Start Fish Lake TH, End Cold spring
Miles Hiked 14.72, Elevation Gain 1,608’, Elevation Loss 2,694’
Sometimes you just need a local person’s knowledge of an area to set you on the right course and work out the kinks in a plan. We woke up and enjoyed one of the best breakfasts I have ever had, homemade French toast casserole, bacon, fresh fruit form the area, and endless cups of coffee. After eating up a storm, Mike pulled out a series of maps for Hells Canyon and the area and started reviewing our route versus what he thought we should do. With many years of hiking in the area, his and Donna’s knowledge was invaluable. We poured over maps and after much back-and-forth discussion we plotted out a new route that not only kept us in the high country but also avoided a very long paved road walk.
Ron lent us his computer so we could map out the new route in Gaia and then send ourselves the new GPX files since we did not have a way to print out a whole new set of maps. With our new route Mike did warn us that a few areas might not have trail anymore or if there they could be in rough shape form fires, but hey what else is new. After getting ourselves sorted out, we chatted about the next time we might see Mike and Donna, and much to our surprise hey offered to resupply us in Troy, OR in a about a week, little did we know this was close to a 5 hour drive each way, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We snapped a few photos and then loaded up in Ron’s van to head back to the trail, as we left Mike handed each of us a copy of the book he wrote about the El Dorado Ditch, Ditch Walkers and Water Wars, we thanked him and Donna for all they had done for us, tucked our books away for when we got home and hit the road. The Road Back to the trail was a bit of a rough go, we bounced along gravel and winded our way back up to Fish Lake for the next hour, poor FeMike turned green form car sickness, but luckily held it down on the ride. We poured out of Ron’s van and while we got ready to go, he made us each ham and veggie wrap for the trail.
Our new route started out walking the USFS road for a bit before we turned off onto the old trail that led up to Russell Lookout, this would help us avoid a long walk on the Paved and busy USFS 39. We walked up the gravel road chatting away and getting passed by a few folks in their side by sides, the air was warm, the sun was shining, and we were all enjoying his relaxed road walk and the good pace we were making. Once we made the Outlook, we started looking for the trail shown on the old map Mike had lent us, but it wasn’t there. We backtracked on the road to a clearing and luckily spotted a trail sign, and rejoined the new route.
The trail would appear and disappear as we walked through a meadow, after losing it more than a few times, we sucked it up and started the inevitable bushwhacking before us, after a while, we found the trail again and carried on. After our walk through the woods the trail came back to the road we were on earlier and we followed it to the now-defunct road to Duck Lake. We strolled gently uphill along with a series of old dirt roads chatting and joking the whole time, man how lucky I am to spend time with people I love out in the wilderness especially give all that 2020 has handed us. We were really enjoying ourselves especially since we knew Ron would be waiting for us that evening at cold springs. As the sun was starting to get low, we turned the corner and alongside the road in a small opening was Ron and his trusty van waiting for us. Now generally a hiker would kill for a picnic table to sit at after a day of hiking, but Ron stepped it up with big camp chairs, cold beers, and a BBQ ready to go for us.
We set up our shelters and then wasted no time in enjoying ourselves. We cooked burgers, drank a few beers, and spent the next few hours sharing stories from all of our years on trail and discussing the current state of affairs of the ultra-light gear world. What a great way to wind down, just 4 gear nerds who love hiking talking gear and hiking until the starts came out.
As I drifted off to sleep, I heard some animal rustling off in the woods, luckily, I sleep like the dead, so I just rolled over and drifted off to dream land. When the Larm went off at 4:30 the next morning I saw the evidence of last night’s visitor a large cow pie right by my tent.