Saturday, January 24, 2009
January Splendor On Saddle Mountain
The alarm clock woke us at dawn as the orange glow of sunrise began to lighten the sky behind Saddle Mountain. Riff started brewing a pot of coffeee and I headed out to the deck for an early morning picture of the mountain that we would soon be hiking.
We have lived here in Clatsop County for almost four years now and hiking Saddle Mountain has been on our list for just as long, though we have never actually gotten around to crossing that one off the list. Today that would change.
Like two kids at Christmas, we excitedly discussed what we should wear and what to bring for our lunch at the summit. It was an incredibly beautiful January morning, but we knew that it could be much chillier and very windy on the mountain, so even for the two and a half mile hike to the summit we would need the proper gear.
We drove up Highway 26 to the turnoff, anticipation with us all the way. The trailhead is about seven miles or so down a narrow county road. At one point, a tree was down across the road but when falling it had graciously left enough room for my small Suzuki to scoot around it. Four other cars were in the lot when we reached it and a big red pickup truck was right on our tail, so we knew we would have company on the mountain.
There was a cool breeze blowing, so along with my t-shirt and sweatshirt I pulled on a windbreaker, gloves and a wool hat, slung my camera around my neck and we started off through the moss-covered forest. The trail starts right in, climbing in elevation right away. It didn't take me long to heat up and shed that hat and those mittens. Riff had his daypack on, stuffed with his jacket, our lunch and water bottles.
We hiked the trail at our own pace, or Riff's I should say, which was a bit of a push for me in some of the steeper spots.
There are many incredible views along the way. Places I could stand forever, breathing deeply of the clear forest air and soaking in the gorgeous vista's. A little over a mile up the trail, there are area's where you can actually see the ocean waves breaking against our Pacific beaches.
Cresting a corner about three-quarters of the way to the top, Mt. Rainer in Washington state came into view. Riff's first word was simply, "Wow". This view made me turn my eyes to the top of Saddle Mountain in anticipation of the view from up top. It's incredible from down here, what will it be like up there?
We were coming down into the saddle of the mountian, the very drop that gave it it's name. The saddle is a dip between the two peaks and this part of the trail is full of shale and loose footing though the shale has been covered with a type of wire, (looks like big chicken wire to me!), to help with traction. By the time you reach this area, you're almost there. We were at about two miles on the trail and until now, for all intents and purposes, had been alone on our hike. Small glimpes of the couple from the big red truck could be seen now and again and we had heard talking and laughing coming from behind us but had not seen those hikers at all. Now we were above the tree line and could see the rest of the way up the trail, so could see the other mountain adventurers.
Panting and pushing tired calf muscles the rest of the way up the the summit rewarded us with spectacular views on this crystal clear day. As another hiker remarked, "You can almost see to Japan. This was so worth it!"
Looking in one direction, we saw Mt. Rainer, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Hood all in one panoramic shot. Turning to the west we gazed down onto the Pacific Ocean and the villages of Manzanita, Seaside and Astoria. Astoria sits at 300 feet above sea level and is built on a steep hill. From this vantage point of 3,000 feet it looks as though Astoria's built on flat ground instead.
The day was so brilliant and beautiful that we were able to sit up top, enjoying turkey sandwichs and apples in our t-shirst, surrounded by spectacular beauty.
When we finally tore ourselves away from the view and decided it was time to head back down, we were amazed at the number of people and dogs that were winding their way up the mountain slopes. There were several groups with small kids, one being no more than three years of age, who had made it all the way to the top. It was great to see so many people out, taking advantage of the unseasonably gorgeous weather.
Under the shade of pine trees and through a few leftover snow patches we wound our way back down the mountain, where the parking lot was now overflowing with the vehichles of enthusiastic hikers. Reaching the car, Riff took of his knee-brace and I shed my camera. We gave each other a high-five, vowing to do this again before another four years passes us by.
Posted by Paula at 6:49 PM