My backpacking choices just seem to get better and better. The weather October 5th was exceptional and I did not have any commitments for the start of the week so why not find a local backpacking trip. This one was stimulated when I stopped by the Tillamook State Forest Visitors Center and asked a forest ranger for a backpacking recommendation. I think the ranger knew I was serious because she gave me advice about trails that stated they were not for backpacking. Well the Elk and King Mountain summits caught my eye because they created a nice loop option for a day in day out quick trip.
I chose Elk Mountain because it appeared to be a relatively short but challenging hike to the summit which I could pull off with an afternoon start. It was 1.5 miles and a 1900 ft climb, which of course had to translate into a steep trail. I found a blog post that was valuable for helping me understand the false summit confusion, but even though I was warned of the difficulty of the steep trail, I assumed it would be a quick way to knock off 1900 ft.
Well that 1.5 miles felt more like 5 and it took me about 3 hours to summit. The recommendation that this is not a back-packable hike would be accurate. But Oh what a reward at the top.
This trail has been adopted by the Mazamas for which I applaud their work in helping to make this trail available.
At the summit I signed the log book which the Mazamas have provided. This mountain top consisted of about 700 sq ft of land with maybe enough space for 20 people and one campsite.
I had it all to myself and the evening was shaping up for a good sunset. This was too good to be true when you consider what would be the nicest front porch view you could have for an evening. Again, the weather was perfect with very little breeze so I setup camp and had dinner as I watched the sun set over King Mountain.
The gallery of photos below gives you a feel for the sunset and the coming prize of the starry night. There was no moon and you are far enough away from the Portland metro area lights to have excellent star viewing.
This was definitely a no fly on your tent night.
The experience got even better with the sunrise.
I jumped out of the sleeping bag to take photos and kept the camera close as I had my coffee.
I knew that the back side of Elk Mountain also offered up some radical vertical which is even more difficult going down, but it was not as extensive as the climb up.
What did surprise me was the 2 mile segment to the Kings Mountain Trail that inserted more summit climbs and more awesome views of the valley. Another pleasant surprise was how beautiful the final 4.8 miles of the Elk Creek Trail turned out to be.
This was truly a Mountain Top Experience.