Sunday, October 5, 2014

Waldo Mountain

The latest stop on the 2014 Waldopalooza Tour was the steep slog up Waldo Peak. While not particularly long, the hike certainly offered a stiff challenge in the form of 1,900 feet of elevation gain and one slight navigation issue. However the payoff, as with most mountain summit hikes, was well worth all the sweat and leg burn as the view of Waldo Lake and the chain of Cascade Range peaks predictably impressed.

I hit the monochrome button by mistake
The trailhead was beautifully shaded and seductively forested but the true personality of the Waldo Peak Trail became apparent in the first half-mile of the hike. After passing a cute little trailhead kiosk, the path shot straight up the mountain and quickly gained several hundred feet before one could say "Oh my god, this trail is steep!" Surely, I'd be working harder than a centipede lacing up all his hiking boots.

My view for 3+ miles
Fortunately, the grade eased up from that first initial trail torture and went from maliciously cruel to just uphill for the rest of way. The going was all forest and the morning sun filtered photogenically through the trees and rhododendron bushes. The forest floor was carpeted by dense clumps beargrass with my little path weaving its way through. 

Rhododendron bush
The guidebook I was using said to take a right turn at the 1.9 mile mark and turn right I did. However, the trail headed downhill with the same enthusiasm that it had came up with. I began to harbor grave doubts about the route after a half-mile of losing all that hard-won elevation gain. A quick consult with the GPS showed I was on a tie-in trail between the Waldo Mountain Trail and the Salmon Lakes Trail, darn it. I wonder how many other hikers went down this trail thinking they were on the way to Waldo Mountain?

Hike to the light, hike to the light!

At least I got to experience some extra uphill hiking as I made my way back to the Waldo Mountain Trail, sarcasm intended. Fifty yards later on the Waldo Mountain Trail, another trail junction showed up and the proper right turn was taken this time. The shady path followed a forested ridgecrest when suddenly all the trees ended and I walked out into bright sun. After all those miles in the shade, I felt like an albino cave salamander blinking in the blinding sunlight. The terrain was rocky with bright red huckleberry bushes dotting the trail as it made its way to the Waldo Mountain summit.

Room with a view
I didn't find Waldo, but I did find his lookout, a square cabin perched precariously atop the mountain. The views were outstanding with a superb airplanesque view of Waldo Lake below. To the north of the lake was the burn zone I had been in when I hiked to the Rigdon Lakes the weekend before. Rigdon Butte was ridiculously small and insignificant when seen from high up.

Why we hike

To the north stretched out a chain of Cascade peaks: Broken Top, South Sister, Middle Sister, Mount Washington, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Jefferson, and a distant Mount Hood. A deep canyon had been carved out by the North Fork Middle Fork Willamette River with Lower Eddeeleo Lake perched precariously above the canyon. Views like this are why we hike uphill for miles and miles.

Showing its gills
Going down was quicker and easier than going up and it was a rather leisurely descent due to all the mushrooms growing along the trail. I became one with the trail, frequently laying prone taking pictures of all the mycological delights sprouting forth. All in all, it was a good day in the Waldo Lake Wilderness.

Short and warty, just like me!
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.

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