Little North Santiam

May 20, 2006

Six Obsidians set out on a cloudy, but warm, Saturday morning for the 100 mile drive to the the North Santiam trail entry point. This underutilized trailhead is in the picturesque Elkhorn Valley, north of the Santiam Hiway, just ¼ mile off Elkhorn Valley Road, which continues a few more miles to the better known Opal Creek Trailhead.

The trail begins above and away from the river. But one quickly hikes through a forest plantation and drops down to the river level. The remainder of the hike is in old growth forest of Douglas Fir and Hemlock, with some Cedar and Madrone. The trail alternates between being alongside the river or high above the river and then out of sight of the river in some sections. A ridge bisects the trail prior to the midpoint, requiring a 500' climb up one side and 400' rather steeply down the far side. The trail is well maintained with solidly constructed bridges over all side streams. Hiking time for this in and out hike is about five hours.

The beautiful North Santiam River, coupled with Henline Falls, is the reason for taking this hike. Since the river is running high in the Spring, numerous waterfalls are in full force. Henline Falls, cascading off the side of Henline Mountain is especially beautiful. In addition to the falls, the river offers rapids, small canyons and beautiful, clear, green water pools found only in the North Santiam/Opal Creek drainage in the Western Cascades. It is simply a spectacularly scenic river, especially during Spring run-off season.

The cloud cover persisted throughout the day, but it never rained. The temperature, which reached close to 70 in the late afternoon, was ideal for hiking.

Members: Zella Andreski, Dan Christensen (leader), Debra Higbee, Sherwood Jefferies, Sue Meyers and Jessica Westin.

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