Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Two weekends ago, some and my friends from the EPA, my boyfriend, and I on a whim, decided to embark on a hiking/ camping trip up in the Cascade Mountain Range of Central Oregon.  That Friday night, we headed to Corvallis, Oregon which is about an hour east of Newport, to begin an intense planning session as to what adventures we would partake in for the weekend.  After an hour or two of scanning the map and looking up hikes on the internet, we decided to visit Opal Creek which is about two hours northeast of Corvallis in the small town of Detroit
View Larger Map.  The Opal Creek trail is a ten mile round trip hike along a magnificent blue river through towering Douglass Fur forests concluding with thousand year old cedar trees.  Man was it a great decision! 

Ready, set, go!

Before we embarked on our journey up the Opal Creek trail, we stopped at a waterfall referred to as Salmon Falls.  This waterfall was rather small, but still beautiful.  There was a rock ledge that you could climb up to at the top of the waterfall and peer down into the turquoise pool twenty-five feet below.  My friend Chelsea had a crazy idea to jump off the waterfall into the freezing cold water and of course once she did it, the rest of us had to as well.  Being rather afraid of heights, I was a bit hesitant to jump off, but once I did the rush was worth it.  The worse part though, was hitting the 50°F pool at the bottom which was cold enough to numb my body.   I’m definitely glad I did it.  Check out my video of me doing it here: Salmon Falls Waterfall Jump.

The towering trees of the Northwest

Sara Duncan - Taking a break at Opal Pool along Opal Creek.

Upon leaving our first adventure, we headed to our main destination, Opal Creek in the Willamette National Forest.  As we entered the forest, my senses were instantly heightened.  The trees are so tall and beautiful that I had to force myself to look down to keep myself from tripping.  About a mile into the hike we encountered brilliant blue Opal Creek.  According to someone that we met on our hike the water is blue due to the oxidation of a closed down copper mine up the mountain.  This river had to offer several large waterfalls one of which two of my friends jumped off of (this jump was a little too high for me).  We carried on with our hike even after we passed the main waterfall attractions to see the giant cedar trees.  These trees were huge.  The six of us could barely wrap around it altogether.  Since, some of them are over a thousand years old, I often think about what has happened in the history of its lifetime.  Eastern Oregon is home to some of the oldest trees in the world, one of them sprouted from its seed over 11,000 years ago.  Now that would be a sight to see! 
The meadow that we slept in. 

After we finished with our hike that afternoon, we headed out to find a place to camp.  For me, growing up, I am used to camping at a designated campground.  My friends are definitely more extreme than that and insisted on finding a random place to camp along a dirt road.  We drove for about an hour looking for a place before we stumbled upon a meadow of wild daisies overlooking the forest.  It was beautiful!  There was no one else camping for miles and the only other person we saw that night was a friendly deputy sherrif.  It felt invigorating to be secluded in a forest with only the wildlife to listen to.  My friends had all of the proper gear for “dispersed” camping, but I felt silly because the only tent that we had was a huge eight person tent that was way too big for the two of us and took forever to put up.  After we got done putting up the tents, we built a fire, ate a lot of food, and laughed together until midnight when we disappeared into our tents for a good night’s sleep. 
Sara Duncan - Mt. Jefferson - I made it!

The next morning we woke up feeling refreshed and ready for our next escapade through the Willamette National Forest.  We decided to hike to Pamelia Lake at the base of Mount Jefferson, one of central Oregon’s majestic mountains.  This hike, being only five miles round trip, was a nice break from our ten mile hike the day before.  This trail ran along another creek before opening up to a crystal blue lake.  We walked around the lake for a bit until we could see the grand mountain.  Mount Jefferson towered over us as we stared at its gleaming white peaks.  It was certainly amazing to see!  Maybe I will climb it one day.  After we took in as much of the mountain in as we could as our bodies cooled down from the hike we decided to head back to Newport to prepare for the next week of work. 

Learning from the pros

Even though I was sad to leave, I can say that I sure learned a lot.  During our hike I encountered several people that were backpacking and camping up the trail.  My friends were also well traveled backpackers and this has sparked my interest and enthusiasm to do it myself.  Not being a distance hiker, I did not have the proper shoes or the proper gear to make the most out of the hike.  By the end, my feet had blisters all over them and my cheap backpack would no longer zip up.  After that trip, I now plan to get involved with hard core backpacking as well and I have a much better idea as to how to do it.  I love being able to go out into the woods and experience what Mother Nature has to offer me.  The idea of being completely immersed in it for several days has lured me in.  I’m sure I’ll be out there doing it myself and when I do, I’ll be sure to fill you in on how it goes!


  1. Hey Sara, great post! Sounds like the backpacking bug jumped up and bit ya. There's really something special about hitting the trail exploring a new place, isn’t’ there?

    Will be back to hear all about your future hiking exploits...Happy Trails!

  2. Thanks! Yes Oregon has some of the most beautiful hiking in the country. Much better than where I grew up. I've already been researching gear and I hope to start up soon : )


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