Sunday, June 28, 2020

Marys Peak During The Time Of Corona

Well I haven't updated THIS for a while. Thanks, COVID!

The Coronavirus hit and everything shut down in 2020 and as a consequence we have not hiked very much this season. We hit a few hikes before the shutdown, but nothing was notable enough to post about. We went to Palmer Mill Rd trying to find the backway to Devils Rest and got caught in the rain. We went to Silver Falls and did a backcountry loop and got stuck in the rain. We went to Catherine Creek and did a wonderful loop and thankfully did not get stuck in the rain, but the country shut down the very next day.

Since the quarantine I've mostly rediscovered biking and have since gone on a massive quest to bike every street in Portland that I reasonably can. It's going slowly but pretty well overall.

Sadly we both lost our hiking muscles in the 3+ months of downtime. Keeley was training for an Ultra Marathon at Marys Peak near Corvallis. That got cancelled. So once things started to re-open a bit we finally got stir crazy enough to just go to Marys Peak anyway and hike it.

THE GOALMarys Peak, the highest mountain in the coast range, located near Corvallis on the road to Newport.

Get up early, drive 2 hours, park at the east ridge trailhead and take the "medium" route up. Pray for a nice cloudless view the entire way.

We parked at the East Ridge (Connor's Camp) trailhead and set up on the East Ridge trail. With our long downtime we started getting winded embarrassingly early. The first mile is a reasonable climb through the woods. The path is well graded and the trees are tall. There is the faintest hint of what could be a spectacular view, faintly visible, tucked away behind the trunks to your right, ever so tantalizingly out of sight.

After about a mile there is a small bench and a junction. The East Ridge trail continues straight, but our destination was the top. The left trail continues the climb and takes a series of a couple long switchbacks. Soon though, more trees part way and the views become almost substantial. You can see the open meadows at the top of the hill looming closer and closer, almost teasing you.

Right when we felt it was about to open up we came to another junction without a sign. The straight way appeared to go to a view. The left way took a steep path further up. Another couple caught up to us at the same time and according to their map, the view way simply went to a parking lot. So the sad steep way was our destination. Thankfully the climb wasn't too bad or too long before we came out in a different open meadow facing southeast. We were above the cloudline to some extent as well.

After a joyful jaunt through the meadow the trail crossed a gravel road that appeared to go towards the summit. The trail cut across to a marker, and another confusing junction. This area is actually pretty easy to understand, but not on first visit. There are several trails through the meadow that are blocked by restoration signs. We cut across the road, found the next junction and a map, and headed up towards the summit.

The final ascent through the meadow was wonderful, even though everything to the west was covered in clouds. We had mostly beaten the crowds here and we enjoyed a good break and half a great view, content at the highest point in the Oregon coastal range. 

Now that I was at the top and had seen a map, I had had finally obtained my navigation bearings and knew what I was doing. The top of Marys Peak has a weather station and it was the end point for the earlier gravel road. We took the road back down around the side and quickly arrived back at the original junction. We again headed towards the sign and summit trail..only this time when we hit the map, we went downhill to the right.

Me finally figuring out what I'm doing

Our goal was to extend our hike by 1.5 miles and do the summit meadow's edge loop, which proved to be the best part of the hike. It crossed through the woods and briefly entered the summit meadows and offered an amazing view, the best of the day. It then descended through the woods, crossed a cute stream, and then climbed back up along the edge of the lower summit meadows. Once we reached the gravel road once more, we actually continued straight down the road.

A few lonely beargrass guard the road near the summit


At the bottom of the road is the summit trailhead, the highest place you can park. It offers a pretty easy 1 mile hike to the summit so everyone can enjoy the mountain. It was now being enjoyed by everyone and there were not nearly enough masks going around so we didn't linger, despite the parking lot having a great view. A trail off to the side took us back into the woods and almost immediately got us back to the base of the second junction where we met the other couple. From here is was simply following our steps in reverse for an hour until we arrived back at the car.

Our final view of the day from the summit trailhead

We got our money's worth on the mountain and there isn't much left to see. There is a north ridge trail that connects to the bench junction, but it's a harder and longer route and I'm glad we didn't try it in our current fitness level. If you live in or near the Corvallis area I can see this being a cool spot to check out on the regular.

8 miles
2000 ft elevation gain

Sunday, November 3, 2019

When you enter the DANGER ZONE --- Archer Mountain

After an injured September I finally started feeling good enough to get back out there and try some stuff. Past two weekends have proven fruitful. Last weekend was largely a scouting mission. This weekend I actually accomplished something new!

First off, the scouting mission:

Palmer Mill Road to Devil's Rest

Park at Angel's rest, walk up the road instead, see if I can find the backway to Devil's Rest. I remember a trail offshoot of the Foxglove on the approach to Devils Rest, and I wanted to see if I could find that way, from the back. If I could manage this connection, I could now make Devil's Rest a loop hike. I could also mentally map the perimeter of the Bridal Veil Plateau, and area I still haven't checked out.


I got lucky on parking and immediately set up Palmer Mill rd, the gravel road leading up and out of the extended parking lot. The first mile of Palmer Mill is an asskicker. It just rises and rises and I never caught my breath. It is also not an abandoned forest road as I expected: I had to step aside for multiple cars.

Luckily this was PEAK COLOR WEEK, so I got a hell of a show from the fall colors. Outside the few cars, I was also completely alone. It ruled. After 1.5 miles, another road moved off to the right and I saw a house up the hill. That road connects with Larch Mtn, so that's why it gets used. At this junction, Palmer Mill Rd was gated off and now became a wide open trail, just for me.

The Palmer Mill gate


The road follows along Bridal Veil Creek for a long time. At some point, I found an old forgotten gate with a bushwhack trail heading up to the plateau. It was too early to be my destination, and I pushed on. The further I got however, the more I realized I might just miss it, and now that I know what Palmer Mill rd is like, it would be easier to just climb devils rest and take the trail I saw the first time, if it even still exists. The place was closed for a year due to the fire, it might be gone.

So I headed back. 6 miles and lots of solitude under the colors.

Colors made it look like a painting at the Women's Forum view


Archer Mountain, the big hill between Cape Horn and Hardy Ridge on the Washington side of the gorge.

Park at the unofficial trailhead. Try to find the Archer trail. Follow it as far as I feel comfortable. I was aiming for at least one of the viewpoints.

Archer Mountain is kind of a secret in plain sight. It looms large over the landscape but there is no official trail in the area. There are some harsh boundaries in the area due to sensitive wildlife considerations, especially in the inner valley. Archer is a big forward poking massif and on the west side Archer Falls plummets into a secretive and off-limits cove. The trail starts in the wider amphitheater of the valley at the top of Smith Cripe Rd. The trail, such as it is, is unofficial and unmaintained. Usually that means skinny, steep, and sketchy. Correct on all 3 counts.

So I expected it to be tough to follow in parts. I actually expected it to be harder than it was. The trail starts on an old road, passes through a beautiful meadow giving you looks at the mountain and the ridges. The "old" trail cuts through the meadow downhill on another old road. But I wasn't sure if that was right, so I kept going on the old road (there used to be a hippy commune on this road, now long gone). I was surprised to find a new sign sitting next to an obvious trail.

The beginning of the Archer Trail

The trail scooted downhill, made a couple switchbacks, and crossed the creek on a new bridge. It then climbed up from there, and appeared to join with what was the old trail. All this time I was enjoying myself immensely. Reasonable inclines, easy enough to follow...what is so bad about this hike?

The switchbacks. That's what's bad. The switchbacks come roughly a mile in when the trail needs to ascend out of the valley and onto the mountain proper. Because this is an unofficial trail, these aren't easy switchbacks, or medium switchbacks. This is basically a constant back and forth up a gully, each switchback being maybe 10 feet long.

Luckily, mercifully, you do get payoffs for the efforts. There is a solid view halfway up, and a stellar view under a lone tree on a rocky knob near the end. After the tree view, the pain eases up a bit, crosses a wide open cliff meadow, and then makes a sharp turn at a rocky outcropping. There is a trail down the rocky outcrop, and it is worth taking. This is Scott's viewpoint and is a wonderful expansive panorama into the valley.

The Gorge from viewpoint 1

Devil's Rest!

The tree view

The Tree

St. Cloud ridge, off limits to hikers

Rainbow over the dry Archer alls
The complete pano at scott's point

After this things get more difficult to follow.

The trail plunges uphill, but due to the landscape and the vegetation here, it becomes difficult to follow. Not impossible, but I did have to kick leaves off the trail at points to make it clear where it was when I came back. The trail briefly climbs, then levels out to a moderate incline, and crosses over an old roadbed. It climbs again over the road and levels out once more. From here it was just me carefully following the faint trail through the leaves, using the tree flags for assistance. This is the first time I've ever depended on the flags for help.

I reached a bend in the trail that confused me. It appeared to head down the ridge. I followed it, not seeing other options. The trail at this point began to heavily degrade but I thought I was at the Arrow viewpoint so I pushed on, using just the flags. The further down the ridge I got, the more of a bushwhack it became. But in the end, I got a halfway decent view of Beacon Rock.

Can you see the trail?

As I bumbled my way back up the ridge, I noticed a path off to the left. Turns out, this was the "original" trail, as it was heavily flagged. But it traveled through the burned section of mountain and I didn't know where it would meet back up, so I didn't follow it. I never found the other side. I think it must have been near the roadbed crossing. An adventure for another day.

Following the trail back wasn't as hard as I feared. The dog knew the way with ease and I never got confused. The climb back out of the creek valley was harder than I expected.

See that meadow with the tall, skinny yellow tree? That's the start of the trail!

The tall skinny yellow tree, from right underneath it

The Archer massif

5 miles, 2000 elevation gain. There is much more to be seen at Archer Mountain. I never found the Arrow viewpoint, I was apparently on the "quiver" viewpoint. I can find the old trail, and I can also check out the remains of the hippie commune. Plenty left to do, but I was glad to check this one off.

Tired Puppy