No work on Friday because of the Veterans Day holiday (It’s actually Saturday) and it’s also birthday time frame for Paul and myself. For the most part neither of us have ever had to go to school or work on our birthday and for as long as I can remember now we’ve marked the day with some outdoor activity. This year would be no different.
The forecast for the day was looking a bit blah. It’s only rain though and I definitely have the gear for it. If it had been dry and warm I may have opted for a mountain bike ride instead, but this option allowed me to bring Codi along. He’s always pumped for a good hike.
I was looking for something not too long and not too high. I wasn’t looking for snowy conditions just yet either. What popped up in my search was Opal Creek Loop. This hike had been on my radar for a while now, but it can be notoriously busy in the summer and on weekends in particular. The forest service finally put parking limitations at the trailhead because of how bad it was getting. Please click that last link and read. (Pardon me while I get on my soapbox) I want people to enjoy the wilderness and outside in general, far too many people have no concept of the Leave No Trace principles though. It’s also my belief that many of these same users have no idea on how to be prepared for an emergency or injury. Even though this hike is only 8 miles round trip you can still end up in a bunch of trouble if you are not prepared. I am always prepared to spend the night in the woods even on a day hike, maybe not in total comfort, but I could do it. (step of my soapbox).
The first couple miles are on a gravel road. It even has some crazy wooden sections like above. I can only imagine what kind of chaos it would cause for the few people who live/work up at the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center. There is even an old mine shaft on the left hand side of the road. I’d love to explore it, but common sense won out.
Not far before leaving the road and getting onto the trail proper is a pile of rusted out metal parts left over from the mining and logging days up here. It was pretty neat walking around all of it and thinking back to how it must have been back in the day.
Just beyond the boiler and down a little herd path is the Cascada de lost Ninos waterfall. Definitely a nice place to hangout on a hot summer day.
Codi and I continued up the road a bit to cross the bridge and onto a more typical hiking trail. It had snowed here earlier in the week and there were still remnants of it sticking in the woods.
Given all the cars at the trailhead it was surprising that Codi and I hadn’t seen anyone but the one woman heading up the trail just as we were parking. This would remain the status quo for the rest of the hike until we started to head out. True to the Oregon stereotype it appears that nobody starts anything around here before 10AM. Codi and I were back at the car just past noon and passed at least 10 hikers heading in at that time. If they were doing the full loop that would put them back at their cars just as the sun was setting. My motto tends to be “The sooner we start, the sooner we are done”.
It didn’t take too long to get to Opal Pool and the falls dropping into it. Now I can see why this is a popular swimming hole. The water was super clear and this would be a fantastic spot on a hot day. Having it all to myself (well, me and Codi that is) today was pretty stellar too.
After a quick snack for Codi and myself we headed up and across the bridge to head back to Jawbone Flats. This is the current home of the Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center but was once the site of the mine and mills headquarters. There is still a ton of old equipment kicking around and slowly rusting into oblivion.
From here it was roughly 3 miles back to the car via the gravel road. All in all it was a good hike and I got to see some pretty cool things. There are a few more hikes in the area that are on my list of “To do” and I’d gladly come back here on a warm day to just chill along the river.
Thanks for reading, all the pics here