Sunday, August 7, 2016

Maiden Peak

One recent hot summer day, Lane and I went off in search of a fair Maiden. No, that's not what it sounds like, the object of our affection on this particular day was 7,818 foot high Maiden Peak. Neither one of us had ever been to the top of Maiden Peak before so you might say this was a maiden hike to Maiden Peak for us Maiden maidens. 

Lush forest surrounded the trail
Starting at the Maiden Peak Trailhead, which is near Gold Lake which in turn is near Willamette Pass, our first impression was that of walking uphill. Stands to reason, since the trail would gain about 2,800 feet of elevation in nearly 6 miles, most of it seemingly in the last mile. While the grade was never overwhelming (except for the last mile), it was constant. And the the last mile?  Lane said it was like falling because it only hurts at the end. You could say the same thing about hot salsa, too. My own wry observation is that spending all day with the Maiden left me with tired legs and sore feet, plus I was covered in sweat, dust, and itchy mosquito bites which is pretty much what you deserve when you go wandering off in search of fair maidens.

Pinesap emerges
My preconceived notion about the Maiden Peak Trail was that it was a dry and dusty hike. Not true at all, for the trail was green and lush for all but the last mile of the hike. The trail ambled through a thick fir forest and we were grateful for the shade as it has been fairly warm lately. The understory was carpeted with low-growing Cascade huckleberry, some of which had the small but delicious red berries on them. Little prince's pine was flowering still and the pale orange stalks of pinesap were pushing through the soil.

We grazed next to Skyline Creek
Before the days of the Pacific Crest Trail, Oregon boasted the Oregon Skyline Trail which essentially did what the Pacific Crest Trail does now. However, the Skyline Trail was much more sensible than the PCT because the OST made sure to hit all the creeks and lakes on the way, keeping long distance hikers well watered. The PCT builders insisted the new trail needed to stay high on the Cascade crest and eventually, the Skyline Trail sort of disappeared from sight when the PCT received all the hiking love after construction. I was reminded of all this because the Maiden Peak Trail below the PCT was part of the old Skyline Trail and it crossed Skyline Creek, still flowing fast and fresh in late summer. Blueberries were in season along the creek and I'm glad to report many blueberries were harmed in the hiking of this hike.

Hiking uphill for 6 miles makes Lane sad
I keep citing that last mile because it was pretty sleep but the mile from Skyline Creek to the Pacific Crest Trail was also pretty sleep, climbing 600 feet in a warm-up for the upcoming summit slog. We stopped for a brief rest and sandwich stop after crossing the PCT and met a very fit pair of age fifty-something gentlemen running (yes, I said "running") to the top of Maiden Peak. We ran into them again on their way down and they told us they were training for "The Waldo", a 62-mile trail run in the Waldo Lake area that also summits three peaks along the way. Lane and I felt like little girls (or maybe old maids), compared to their level of fitness and trail derring-do.

Toad had to hike uphill, too
There really isn't a lot to report about the middle portion of the hike as the trail steadily climbed up through the viewless forest. Periodically, stagnant ponds lay next to the trail and that explained the mosquitoes. Polliwogs swam in the turbid waters and the occasional toad was spotted hopping away in panic. And just as Lane and I both became complacent about the relatively gentle grade: Wham!

Did I mention the trail was steep?
The trail went steep and didn't even pretend to switchback and our progress became as slow and painful as a constipatory turd making its way out into the world. The trees began to thin out, rockpiles showed up here and there, and the trail went from normal dirt to dusty pumice. At a cairn marking the intersection with the "Leap of Faith" trail (a steep and faint track dropping down to Maiden Lake), we made a left turn and for the first time all day, we felt like the actual summit of Maiden Peak was imminent.

First view from the top of Maiden Peak
Sure enough, the trees thinned out altogether and we strolled out onto the barren summit of Maiden Peak. Wow! Mountains and lakes everywhere and views all the way to Inner Mongolia. Ok, I'm exaggerating, maybe Outer Mongolia. Actually, we could see South Sister, her head hiding in the clouds and just beyond, the spire of Mount Washington, looking all the world like Sauron's redoubt in Mordor. At Maiden's feet lay bright blue Bobby Lake with Maiden's nearest mountain neighbor The Twins rising just beyond the lake.

View to Davis Lake and Wickiup Reservoir 
Waldo Lake is Oregon's second largest natural lake and we could see pretty much all of it. To the south were lakes Odell, Crescent, and Lower Rosary. Diamond Peak had plenty of snow and clouds surrrounding it and further beyond was the pinnacle of Mount Thielsen. A small little mound near Thielsen was Tipsoo Peak, where I had hiked the day prior. To the east lay semi-dry Wickiup Reservoir and Davis Lake on a forested plain with central Oregon stretching out further beyond all the way to Outer Mongolia.

Old maid on Maiden Peak
Clouds were forming on the west side of Maiden Peak and the resultant shadows mottled the forested topography below. A chill wind was blowing on the summit and it nearly felt like winter. Windbreakers were quickly donned for protection from the wind. After sandwiches were consumed and all the possible photographs were taken, it was time to head back as after all, we still had a six-mile hike back to the car.

The Twins, with the Three Sisters further beyond
As we descended, shadows lengthened in the forest while sunbeams slanted through the trees. We noticed several miles of old wire abandoned along the trail and armed with that knowledge, we became quite adept at picking out the ceramic insulators from the "good old days" tacked onto trees. It had been a long hike and we arrived at the trailhead at 8 o'clock, pretty much at sunset. Tack on dinner in Cottage Grove and a three-plus hour drive to Roseburg, we arrived at our hometown a few clock ticks before midnight. But hey, that'll happen when you chase fair Maidens!  

Little prince's pine
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the Flickr album.


  1. I love reading your blog because I'm learning about more great hikes in the southern portion of our state. I can see I need another road trip!

  2. And comments like that are exactly why I write this blog!

  3. P.S. And thank you Linda, for the compliment!

  4. Hey Richard, great write-up! Is this trail affected (i.e. closed) by any of the wildfires this summer?