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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View Entire Issue (June 23, 2021)
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 23, 2021
The hike up Saddle Mountain in the Coast Range offers old-growth forest, wildflower meadows and sweeping views from the Paciﬁc Ocean to the Oregon Cascade
volcanoes. ZACH URNESS / STATESMAN JOURNAL
Saddle Mountain is a pretty interesting
spot geologically. It was created when
Columbia River basalt flows erupted in
Idaho around 15 million years ago,
poured down the Columbia River’s
channel and then fanned out, to the
ocean and down the Cascade Foothills,
helping form some of Oregon’s most
dramatic landmarks from the Gorge to
Silver Falls to Cape Lookout.
Continued from Page 2B
“What we’re seeing is a good indication that the re-
leased butterﬂies are successfully reproducing,” he
Taylor noted that hikers should stay on trail, partic-
ularly in the upper meadows, to protect the mountain’s
biodiversity and the silverspot caterpillars.
“That rocky outcrop habitat is quite fragile with
very thin soils, and the diverse plant community is
easily damaged by trampling,” he said. “Second, step-
ping on violets could deﬁnitely harm caterpillars.”
Hikers are encouraged to look out for the rare but-
terﬂies and take pictures if possible — but don’t touch
or catch them, which is illegal.
“If visitors are able to see one fairly close without
moving oﬀ trail, we love seeing pictures posted to
iNaturalist with the location data so we can use citizen
science to track where they’ve been seen,” said Sa-
mantha Derrenbacher, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. “Its wings are bright orange with
black spots and about 2 inches across when they are
open. The unique bright silverly dots on the under-
wing are what gives the species its name.”
Trail climbs uphill at steady pace
I left Portland as early as possible last Saturday
morning, following Sunset Highway 26 toward Can-
non Beach until I reached a sign for Saddle Mountain
State Natural Area, turned right and followed a wind-
ing but paved road to a large trailhead with outhouses
and plenty of parking. I arrived at 7 a.m. and was the
ﬁrst person to arrive.
The hike up Saddle Mountain in the Coast Range offers old-growth forest, wildflower meadows and
sweeping views from the Paciﬁc Ocean to the Oregon Cascade volcanoes.
ZACH URNESS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
The trail is uphill from pretty much the beginning,
winding through rocky outcrops and old-growth for-
est. After just 0.2 miles, there’s a side trail on your right
that leads to a good view of your goal — Saddle Moun-
tain rising in all its glory. It’s probably best left for the
hike down, so you can celebrate climbing it rather than
contemplate how far you have to go. Either way, it’s the
best wide-angle view of the mountain itself.
Saddle Mountain is a pretty interesting spot geolog-
ically. It was created when Columbia River basalt ﬂows
erupted in Idaho around 15 million years ago, poured
down the Columbia River’s channel and then fanned
out, to the ocean and down the Cascade Foothills,
helping form some of Oregon’s most dramatic land-
marks from the Gorge to Silver Falls to Cape Lookout.
In Saddle Mountain’s case, the basalt cooled when
it hit the cold water of an ancient bay and broke into a
giant pile of basalt fragments. Over the millennia, ero-
sion stripped away the surrounding soil but the basalt
held ﬁrm, resulting in a peak that kept rising above ev-
erything around it.
The mountain is believed to have preserved a num-
ber of plant species during the Ice Age, which is why
it’s such a biodiverse peak now, according to the Ore-
gon Parks and Recreation Department.
Old-growth, wildflower meadows and steep
The hike up Saddle Mountain in the Coast Range
offers old-growth forest, wildflower meadows and
sweeping views from the Paciﬁc Ocean to the
Oregon Cascade volcanoes. ZACH URNESS / STATESMAN
After a stretch in old-growth forest, you begin to rise
above the surrounding mountains pretty quickly. In
my case, that led to lots of views of the fog that was
spread into the coastal mountains below.
The wildﬂowers were sporadic at ﬁrst, popping out
of the thick emerald forest in a few places that typify
the ﬁrst half of the journey. But as you climb higher, the
ﬂowers become more colorful and common, forming
clusters along the edges of the trail, then becoming
thicker and more colorful in the higher meadows.
You cross a few bridges before climbing up over a
rise, where the summit and layers of basalt come into
view and steep cliﬀs drop away. This part of the trail
can be slick in wet weather, with metal fencing holding
the trail in place in a lot of areas and that can be slick.
Even so, the trail stays away from cliﬀ edges and there
aren’t any particularly sketchy areas.
The wildﬂower meadows become more numerous
the higher you get, and I tried to remember to keep an
eye out for any silverspots dancing on the wind but ul-
timately didn’t see any. Eventually, the trail leads to a
summit area with guardrails and those sweeping
From the top, the view from Saddle Mountain is
grand and in a lot of ways encapsulates Western Ore-
gon. The ocean spreads across the horizon on one side
while Mount Hood rises on the other. There’s also hu-
man evidence, from the clearcuts that mark the forest
below to the giant tankers ﬂoating down the Columbia.
But again, it’s the small things — the wildﬂowers
and silverspot butterﬂies trying to establish a new
home — that make Saddle Mountain as unique a hike
as there is in Oregon.
Zach Urness has been an outdoors reporter, photog-
rapher and videographer in Oregon for 13 years. He can
be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or
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