Shale Ridge Trail

April 21, 1991

Eleven adventurous hikers set out on a partly sunny April day for a long hike up the North Fork/Middle Fork Willamette River, on a quest for Moolack Lake deep in the snowbound Waldo Wilderness. The first three miles of trail took us through magnificent Ancient Forest (this section well below snowline), culminating in a stand of huge cedar trees growing in a flood-plain of the river by a trail crossing. The flood-plain is interrupted by six tiny islands of dry land connected by seven more-or-less treacherously slick logs, affording dry passage across the river for the stout-hearted. The entire party took the crossing in stride (most — but not all — arriving dry on the far bank!) and continued up-canyon past scenes of roiling whitewater and streamside cascades that reminded us of our beloved mountain range’s namesake. Climbing steeply up a sometimes vague trail, we arrived at our lunch spot — an open place on the canyon wall with boulders for sitting and a sweeping vista across to the east rim of the canyon, compete with waterfalls cascading down the canyon wall from the hidden Erma Bell Lakes, no doubt thawing out on the bench above. Happy lunchtime stories of blood-sucking leeches on overseas hiking trips and favorite back country injuries were finally put aside in favor of our continued quest for Moolack Lake. Hiking higher up-canyon still, we immediately encountered 2 to 3 feet of soft snow and lost the trail (which was very unreliably blazed in the first place). Breaking up into two parties, we continued searching for the lake for the better part of an hour, each party communicating with the other by whistle blasts and pre-arranged coded signals. By 4:00 p.m. the leader decided our quest for the lake was folly and regrouped the entire party. We then traveled via map and compass cross-country back to a known location on the trail, and headed home. A wonderful 14-mile jaunt was enjoyed by Dan Bates, John Englehart, Bob Foster, Ben Jeffries, Kristen Kaminski, Lorraine Mombert, Chuck and Sandy Reul, Karin Thompson, Rick Wesenberg and leader Michael Cooper.


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