As the saying goes “You can’t win them all”. Today Heather and I tried our luck on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. We traveled to Beacon Rock State Park to tackle Hamilton Mountain. The forecast called for light showers in the morning and a 40 to 50% chance of rain later in the day. As my brother would have said when he was young, “Beep wrong!” It turned out to be the wettest, windiest, cloudiest hike we’ve encountered to date. Despite the poor weather there were still plenty of bright spots on the hike and could tell that on a nicer day this hike would have been spectacular.
The Hamilton Mountain trail first travels to views of a pair of waterfalls. Hardy Falls is the first you can see but the views are partly obscured. Just a little further up the trail is Rodney Falls and it’s Pool of Wind. A side path to the left leads to this a railed viewpoint at the base of the pool in a rock-walled bowl. Rodney Falls crashes down into this pool creating a mist filled wind that blows out of the bowl with good force. The Hamilton Mountain trail crosses Hardy Creek below Rodney Falls on a log bridge and continues on.
About a quarter mile from Rodney Falls the trail splits creating a loop option for Hamilton Mountain. We took the right hand fork and started our climb. The trail passed through several openings with wildflower filled meadows. We spotted many different flowers offering a colorful display. The open spaces should have made for some excellent views too but all we could see was the white of clouds all around. Soon the wind picked up and at times nearly blew us over. For almost 2 miles we traversed the wildflower meadows through the wind and rain over the mountain. We finally reached the summit and were greeted with a wall of white so we sallied forth and continued the loop.
This side of the trail proved less windy at first. After three quarters of a mile we came to the edge of a saddle and could see signs on the other end marking our trail junction. We could also see the wind fiercely driving clouds and rain up and over the saddle crossing.
There was no turning back now so we headed across. At first I thought it wasn’t going to be as bad as it looked, then I got knocked off balance. By using my poles and leaning into the wind I managed to get the upper hand, but that moment was short lived. My rain poncho decided at this point to launch a surprise attack and I was suddenly engulfed by green waterproof fabric. After some artful flailing (Despite her laughter I am sure that’s how Heather would describe it) I got the poncho off my face and was able to complete the crossing with the thing now on backwards and completely unbuttoned.
At the junction we took an old road and headed down to Hardy Creek and the trail that would finish the loop. On the way down the road we ran into a pair of Black Tailed deer.
The two bucks were apparently attempting to climb the road and we all stood staring at each other for some time. They finally turned back down the road and disappeared into the forest and we went on to the creek.
It finally cleared up just a bit as we came within a mile of our car and the Oregon side of the Columbia Gorge made an appearance. The rain also let up long enough for us to change out of our wet clothing and into something more comfortable. We both agreed that we will be trying this one again someday when the weather is better because we could tell it would be worth the return trip. On a clear day Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams would have been visible and the wildflower covered slopes were pretty even in these conditions. Happy Trails (wet or dry).