Hiking Lower Metolius with Kids

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Highland_Joe
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Hiking Lower Metolius with Kids

Post by Highland_Joe » January 17th, 2019, 6:30 pm

Date of trip: August 2018

Duration: 2 nights

Apologies for the long delay in getting this posted, but I wanted to share a trip report from our summer backpacking trip on the lower Metolius. I have only seen 1 other trip report for this hike and wanted to chime in.

For the past couple of years, my 11 year old son and I have joined a group of parents with kids on annual group backpacking trips around Oregon/Washington. The organizer is a very experienced backpacker and my wife’s cousin. He organizes these hikes for family and friends. This particular trip, we had a total of about 12 people, half of which were kids ranging in ages from around 6 to 12.

The plan was to meet up at Monty Campground, then drive up to park at the closed summer gate a ¼ mile up the road where we’d start our hike.

The road to Monty Campground past Perry South campground was rocky, rough and had many blind corners. Pretty sure my well-used Toyota Tacoma 4x4 enjoyed the challenge, even though my knuckles were white driving around a couple of those corners.

Beyond the edge of the road off to the right afforded some nice views of Lake Billy Chinook - when I had the courage/foolishness to look somewhere other than the road ahead. We passed the open winter gate and continued onward to Monty.

By the time everyone in our party arrived at Monty, it was already mid-afternoon and temps were soaring in the mid-90s. Nobody was eager to hike in those temps, so we all decided to spend a night camped at Monty and start our 3.75 mile hike in the morning.

For a Friday in the summer, the spacious Monty Campground was nearly deserted except for a single car camper, armed with a telescope to take advantage of the dark nights. There are spots downstream from Monty Campground (there was a fish counting station there) where the kids (and adults) cooled off in the river. I was impressed with Monty Campground, it’s well maintained, yet far enough out in the woods that it would seem to me to not be a popular destination. I could be wrong. Across the Lower Metolius from Monty Campground was a towering bluff and a healthy population of grazing cattle.

Metolius River at Monty Campground
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Next morning, we packed up and parked our vehicles at the locked summer gate. The only other soul we encountered was an grumpy older man jogging back up to the gate just as we were beginning.

The hike was 100% on a USFS fire-road that runs near, and parallel with, the Metolius, with a branch off to the right about 2 miles in that led to a private cabin along the river. We didn’t encounter any vehicle traffic, but the dirt road past the gate seemed fairly well used and maintained. We kept to the left at the cabin’s driveway to continue up the fire road.
After the cabin cut-off it became less smooth and there was a gradual downward grade.

We camped in a clearing in the trees about 3.25 or so miles in, between the road and the river. You could almost miss it if you weren’t looking. We found some evidence of others who had camped there; strings, a bungee cord, a fire ring. There was enough room for all of our tents, and fairly easy access to the rushing river bank through an opening in the brush. No beach, however.

Some of us decided to hike the last mile (roughly) of the fire road in search of a good place for the kids to play in the river. From our camp to the terminus, it was uphill and the road condition was poor, with large rocks, roots, branches, etc. Not impassable, but pretty rough. Some areas of the road approached 'trail status' with debris and small trees growing on it.

Some areas of the 'road' are more trail-like
IMG_20180812_105037.jpg
According to other trip reports, apparently you can continue on via a hiking trail beyond the terminus of the fire road. I saw no evidence of that trail, however. It is possible that I missed it.

Our organizer had scouted the entire hike prior to our arrival, and pointed out two camping spots, the clearing in the woods we chose and an open, rocky area at the terminus of the road. The latter had a fire ring or two, and some broken beer bottles. A little too dangerous for camping with kids. Pitching a tent on a rocky surface wasn’t too appealing either. Once again, it seems like you can continue to hike beyond that..but the brush seemed thick to my eyes and I didn’t see a continuation.

For the vast majority of the hike, the only way you’d know the river was there was due to the rushing sound of water; otherwise, it was shrouded from view by thick stands of trees. The only real opening I recall was due to a rock slide that you could scramble down to get to the water. You might have a better view, and better access in the winter months.

The soft dirt on many of the parts of the road had impressions of what looked like cougar tracks - we’d all stop to take a look. If I ever go back, I might try to bring a trail cam to see what crosses the road in the middle of the night.

Let me tell you something - Few things in this world taste better than freshly filtered (thank you Sawyer), icy cold Metolius river water on a 95F degree day.

With our bear bags hanging, we spent a quiet dark (no fires allowed) night looking for, and seeing, some spectacular meteors.

Hiking back up the road to the summer gate near Monty Campground
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We hiked out the next morning, arriving just as temps were beginning to get hot. We encountered what looked like a wounded or sick Osprey along the road, which we stopped to admire and photograph, but did not approach. This provided ‘teaching moments’ when kids would ask about its possible fates.

The dazed, confused or sick Osprey
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In a nutshell:

For those of you seasoned hikers who expect expansive, scenic views and challenging elevation gains, I’d look elsewhere. Here, you are amongst trees and walking along a forest road - and as I mentioned for the majority of the hike you can’t even see or easily access the Metolius due to trees and brush, at least in the summer.

For those of you hiking with kids, this might be a great hike provided they can handle the nearly 4 mile path each way. For our particular group, even though the elevation change was minor, the distance was almost too long (plus, the heat didn't help.) for particularly the younger of the 6-12 year olds who were with us.

Personally, I’m no expert hiker - but I appreciate being able to escape into nature, so I didn’t mind it that much.

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retired jerry
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Re: Hiking Lower Metolius with Kids

Post by retired jerry » January 18th, 2019, 6:17 am

good report, thanks, I agree with your comments, good experience for your kids

I go there occasionally, for example a couple months ago.

The trail takes off from the end of the road, going in the direction of the river. It's pretty primitive though the first half mile or so.

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Highland_Joe
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Re: Hiking Lower Metolius with Kids

Post by Highland_Joe » January 20th, 2019, 7:25 pm

retired jerry wrote:
January 18th, 2019, 6:17 am
good report, thanks, I agree with your comments, good experience for your kids

I go there occasionally, for example a couple months ago.

The trail takes off from the end of the road, going in the direction of the river. It's pretty primitive though the first half mile or so.
Ah, that's right. I recall now there was a very primitive trail off to the right that we followed 25 feet or so down to the river's edge, where we found a spot to access the water through the brush. We didn't stay long at that spot and I don't remember the trail continuing on through, but it sounds like it does.

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retired jerry
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Re: Hiking Lower Metolius with Kids

Post by retired jerry » January 20th, 2019, 7:56 pm

That first part of "the trail" goes along or actually in the river, especially if it's high water. Tricky to get by without getting your feet wet.

I call it a "fisherman's trail"

After a few hundred feet the trail becomes pretty much a normal trail

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