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.
2000 ft elevation gain