July 13, 2012.
North Ridge Trail > summit > East Ridge Trail > Tie Trail > North Ridge
9.4 miles | ~2700′ ele. gain | 4.5 hrs.
A quick drive from Corvallis brought me to Mary’s Peak North Ridge trailhead. There were a few cars parked near the gate at the end of the road. I figured such a convenient trail would attract other people, even if it was a weekday. I encountered my first person not too far up the trail bombing down on a mountain bike. I think we both surprised each other. After he took off I settled back into a comfortable walk through the ugly, ugly forest. The understory was sparse, leaving me to gaze upon brown tree after brown tree with brown needles at my feet.
But all would change once I reached the parking area near the summit. I broke free of the brown to enter a vast concrete arena surrounded by bright, grassy meadows. The meadows were dotted with Columbia lilies, wallflowers, daisies and other colorful wildflowers. Butterflies dipped and fluttered among the blooms. A gravel road led me right up to the radio tower on the summit. From here, I could see Hood, Jefferson and all the central Cascade Volcanoes. I curled up in the grass and had lunch here, paying no attention to the various groups of people buzzing around up there.
For the descent I decided to make a loop out of it to minimize the time I’d have to spend on the North Ridge trail. It was a slightly longer but infinitely more beautiful walk. I zipped down a possibly unofficial trail that cut off some of the road walking and brought me right to a trail heading for the East Ridge. I walked with a broad meadow to my left and a pretty forest to my right. Once on the East Ridge trail, I lost a bunch of elevation over the next mile while enjoying a variety of wildflowers, including some big, purple irises. I passed several people on their way up and three mountain bikers loudly making their way down.
The next turn took me to the Tie Trail, which apparently does not see as much use as the popular East Ridge. The trail was brushier and I walked through countless spiderwebs. I did not see anyone on this trail. The rainbow of flowers continued as I identified coralroot, thimbleberry, columbine, monkeyflower and a million others that I didn’t know. There was even a bleeding heart in bloom!
But, alas, I started to notice that the brown was returning and I knew I was close to the junction. Once I spotted a bench among the trees I made my last turn onto the dreaded North Ridge Trail. The trail was mostly quiet, with the exception of one trail runner near the end of the trail. I leapt off of the trail when I heard him coming because I thought it was another pack of bikers. I was happy to see a person on foot and he seemed equally happy to be bouncing along towards his destination.
It was a nice way to spend half a day, but I think the next time I’ll be back will be when there’s enough snow on the ground to keep the bikers away. I don’t like sharing the trail with objects hurtling along at rapid speeds. I would highly recommend any trail but the North Ridge unless you’re purely looking for some exercise.