The forecast for our first full day on the Oregon Coast was for near perfect weather. It was a great day for hiking, but instead of picking a walk on the coast I picked a hike in the Coast Range. It was to the summit of Saddle Mountain. I'll always go for the summit of a mountain if I can. At 3288 feet, Saddle Mountain isn't very high, but since it is the fifth highest mountain in the northern Oregon coast range and the highest point in Clatsop County, it's a terrific viewpoint.
Sandy and I had actually done the hike once before, way back in 199x on a previous visit to Cannon Beach. I don't remember much but I do remember two things about the hike from the first time that we did it. One is that the view from the top was spectacular. Another is that it was incredibly hot the day that we did the hike, especially on the final section to the summit. Of course I wanted to do it again. Sandy wasn't quite as enthusiastic as I was (she remembered how hot is was the first time we did it too) but she was willing to go along with my idea.
The hike is moderate, only five miles round trip but with 1600 feet of elevation gain. It's steep but not very long. We thought it would be about right since we hadn't done much hiking the past few weeks. The smoke from the Pioneer Fire near Lowman had pretty much shut down hiking in Idaho for August and early September. So it would be a good workout without being too long or hard. It also meant that later in the day we would have time to do some sightseeing (and of course, some shopping) in town.
Since the hike was not very long and the fall weather was cooler, we didn't need to make our usual crack-of-dawn start. Sandy was happy that we were able to take our time at breakfast before starting off for the short drive to the trailhead. It was about 10 am by the time that we hit the trail.
The path started in forest and was uphill right from the beginning. In just a quarter of a mile we reached a junction with a short spur trail that went to the top of Humbug Mountain, an excellent viewpoint for seeing Saddle Mountain. But we were anxious to get up the main peak so we kept going on the main trail saying that we would checkout the viewpoint on way down, knowing that we probably wouldn't because on the way down we would be tired and anxious to finish.
The trail kept climbing steadily. After the first mile there were a few gaps in the trees and we were high enough to get views of the nearby mountains. Unfortunately that also provided views of ugly clearcuts, because there are a lot of them in the coast range.
The forest kept thinning and eventually we were on open slopes. It was a bright, sunny day, with almost no wind. That meant that with all the climbing that we were doing, we were getting pretty hot. It had been really hot the last time we hiked up Saddle Mountain, but when I proposed doing it again I assured Sandy that since it was fall it would be much cooler and more comfortable. It turned out that we were working hard and sweating pretty good. Sandy didn't say anything but I thought I detected a dirty look coming my way every once in a while. Well, at least there weren't any bugs.
At about two miles we turned a corner and could finally see the summit, farther away and higher up than we were hoping that it would be. And between us and summit was a saddle (there's a reason it's called Saddle Mountain) that dropped down well over a hundred feet. There is nothing as discouraging when you are climbing steadily than to have to give up elevation that you fought hard to gain, only to have to climb up again. It's very discouraging.
The trail on both sides of the saddle was very steep. The loose dirt would have been treacherous footing but on this stretch the trail was covered with wire mesh. It reduced erosion and made the footing more secure although it still required care not to slip. For the steepest part of the descent to the saddle, a long wooden stairway had been installed.
We just took the last section to the summit slowly and made steady progress. I guess we must have looked tired though because we met a couple coming down who tried to encourage us by assuring us that the view from the top was well worth the effort. They also mentioned that the flies were bad. Huh? There weren't any bugs today.
Eventually we topped out. The view was indeed worth it. To the south we could see far down the coast range. To the east, we could see Mt. Hood rising seventy miles away. To the northwest, we could see the Columbia River emptying into the Pacific at Astoria, and the ocean stretching along the entire western horizon. To the north, we could see Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams all lined up. Rainier still looked like a huge mountain even though it was well over a hundred miles away. Impressive.
Oh yeah. There were a lot of small flies, but only on the very top. Weird. They weren't that bad, but after taking our pictures we didn't stay long before heading down.
The hike down was straightforward. The climb back up out of the saddle was discouraging, as expected. The rest of the hike down went quickly. We weren't just thinking about lunch. We were trying to decide what kind of ice cream we whould have after lunch. Amazingly I had enough energy near the end to take the side trip to Humbug Mountain. It was only a quarter of a mile but of course it was all uphill too (no, not in both directions). I got some good pictures of Saddle Mountain and even found a penny there. My lucky day!
We stopped at our hotel to clean up and then headed over to Mo's Restaurant for lunch. It's right on the beach so it tends to be very crowded for lunch and dinner, but since it was 3 pm we figured we would be between the rushes. It was still pretty crowded but we were able to get a table on the patio. The weather was beautiful and we had a great view of the ocean, the beach and Haystack Rock. Sandy even said her clam chowder was better than the evening before. Mo's is famous for their chowder.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around downtown. There was a yarn shop and Sandy spent quite a bit of time there. She was able to find some really nice stuff. I looked at tshirts but didn't really find anything I liked. Amazingly enough, I didn't buy a single tshirt, sweatshirt or cap on the whole trip. It's been quite a while since that happened. We did stop for ice cream again though at Schwietert's.
We spent the evening relaxing in our room and watched Monday night football. A very good day.