#4 in the Central Book, June 19, 2010; Moderate — 9 miles round trip, 900 feet elevation gain.
Our longest hike yet, and with elevation. This trek included Becky, Margaret, Ben, and Jackson.
After stopping the kids off at their grandparents’ house in Salem, we drove 25 miles east on highway 22, then 15 miles north on North Fork Road to a little 4-car parking lot near the trail head. This trail ended at our camp site, so we packed all our stuff in, even though we’d be coming back for the car. Part of the motivation for this hike was as training for our upcoming project.
The trail itself is verdant and beautiful. The first two-thirds of the trail was nearly deserted, and the solitude and isolation was amazing.
The trail follows the Little North Santiam River until it flows through a narrows too steep and hazardous to hike. At that point, the trail climbs a bluff for 900 vertical feet, and skirts the edge of some cliffs with breathtaking views. After cresting, the trail switchbacks down the slope to the river’s edge again. We found a pebble beach alongside the trail, and broke for lunch and a breather. The water here is an amazing green color, and the surroundings are serene and gorgeous.
We pressed on to the campground, now encountering more hikers, and found our site on the other side of a historic wood bridge. Here we left Margaret with a nascent campfire and the packs; the day was wearing on, and we had to retrieve our car before dinner time. The sun peeked out on our return trip, and we caught sight of our shadows on several occasions.
We fetched our car and drove the 15 minutes back to the camp site (a depressingly short trip, when it just took us 2 hours on foot to cover the same distance). We found Margaret waiting with a cheerily crackling fire and some roasting hot dogs. We set up our tent, kicked off our boots, and enjoyed.
Notes: Open year round, fine for dogs. The climb would be tough for kids, but the portion of the trail nearest the campground is much easier.