Monday, October 25, 2010

French Pete Trail Backpacking Trip

Well, well, well.  Another week, another trip to tell you about.  I am afraid this dog won't run much longer but let's keep it going while we can!

Graham, Jake, and I took another trip last Wednesday to the Three Sisters Wilderness.  We spent quite a bit of the morning procrastinating around the house but finally got my backpack and other gear loaded around lunchtime.  We headed out of Springfield to the east toward Cougar Reservoir.  After a quick stop at the McKenzie Ranger District's office we were off to check out the French Pete Trail (#3311) along the Aufderheide Scenic Byway, a beautiful 60 mile segment between McKenzie Bridge and Blue River to the north and Oakridge to the south.  I'd been on the Aufderheide many times before but had always buzzed right by the French Pete trailhead.  I knew from years past that there was a bridge somewhere along the trail (which goes over French Pete Creek) that had been washed out and so that usually deterred me from stopping to hike.  It being the very end of the dry weather from the summer, however, made me confident that whatever was left of the creek wouldn't be too menacing to ford.
Aufderheide Scenic Byway

After arriving at the TH, I was delighted to see not a single other car in the parking lot.  I let the dogs out of the car off leash (rare that I do this at the TH) and they seemed to know that we were in for a great hike and camping trip.  They ran around like lunatics for the five minutes or so it took me to ready my gear.  Once the pack was donned, we were off to explore new sights!

French Pete Creek
Oregon's State Flower

One of two log crossings

Vine Maple leaf

The trail is only open to hikers (horses are strongly discouraged) and being that it's a wilderness area, bikes are a no-no also.  The trail was heavily used from the car until about the second mile of hiking, then it became a nice mushroom-lined path that paralleled the creek below us.  Graham and Jake loved taking any opportunity to run to the water and take a quick swim.  We made good time hiking and by about 4:30 in the afternoon we were at would become our campsite.  The river was about 150 feet from the trail which was perfect, all the wonderful sounds from the flowing water were in the background and the dogs were happy to stay close to me and out of the water (so we could all be dry when bedtime came).  It's been a while since I've camping in such a beautiful spot.  Judge for yourself:
Our campsite

I put up the tent while the dogs chased each other and I arranged my bedding.  I knew that it was much too early to start dinner so we hiked another 1/2 hour down the trail to explore.  I got a few great shots here due to the lighting and was happy I spent the extra time walking, especially without my heavy backpack!

After returning from our outing I started dinner, some leftover tuna casserole from home and a spinach salad.  After I had my fill it was time to feed the dogs...and boy were they ready!  Something about being in the woods makes all three of us particularly hungry I have found.  With the three of us happily stuffed I debated about what to do next.  It was about 6:00 and light was fading quickly in the western sky.  I opted for the tent and we piled in.  I was very happy the dogs were dry- though the tent is HUGE they insist on sleeping on top of me and I really don't like wet dogs on my stuff.

Last of the day's light
I played a bit of solitaire (never did win) while the dogs figured out their sleeping arrangements.  After a while I became bored and decided early or not it was time to sleep.  We were all three out quickly, enjoying the kind of tired that comes easily when tromping through the wilderness.  I slept pretty well but woke up about 9:00 for the requisite bathroom break.  I noticed when my head returned to the pillow that the moon was rising, casting the last of the maple leaf shadows on the tent near my head.

I woke around 5:00 or so, and noticed that the shadows were now at the other end of the tent as they followed the setting moon.  A few hours later I awoke, ready to start the day.  Graham and Jake got fed first this time, and I wasn't very hungry so I just had some fruit.  We broke camp quickly and by 8:30 we were back on the trial, heading to the car.

I ended up hiking about 10 miles total over the trip and loved nearly every minute of it.  There were two log bridges that I had to cross, both of which made me nervous about falling in the creek below.  The trial was nice in most spots, but at times became surprisingly steep and thin.  There were more mushrooms on this trip than on any I've ever been on, averaging about one every 4 or 5 feet I would wager.  Also the fall leaves here were at their peak and I took full advantage of my new camera to shoot the colors.  The dogs and I returned to town and unpacked the gear (they watched, I unpacked), content knowing that even a short trip to the woods is better than no trip at all...

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