The Perfect Honeymoon- Hiking The Oregon Cascades
Only rabid hikers would consider taking to the trails to celebrate wedded bliss, but that’s what Brad and I did following our wedding a week ago, being the avid backpackers that we are!
After a small, sweet and simple wedding ceremony, we laced up our hiking boots, shouldered our backpacks and set off on our first adventure as a newly-married couple.
Our destination this time was near Olallie Lake, which is situated in the Oregon Cascades and lies between Mount Hood to the north and Mount Jefferson to the south. It’s a bit of a drive from Portland and involves paying attention to road signs from Hwy 213 (south of Estacada) – in fact the cut-off road isn’t signed- instead there’s a giant arrow painted onto the road pointing left, so keeping an eagle eye out is a good idea.
Once you make that turn, it’s a single-lane paved road for several miles until the pavement ends and becomes a wide albeit gravel road. Eventually, there will be a junction and you’ll need to follow the signs and turn right towards Olallie Lake. The lake iteself is known for the remarkable clarity of its waters and recent scientific exploration has revealed several thousand-year-old timbers on the bottom of the lakebed, preserved by the pristine and cold waters of the mountains. To this day, swimming and bathing are prohibited by the Forest Service in the lake, and only non-motorized boats are permitted to maintain clarity.
Parking near the remote outpost store and Forest Service campground, we were wondering how many other Labor Day holiday-takers would also be on the trail, but the entire time we started hiking, we only ran into one other group of people when we were hiking back out.
Brad and I started hiking very late in the day, which is usually the time we would have completed any normal hike. With the summer daylight hours fading earlier in late August, we knew we’d need to keep up a good pace to complete the short 2-mile hike to our destination. The basin around Olallie Lake suffered a major forest fire in 2001, and the evidence was still to be found on the far side as stands of fire-blackened trees swayed barren in the breeze. As austere as this scenery is, it does allow for unparalleled views of Mt. Jefferson peeping over the lake basin.
We found our camping spot high on a ridgeline and off the trail above Olallie Lake- and had the place to ourselves. Despite the blow-downs of the fire-weakened trees, we had a great little spot that was on a flat rocky spot, and to provide shade, we rigged up a tarp to cover part of the site so we had some respite of the sun.
It was eerily quiet up there, with the wind soughing through the trees and the occasional bird call. I spotted several osprey overhead chirruping, and pine siskins and even Audubon warblers twittered overhead in the empty treetops. The sun shone warmly, the breeze kept things pleasant and Brad and I whiled away the hours reading or just silently contemplating the majesty of nearby Olallie Butte. For water, we would wander down to the lake, carefully threading our way over downed limbs and trees and rocks. It was serene and it was perfect.
The big treat on the trip? The Aurigid Meteor Shower! The news had been trumpeting about this once-in-a-1,000-year shower that happens with the earth passes through the tail of the former Kiess comet. Promising 100 to 1000 meteors per hour, we were determined to get up at 3:30am to catch the peak shower times. I set my cell phone wake up alarm for that early hour and also prepared a small warming fire – because at over 5,000 feet in the mountains, it’s pretty cold in the middle of the night!
The alarm went off and I got up while Brad stayed inside the tent with our dogs Timmy and Buddy. (Well maybe this was more my big idea than his after all!) and I counted meteors as they streaked across the totally dark night sky. This was one of those memories you have an absolutely clear night with nothing blocking the Milky Way swirling overhead. It was amazing!
With all of the stellar views and serenity, I will always think of this area as the ideal place to have the perfect Oregon honeymoon!
For more information on hiking in Oregon’s beautiful backyard, please visit our Outdoor Recreation section.
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