My brother-in-law (Brian) had proposed the idea of a backpacking trip in the Salmon-Huckleberry wilderness several months ago. I had previously mentioned my desire for an outing in that area. On my last backpacking adventure, I packed light and slept under the stars. This time Brian and I resigned ourselves to overpacking, a consequence of the first trip of the season and our desire for comfort once we arrived.
We knew we wanted to locate a decommissioned fire watch tower. We had planned routes, each facilitating a loop back to the car. But an enthusiastic, and somewhat overbearing, forest ranger convinced us to ascend via a trailhead we hadn’t considered. (This, after an equally enthusiastic grocer, a woman likely in her 60s, insisted Brian and I sample a third of the growler station IPAs on tap…at 9:00 a.m.)
The trail was described as “arduous”, and didn’t particularly work well for a loop. We ascended nonetheless and were rewarded for our efforts, despite the likelihood the lookout was occupied (it is Memorial Day weekend, after all). The fire tower was indeed occupied, but we quickly learned its residents, great guys named Kelley and Mike, were on a day hike, and weren’t planning on staying.
After settling in and collecting firewood to restore the wood pile, a couple on their honeymoon arrived. We discussed their home (Georgia), our mutual love of Oregon, and vintage film cameras, before they descended back down the trail. We also shared some of our limited water, as they had forgotten their’s in the car.
One more backpacker arrived, a relaxed and routine hiker named Ryan. He arrived around 6:30 p.m., but left after a brief discussion and whiskey, sharing his burgeoning idea of summiting Mt. Hood in two days time.
Although we didn’t see far beyond the mist, and were disappointed to wake up to the same, this place is a gem in the wilderness regardless of the weather.