Saddling the Saddle Mountain
The Saddleback (or Saddle) mountain is the highest peak to the west of Portland and makes for quite a challenging hike, gaining over 1600 feet of altitude over two and a half miles. Doesn't that sound like fun? Well, it has been a while since I did some major hiking so I figured why not swing by there on my way to Oregon's Pacific coast.
Frankly, I underestimated this hike. After reading a few guides and blog posts that classified it as a moderate difficulty day hike I figured it was the usual politically correct terminology for a fairly easy stroll.
Not so much.
The seven mile drive from highway 26 to the beginning of the hike was not very exciting, but the thick forrest surrounding the road made for some cool photo opportunities.
I chucked at the Rough Road sign since even though it was not a wide road, it was in great shape with just a couple of potholes. I could not help but mentally compare it to the roads we have driven on in Laos... We are so spoiled in the US!
Back to the hike.
At the beginning, there is a quick side hike to a spot with a great view of Saddle Mountain (and what to come).
Past the lookout, the main trail quickly became a pretty challenging endeavor. In many places, it was pretty well covered with weeds and branches, making me think twice about trying to go through in shorts and shirtless. Adding to the unpleasantness, was the constant cloud of bugs everywhere there was even a bit of shade. That also meant that stopping to catch my breath was pretty much not an option since as soon as I would do that, I would literally be covered in flys so I pressed on.
Unlike any other hiking I have done before, the trail was pretty much a constant climb and as I got higher, many of the sections were laid out in rocks encased in metallic mesh to prevent them from sliding or getting washed away.
After an hour and a half of non-stop climbing, I have finally made it to the top. The last quarter of the hike was especially steep and challenging to the point that I actually had to pause for a bit once I was just a few feet from the top - my body did not seem to want to go any further at that point!
They say that on a clear day one can see from the top both, the coast to the west, and Oregon's tallest Mt. Hood to the east. Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy to the east and a part of the coast was covered in clouds. Still, the view was a nice one:
After spending half an hour at the top, it took me another hour to make it back down to my car. It also gave me some time to reflect on what I did right:
- It was hot. I was sweating non-stop. The least clothing you can afford to wear, the better you will feel.
- To go along with the above, I decided not to bring a backpack and instead put things in my pockets/carried my water.
- For the same reason, do not wear a hat. Most of the way is shaded and a hat will just make your head overheat.
- You must wear comfortable shoes. This is absolutely not a flip flops-grade hike.
- Bring at least a litter/quart of electrolyte-rich drink (I had Gatorade). Better yet, a litter and a half.
- Bring some light snacks - a couple energy bars, nuts, etc. Remember that chocolate will melt.
As well as what someone else could improve on:
- Have a towel and a change of clothes ready for when you get back. You will be drenched.
- Do not put sunscreen on. Most of the way is in the shade and you will sweat it all off (into your eyes).
- Do check the weather beforehand to make sure you do not have to deal with the clouds (and that you will have a good view).
It truly is a great hike!