Randy May Family in Hillsboro Oregon

May 20, 2008

Camp 18 to Saddle Mountain

Filed under: Activities,Adventures,Backpacking,Boy Scouts,Family,Hiking,Travel — rmay4 @ 12:42 am

“Never climb in the saddle on an empty stomach.” It’s one of the adages in the West and certainly applies to climbing into Saddle Mountain State Park in Oregon‘s northern Coast Range.

Without the appropriate morning nourishment, the three-mile ascent promises to make you weak in the knees long before those staggering views come into view. Luckily for the hungry hiker, Camp 18, 60 miles west of Portland, stands as a true Western pit stop, where you can throw on one serious feedbag at the doorstop to Saddle Mountain.

Camp 18’s sprawling restaurant/museum is dedicated to preserving relics of Oregon‘s early logging days. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays, it lays out a buffet spread that pays tribute to Paul Bunyanesque logger appetites of distant lore. Because of its popularity, there is sometimes a wait, but this offers the perfect chance to wander around the grounds checking out the array of early logging machinery and numerous chain-saw carvings.

Once you hear your name called on the loudspeaker, head inside and don’t be surprised if you have a critter of some sort for company at the table. The massive log cabin is a Grizzly Adams daydream, complete with stuffed cougars, numerous wall-hung elk heads, chandeliers made wholly of antlers, a giant fireplace, and the scent of mammoth portions of piping hot food and black coffee.

One warning: Bring your appetite. Just looking at the many items on the buffet table, including salads, fruit, waffles, breads, eggs, sausage, bacon, ham, prime rib and assorted casseroles, is enough to make you full. At $11.95 the smorgasbord is a bargain only if you’re really ready to chow down. Fortunately, those hesitant to take on the lumberjack portions can order anything from fruit-topped waffles with fresh whipped cream to grilled rainbow trout in single-serving sizes at reasonable prices.

On the way out, make sure to pack one of the tree-trunk-size Camp 18 cinnamon rolls for a perfect snack after reaching the summit.

Three miles up

Which returns to the point. Don’t forget when reaching for that second helping of bacon and waffles that you’re here for a hike. Fortunately for those of us who tend to overindulge, behind the restaurant is a short trail that meanders along Humbug Creek, a good spot to warm up your legs while digesting that irresistible last biscuit.

The entrance to Saddle Mountain State Park is only a few miles west on U.S. 26. Turn right at the entrance and follow the rough pavement steadily upward until you reach the parking lot and trailhead at the end of the road. Get out of your car and look up. Yep, that’s where you’re headed, and yes, those specks are people.

Saddle Mountain offers unrivaled 360-degree views from its barren peak in the Coast Range. The reason to get this hike in sooner rather than later is that it collects more than 120 inches of annual rainfall, and from November to May the mountain is usually enveloped in thick gray clouds rising from the coast.

The full ascent is three miles, but the diversity makes for an interesting hike. Give yourself four to five hours for the full hike, taking in the scenery along the trail and stopping at the top for a snack and some time to just soak in the view.

The trail emerges from dense spruce and hemlock forest into dry meadow at the summit this time of year. Along the way, watch for the numerous basalt outcroppings formed from lava flows over the past 20 million years. Though the peak growing season is past, wildflowers and berries can still be found along the trails.

On a clear day, the view from the summit includes the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Columbia River, the Astoria Bridge and the distant Olympic Range to the north. To the east, the looming white peaks of mounts Rainier, St. Helens, Adams and Hood jut skyward. Closer sites in the surrounding valleys show the recent scars of wide-scale logging to the east, and the forest to the west is on the rebound from logging in the 1920s and fires in the ’30s.

From here, it’s all downhill, but pay careful attention to staying on the trail at all times because of the wear and tear of a season’s use and the fragility of the mountain’s many rare plant species.

And if you find yourself a little peckish from all that exertion, Camp 18’s on the way home, andre it’s surely working up something hearty for dinner.

  • WHAT: Camp 18 for Sunday buffet, followed by a trek up Saddle Mountain
  • GETTING THERE: Camp 18 is 60 miles west of Portland on U.S. 26 at milepost 18. The entrance to Saddle Mountain State Park issix more miles west. Take a right off U.S. 26 at the sign for Saddle Mountain and follow the sometimes rough and potholed paved road seven miles to parking.
  • FOOD: Camp 18 Restaurant and Logging Museum serves its Sunday buffet 10 a.m.-2 p.m. until Thanksgiving. Restaurant hours, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. for breakfast and lunch, dinner 4-9 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 4-8 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays. Reservations for parties of 10 or more.
  • THE HIKE: A three-mile ascent broken up by a diverse landscape and numerous viewpoints. Six-mile round trip requires a moderate to good fitness level, but the hike is easily adapted for shorter, less strenuous outings for all levels.
  • WHAT TO WEAR: Hard-soled hiking boots for sometimes rough and unstable trail conditions. Pack a windbreaker for the often-gusty summit. Though the peak, at 3,283 feet, is not high enough for a drastic temperature change, layer clothing if you go on a cool day.
  • WHAT TO PACK: An appetite, a sense of adventure and a pair of binoculars


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