I do love to take off on a strenuous backpacking or hiking trip most anytime of the year with most treks concentrated during the warmer months. However, as a 65 year old man with 2 artificial hips, a suspect back weighing in over 200 pounds, I have to be careful not to overdue it. That means staying in relatively good shape year round which is only getting more difficult as the years pile on.
This translates into a push for daily exercise which is primarily accomplished thanks to my dog, Brook’s, need for exercise. We are fortunate to live on the outskirts of town next to a farm that provides ample routes for interesting dog walks. Brook and I probably average 4 miles a day of flatland hiking but that is not enough to keep me ready for the hike we went on yesterday.
Every week, typically on a decent weather day, I motivate myself to take on a hike that includes a vertical climb.
Many times that may be a 5 mile loop up and around the Trappist Abbey which gives us a 1000 foot vertical. Yesterday, 12/26/2019, we took on Elk Mountain in the Tillamook State Forest which is only a 3 mile round trip but the 2000′ vertical over such a short route is punishing. One of those hikes where you do have to stop many times to let your heart slow down. A hike where an old guy does think about turning around before the summit, but that cannot happen. Of course the reward of making the vista summit is worth it, but the true reward comes from your sore legs that confirm that your body can still perform.
Yesterday was a beautiful cold sunny Oregon day in the coastal range which was ideal for the Elk Mountain climb. The trail was in excellent condition partly due to the frozen ground.
The views are better in the winter when vegetation is at a minimum. Overall, Elk Mountain is a great hike that will challenge any physically fit hiker. So I feel good that I only have some sore legs which tell me that I am still able to participate in my passion.
What is the correct prescription of exercise for an old guy like me. I have had 65 years to learn what my body can handle. I have paid the price for being out of shape and then over exerting myself which might typically lead to back problems. I was young enough to recover and learned to be more cautious but I was able to cheat on staying in shape. Those days are over, My greatest fear is that I will injure my back causing me to become out of shape which I know will severely impact my ability to pursue my passion. Thank God, I have avoided these back injuries for many years but only because I know that I must keep my overall body strong. A back is protected by all of your muscles working in harmony. Routine exercise is a requirement for living my dream so the Adventure Can Continue.
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 at crystaltrulove.wordpress.com 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.