The day after a difficult Rum Run, a group of us decided to take a amazing, yet challenging hike up Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain in the Tillamook State Forest.
The hike starts off difficult, immediately going up. Although this is kinda a rough warm-up, it quickly makes you aware of what kind of hike this is.
For the very first part of the hike, it was nice and cool weather, perfect when you are putting out so much effort, but then started to rain lightly. The rain gear went on and it didn’t come off again until we were back at the car.
We had to carry lots of water, which was very heavy at the start of the hike, but incredibly important by the end. We also carried plenty of food, although I think I could have packed more and a better variety. The trail was often straight up, with a very steep grade and it took us 8 hours to complete the hike.
It was actually a very satisfying and fun hike, even if it was hard.
The trail was well-maintained and well-marked, thanks to the Mazamas, who’ve adopted the trail. Perhaps unfairly, they also became the scapegoats of the trail…
Mazamas don’t believe in switchbacks unless they literally have no other choice.
The direction of our hike took us to Elk Mountain first. Along with very steep grades, there were also rocks and scrambles that often took our hands to help us get over. Trekking poles were very useful for all the other places.
At the top of Elk Mountain, we met up with the rest of the group and signed our names into the summit log. Unfortunately, we were so clouded in, we couldn’t see any kind of view.
Right after leaving the summit of Elk Mountain, we came to one of the longest scramble stretches. I was glad we were going down, rather than up.
Apparently I’m not that great of a climber, but I can always sit down on my butt to try to get down a difficult stretch.
In fact, the stretch between Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain was probably the most technical. The Mazamas had put up a rope at one of the scrambles. Without the rope I’m not sure how I would have gotten down but with the rope, it was an cinch. We just had to toss our trekking poles down and just grab the rope to sort of rappel down.
The rope made it epic and I did request that someone start singing the Indiana Jones theme song while I descended.
The off-and-on rain seemed to become more constant, which made the rocky scrambles slick. I wasn’t even that good at them to begin with. A scramble that would put me on my behind, another hiker would carefully step down, using only poles to assist. I resorted to a variety of ungraceful techniques to get up or down them and using my hands a lot. The more tired I was, the weirder my methods got. At one point, I think I crab-walked down one scramble and did a muddy belly-flop move to pull myself up another.
But despite it all, the scrambles made it interesting, and broke up the hilly hike. Without the scrambles, it wouldn’t have been as fun.
By the time we got to the second summit at Kings Mountain, it was raining heavily. We had to quickly sign the summit log and didn’t stop as long as we thought we might. A short way down the descent, we saw a waterlogged picnic table that would be a lovely spot at a different time of year (The Mazamas think this trail is so easy, they do it with a bunch of rope and a stupid picnic table…).
We also started seeing a lot more hikers doing Kings Mountain as an out-and-back hike, starting from the Kings Mt. Trailhead. The most technical part of the hike was behind us (goodbye scrambles), but the steep downhill was killer on the knees. Some of us resorted to weaving back and forth across the steep trail to create fake switchbacks for ourselves.
Finally we made it to the trailhead, leaving only the trail back to our cars left. Starting this trail was nice, with some easy ups and downs that were a great break after our previous miles. But soon it went up again and was much harder than I expected, especially at the very end of a difficult hike (To the Mazamas, this trail seems flat). We did cross a couple of bridges, but nothing really excited me, especially as by this point, I was really sore and looking forward to the car.
After we made it to the car, a few of us drove into Tillamook for some ice cream at the creamery!
I would do this hike again.
Next time I want to wear more rugged pants, bring a pair of nice work gloves. I’d also skip the last 3.4 miles that connects the Kings Mt. Trailhead with the Elk Mt. Trailhead. It didn’t really add anything but miles to the hike, especially after doing all the previous miles. If I needed the extra miles, maybe I’d even start there to get it over with first, but I think shuttling cars would be worth it.
A super hilly hike on a rainy day the day after a challenging run? Why? We’re planning on summiting Mount St. Helens on June 11, so wish us luck!