as we took in the world laid out around us for one hundred miles in each direction. The stillness was breathtaking.  We watched a raven fly about just below the top, circling our perch, occasionally landing on a twig of a tree, clinging to the rock and shallow dirt around the summit.  That raven appeared to be the only motion, the only sound in that moment. It shared the stage with no other thing and we were the captive audience, properly entertained.
   Eventually it was time to relinquish the moment to the next group of
   We haven't returned to Saddle Mountian since.  Perhaps because I can't imagine we could ever recapture the magic of that first ascent, no future visit could possibly measure up.   So maybe it's worth holding onto that single memory of it and the perfect day in June, a day to remember forever. 

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