I’ve been wanting to do Big Slide ever since I saw it from Bull of the Woods years earlier. I finally had a weekend day with good weather where I couldn’t stray too far from Portland but could still get a decent workout in prior to a larger trip the following weekend. I found the trailhead with no problems and was happy to see that there was no NW Forest Pass requirement.
After deeting up, I headed off down the trail. Most mountain hikes head UP from the trailhead but as I would find out, this adventure would be surprising on almost all accounts.
The hike down to the old growth area is actually pretty pleasant through a mostly soft needle and moss-filled path. The cedars and firs at the bottom near Dickey Creek are enormous and a little bit of that small, humble feeling I got when I was in the Redwoods came back for a short bit. Rest assured, these trees have nothing on the Redwoods, but I found myself looking up constantly and listening to the babble of the creek knowing where these monsters get their nourishment from.
There is a great little pond I came to after the old growth section where I expected to see moose munching or pythons swimming. But after realizing I was not in Minnesota or Brazil, I settled on watching the ducks take off when they heard my approach. The only unpleasant part of this was the swampy area just before the pond where I had to fight through overgrown plants and thorns. I expected to come out of it will all sorts of bugs on me but settled on some scratches and some kind of spittle-looking things that I think were bug eggs once attached to the leaves I chopped through. Yuck!
After the main old growth area though, I really realized how I was the first one to hike the path this morning. I am used to breaking through the night’s spiderwebs that are strung across the path from bush to bush on morning hikes but this was the thickest I have encountered. A few times I had to flick some eight-leggers off me and I was getting sick of the constant spitting of web out of my mouth and pulling the strands off my arms, legs, torso, etc. I really knew I was in record territory when I couldn’t figure out what the crackling sound was I kept hearing. I then realized it was the sound of the spiderwebs in my ears rubbing against each other and my face!
I also actually had to kill one or two that refused to stop trying to climb up my shorts. Being that this was the first warm hiking day I’ve really encountered this year, I was happy to be in shorts and t-shirt. However, when the critters were climbing up their strands up under the legs of my shorts, I had to crush them. So much for that part of “leave no trace.”
The creek crossing came soon enough and was a nice respite from the spidey-fighting. But, once on the other side, the trail actually got more overgrown and encroached upon by blueberry bushes, rhodies, etc.
I just kept pushing through pulling silvery string after silvery string off myself. At one point, I recalled the story of Gulliver and almost felt like the Liliputian Arachnid Army was weaving web after web around my legs trying to bring me down like those the rebel fighter ships did to those white four-legged snow-walking machines on the planet Hoth in Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back. I managed to break the strands thankfully but at one point, and I am not exaggerating here: I looked down and saw spiders rappelling from each knee. (FYI, the one on the left was the fastest down to the ground.)
Gradually though, the trail opened up a little more and about 700 feet up from the creek, I got into more normal trailground and enjoyed the hundreds of pink rhodie blooms that now filled the hill around me. And just before I came to the first slide area, it got more gravelly and open. The slide areas are great as the trail is now totally open the I got views of the cliffs above to the left and the lookout on Bull of the Woods ahead.
I took a rest at the junction where the trail heads down to Big Slide Lake. I heard voices and decided I would hit that on the way back instead. After a quick bite to eat and some drink, I headed up to the left. From here on up, the trail really made up for the web-choker it was before as the landmarks and views along the trail come in rapid fire and really keep the hike interesting.
The first trail junction came quicker than I thought and I was really thankful as I thought it was going to be a long ways until I hit the ridge. It was not and I made the first left and then was treated with a lovely small pond on the left side of the trail. I took a detour and watched newts swim and swirl around in the shallow sunny water.
Then I continued on until I got a view of the ridge ahead. It was rockier than I expected and more open. The trees also changed on this side of the ridge and were now shorter with lots more pines. It’s like when you pass over the Cascade crest on Route 26/97 from Hood into central Oregon and notice all the trees have changed from fir/hemlock to pine and pine. I knew I was still on the western side of the crest here on Big Slide but I don’t think the trees knew it.
Anyway, it was nice to see the ground opening up with less bushes and ferns and more open beargrass areas. The blooms here were in full force and I was surprised to see that none of them had been nibbled off by the local fauna. As I made my way along this part of the trail, I quickly passed another trail junction and then got into a series of open areas followed by thick, hard bushes that scratched the living sh|+ out of my legs. I guess this was the tradeoff for the brush on the other side of this peak.
Fighting through these bushes (I couldn’t tell what they were, kind of like taller manzanita but without the attractive bark.), I was pleased to now see in between them were wildflower meadows. Lots and lots of colors and since it was only a few days until the Fourth of July, it was neat to see Red Indian Paintbrush with small white flowers and bluish violet-like things. The Bumblebee Brigade and the Butterfly Battalion were out in full force and were much nicer than the Spiders were on the other side. There was also a very cool saddle with a view finally to the summit.
And the view was great with big rocky walls not commonly seen on 5000 foot mountains in these parts. Had the rock quality been better, this might have become a climbing mecca in itself. Big cliffs in the shape of a cirque where half the mountain once existed. The total slide area is about 1400 feet from summit to the base of the rockiness. The left and right sides of the cirque have dramatic vertical cliffs of about 800 feet high. The center section that goes up to the summit is slightly slabby in sections but still pretty vertical over 1400 feet. Very cool to look at in the Cascades and not often seen in Oregon.
I continued on the trail until the final meadow (not knowing it was the final meadow) and on out onto a small pinnacle at trails end.
I could look back and see the summit (from about the same vantage point as I had seen it on the opposite side of the ridge from the viewpoint there). I took some photos and then headed back only making one other error in exploring a short section of the trail that heads down to Lake Lenore before finding the correct steep little “gully” that would lead me to the summit. I couldn’t decide if it would be called Class 3 or 2 so we’ll call it 2.5. Anyway, I enjoyed the summit views from Adams and Hood up north to the Three Sisters, Broken Top and even The Husband in the south with the flying insects buzzed and swooped around me.
Then back up about 100 feet to the trail, back through the slide area where I found the dry creekbed and the route up to the secret lake. I worked my way up through the bushes to see that and found it with no problem. It’s not got a nice shore to it, more overgrown rushes so I did not spend much time there, just snapped some photos and was off.
The rest of the hike down to the creek flew by. I just broke through all the overgrown areas wanting to get back now. I went by a hippie couple hiking in to Big Slide Lake, then met a couple with two dogs at the creek. I was thankful to see them knowing that these 4 people and 2 beasts had cleared the path of spiderwebs for me! Another guy and his dog before the old growth and swampy areas sealed the deal and I was back to the final climb with nary a web on me.
The last part of the trail really sucked though as it was a 450 foot climb over half a mile on steep dirt when I had just gone 14.5 miles and was getting weary. I sucked it up (literally did some air-sucking on this part) and forced my way back to the car but man, what a cool hike. Lots of views and cool sights to see in rapid succession on the final half of the climb. Definitely one to recommend, despite the annoying start of this day.