While volunteering at Elk-Kings race in the Tillamook State Forest, my trail running buddy Matthew Clover asked if I wanted to go on an adventure run with Sean Harrasser the next day. With McKenzie River 50k coming up in two weeks, I didn’t want to do anything too long. So, they came up with the Green Canyon-Salmon River Loop, a reasonable 15.6-mile run up to Devi’l Peak in the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness.
Instead of getting up early, we decided to leave Portland around 1:00 and try to reach Devil’s Peak around twilight. We got on the Green Canyon Way trail head about 2:30 and started the climb up toward Hunchback Mountain. The sky was unusually clear for an autumn day west of Mt. Hood, which right away treated us to views of sunrays shining through the Douglas-firs, hemlocks, and cedar trees.
After several switchbacks, we made it to the ridge crest where we were greeted by vanilla leaf surrounding the trail. This was my first time running with Sean, and right away I knew it was going to be a treat. Sean would tell us stories about vanilla leaf, how it got its name, and its scientific name, and many other details that I forgot within 10 minutes due to my old man retention. Sean continued throughout the run to tell us about each species of plant that presented itself to us.
We started to ascend a little more and hit our first snow patch. There were several blow downs that turned this into a slow hike as we slipped our way around fallen trees. Since I was filming, I decided not to bring poles. At one point, the incline was too steep without help, so Matthew and Sean both offered a pole to help me get up the snowy grade. The snow was 4-6 inches deep. At a stopping, we heard something crunching through the snow in the bushes to our right. I stared into the area, deeply concerned we were being spied on by a mountain lion. No one else seemed too worried. I never saw anything, so we determined it must be snow falling from the tree limbs above us.
Devil’s Peak Summit
Soon after we reached the summit of Devil’s Peak. Sean climbed into the lookout while Matthew and I took in the views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Ollalie Butte, and Mt. Jefferson. Someone left a bottle of vodka and several snacks in the lookout, which we all thought was amusing We didn’t partake in consuming any of it. Instead, we refueled and took in the views for several minutes before we started the descent.
The downhill is very runnable, even in the snow. It was going to be dark soon, so we picked up the pace. As we headed down Kinzel Lake trail, the orange and red hues of the vine maple magnificently displayed itself in the magic hour just before twilight. We stopped again to take pictures and enjoy what nature offered us. Sean explained why the leaves started losing its chlorophyll in this annual ritual. Then we made our way to Salmon River trail.
As we approached Salmon River trail, I put my headlamp on. The sun disappeared behind the ridge and we ran in the dark for an hour or so. It was too dark to see the river, but the sound at night of rushing water was soothing. Eventually we made it back to the starting point, where Matthew’s car was the last one in the previously full parking area. We changed into clean clothes and headed to the Skyway Bar & Grill to celebrate with a glorious adventure run with a beer and BBQ before we headed home.