Over the long weekend, Paula and I drove out beyond Estacada to hike up to Memaloose Lake and from there, hike up to the top of South Fork Mountain. The weather was a little cooler and cloudier Sunday morning, but the weather report had the clouds breaking up by late morning, so we were hopeful!
We pulled off the main road and drove an old forest road for about 12 miles until the pavement ended, and took the gravel road for another 2 miles arriving at the trailhead. We ventured out into the forest and saw a mighty fine stand of big old trees welcoming us.
There were some thickets of some nasty-looking thorny plants called Devil’s Club along the trail. I remember seeing this plant on Man vs. Wild or one of those survival shows, and I wasn’t sure if this was one of the edible plants. Turns out, the hardy Alaskans have figured out how to eat Devil’s Club.
Memaloose Lake Trail continued to switchback up the hill, crossing Memaloose Creek a few times. We caught a few glimpses of little waterfalls on the creek. I filled a bottle of water from one of the Memaloose Creek waterfalls, treated it and tasted it later, and it was just as tasty as the water we filtered from our PCT backpacking trip last year.
We finally reached Memaloose Lake, but found that the clouds were floating over the far hill and filling the lake with a mysterious fog! We stopped for a water and fig newton break at a lakeside campsite.
Paula got this cool photo with the log in the lake. Yes, that is July snow in the background!
Another angle of Memaloose Lake. Most of the other Memaloose Lake photos I’ve seen online have that far rockslide in the background.
Backpackers on the way down warned us of lots of snow and cold temperatures along the South Fork Mountain trail, but we wanted to hike it anyway. The forest notably thinned of ground cover as we got higher up the mountain.
For an unmaintained trail, the South Fork Mountain trail was in pretty good shape. We stopped a few times to clear debris from the trail and fortify a few trail markers.
The forest was very quiet except for a few little brown birds who echoed through the trees. The ferns and devil’s club from the lower elevations gave way to more rhododendrons and bear grass as we got higher up. We also saw trilliums in bloom, too!
This was one of the larger patches of snow we ran into. Not quite enough to make us turn back, but certainly enough for a snowman.
Paula caught this neat photo of the clouds passing over the forest.
Finally, we broke out of the forest and up to the top of South Fork Mountain! It was cooler up at the top from the wind, but the sun was shining despite all the clouds.
At the summit, we posed in triumph and celebrated with turkey sandwiches for lunch! You can see the flat section behind us where the 1930′s fire lookout used to be. We searched around and found the old foundations. I saw where there was a date, but I couldn’t read it, our hiking book indicated that it said 1931.
We were also treated to an amazing view of clouds! The clouds had not yet lifted or blew away, so we didn’t get the panoramic view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson, the Three Sisters, and Broken Top. but we did see some mysterious hints at what lay beyond in the distance peeking through the clouds. We may have seen a peek of Mt. Jefferson or the Three Sisters, but South Fork Mountain kept its secrets to itself. We’ll have to go back again on a clear day!