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Lush old-growth forest along the banks of the Salmon River. Bright green licorice ferns hanging on the sides of wet cliffs. The lush aroma of wet earth under my feet.
The Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness southwest of Mt. Hood draws me to its beautiful area several times a year. Wildcat Mountain, Huckleberry Mountain, Devils Peak and Salmon Butte are typical destinations.
But, hiking in Wilderness areas has it dangers. For one, vandalism at the trailheads. Thankfully, it has been many a year since my car was broken into. On the other hand, there is always the tell-tell signs of smash-and-grabbers at trailheads. Leave nothing out in the open in your car is my motto.
The other danger is large predators. I see bears every year, and always tracks of cougars. And, to my surprise, I saw what looked like wolf tracks in the Badger Creek Wilderness earlier this year.
Several months ago a cougar killed a hiker several miles from the Salmon River Trailhead where I parked today. As a long-time hunter, I stay aware of my surroundings and am always armed. It’s not uncommon to find fresh cougar kills (deer and elk) in the winter time. Raucous ravens are a sure-fire clue.
This day I hiked 5 1/4 miles to Goat Creek, enjoying the sights and smells of the rain forest.
The hike made for a fine outing on a dark, drizzly day. And, with its 1,300 feet of cumulative elevation gain, it provided some enjoyable exercise too.
May you enjoy the safest of New Years.