March 1, 2009.
Dry Ridge Trail | 12 miles | 2840′ ele. gain | 6 hours
Yet another unpopular gem, the Dry Ridge Trail ascends 2840 feet in the course of 6 miles. It begins from the Roaring River Campground, right off rt. 224 near the Clackamas River.Since the campground is gated in the winter, I parked at the gate and walked through the campground to the trailhead. There was a serious amount of trees and brush down within the campground, making the walk to the trailhead one of the more perilous moments of the hike. The trail rises immediately up the river embankment in a series of switchbacks to the first (and only?) viewpoint at 1.3 miles. The trail is steep, narrow, and dotted with blowdown. The only sign of life I would see all day was in the first ten minutes of the walk; a lonely salamander wished me well on my journey.
The forecast called for rain all day so I enjoyed the first couple of rain-free hours. It was warm enough for just a light, long-sleeved tee. I kept my rain pants on for the inevitable; it’s easier to change tops than to change bottoms. The trail continued to snake mercilessly up the hillside and soon led into some sparse snow. I noticed some old bootprints in the snow; yet again, someone beat me to this one. The tracks continued as I crossed over Grouse Creek and continued to a trail junction. Oddly, the tracks continued off in both directions. Following the directions of the strangely gigantic trail sign, I headed left and continued up the ridge.
Soon, there was another stream crossing and the footprints petered out. I was left in the snow, being pelted by drizzle and falling ice bombs from trees, to find my own way in the woods. It was much easier than I had anticipated, considering the daunting trail description I’d read online and looking at the map at home. The trees were openly spaced and the terrain varied only slightly but the trail was usually pretty obvious. There were a few times I had to stop,check the map and compass and scan the surrounding area for clues, but I was on track about 99% of the time. At last, I had reached my goal of the junction with the Grouse Point Trail in about 3.5 hours.
I sat down for a quick lunch. The drizzle had turned into more of a slow, persistent, soaking rain, so it wasn’t much fun to hang out in the wet snow and rain. As soon as the last bite was swallowed I packed up for the hike out. Following my tracks made trudging through the slushy concrete snow a little easier.
The hike out was relatively uneventful. I had time to reflect on the past week and goals for the future. I thought of the summer backpacking trip I’d been planning, and how I’d be doing this sort of hike every day…for 10 days…with 50 pounds on my back… ANd then I went back to listening to the rain and watching for birds.
P.S.> Sorry, no pictures; I forgot the camera at home.