Hike 33 – Clackamas River Trail

c riverWe actually got to hike on Sunday again. Thank you Costco scheduling lady! It only took my sister specifically requesting the day off a month ahead of time for that to happen. Totally legit….not. It was super rainy yesterday, but not while we were hiking. It was quite lovely actually. We had way too many layers on and ended up cramming our coats into our backpacks after about five minutes of actual hiking.

When my sister and I were young, our dad was a competitive whitewater rafter. He trained all year and he and my uncles competed in a rafting race/competition both as individuals and in group events. Because of these races and the self-imposed training schedule my dad followed, we spent a ridiculous amount of time on the upper portion (above the dams) of the Clackamas River out passed Estacada. I once saw my dad flip at Carter Falls and stay under for a long long time. It was absolutely terrifying. Obviously he eventually resurfaced and we went along with our lives.

Neither of us have ventured up the Clackamas in a really long time, so when JWed suggested the Clackamas River Trail as a hike, I was in. It was super easy to find and a quick drive. We scarfed our Subway in the car and headed across the street from the parking lot to the trail. It is a 7.8 mile trail along the river with 450 feet of elevation gain. We definitely didn’t have time for a 15+ mile hike with a late start, so we figured we’d hike for a few hours and then head back. As soon as we hit the trail our hopes were dashed. There was a sign explaining that the trail was washed out at the 2 mile mark and impassable. ‘Darn, we only get in 4 miles today,’ was my first thought. My second thought was, ‘We’ve seen lots of trails that are impassable and we’ve passed them just fine. We got this.’

In summary, we continued on the hike. It is a narrow trail that sticks to the river although it seemed like quite a bit more than 450 feet in elevation. We climbed and descended several times as we worked along the river. A fire had obviously raged through this portion of the forest and the wildlife was just starting to re-emerge. There were even signs of spring as buds bloomed on burned-out branches. The river was amazingly powerful. It was a deep shade of green with a treacherous current. It made us both want to go swimming. Water does that to us. Thanks, Dad.

Eventually we reached another sign that read “Turn around here.” We did not. There was also a little note in sharpie on the sign that read “Unless you are Nicole and Juday.” That made us hopeful. If those idiots could make it, so could we, right?

Just passed the sign we reached the first wash out. It looked passable. My sister didn’t even hesitate. She just walked right across it. What she didn’t see, but I did, is that every time she took a step the ground was literally crumbling beneath her, crumbling toward a shear rock face that lead about 200 feet down directly to the hypothermia river. Because I had seen the crumbling ground, I was terrified. I couldn’t do it. I was stuck. She came to get me and I eventually made it across, but I have never been scared on a hike before and I was scared.

We continued on and there was another wash out, even worse than the first. Someone had strung a rope across it to help you navigate, but that didn’t work for me. I have NO upper-body strength. If I was hanging from a rope, I would die. Period. We turned back. Now, I had to cross that stupid first wash-out all over again. Again, Jessie just did it. She went slower this time and was careful, but she was across….with rocks and earth tumbling beneath her. I actually cried a little bit when she was going. What the hell would I have done if she fell? I was in the middle of nowhere with no way to contact anyone. She would have died, for sure.  Then it was my turn. I was less scared for myself honestly. I gripped the mossy wall tightly and went slow. I made it. I will never do that again on a hike. So so so so so so stupid.

The way back was easy. We saw this totally weird guy hiking. We made up a whole story about him but here is the gist: Tweed jacket, dress shoes, dress pants, too-tight, belly bulging, yellow, tucked-in turltleneck, coffee mug, and bright orange army surplus vintage canteen. He was seriously weird. We decided he was trying to hard to be a hipster and a hiker and the hipster won the battle for the day. He was a laugh riot. I made up a voice for him but it won’t translate through this 😦

We got back to the car super fast and headed home. We did the 4 miles in about an hour and fifteen minutes. It was our shortest and most dangerous hike to date. I hope to do the whole thing some day.

For information about the Clackamas River Trail click here.

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