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Another Portland Blog

Monday, July 06, 2009

 

The Saddle Mountain Experience

It took me two trips to finally cross the "saddle" of Saddle Mountain and ascend its second peak. The first attempt with my friend Dan resulted in the two of us turning back once we encountered heavy wind gusts, drizzle and fog up top. We headed back up the first peak's rocky trail just as a rain-soaked woman and her genuinely terrified yellow Labrador Retriever were coming down it. Her male companions were about two hundred yards ahead and determined to conquer the mountain. I still wonder if she managed to catch up and talk some sense into them.




Saddle Mountain is a cruel joke on your shins. The last few miles of trail consist mostly of rocky terrain and steel grating. Once you pass over the top of the first peak and down into the saddle you find yourself up against a few hundred more feet of winding, slippery inclines. If you make it all the way to the end of the trail your reward is a breathtaking view of the western horizon and the Oregon Coast Range.




Not that I would know. On my second attempt I made it up the second peak but clouds rolling in off the coast obscured all but 120 of the 360 degree view.

Saddle Mountain is one of the more epic hikes I've been on in Oregon and it's a photographer's paradise. It's covered in wildflowers, boulders, jagged cliffs, forested vistas and trees that lean at odd angles. My Canon PowerShot A710 couldn't even begin to do the place justice but here's a Flickr gallery regardless.




When I go on a hike I tend to bring along a backpack filled with water, food and a change of clothing. As I was coming down the second peak I felt like I had just conquered Everest. My aching legs were covered in dust and my leather Crocodile Dundee hat was soaked with sweat. Then I ran into a woman in her 60s, her daughter and the daughter's adolescent kids. They were all dressed like they had gotten lost on the way to the Seaside Outlet Mall. The grandmother was casually drinking a can of Sprite as if climbing Saddle Mountain was about as difficult as a walking from her living room to the refrigerator.

And maybe that's the trick to beating Saddle Mountain with ease. Just act like the 2.5-mile, 1600+ foot elevation gain is like walking from a mini-van to the Dressbarn.

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