9.6 mi rt
max: 2326 ft
gain: 2386 ft
gpx track, use at your own risk: #8
This is one of the winter trails I use to get up Stewart. I meant to go up Ogallala and down #8 but as I was hiking up the access road I decided to flip it. These two trails connect via logging roads up top, I think the walk between them is probably 0.75 mi or so.
I thought I had discussed this loop before but looking back I don’t see that I may not have. The Ogallala #8 loop is on old horse trails that were somewhat set aside when logging up top started a few years back. The Ogallala side of the loop is still somewhat maintained and it looks like the #8 is starting to be as well. Neither ever got to be in bad shape, just not used … well used by some like me. Without any side trips this loop is about 10.5 -11 miles with about a 2400 ft gain all said and done.
As you can see in the above image this is just one big loop with the first (and last) two miles on an old access road that hasn’t been used in years. There is often scat and other signs of coyote and cougar. There are views of the west from the top of the road where you enter onto the Ogallala trail. The old #8 trail is on climbers left in the above image and as you can see it gains the elevation more directly. Near the top of #8 there is a sign that indicates old #5 splits off, I had never taken that until today.
So I started at the Y-road parking area and chatted with a few horsemen before heading up. About a half mi up the main road is the split to the lesser used road. This road immediately crosses the creek on an old metal bridge. I noted that the creek which is usually clear and beautiful was brown and gushing showing just how much water we have been getting lately from the skies. This was a fact I was to be reminded of when I tried to come down old #5.
As I was walking up the road I decided that I wanted to go up #8 so I entered that trail at N48 45.622 W122 19.948. The trail immediately crosses a small stream and then starts making its way up through an older forest of giant moss covered Big Leaf Maples and conifers. The ground is covered with sword ferns which grow over the trail in places but the trail is always obvious. After a bit the forest becomes less maples and more conifers. With the increase in conifers comes a decrease in sword ferns and the trail is more easily seen. Also pink flagging… The sun was shining through the trees giving it a beautiful, peaceful feel.
As you near the top of #8 the trail passes through an open area for about 100-200 ft., here the trail is not as obvious…you need to go straight up not really deviating in direction from where you left the woods to were it re-enters the woods. At NEED COORDS, there are signs on the ground that indicate that you are at the #5/#8 junction. Going right (continuing up hill) will take you to the logging road and going down will take you…well, I didn’t know. So of course, I went that way.
Since I hike solo, I leave a rough itinerary on a white board on the refrigerator at home. I jokingly tell Jud (my partner) that that way he knows where to find my body if something happens. Although to be truthful if I die out there I would rather leave my body to the animals. Anywho…since I had said I was doing the Ogallala #8 loop and I was about to go down a trail I had never been on I texted my change in plans. Jud does not do outside so he really doesn’t know what I am talking about but if I don’t make it out he would say the words to others and they would know.
Old #5 starts down an OLD road turned trail. There is some windfall over the trail that needs to be navigated here and there. In about 0.4 mi the trail leaves the old road and starts going down the hillside. Quickly. After just 50 ft or so the trail has been wiped out by loose dirt but I was able to pick it up a little ways down. It was quite steep so going down in the loose dirt was easy. I could hear a waterfall that I want to go back and investigate, and I could see the beautiful, gentle, clear creek below. Except that it wasn’t gentle and clear, it was brown, running fast and high. I kept going hoping that the trail would take a turn and follow the creek side but when I got there I could see the trail continue on the other side. The water flow was so high that I could not walk across safely but I saw that if I could push through the brush and windfall about 100 ft there were two trees down across the water that I could crawl across on. Normally I would not hesitate to do this but here is where my sense of survival kicked in. I realized that with the creek the way it was (and that fact that I was alone) that it would be foolish to take the risk since I could easily back trace my steps and go back down #8.
That is what I did. The hill I came down was steep, use your hands steep at points, and for some reason it kicked my butt more than it normally would. But one step in front of the other using rest steps when needed got me up. I decided against completing the loop so I went out the way I came in on #8. I am excited for the longer days so that I can be more free to play around in the hills. While I enjoy our local lowlands, I am really missing the alpine.