Throughout my Daily Life series, I would share with you a handful of photos from hikes, beach trips, and other attractions around Oregon. Since Daily Life was always just a brief recap of the past week or two, I didn’t ever go into depth about my trip experiences and kept the photos pretty minimal. After hearing from you guys that you really enjoyed those posts, I decided to start an Exploring Oregon series where I’ll be sharing my personal stories and photos from my different journeys around this beautiful state. I thought I would begin with my most recent hike to Saddle Mountain!
Saddle Mountain Hike:
Distance: About 5 1/2 miles round trip
Elevation: 1600 feet
After much encouragement from my good friend, Lindsey, I decided to take a personal day and head out to hike. I always have a friend with me when I go, but I decided to do this one on my own so that I could decompress, recharge, and enjoy some solitude. I loaded up a backpack, grabbed a book and a journal, and hit Route 26. Now that they’ve finished all of the construction, this is one of my favorite highways.. Twists and turns, small towns, forests, and mountain air. As soon as I get outside of the city and start going over those mountain passes, it’s like all the bricks on my chest are lifted off and I can finally breathe.
I turned off on the road marked for Saddle Mountain, which gets about as narrow as a bike trail. Tall trees and foliage lean in toward the road, making it even more dangerous and claustrophobic feeling as you take each sharp curve. As you silently hope and pray that another vehicle isn’t about to come around the bend and meet you for a head on collision, you also have to watch for the crater-like potholes that cover the road. My GPS, as always, was very deceiving and told me I had about a mile and a half to go when I initially turned onto the road. Once that mile and a half was up, she would say, “Continue for one more mile..” in her arrogant robot voice. After that mile was up I received another, “Continue for one more mile..” At that point I started to think she was probably just luring me to a serial killer’s cabin, but finally after ONE MORE MILE.. I arrived.
I started toward the trail and asked a gentleman outside his car if I had to pay for parking. He said no and then looked at me very strangely. I’m pretty colorful and I don’t think I look like the average hiker, so this is always expected. He told me it was awfully late for me to get started (3:30pm) and estimated that it would take me two and a half hours just to reach the top. I said I should be okay and worst case scenario, I’ve got a flashlight on my iPhone! He still looked worried for me and then asked if I was hiking all alone. I flashed him a smile and said, “Yep!” and started on my hike. While I appreciated this man’s general concern, what he didn’t know is that I carry a knife at all times, I know how to start a fire, and I also know how to tie a tourniquet. 😉
Most of the hike is through a fairly lush forest, but every now and then you’d hit a clearing which would offer up incredible views and make you realize just how far up you were. Wild flowers in nearly every color lined the trail and it was hard not to stop every few feet and take photos. Of course I did anyway which provided a welcome break from the steep incline of the hike. After about an hour, I finally reached what I thought was the top. It’s a stretch of rock that juts out like a little peninsula from the mountain. I felt so accomplished and awed by the beauty of it all. Then I turned around and realized that was not in fact the top and had a ways to go! My awe turned into an “Aww fuuuuu$@!” I paused for a moment to catch my breath, take some more photos, and then continued to push through to the actual peak.
The last part of the hike I’d say is the most difficult. Most of it is loose rock so they added fencing along the path for traction and to keep the rocks in place. I felt like I had been on the stair-climber at the gym for over an hour and was starting to contemplate how expensive a helicopter ride off the mountain would be, in fear that my jello legs wouldn’t make it back down. I took a few big breaths and powered through the last shaky steps to the top only to have my breath taken away again..
It’s a 360 degree panoramic view of Oregon: Mount St. Helens, Mount Hood, the Pacific Ocean, and miles and miles of forest. I couldn’t decide which direction was more beautiful. It was phenomenal up there and brought on a lot of emotions. I felt elated, accomplished, exhausted, and.. whole. On top of being one of the most stunning and challenging hikes, this was by far the most cathartic experiences I’ve had while hiking. Pushing myself both physically and mentally provided a nice reminder of just how strong, determined, and independent I am. Nature always has this way of centering you and I need to remember to take personal days like these more often.
I sat down and had a little picnic and started to read Wild which seemed pretty appropriate. In the opening sentence of the prologue she says, “The trees were tall, but I was taller..” and I found myself feeling the same as I looked down at vast forests that now seemed like little shrubs. There was a couple seated over on the platform that used to house a lookout tower so I waited them out for about 20 minutes and they left, leaving me the entire mountain to myself. Well not entirely..
Right after the couple left I was then joined by a pair of ravens. They seemed to care not that I was nearby and circled and swooped the mountain top for quite some time, allowing me to capture a few photos of them. This may not seem extremely significant or interesting to others, but when you have a fascination with ravens, know the symbolism behind them, and you’re also a huge Edgar Allan Poe and Game of Thrones nerd (to the point of having a huge raven tattooed on my thigh), being visited by two ravens is a pretty meaningful sight to see.
I could have stayed up there through dusk, but knowing I had a long hike back and that it would all be downhill made me decide against it. I injured my knee a long time ago and I don’t think it’s ever fully healed, so the pain gets pretty bad after a strenuous hike. I had to breathe through it and gimp the last mile, but made it down in about the same time as it took me to get up (which was an hour and twenty minutes and not the two and a half hours that the gentleman estimated.. thank you very much!). I devoured a sandwich and a beer as soon as I got back down to my car and then started the lengthy drive back. I pulled over to take one last shot of the setting sun coming through the trees and then ventured on back to Portland.
I’m excited to continue this series and share my explorations through this gorgeous state with you all. And don’t worry.. they won’t always be about my soul searching and what-not, so if you love nature or you’re perhaps planning your own adventure to the Pacific Northwest soon, keep following along!