11/24/2017 – South Fork Mountain and Memaloose Lake

Date of Hike: 11/24/2017
Location of Hike: South Fork Mountain Trail
Weather during Hike: Varied - Foggy to Sunny and cool
Hiking Buddies: Kirk, Ollie and Thor
Start Time: 11:50 AM
End Time: 3:50 PM
Hike Distance: 5.12 miles
Pictures: Link
Today’s hike was a “Plan A/Plan B” kind of hike. With all the recent warm weather, I was hopeful we could reach a different trailhead – a LOT of snow has melted, and I thought we might be able to sneak in one more high elevation hike. Things looked really good – no snow at all until almost 4000′, and then just little bits. That changed on a northeast facing slope, where the snow got to be 6-8″ deep probably – and more importantly it was VERY sloppy. I was just sliding around, even in 4WD. So we put the chains on to see if that helped any. It didn’t help a lot – but we got thru the first section of deep, sloppy snow. But shortly, there was another section just like what we had come thru – we opted to move to Plan B out of caution – we really didn’t want to get stuck up there.

Originally, we were going to hike the Memaloose trail (from the bottom). Kirk had a better idea – hike it from the top down – we were almost already there, so we hiked up an old segment of the South Fork Mountain trail up to the old lookout site and then down to the lake and back. To top it all off, I realized I had forgotten my phone – fortunately, Kirk had his, so he was the track recorder and photographer for this trip.

On the way in, the sun came out and we got this great view from one of the old clearcuts along the 4540 road – looking east to Fish Creek Mountain and Whalehead:

After our snowy escapades, we turned around and headed back to the 017 spur, where we parked and headed up (the snow was deeper than it looks in this photo):

Once up at the landing at the end of the 017 Spur, we started up the real trail:

On the way up, we got a peek of where Mt Hood was hiding in the clouds:

We got up to the old lookout pretty quickly and looked around a bit. We found the old foundations of the lookout and then headed down the “un-maintained” trail to Memaloose Lake – although I think it is strange there is a 515 trail sign on the “un-maintained” portion of the trail:

For an un-maintained trail, it was pretty well maintained. We didn’t have ANY trouble following it except for one very short section in a rooty/rocky section. One interesting thing was that we found a bunch of these orange flags on this portion of the trail – they were all placed VERY low and had “SOL” written on them – looks like they were placed this year:

We made quick time down the trail and shortly got to the beginning of the “un-maintained” section with this old sign that is clearly showing its age – I wonder how much longer it will survive?

We quickly made it to Memaloose lake and looked around the campsites there. The dogs were expending even more energy at the lake:

We ate some lunch and walked around a bit and then headed down the trail to the Memaloose trailhead. Memaloose Creek was flowing fast and furious – the crossing wasn’t bad, but you had to choose your steps carefully to stay dry (although Thor just wanted to play in the water):

A little farther down the trail, I recalled this tree that was down in 2014:

Now it is all cut out and easy to traverse:

A little ways further down the trail, we encountered a couple heading up the trail. We were a bit surprised to see someone else there – it is a LONG drive to the trailhead now. The dogs barked at them, so we leashed them up and let them pass. They asked if it was worth the trip up to the top, and we said yes, but we didn’t see them again the rest of the day. I’m thinking that we passed them when we took the alternate route up the lake.

After leashing up the dogs, we shortly made it down to the trailhead and walked around a bit on the road – Memaloose creek was flowing heavy under the road – ALL the creeks were flowing quickly due to all the snowmelt and rain we’ve had. After exploring the trailhead a bit, we headed back up to the lake:

A little ways up the trail, Kirk noticed these interesting trees – we figured they must have been from when they cut the hillside north of here:

A little farther, Kirk noticed an old sign – I never noticed it before – wonder what it said?:

As we headed up the trail, there was a junction that we noticed on the way down – we decided to see where it went – we think it was the old alignment of the trail:

And sure enough, it put us out a little bit north of the current trail alignment. You can see on the track where it put us out at the lake just north of where we came in.

Since we were a little farther north on the lakeshore, we explored some of the campsites up the east side of the lake and found this poem tacked to a tree near the lake – an “in memory of” poem:

We then headed back up towards South Fork Mountain, and Kirk noticed this odd artifact. We never did decide what this really was – fire pit or old outhouse? Or something else?

We continued up the switchbacks towards South Fork Mountain. Just below the point where you attain the ridge up to South Fork Mountain, we saw this beautiful sunbeam coming thru the trees. The pictures are pretty good, but don’t do it justice:

Once up on the ridge, Kirk found a great rocky outcropping just below the summit that had great views to the south. We got this great view of Mt Jefferson from there:

As we stood there enjoying the views, we realized that it was getting pretty cold. The sun was still up, but the temperature was dropping quickly. We made it down to the truck and quickly got in and fired up the heater which felt good. The truck had frost on it and the puddles on the road were starting to ice over, so it was definitely below freezing when we made it back. We left the chains on the truck until we got thru all of the deep snow and then stopped and took them off.

On the way back, we encountered a half dozen or more vehicles that were all gathering Christmas trees. They all seemed to be having a good time.

Although we didn’t achieve our initial objective, it was still an excellent adventure in the woods exploring some beautiful old forest, and some beautiful old abandoned trail.