So I've been meaning to hit up some mountain lakes for quite some time now, and I figured that I had better go do that sooner than later. With that in mind on Friday after work I sat down with my computer and some Oregon fishing books and did a little homework. I started with Z and worked my way upward in my book of one million and one fishing rivers in lakes in the Willamette Valley. Quite a few of the spots that caught my fancy ended up being up near Portland and would have been a three hour drive or more. I wasn't willing to go that far so I kept reading and mapquesting.
Finally upon reaching the S's I found something that looked promising and was nearby enough. Spirit Lake was the destination. My book said it is a big brookie lake about an hour and a half from the Eugene area. I have actually never caught any brook trout so I figured this would be the perfect place to go. There was also the added bonus that the drive there was largely along another river I haven't fished. I could hit up the lake, then on my way back to town I could try a couple spots on the river. So I headed to bed and readied myself for dreams of catching beautiful brookies in a secluded mountain lake. If you don't know what a brook trout looks like, it looks like this (I didn't catch this one):
I got up around 8:00 Saturday morning and started packing up my stuff. Somehow it managed to take an hour and a half before I was ready. I had to get up, get some food, make some coffee, round up food for lunch and I didn't have much in the fridge. I had to pack my gear, write up directions, remember and gather up inclement weather preps, and I pulled my campstove stuff out of a storage bin because I thought it would be cool to have a trout lunch if I caught one worth keeping. But finally after gathering all my stuff I headed out the door, made a quick stop for gas, and was on the road.
My directions took me to Oakridge, OR, which is a small mountain town that is renowned in the area for out of this world mountain biking. Biking was not my purpose on this day so I kept driving. I turned onto a forest road that followed along Salmon Creek for quite a ways. It was a small two lane road that was encompassed by trees on both sides and a green canopy overhead. The creek was visible through the trees to my left and I couldn't help keeping my eye on it trying to spot good places to fish.
Fifteen miles up the forest road I turned off onto another unpaved forest road which took me away from the creek and uphill. My car is far from ideal for off-road driving, but it seemed to manage acceptably well. The roads were in fairly decent shape: no deep ruts and only a few large boulders I was able to drive around. I think I did pick up a few more decorations on the underbody of my car, though. But after seven more miles of grueling wear and tear on my car I figured I was getting close to the trail because the directions said it was seven miles up the road. After eight miles, I had still not seen it but I kept going. When I got to ten miles I saw a sign for a hiking trail and figured that must be it.
The final goal was hiking trail 3584, but this trail had a name. The name eludes me now, but it was named after some meadow. It didn't seem like it was the right trail, but I decided to give it a try and to walk a little ways. The trail to the lake, according to my research, was only a quarter mile. And after two hundred yards I could tell this wasn't right because the trail was winding down a steep ridge, and there was no terrain that would hold a large lake anywhere near. Then I saw what I assumed was my goal. A couple miles off in the distance.
This time I drove slower and looked harder. If my odometer and directions were both right I should have to drive three miles back down the road to the right trail. A little over two miles back down the road I saw another hiking trail sign that was hidden by a tree when driving the other direction. It was no surprise that I had missed it!
It wasn't as far back down the road as I expected, and it didn't have a trail number, but I hoped for the best, grabbed all my gear and started hiking. I made it close to a mile before I decided it was not the right trail yet again and headed back to the car yet again. Ugh. But I kept driving down the road constantly looking to the left and right to make sure I didn't miss anything. I drove another mile to where the trail should be, but no trail. At least no signs for trails. I kept driving and never ended up seeing anything.
The one thing I did see was that I manged to get a flat tire at some point, which was a perfect cap on a crappy day.
On the plus side I had a spare that was fully inflated, and I got to use my stock jack for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly it worked. I've never had a jack that came with a car that was as easy to use as this one. Go VW! I think once I got my stuff out of the trunk it took less than two minutes to change the wheel.
Onward! I tried one other road thinking that maybe I had taken the wrong side of the Y. And in checking this road out, I realized what very well may have happened. The brush was grown up almost completely over the sign and I didn't even see it until I stopped. Maybe the trail sign was inside a tree or covered by brush. Or maybe it even fell down. Who knows?!?
I went a mile or two up the road and didn't see much. There was one interesting tiny little pond that appeared to have a few fish swimming around in it. I stopped to fish it but quickly realized that they weren't fish. There were a ton of newts sitting on the bottom and occasionally coming up to the surface for air. I had never seen anything like this before so got a chuckle out of it.
So my plan to catch some brookies was totally foiled. In retrospect, the only thing I can think of is that there was one hunters camp around the right stretch of road where the trail should have been, so maybe that was it. Maybe the trail sign was behind their car or tents. I guess I will never know. Actually, I will probably try again next weekend, because I have since looked it up on Google Earth and if I do that again I can get a much better idea of where to stop. I'll let you know. ;o)