Friday, July 3, 2015

Kings Mountains

With Fourth of July weekend upon us and temperatures predicted to reach 100 degrees in Portland once again, we decided it was time to head to the coast with Leo to stay cool and enjoy the ocean breezes.  We also wanted to get some exercise in so we planned a 10 mile loop hike over Elk Mountain and Kings Mountain in the Tillamook Forest of the Coast Range.  It turned out nearly to be too much for poor Leo.  Read on…

We made it to the trailhead and started our loop hike at around 11am.  It was already pretty warm out but I was hoping that at higher elevations it would be cooler.  Before we even started the hike I took leo down to the Wilson River along route 6 and tossed him to cool him off.  The ascent up Elk Mountain was extremely steep but thankfully, mostly wooded the whole way up.  We made quick time but by the time we go to the 2,788’ summit Leo was panting very hard.  

The climb up had been very steep, so much so that going down the same way seemed worse than continuing along the ridge and over Kings and down.  We sat at the summit for a long time looking down towards the other coastal mountains and the Wilson River valley along route 6 through the Tillamook Forest.  We waited until Leo cooled down enough in the shade to continue on and kept going along the loop hike.  Thankfully, the technical trail eased up a bit and turned into a more gradual very old forest service road.  Leo seemed to be keeping up just fine during this section.  

When we got to the top of the loop we again rested before continuing on over Kings Mountain.  I had hoped that the trail would remain easy but to my disappointment it actually got harder.  There were several very steep up and downs and even one section that was so steep it required holding on to a rope to descend.  I helped Leo down this part by holding him under one arm while descending.  Then, once again, it was an extremely steep climb up to the top of Kings Mountain.  

When we reached the summit Leo was exhausted and panting harder than I’d ever seen him.  It was definitely above 90 degrees and I was very worried about him having heat stroke.  I had already given him the majority of our water and we were pretty much out for the 3 mile hike down, then additional 3 miles back along the river and road to the car.  We were alone at the summit sign for a while letting Leo cool down before another couple showed up and we got moving again.  Heading down the very slippery, loose rock slope was not easy, nor fun.  There were no switchbacks to these trails and I was worried about Leo’s paws on the steep descent.  

It was very slow going the whole way down with us urging Leo along the entire way.  I was in front pushing us along and when we got back to the road we immediately began searching for a place to access the Wilson River below.  This required a short quarter mile walk up the busy Route 6 to a place where we found a short trail down to the river.  When we got there Leo simply walked in and laid down right in the water… something I’d never seen him do before.  

I took off my shirt and boots and waded right in, urging him along with me to get him completely soaked.  We found a nice little pool for us to cool off in for a while.  There had been a little breeze throughout the day but with his fur and inability to sweat like us Leo had been close to heat stroke all day.  Never again will we take him for a hike in weather above 80 degrees… 

Unfortunately, our Prius was still 3.5 miles along a trail that followed the road.  Looking at the map it looked like the trail climbed up and down as well.  To hell with that.  I told Em to stay with Leo in the river and I strapped on my boots for a 3 mile run uphill, in the mid 90’s, back to the car.  This was not an easy run due to the weather, my exhaustion and the large backpacking boots I was wearing but I was able to beat 10 minute miles and was back to Emily and Leo about half an hour later where I took another dip before we continued on to the coast….

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