Hiking Mary’s Peak in October, perfect. The weather machines saw rain coming from the west in a few days. Just enough time to get in one more good hike on ‘summer sun dried trails’ before the winter rains start. With over-drawn carbon karma from recent driving, I needed a close-in hike but the Cedar Creek fire eliminated going east to the Cascade foothills. Off to the northwest, Mary’s Peak offered a smoke-free option. Previous Mary’s Peak hikes ranged from ice-covered hazards to wonderful sunrises, but only one other in October (4-04-2021, 5-11-2021, 7-09-2021, 9-30-2021, 10-07-2021, and 4-07-2022).

Mary’s Peak Logistics

  • Map – General idea map, All Trails approximation map
  • Permits – Pacific NW Forest (USGS)
  • Weather – 42-73 degrees, no rain, wind in pm (source)

Starting out in October

Oct 18, 2022’s hike started at Conners Camp TH just as fire-painted light popped above the horizon. My car sat alone in the parking lot. On the way to trailhead in the lower valley farms, my car said 42 degrees. At the parking lot it said 52. The half-moon still lite up the west, but a very red sun rising in the east.

Hiking

After a short time walking with headlamp and then climbing up the ridge, a red sun rose over the crest, reminding me of the images I held from reading Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (Wikipedia). I called it ‘Cedar Creek fire sky art’.

At the ‘cut-off’ trail intersection, I went up toward the summit trail rather than around toward East Ridge trail. At the summit, another camera person already there caught the sunrise (with a MUCH larger camera). Looking out east, southeast, the Cedar Creek smoke rested up against the east side of the hills and to the west, the fog took center stage.

From the summit that first time, I went down the East Ridge trail to Woods Creek TH. A switchback tango that seems to go on much further than the map says. Mountain bikes abused this section of trail coming down from the parking lot. My trekking pole shows the depth of a bike berm around one corner. Riders also cut-off several switchbacks causing other damage.

depth bike berm

From Woods Creek after a water / snack break, I headed up through the switchbacks toward the summit. Between the parking lot and the summit, too many people (a school group too) and dogs clogged the trail. From the top the second (and third) time, the smoke fully reached over the hills filling the valleys.

After talking shortly with another hiker who worked the Cedar Creek fire for 30 days (thanked them for their service loudly!), I went back down around to East Ridge trail junction and then back up to the summit. I reached the summit 3x today, but none were as beautiful (sadly) as the first. On the way back down, a reminder of those inconsiderate humans …

dog poop bag left

Favorite pic from hiking Mary’s Peak in October

Hiking Mary’s Peak in October Summary

Hiking Mary’s Peak in October offers great views to the Cascades from the coastal range, some decent elevation work (if up / down multiple times). On the lower east side, few people and quiet / solitude reign. The forests are mostly farmed and / or OSU experiments with few animals making them even odder. I find Conners Camp the better starting point as climbing up the North Ridge can be boring if one does not pay attention to the subtle changes in forest micro-ecosystems. For a 1 hour 15 minute drive, I find Marys Peak a solid alternative to the cascades in shoulder seasons or winter. Enough trail options exist for a hiker to plan a range of hikes of different length and elevation gain. The trails were definitely more used (beaten up) than on any trip previous – bikes.

GaiaGPS statsRoute

GaiaGPS route and stats Marys Peak in October

2 Comments

  1. Michael, How can there come to be a good way for hikers and those on bikes to share the trails? Is this being addressed? I have never been to the top of Mary’s Peak, only the sign as we drive by. Maybe next time I’m there! Love, Mom

    1. Author

      I have not had a problem with sharing the trail w/ bikes. My concern is how much harder bikes are on the trails than human feet, even with hiking boots. It seems to me that we need to find a less damaging way to either design bike tires, or trails so that the wilderness takes less of a beating.

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