September 7, 2008

Opal Creek - Whetstone Trail

A weekend at Opal Creek is always full of great friends and good adventures. Ben and I headed to the Ancient Forest on Friday afternoon and arrived at the gate with just enough time for a swim in Santiam I swimming hole before the sun went of the ridge. After a leisurely stroll into camp, and a splendid reunion with old friends, we settled in for conversation, a shared meal and little post dusk fly-fishing. Having never cast before, Ben and Adam were quite patient, helping me to learn the ropes. Ben and I shared the bunk house and slept sound beneath the sounds of old-growth hemlocks and rushing water. Morning came with a gentle light and when I awoke I felt more rested and refreshed than I had in weeks. Adam was heading out of camp for a week, leaving Saturday morning, so he graciously took our packs out to the gate with him while Ben and I mentally perpared for our run of the Whetstone Trail. This 12 mile run is unusually difficult, beginning at camp, the trail climbs up the Whetstone mountain, traverses the ridge and then plunges down to the old road, about 1/2 mile before the gate and almost directly across from Santiam I. The big climb comes about 3 or 4 miles into the run, right after the stream crossing, a 2500 foot elevation gain in just under 2 miles. The entire trail is beautiful and lush - with life budding from everywhere, as it should in the only uncut old growth forest in Oregon. Ben and I encouraged each other as we climbed, shifting from third gear, to second and then to first, doing all I could to just keep running. We encountered a group of hikers at the top of the steepest section, explained ourselves and continued on. On this beautiful Saturday morning, we just about had the place to ourselves. We traversed the ridge and then proceeded down the technical terrain that made up our descent. The trail was by no means clear, hurdling, jumping and climbing were all required skills as we made our down, vegitation everchanging as we dropped in elevation. We shot out onto the old road, overjoyed and filled with blood pumping adreniline, looking forward to a cold swim in our favorite swimming hole. I couldn't have asked for a better Saturday morning run, in one of my favorite places in the world, with my best friend. We made our way back to the car and headed back to the dry side of the Cascades, but not without a berry-picking escapade along the Gates Hill Road, resulting in a winter's worth of blackberry cobbler and fruit smoothies.