Our family is very fortunate to have some good friends who are hardy backpackers. One of the most important things I have learned about backpacking motivation is that friends who backpack with children can do a lot to encourage each other to hit the trails. Even outdoorsy folks like myself can lose motivation. There have been summers where the weather was hot, life was busy with the kids summer activities, and it was just easier to car camp off of some Forest Service road by a lake. This year, we did a lot of discussing with our friends, and decided we were going to get out there for a good handful of trips. The kids were all getting old enough, we had taken stock and updated our gear, and with no major events like moving going on this summer, we wanted to get out there as much as possible.
When our July trip was getting close, we looked through a book on hikes with children, and decided on the Larison Cove hike off of Hills Creek Reservoir outside of Oakridge. With young children and their new puppy along, the distance was right, the elevation was right for avoiding mosquitoes, and the swimming potential for the hot days was crucial. I'll admit, that in spite of all these good things going for it, I was not enthusiastic about our choice of hike. I was wanting spectacular views, high mountain lakes, and all sorts of things that just didn't fit with all our criteria for this trip. This is where having backpacking friends for motivation becomes important. A couple of days before the trip, I started to feel like the week was too busy, I didn't like the hike we picked, and it would just be easier to car camp at a lake somewhere. But, I wanted to spend time with our friends, and we had made a plan, so I stuck with it. The day before the trip, my friend called to say that she was overwhelmed with packing, she wasn't so sure about the location off of the reservoir, and maybe we should just dayhike instead. I encouraged her to stick to the backpacking plan, even if we needed to pick a different hike. So, we all decided to stick to the plans, and headed out Saturday morning for Larison Cove. Had it just been our family, or just their family, the backpacking plans would have been scrapped.
The hike in to the campsite was just right for a hot, summer day after a long, busy week. We went a mile and a half without any major uphill climbs along Larison Cove until we came to some campsites where the creek flowed in. There were four really nice tent sites with fire pits in the trees, and we picked the one at the edge of the trees by the water. When you think about it, it's easy to see a 1 1/2 mile trip as pointless for all the trouble of packing gear, but actually, it does get you quite a ways off the beaten path. Other up-sides of short backpacking distances are that the kids don't get so worn out and cranky, there's no need to stop for rest breaks, and you only have to hike that short distance out. And, new puppies can come along.
Our friends brought their golden doodle pup, Curly Willow. It was a lot of fun having a little ball of fluff along to play and snuggle with the children. She spent a lot of time napping around the campsite and just being cute.
We swam and splashed the day away. The cold mountain stream water was exactly what I needed on that hot, July day. The kids had fun finding frogs and sliding down the natural water slide. We sunbathed and dried off in the dappled shade on the flat, mossy rocks by the pool. Aside from a few mountain bikers who rode past, we had the whole place to ourselves! We all agreed that we were so glad we had made the trip in spite of our last-minute misgivings. Thank goodness for dedicated backpacking friends!
To get to the Larison Creek trailhead, travel east on Highway 58 from the City of Oakridge for 2 miles to Kitson Springs County Road. Turn right and proceed on Kitson Springs County Road for 0.5 miles to Forest Road 21. Turn right and continue for 3 miles to the trailhead at Larison Cove. Then turn right into the trailhead parking lot.
Here is a link to the National Forest website: Larison Creek Trail # 3646
One important thing to note is that there is a lot of poison oak along the sides of the trail around the reservoir and in one patch on the trail between the campsites and the pool. Know what it looks like, be aware and stay in the middle of the trail, keeps dogs on a leash, and wear long pants if you're very poison oak sensitive. There is no poison oak around the campsites and most of the trail along the creek since it is in the shady woods.