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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Trail Guide: Memaloose Lake

One of my favorite things about Portland is that it only takes a 45 minute drive to completely abandon the urban atmosphere and get lost in the wilderness. On this particular hike, the drive to the trail head turned out to be more adventurous than the hike itself.

The trail is outside of Estacada, a rural suburb of Portland. Beyond the main highway are unfinished roads and dirt paths; note, this 10 mile route takes about one hour to drive. Lining both sides of these rough roads are large carved out shooting ranges, where, at least when we made the trek, locals come to test out their arsenals. I grew up seeing my father's hunting rifles tucked into the closet, but I must say, the presence of so many assault rifles in the hands of strangers was a bit unsettling.

The trail itself is rather mild and tranquil, aside from the threat of errant bullets. (Just kidding... I hope). There's a steady climb through a beautiful alpine landscape, dodging the occasional fallen tree. For trail side diversion, we hunted for salamanders among the rocks.

We arrived at Memaloose Lake in under an hour. It's a small shallow lake surrounded by Douglas Firs that would be perfect for swimming, if you are so inclined. There are a few campsites around the lake that would be a nice stop for a short backpacking trip.

Beyond the lake, there is an unmaintained trail up South Fork Mountain, where there is a view of nine Cascade Range peaks. We didn't elect to head up South Fork because it was getting late in the day, and we weren't thrilled at the idea of heading out after dark when the armament enthusiasts may be inclined to try out their night vision goggles. Next time, we will get an earlier start and hopefully summit South Fork.

Directions: Coming from Portland, take I-205 S towards Oregon City. Take exit 12 and head east for 18 miles toward Estacada. East of town, take Highway 224 for about 9 miles. Turn right onto a bridge to Memaloose Lake Road 45 (between mile markers 33 and 34). Follow Memaloose Lake Road for about 12 miles (this is where the hour in the armory starts), keeping right until you come to the marked trail head on the left.

Note: We did this hike a couple months ago, so there is probably less snow but a lot more people around the lake right now.

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