We found the Crooked River Trail 2 years ago last January. There was lots of snow and we were the only crazy group out there that day. This last Saturday was a balmy day in June, with early morning temperatures in the low 50’s °F, and comfortable highs in the mid 70’s °F. It was sunny with intermittent clouds, but there was also regular significant shade from trees.
Since we (I speak as the queen), knew where we were going this time, we didn’t spend any scouting time on other trails looking for the Crooked River Trail. When we arrived at the trail head, it was obvious from the full parking area that lots of other people know where it is, too. The parking is just a bulge in the road that accommodates a single line of about 8 cars, maybe more if some of them had been more efficient parkers. We were able to find reasonable enough parking at the Beaver Creek Trail sign, roughly 100 yards up the road. Don’t quote me on that, but we could see the other cars from where we were and it only took a few minutes to walk over there. This was the exact place we had crossed on foot from Beaver Creek Trail to Crooked River Trail on that cold, snowy day. (click on any photo to enlarge)
I did not know until 10:30 PM the night before that I would be going on this Saturday hike. Thus, I had gone ahead with my planned 13.1 mile barefoot run that Friday. Needless to say, I was a bit tired Saturday. It is the longest distance I have run in a while, so my soles were a bit sensitive on Saturday. I opted for wearing my Moc3’s (see the ad for Soft Star shoes in the sidebar to the right) with light weight wool Injini toe socks. My two 20 something girls, however, hiked barefoot all but a short section that had large, sharp gravel in abundance.
The first few feet of the trail was a steep, sandy descent down from the road to the path along the Crooked River. From there, it was storybook scenic, with a few dystopian distortions, such as the solid plank foot bridges that were twisted sideways and sagging over the first tributary creek. They ended up being more solid to walk on than they looked, but I still wasn’t keen to have more than one person’s weight on them at a time.
One beautiful thing about this trail was that it was very close to Crooked River the whole time. Some trails only lead to water at the end, or occasionally taunt the hiker with glimpses in the distance, or even bully the hiker with a rushing cold water crossing. Not so this river. This river, though wide and energetic, rolled alongside in a friendly way, like a hiking partner singing a merry tune.
There was one more bridge, that actually crossed the river itself about 45 minutes into the hike. It looked and felt very sturdy. This was good, since it was not a river to be crossed easily otherwise. Except possibly using the huge pile of logs that we saw the marmot climbing on and through. But as I watched him scamper nimbly over them, I was envious of physical traits for balance that I do not possess, such as the body low to the ground and a slinky, fluid way of moving. I would need extra little feet on my knees to even come close to doing that. Weird visual, I know.
For over 3 miles, we hiked along a classic forest trail. When it wasn’t slightly damp and covered in pine needles, it crossed through sunny spots with riots of wildflowers and kamikazi butterflies. I had worn a bright, peachy-pink sweatshirt, thinking it would be easy to find me if I got separated from the group. This confused the butterflies, who would fly in their haphazard, wonky way toward my face. Maybe they thought that was the center of the flower? They would get about a foot from me and, as I was giggling and trying to duck, they would swerve-wobble-fly in another direction. This happened at least 20 times.
Around mile 3.8, the trail took on it’s Mr. Hyde personality. It was like I went through the wrong door in the fairytale. All of a sudden it was steep and sliding sand mixed with loose rocks along a treacherous drop to the river. I ended up taking off my moccasins and socks for this part, and my balance and traction were much better that way. I used my hands a lot, too, especially since my legs were really starting to feel fatigue with the climbing.
Our daughters and the 4 young men in our hiking group had gone ahead by this point, though their speed had resulted in some bloody scrapes all over arms and legs for one young man. Finally, I began to express the truth of my current condition, which my husband quickly agreed to. He told me to start back while he went to find the “kids.” Remaining barefoot, I patiently made my way down the sifting sand, only having a few panicking twilight-zone moments where I thought I had lost the trail in the beige-gray of the surrounding sand.
Once I had made it to more moderate environs, I still stayed barefoot for a while. There was no one to keep up with, so I sauntered, relishing various sensations on my soles. After a bit, though, my soles reminded me that they needed a break, so I brushed the loose dirt off and tucked them back into the moccasins. I thought of my 12 mile barefoot run to Stack Rock and thought it very likely I could have enjoyed this whole trail barefoot under different circumstances. It would be a good trail for a run, too.
I hiked alone for an hour and 40 minutes, although the description “alone” is relative. There were many other hikers, fishermen (almost got hooked by a fly-fisherman casting), back-packers, and even a couple of toddlers on the trail. The toddlers were pretty near the trail head, so I can’t say how far they went. There were also a few dogs with their masters. Most of them were off-leash, but all but one were friendly. For that unnerving encounter, I had stepped off to the side, down-slope, to let a larger group pass by me. When I turned around to watch them go by, I found myself nearly face to face with a medium sized dog that I had not previously noticed. It seemed to see something in my eyes that triggered aggression. It’s owners seemed quite surprised by it’s behavior, but told it in no uncertain terms to just move along. I think I will try to remember to step to the upslope side from now on.
My husband caught up with me by running for nearly 30 minutes. He left the young people behind, but not too far behind. They arrived at the car within 10 minutes of us, fairly dirty, but mostly dried off from their water fun at the turn around point.
I reminded my husband about the yummy hamburgers at Donna’s Place in Idaho City. He had shared his meager trail mix with me, but it had been 7 and a half hours since a meal. You can believe that after 4 plus hours of hiking over 8 miles, the day after running a half marathon distance, I was hungry!
I needed to take it easy for the next couple of days. My legs felt similar to how they have felt after a long race. Sunday, I only did a little gardening, then Monday I did a lot of walking while spraying weeds, swam about 1/2 a mile, and accomplished other active household chores. I had to smile that all of that was still taking it easy. I was feeling the benefits of maintaining an active life routine.