Donaca Lake hike/run

October 7, 2015.

14.5 mi | 1700′ ele. gain | 4:45hr.

Today was a “hike” day.” But I was sick of doing short jaunts near town. I was done working by lunchtime, which meant I had several hours to play. But where…

I remembered a trip to Donaca Lake that Aaron and I had done a couple years ago. We’d gotten hopelessly turned around trying to do a loop that didn’t exist, but the hike in was beautiful and pretty easy. If I did it as an out-and-back, I could rack up a ton of miles and get way out into the woods. I started driving.

At 2 pm I was ready to set out. It was so rare for me to begin a long hike at such a late time, but I was open to trying something a little different. The forest was just as I’d remembered: green, vibrant and beautiful.

The fall foliage had started to come in: yellowing bracken ferns, reddening Oregon grape, fading vine maple. I crossed the creek on stepping stones and made haste up the trail.

It was clear that no one had come out this way today. Spider webs crossed the trail. I quickly tired of spitting web out of my mouth so I made a web screen with a fern frond and held it in front of my face as I went. This felt like a long-forgotten place. All the forest service signs were old and draped with moss. I took my shoes off and crossed another creek. Then an old road. Entered the wilderness. It got even more overgrown and rugged from there. Another barefoot water crossing. How come no one else comes out here? It was such a breath of fresh air compared to the overpopulated, over-sanitized trails back home. I loved every second of it.

Just before 4:30 I reached the lake. Wow! It was as gorgeous as I’d remembered it. The trail kept going but this was my destination for the day. The shadows were growing longer, and I knew I had to move in order to get out before sunset. I hated the thought of finishing in the dark.

I took some pictures, ate a snack and started back. I ran. Jogged, perhaps, but it was faster than walking. I started to get into a groove when the top of my foot caught on a runner stretching across the trail. I tripped, and landed in a single-leg squat. Hooray for training, holy cow! After shaking that off I started up again more slowly and kept my eyes glued to the trail.

The return hike was mostly a blur. I returned to the trail head at a dusky 6:40. No headlamp needed! What a fun adventure. A beautiful, quiet trail. A mixture of trail walking, running, stream crossing and exploring. Colorful leaves, mushrooms and sky. All on my own, packed into a few hours in the woods. Everyone’s missing out on this very special place.

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