September 2, 2012

Poor directions, spider webs and blisters don't deter from Hawk Mt. hike

Hawk Mt. cabin and views
It was a web-busting morning. Obviously first on the trail that day or perhaps the entire week, I was breaking through countless spider webs spun from tree to tree across my path. Bad directions gleaned from a website brought about an adventure before even getting to the trailhead. Numerous wrong turns and ample guesswork finally delivered me to the Rho Ridge trail. My destination was Hawk Mt. and its views of Mt. Jefferson, Olallie Butte, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington and at least one of the Three Sisters.

Olallie Butte from Hawk Mt.
The way to this trail, or at least the way I took, travelled along the Collawash River.  This is one of the most scenic waterways in Oregon. Unfortunately, the river is not long - only 12 miles from where East Fork and Elk Lake Creek come together to form the river until it enters the Clackamas River.  However, in those few miles, steep cliffs rise above the road and clear waters of the river. Beautiful pools break up stretches of faster running water. Huge boulders dot the waterway along its upper portion. It is spectacular scenery.

After finally finding the Rho Ridge trailhead, I began the hike not knowing how long or many miles it would be until I stood atop Hawk Mt. I calculated about 5 miles during the return trip.

Three Finger Jack, Mt. Washington and North Sister
Huckleberries line the well-graded trail for most of the way, briefly interrupted by a few rhododendrons. You can tell fall is on the way. The leaves on huckleberry plants in the shade were still green while those in the sun were turning scarlet. The forest surrounding the trail is a mix of old growth and second growth, with an occasional meadow mixed in for an array of landscapes. I didn't get a precise count, but I crossed at least four old roads along the way that did not appear to be in use anymore.

The steepest part of the hike was just below the summit of Hawk Mt. Once on top, the old quarters where the fire watcher lived stands out, with Mt. Jefferson as a backdrop. Before the cabin is reached, however, remnants of the old fire lookout's foundation can be seen.
Footings of old lookout tower

The door to the cabin can be opened for exploration. Inside is an array of artifacts, including an old fire extinguisher and canteen. Pictures taken when the lookout was in use adorn one wall. In the cupboards are some essentials in case someone needs to spend the night. Candles, various blankets and even a deck of cards were a few of the amenities.
Inside the cabin

A nice set of blisters accompanied me on my trip back to the trailhead. Without any moleskin or tape, I limped back to my truck. A few nice views of Mt. Hood on the return trip made the return a little more pleasant. Despite this inconvenience, along with the abundance of spider webs and ill-fated detours along the way, it was a great day in Oregon's mountains. Here are a few pictures of some of the history behind the fire lookout.
Picture on cabin wall- atop the old lookout
Lookout tower
Existing cabin on left
Old fire extinguisher
Old water canteen
Cabin today
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