Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sailing Big Lake and Hiking Sand Mountain

August 24th, 2013

We headed to one of my favorite areas of Oregon, Santiam Pass, to do some casual sailing and hiking. I find this region to be one of the prettiest in Oregon. Although motor boats are allowed on Big Lake we only saw one or two zooming around at any given moment and most of the time there were none in motion. The lake is big enough that they weren't obnoxious. This area is also a hotbed for, as the signs say, OHVers (off highway vehicles.) But much like the boats, in our particular campsite we weren't bothered by them. Here's a great PDF map of the area that shows Big Lake in relation to Sand Mountain.

David's insane Sol Cat.

David cooking with Mt. Washington in the Background.

Beer thirty indeed!

Just fucking flying! Look at that wake!

My turn at the rudder. My name is Ishmael!

Our route via GPS. That's what I call tacking!
In all its glory!

Back in the campground: I wish we could have seen these heroes in action!

After sailing for a couple of hours we decided to drive over to the Sand Mountain Trail. This is one of those trails in William Sullivan's book that doesn't warrant a 1 through 100 spot but instead comes in at number 127. I didn't care. The book says it is short enough at under 2 miles round trip and it's only a few miles drive down some dirt roads from Big Lake to the trail head. Let's do this!
Dirt Road on the way to the Sand Mountain trail head.

WTF? At the turn we are supposed to make we discover a locked gate! According to a sign posted the gate only adds 1.3 miles each way. Now we wish we had brought more beer.

Walking up the road we see the Sand Mountain lookout tower at the peak. 1.3 miles? Really?

The end of the road- a parking area with one car parked. I'm not joking here: Gina is pointing at a case of beer someone left at the trail head.

Mt. Boob... err, I mean Washington.

On the deck you can see the guy who has staffed this look out for 9 seasons. His name is Blake. At first he seemed to give us a canned mini-speech about the immediate area and the tower but once we talked to him a bit he opened up. In fact, I got a little worried that he might not get to talk to many people and he might be a little over whelming. He was great though and it was interesting to find out he had just been to Ketchikan for 4 days. He said over each 10 day period he is on the mountain on average around 10 people visit in groups of 2 or 3. He also said he wasn't sure he could do the job forever as he wants to buy a house someday and it's hard when you spend 4 or 5 months a year deep in the woods.

Blake takes a group shot of some studs. Mt. Washington peaks (pun intended) out behind us.

Looking into the cinder cone crater and beyond!

Three Fingered Jack in the distance with Hoodoo Ski Area in the close right.

To get a good feel for it check out this interactive 360 view! It's like you're there!

A feature I didn't realize was there is a full blown cinder cone that you can circumnavigate.

The crater is on the right.

David and Gina off in the distance with the crater to the right. This is part of the bad boy cinder cone series that blocked a spring that formed super cool Clear Lake some 3000 years ago. Rad!

Wilco and Gina walking down the trail back to the car. Over all I would highly recommend this hike. It falls into the low effort/high reward type trail. We estimated it came in around 4 miles round trip with the gate closed. We barley worked up a sweat! We only brought one beer each though and it's more of a two beer per person hike. Great views of many of the surrounding peaks and lakes!

This is unrelated, but as we pulled onto Highway 20 from the road to Hoodoo we pulled in across the street right at the Santiam Pass and I got a chance to check out this old lodge type building. I had seen it many times before through the trees and was always curious about it. It's a massive building that from what I can tell by some cursory Googling of 'Old Santiam Lodge' was leased by the United Presbyterian Church from the Forest Service until the 1960s. I'm not sure if that's what it started as but it's definitely a cool old building. And scary too.