Saturday, September 15, 2012

Rooster Rock

Years ago (and, sigh, how often I say that nowadays) I hiked to the top of Iron Mountain and looked west into the odd towers, turrets, pinnacles and other rock creatures of The Menagerie Wilderness and filed the area away for a future exploratory hike. Well, in mid-September, the future became now when I paid a visit to Rooster Rock.

Sunlight and leaves were one
of the stories on this hike
Basically, there are two trails in The Menagerie: Trout Creek and Rooster Rock. Both are steep but the Rooster Rock Trail can crow as the winner of the steep-off contest between the two trails. Everything else in the wilderness requires cross country bushwhacking. It is possible to connect the two trails as a loop hike but the loop requires a 2 mile walk along busy Highway 20. Not wanting to share our hike with the car crowd, Maggie the Hiking Dog and I opted for the 7-mile round trip out-and-back on the Trout Creek Trail.

A virtual poem
First of all, apart from a brief view at the trailhead, the misnamed Trout Creek Trail never provides another view of the creek, contouring instead on a forested ridge with the creek hidden from both sight and earshot well on the other side of the formidable ridge. The trail could have been more appropriately named by calling it the Really Steep Trail or the Spider Trail.


Spiders were a large part of my Rooster Rock experience. September apparently is the month where the spiders succumb to their biological impulse to snare hikers before the winter snows arrive. Invariably, the webs were strung across the trail at face height. And of course, the fine strands of sticky web were virtually invisible so the only warning was an all too brief cross-eyed glimpse of the spider just before it landed on my nose. I had many opportunities to do the spider dance which consisted of spastic hand-waving and dancing punctuated by panicked shouts of "Gah!"

I can see the top of the ridge!
The trail was beautifully shaded with big leaf and vine maples growing among tall fir trees. There was ample opportunity to admire the leaves filtering the sunlight while bent over gasping for breath. You see, the trail gains 2,300 feet at the challenging rate of nearly 700 feet per mile which works out to be a 12% grade, something cars don't even like to do. All the uphill didn't seem to bother Maggie and she waited patiently at all the frequent master-induced rest stops.

Rooster Rock
Shortly after the intersection with the even steeper Rooster Rock Trail, sky could be seen above the ridge crest which gave me hope the trail was topping out. The topping out did occur shortly after passing Rooster Rock. The rocky tower is probably a thrilling sight to the climbing crowd but was hard to see otherwise what with a forest growing around the base of the rock. Despite being on the edge of The Menagerie, it was difficult and nigh impossible to make out the interesting rock features that define this wilderness area.

Our lunchtime view
Not to worry, though, because a short uphill push on an ever increasingly rocky trail brought us to lunch and rest on a rocky viewpoint. Not quite a 360 degree panorama, trees kept us focused on the east where we looked up the South Santiam River valley to Iron Mountain and Cone Peak; in the hazy distance were North and Middle Sisters. To the north of North Sister a massive plume of smoke demonstrated that the Pole Creek Fire was still misbehaving.


After about 15 minutes or so, another hiker arrived at the viewpoint and we exchanged pleasantries. He complained about all the spider webs across the trail which was surprising because there shouldn't have been any left after I knocked them all down on the way up. He was kind enough to take a picture of me doing my pose (I think I freaked him out when I did that) before he left and after a 15 minute wait, I also headed back down the trail. Surprisingly, there were lots of spider webs back across the trail with more hand waving and face slapping.  Industrious little buggers!

Nothing quite like the sensation of a spider crawling on your face

Forest, on the way down
It was a pleasant descent through forest as the shadows lengthened despite the occasional eight-legged arachnid creep-out. Next time I come here, I'll bring a racquetball racquet to keep the spiders off of my incredibly handsome face.

For more pictures of this hike, see the Rooster Rock album in Flickr.

1 comment :

  1. Gah! Is right..nasty little critters those spiders. Fay