Day 93: Sunday in OR… My favorite
To me, this was the peak of the trip. We would hike about 8 hours, cross water about ten times, and scale a total of 1700 feet up into the mountains.
Part 1: Ramona Falls
I awoke around 8am, and the group was set to leave by 10am. First tour, the Ramona Falls loop. The trail is a 7.1 mile trail and climbs about 1000 feet. Half hour drive from our hotel, we arrived at the trailhead parking lot.
Initially, the trail was very bland. The sights were simple trees, not very lively or interesting looking, flanked by a muddy and bleak looking river. This was Sandy River, which we would use to guide us.
We ran into a group of young students who informed us that the bridge over the river was out. I wanted to find where this bridge was out, and continued along the trail. Before we left, we heard the teacher/guide tell the students that now was a time to choose, accept this as defeat and turn back, or find a way over. Unknown to me, the bridge that was out was just several feet away, with a thin stick over the river to indicate the bridge was no longer there.
We followed the trail further down, and it began to look sketchier and more wayward. At this point, the group pointed out we were on the wrong side of the river and the trail was looking very shady. I didn’t want to leave the trail because I didn’t want to get lost, and I stubbornly continued on for another 10 minutes. Finally, the trail was no more and I decided to turn back.
We ran into a lady and her dog, who were also trying to cross the river. I asked her of the bridge and she said that we should just cross over any way we can. The trail that we wanted to get on ran parallel to the Sandy River on the opposite bank.
This was our first river crossing of many. I found a suitable log and walked over. Walking on a log over a river can be a frightening task. It requires calmness, balance, calculation, and a clear objective. I loved climbing and balancing on things since I was a child, so 30 years of experience paid off here. My advice to anyone would be 1) look at where you’re going and 2) make every step a sure step. This applies to hiking in general.
Ray went after me, and fell into the river. Rob and Hao both crossed unscathed. Did I mention we were all not sober? I did now. Ray was understandable upset, and trampled on in his wet clothes for a while. I asked to have him take off his wet clothes and put on some of my dry clothes. I wore two layers and a hoody, so I had clothes to spare. After some hesitation, he relented and got out of his wet shirt and into my tshirt and hoody, though his shorts were still wet. This probably dropped his body temperatures to uncomfortable levels and made the trail considerably more miserable.
Upon crossing the river and finding the trail, we continued on. We followed the lower path of the loop, a rather direct and simple route. Consisting of a steady elevation with trees overhead, the climate was cool and the road was wide.
About three miles in, we came upon a fence with a sign saying that a crossing was closed, and prohibited stock from continuing the trail. We debated whether to continue or not, because it might have been closed because it was too dangerous. If you know me, you already know where i stood on the issue. Signs don’t mean anything to me, I’ll judge myself.
I am so happy that we disregarded the sign and continued on because on the other side of the fence was Ramona Falls. This waterfall is the most beautiful and enchanting waterfall I have ever seen. The water cascades over jutting stones and moss-covered rocks, breaking it into smaller waterfalls and creating a tapestry of dozens of mini-waterfalls that all coalesced into a river that fed into the valley below.
The sight of the fall blew my mind. I was awestruck, and did not contain my excitement. After taking about 100 pictures of the waterfall, we decided to do some exploring.
I wanted to climb to the top of the waterfall along the side. This was the most dangerous thing I did the whole trip. Here, the path consisted of tender, soggy soil and wood, and slippery moss-covered stones. It was a steep incline and every step higher was more and more dangerous. I climbed up to a certain point, then I couldn’t figure out how to get up safely anymore. The group watched as I attempted the ascent, knowing it was a very dangerous path. I yelled to them that it was too dangerous and not to follow.
This was a very humbling experience. I felt fear grip me. I even felt trapped at a certain point. When I decided I could climb no more, I couldn’t find steady footing anywhere. I had various soggy roots of trees to hold onto, but they don’t make for very safe support. I really had to center myself, grab a hold of my mind, and regain control. Step by step, I found my way back down onto solid ground.
We went over to the other side of the waterfall, and found a uphill path. This was a path was would lead to Mt. Hood’s most famous trail, the multi-day hike that is Timberline Trail #600. It is called timberline because it reaches into altitudes that trees could no longer grow.
We climbed up to a certain point, and we felt the climate change. There was snow on the ground and our breath began to show. We stopped to have lunch by an old broken moss-covered wooden bridge, and turned back to rejoin the Ramona Falls loop. It was a good lunch, and had many laughs. I think after witnessing the beauty of Ramona Falls. everyone in a good mood.
We continued on the trail, and ran into two old ladies and their dogs. We saw them earlier by the waterfall, but now we saw them venturing down a irresistibly charming path next to the main trail. It was so cute with green moss, red colored bark, and quaint streams of water. There was a river that separated this path from this beautiful sheer cliff. The cliff was made of prismatic colored rocks, and shimmered like quartz. We all crossed safely over the river, and explored. Hao hollered at us to come to him, for he discovered a clearing that looked like a landslide had taken place. The shattered fragments of the stone revealed a gradation of pinks, greens, reds, yellow, and even blue.
From the bottom I spotted the peak, and next to it was a spot complete with a slab of rock encircled by various stones to what can only be a natural table and chairs.
"We must climb this! See up top? Thats where it is! The biggest blunts and the hottest bitches!" I joked. My excitement sent me flying up the rocks towards the peak. Once at the peak, I slid down its slanted side into the valley where the table and chairs were. Here the sun was bright and strong. We were at least 70 feet high, well above the treetops, and we looked over into the valley that was nourished by Ramona Falls. We hung out here for some time, taking pictures and drying off. I took off my shoes and jumped from rock to rock, basking in the warm sunlight and fresh mountain air.
We decided to head back, and made our way down. Rock scrambling is one of my favorite hiking activities, and these were some great rocks. They were solid, large, flat and beautifully colored. We were to cross the river again, and here was where the second fall would happen.
I found a log hanging over the river with many branches sticking out, with a tree overhead also with many branches sticking out. I said to the group that this was a very easy crossing. The branches can be used for hand support and it was a very safe crossing. The only trouble I foresaw was that the branches could snag against our gear and throw us off balance.
I crossed, and continued walking. Then I heard a loud splash. I turned to look and saw Ray soaked from head to toe with a gash on his leg. The log crossing had disintegrated and was completely gone. Hao and Rob howled with laughter, but I felt terrible. Ray said that he would never listen to me again, and if it led us different ways, so be it.
I haven’t even imagine that the log shattering could have been a possibility. It looked and felt sturdy. It got me over the water safely. I couldn’t do much about Ray’s vexation, so I walked further ahead to give him some time to just not see my face. I jogged some, and walked some, praying that our trip could continue as planned.
The way back, there was many moments that the group felt lost. I was confident in my ability to safely return, but my ability to lead them waned. We crossed a sandy valley area near the Sandy River and greeted by a gorgeous snow covered mountain. It was all white and enormous, dominating our view to the east. At that point, I didn’t care if we were really lost or not. If it lead me to experience such an incredible view, then all was right.
Eventually, we found a wide road with stone borders, and we followed it for quite some time. We ran into two teenagers and their dog, and asked them for directions. They told us to continue to follow the path and we would be fine. So we continued on. After the while, the group felt lost again and wanted to go back about a mile to where there was last a sign. I had enough bickering, so I submitted to their demands. At that point, they were even beginning to convince me that we were lost.
We encountered the teenagers again, and they asked us what we were doing and why were were going the other way. I said that we thought that might be multiple parking lots, and that we may be headed towards the wrong one. There is only one parking lot, to which they replied. I said we were going to follow them and I apologized for being such tourists.
Finally, around 5pm we found our car. Ray and Rob didn’t want to go to the next trail anymore, noting the time crunch. We had maybe 3 hours till sunset, and maybe another half hour after that till nightfall. I argued that it was a simple three mile hike, and that could be completed easily in under two hours.
Part 2: Mirror Lake
After a half hour drive we arrived at the Mirror Lake trailhead. We hurried the group up the mountain, and we reached the lake within the hour. Up here was a lake so serene that it reflected the surrounding scenery so precisely it was like a mirror, hence the name.
Facing east along the western bank of the round lake, a majestic white mountain reflected off the water to create breathtaking views. We stayed till the sun began setting, snapping away with our cameras.
Along the path was a rocky face that I climbed to reach a higher lookout point. From up there, I was treated to amazing views over a collection of valleys and hills. A gentle fog blanketed the rise and fall of the land and created spectacular effects with the colors of the sunset sky. It was a warm pink and purple when I was up there, and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment.
I told them that the view up here was worth it, to which Hao joined me. The two of us sat there enjoying the view for a couple minutes before we rejoined the other two and headed back to the car.
Right when we all got back to the car, nightfall arrived. It could not have been better timed. Admittedly, I wanted to do some night trekking, but this was the safer option.
We would have dinner at McDonalds and drive three hours to our next destination: Eugene, OR.
I would also get a speeding ticket seven miles away from our destination. 85 in a 65. A $260 ticket. Even though I saw the police car, by the time I did they already had their radar gun on me doing 90.
I’m just trying to get us home, man. We had a long day.