Hike Difficulty: easy
Hike Length: 3.14 mi (one-way from North Fork Sprague Trailhead to Blue Lake)
Elevation Gain: 1106 ft
Time: 1 hr 20 mins
The post about this weekend’s backpacking trip comes with a brief history lesson, so get ready. Yes, teachers still teach even in the summer, and I’m not even a history teacher.
One of my friends from college sent me a link to a podcast that talks about a fascinating event connected to Oregon. I won’t ruin all the details for you, but I’ll give you the gist then leave the link to the podcast at the end of this post.
At the end of WWII, the Japanese were secretly planning some innovative attacks using incendiary devices meant to start rampant forest fires in the US. The plan never took and the war was generally fought off American soil. However, in Bly, Oregon, there were a handful of Americans who lost their lives in an enemy attack.
I drove by the monument last time I was in Gearhart Wilderness, but I didn’t take the time to stop and figure out who it was for. After listening to the story, I felt an incredible pull to return to this place and experience it for myself. Coincidentally, before listening to the podcast, I was already planning a return trip to Gearhart, so it only solidified my reasons for going back.
Now, onto the hike itself. Last time I was in Gearhart Wilderness, I went to Lookout Rock Trail and stayed the night by the Dome. This time, I took a different entry route and instead came in from the north. The North Fork Sprague trailhead is the quickest way to get to Blue Lake in the northcentral area of the wilderness. In contrast to my last visit, the snow had melted off the road and the trailhead was easily accessible.
The hike to Blue Lake was pretty short and fairly easy to hike up with a backpack full of gear. I noticed pretty quickly how buggy the area is. However, there were less mosquitoes and more mosquito predators, so I had no complaints. The dragonflies and damselflies were literally everywhere, munching on any insect they could get a hold of. In an area with dragonflies swarming around me, I didn’t have to worry about mosquitoes. A dragonfly even landed on my shoulder at one point and gave me a close-up of his lunch — he must’ve eaten too fast, because he regurgitated half of it on my arm and took off.
In my two days at Blue Lake, I got to explore the area a little bit, but the trail was covered in deadfall that made travel slow and laborious. The north side of the lake is much better maintained than the south side. Plus, around 1.1 miles from my campsite at Blue Lake, the trail to Gearhart Mountain got so overgrown I had to abandon my summit journey and turn around. I ended up seeing an adolescent bald eagle fishing, though, so that was worth it.
In the heat of the day, the game was keep-in-the-tent-to-stay-away-from-bugs-until-the-sun-moves-and-you-have-to-move-your-tent. It was impossible to find a site that was shady enough all day long to avoid the suns rays. And the biting flies were relentless, even with my buddies the dragonflies as backup.
This was an amazing place to spend a two-day camping trip. I will definitely come back to explore the wilderness via the other trailhead and maybe even make it to the top of Gearhart Mountain.
BTW, here’s the link to that podcast on RadioLab. The first 30 minutes deal with the story I mentioned. It’s worth a download and a listen!