Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Washington

Hardy Ridge Loop

For the third hike in a row we found ourselves headed to Washington. Our destination this time was Beacon Rock State Park for a hike to Hardy Ridge. We’d been to the park twice before with Hamilton Mountain being our goal each time (on our second visit we also hiked up Beacon Rock (post)). For each of our hikes to Hamilton Mountain we had started at the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead but for today’s hike we parked at the Equestrian Trailhead.
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There is a gated road and a trail that begin at the far end of the parking area which meet after a few hundred feet.
IMG_3514Equestrian Trail at the trailhead.

IMG_3528On the old roadbed/Equestrian Trail.

We followed the Equestrian Trail uphill through the forest and past a number of wildflowers for 1.2 miles to a 4-way junction.
IMG_3520Vanilla leaf

IMG_3522Fairy bells

IMG_3529Violets

IMG_3530Star-flowered false solomon seal

IMG_3533Youth-on-age

IMG_3537Possibly a cinquefoil

IMG_3542Thimbleberry

IMG_3545Fringecup

IMG_3547At the 4-way jct the Equestrian Trial continued straight with the West Hardy Trail to the left and Lower Loop Trail to the right.

We turned left on the West Hardy Trail which followed an overgrown road bed along the west flank of Hardy Ridge. A brief appearance of blue sky gave us a moment of hope that the mostly cloudy forecast might have been wrong but the blue was quickly replaced with gray clouds.
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IMG_3556Salmonberry

IMG_3559False solomon seal

IMG_3560Bleeding heart

IMG_3563Here come the clouds.

After 1.3 miles on the West Hardy Trail we turned right onto the Hardy Ridge Trail.
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This hiker only trail climbed approximately 800′ in 0.8 miles to a junction at a saddle on Hardy Ridge.
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IMG_3575Baneberry

IMG_3585Trillium

IMG_3590Paintbrush

IMG_3592Red flowering currant

IMG_3598Chocolate lily

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IMG_3624Anemones

IMG_3626Looking across the Columbia River into Oregon.

IMG_3627Horsetail Falls (post) in Oregon.

IMG_3629Field chickweed and Oregon grape

IMG_3631Junction at the saddle.

At the junction we turned left onto a well worn trail (not shown on maps) that led north along Hardy Ridge. This trail followed the spine of the ridge 0.8 miles to the ridge’s highest point at an elevation a little under 3000′. On a clear day Mt. Hood and the tops of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier would have been visible from the high point, but on this day the sights were limited to the various flowers blooming along the ridge. As we approached the high point we were greeted with a few snowflakes.
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IMG_3637Glacier lily

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IMG_3651Trilliums

IMG_3665Glacier lilies along the trail.

IMG_3668Another hiker caught up to us at this rock field not far from the high point. It looked like the trail was going across the rocks for a bit and she decided to turn around but after just a few feet the trail resumed behind a bush.

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IMG_3671Phlox

IMG_3676Paintbrush and glacier lilies.

IMG_3678The high point.

IMG_3684Glacier lilies at the high point.

We didn’t stay long at the top, while we were fortunate to not be dealing with any of the winds the Columbia Gorge is known for it was chilly (as evidenced by the snowflakes) so we headed back down. Along the way we met a spotted towhee that wasn’t the least bit bothered by the weather.
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As we made our way down the clouds began to lift a bit and by the time we were approaching the junction we were under them which gave us a nice view of Hamilton Mountain.
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IMG_3701Hamilton Mountain (high point to the right) and the Columbia River.

IMG_3706Bonneville Dam and the Hamilton Mountain Trail crossing The Saddle.

IMG_3708Upper McCord Creek Falls (post-partially closed due to fire damage as of writing)

The only snowy peak we could see though was Larch Mountain (post) to the SW.
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When we reached the junction we turned left onto the East Hardy Trail and began a mile long descent to another junction.
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IMG_3721Squirrel

IMG_3727Snail

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At this 3-way junction we faced a choice. Most descriptions of the Hardy Ridge Loop (including Sullivan’s) would have sent us straight on the East Hardy Trail for 0.8 miles to the Equestrian Trail then right on that trail 1.7 miles back to the trailhead for an 8.5 mile hike. We opted to extend our hike by turning left instead on the Bridge Trail.
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IMG_3738Bleeding heart along a little stream.

IMG_3739False lily-of-the-valley getting ready to bloom.

IMG_3743Possibly a Dictyoptera aurora (Golden net-winged beetle)

A little over three quarters of a mile we arrived at the trail’s namesake bridge over Hardy Creek.
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After crossing the creek the trail climbed for a tenth of a mile to the Upper Hardy Trail (another old roadbed).
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Here again we could have shortened our hike by turning right following a pointer for the Equestrian Trail but we wanted to revisit The Saddle north of Hamilton Mountain. We turned left on the Upper Hardy Trail climbing approximately 300′ in 0.6 miles to yet another junction.
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IMG_3759Hardy Ridge from the Upper Hardy Trail.

We once again faced a choice at this junction.
IMG_3762The left fork would have been slightly longer by leading us around the back side of a knoll and making a 180 degree turn following the east side of the ridge toward The Saddle.

IMG_3764We turned right opting for the slightly shorter route to The Saddle.

IMG_3768Coltsfoot

Just under three quarters of a mile after turning right we were rejoined by the the left hand fork of the Upper Hardy Trail.
IMG_3769Southern junction of the two forks of the Upper Hardy Trail.

The Upper Hardy Trail then descended for .2 miles to The Saddle and a junction with the Hamilton Mountain Trail.
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IMG_3771Hikers coming down from Hamilton Mountain.

For the first time on this hike were at a familiar spot. We turned right onto the Equestrian Trail following it for 150 yards to a sign for Dons Cutoff Trail.
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On both of our previous visits we had stayed on the Equestrian Trail following it downhill for a mile to a 3-way junction at Hardy Creek. This time we took Dons Cutoff which would bring us to the same junction in just a tenth of a mile more. Dons Cutoff headed steeply downhill arriving at the Upper Hardy Trail after half a mile.
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IMG_3781Dons Cutoff Trail nearing the Upper Hardy Trail.

We turned left on the old roadbed following the Upper Hardy Trail for .4 miles to a junction with the Equestrian Trail and then arrived at Hardy Creek after another tenth of a mile.
IMG_3782Upper Hardy Trail

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IMG_3787Equestrian Trail

IMG_3789Hardy Creek

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We crossed Hardy Creek on the Equestrian Trail following it for a half mile to the 4-way junction.
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Had we opted for the described hike we would have arrived at this junction on the East Hardy Trail. We faced another choice here, keep on the Equestrian Trail for 1.7 miles or turn left onto the Lower Loop Trail and add approximately 0.4 miles to the hike. You guessed it we turned left and took the Lower Loop Trail which popped us out onto the Equestrian Trail at the 4-way junction where we had turned up the West Hardy Trail that morning.
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We turned left and followed the Equestrian Trail downhill for the final 1.2 miles of what turned out to be 13 mile hike that gained approximately 2700′ of elevation. Slugs were out in force along the final stretch including a number of small black specimens.
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IMG_3808Spotted this guy while I was photographing the slug above. Not sure if it’s a crane fly or ?

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There are some hikes where missing out on the mountain views is a real bummer but this wasn’t one of those for us. It was just a great day in the forest with flowers, creeks, critters, and a good deal of solitude despite the park being popular. The number of trails and options provided in the park allow for people to spread out a bit with Hamilton Mountain being the busiest area which we pretty much avoided (other than The Saddle) on this day. Happy Trails!

Our track for the day.

Flickr: Hardy Ridge Loop

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Washington

Columbia Hills State Park – 4/17/2021

We joined the masses of people heading to the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge to catch the wildflower display which may be brief this year due to a combination of a lack of moisture and higher than normal (what is normal anymore?) temperatures. While we try to avoid crowds the hikes in Columbia Hills State Park are a featured hike in William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Eastern Oregon” (Hike #2 in the 3rd edition) and one that Heather had missed out on in 2015 when I was joined by my parents (post). Knowing that word was out on social media that the bloom was on, we left even a little earlier than typical in hopes of minimizing the number of encounters with others. We followed the same order that I had done the hikes in during my first visit stopping first at the Horsethief Butte Trailhead.
IMG_2484Mt. Hood from the trailhead.

We followed the trail .3 miles to a junction where, unlike the first visit, we went right first following the trail around to the south side of Horsethief Butte where a fence announced the area beyond was closed.
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IMG_2496Death camas

IMG_2575Western stoneseed

20210417_065844Fiddleneck

IMG_2522Large-flower tritelia

IMG_2528Mt. Hood beyond Horsethief Lake

IMG_2534Standing at the fence looking east.

IMG_2531Wren

IMG_2535Horsethief Butte

IMG_2544Lupine

We then walked back about a quarter of a mile to a sign at an opening in the rock formation.
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Here we turned and headed up into the rocks.
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There is an optional side trail to a viewpoint inside the formation but we wanted to save the time and get to our second stop sooner rather than later. We had been the only car at the trailhead but half an hour later there were another half dozen cars (mostly rock climbers) with more arriving.
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We descended from Horsethief Butte and after a short detour due to a wrong turn at a junction we arrived back at our and drove east on SR 14 for 0.7 miles to the Crawford Oaks Trailhead. While the trailhead opened in May of 2014 my parents I had not parked here opting instead to park at the Dalles Mountain Ranch making this a primarily new hike for me too.
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There was a small handful of cars here but not bad (it was a different story later). We followed the Entry (Access) Road Trail uphill form the parking lot past the Ice Aged Floods Viewpoint.
IMG_2587Horsethief Butte and Mt. Hood from the viewpoint.

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After a 180 degree turn the Entry Road approached Eightmile Creek near Eightmile Creek Falls.
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IMG_2605Purple cushion fleabane

IMG_2608Balsamroot

The road turned uphill along the creek where several Lewis’s woodpeckers were flying from oak to oak.
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IMG_2630Western bluebird

We followed the road down and across Eightmile Creek to an interpretive sign at a junction.
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IMG_2642Ground squirrel

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This was the start of a couple different loop options. We chose to take the left fork which was the Military Road Trail. Going this direction is the shortest route to the Crawford Ranch Complex plus it would mean that we would be heading toward Mt. Hood as we looped around on the Vista Loop Trail (the right hand fork here). The Military Road Trail climbed away from the creek reaching another junction after .3 miles. Here we forked left again leaving the Military Road for the Eightmile Trail. (Sticking to the Military Road would have led us to the Vista Loop Trail in .4 miles.)
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IMG_2666Lupine, balsamroot and parsley

IMG_2668The Crawford Ranch Complex ahead to the left.

IMG_2674Phlox

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The Eightmile trail dropped to cross a smaller stream before finally returning to Eightmile Creek near a fence line.
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IMG_2744Approaching the fence line.

While there was a bit of a break in the flowers at this fence line there was no shortage of birds.
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IMG_2751Yellow-rumped warbler

IMG_2753Back of a scrub jay

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The trail then veered away from the creek and came to another junction after passing through a fence. The flowers here were spectacular and both Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson were visible.
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IMG_2779Mt. Hood

IMG_2764Mt. Jefferson

At the junction we went right on the Ranch Route Trail eschewing a visit to what looked like a very busy Crawford Ranch Complex. The Ranch Route meandered for 1.4 miles through the flowered covered hillsides before arriving at a junction with the Vista Loop and Military Road Trails.
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IMG_2823Yakima milk-vetch

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We turned left on the Vista Loop Trail following it a total of 1.8 miles back to the the junction near Eightmile Creek.
IMG_2860The Columbia River, Horsethief Butte, and Mt. Hood

IMG_2863Death camas

IMG_2872Large head clover

IMG_2893Approaching the junction.

We followed the Entry/Access Road back down to the now packed trailhead.
IMG_2896Hawk watching all the hikers.

IMG_2898A different hawk? watching the goings on.

IMG_2908Western fence lizard watching everything.

IMG_2899Poppy, manroot, and red-stemmed storksbill

IMG_2913The crowded trailhead

This stop clocked in at 6.9 miles and 900′ of elevation gain.

We opened up a spot here and drove west on SR-14 to Dalles Mountain Road where we turned north (right) and drove 3.5 miles to a fork near the Crawford Ranch Complex. Here we turned left heading uphill for another 1.4 miles (passing a number of hikers walking up along the road) to the Stacker Butte Trailhead. There were a fair number of cars but a few spots were open.
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IMG_2915While both were part of the Crawford Ranch, Stacker Butte is not part of the Columbia Hills State Park but is part of the Columbia Hills Natural Area Preserve.

The hike here is pretty straight forward following the gravel road approximately 2.6 miles to some towers on the 3220′ summit of the butte. The flowers were thickest along the lower section of the hike with some that we had not seen down lower including paintbrush, daggerpod and some sicklepod rockcress.
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IMG_3116Yakima milk-vetch

IMG_2935Paintbrush amid the balsamroot.

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IMG_2951Phlox

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IMG_2961Big-seed biscuitroot

IMG_2977Sicklepod rockcress

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IMG_2990Sagebrush false dandelions

20210417_121519Daggerpod

IMG_3044Daggerpod

IMG_3021Slender toothwort?

IMG_3022Shooting stars in front of a little blue-eyed Mary

20210417_122308Large head clover

IMG_3031Popcorn flower

IMG_3024Larkspur

20210417_131353Woodland stars

At the summit we were treated to a clear view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and Goat Rocks to the north.

IMG_3000Mt. Adams

IMG_3004Mt. Rainier

IMG_3011Goat Rocks

After a little rest on top we headed down admiring the flowers along the way and watching for wildlife too.
IMG_3051Swallowtail

IMG_3058Western fence lizards

IMG_3111White crowned sparrow

IMG_3113Another sparrow

IMG_3100Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood as we neared the trailhead.

The three hikes came to a combined 13.2 miles and 2240′ of elevation gain which is why we didn’t just hike up the road from the ranch complex. It’s a little too early in the season for a 16 mile, 3000′ hiking day. Maybe in a couple more months. Happy Trails!

All three tracks for the day.
Categories
Columbia Gorge North Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Trip report

Mitchell Point, Lyle Cherry Orchard & Sevenmile Hill – 3/27/21

We normally only do one hike a month from November through April but a forecast of sunny skies and highs in the low to mid 60’s combined with a chance to see some early wildflowers was enough to break that rule and head to the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. The first wildflowers (usually grass widows and/or parsleys) can show up as early as January in areas such as Catherine Creek (post) with things really picking up by late March and running through early June in the upper meadow of Dog Mountain (post). We had previously been to Catherine Creek (along with Coyote Wall), the Tom McCall Preserve (post), Columbia Hills State Park (post), Memaloose Hills (post) and Swale Canyon (post) so for this outing we decided to check out the Lyle Cherry Orchard and Sevenmile Hill.

Before we got to those wildflower hikes we planned a quick stop at the Mitchell Point Trailhead to make the 1.1 mile climb up to the top of the point. We had actually stopped here in 2018 (after our Memaloose Hills hike) to take the Wygant Trail up to a viewpoint. Originally my plan had been to do these three hikes in a different order starting at the Lyle Cherry Orchard and ending with Mitchell Point but after looking at the plan a little more I realized that it had two flaws. First the exit to the Mitchell Point Trail is only accessible from the eastbound lanes of I-84 and there is no westbound access to I-84 from the trailhead either. (I had made this mistake with the outing in 2018 leading to some extra driving.) The second issue had to do with crowds and our never ending attempt to avoid them. Leaving Mitchell Point as the last hike might have meant dealing with some crowds whereas we didn’t expect Sevenmile Hill to be busy. Our plan seemed to be working pretty well as we were the first car at the Mitchell Point Trailhead.
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We headed to the left of the signboard to the Mitchell Point Trail which began climbing almost immediately.
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The trail switchbacked up a forested hillside with a few blooming toothworts.
IMG_0890Bench at a switchback.

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We then crossed a talus slope beneath Mitchell Point where lots of tiny blue-eyed Mary grew amid the rocks.
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IMG_0914Reroute below Mitchell Point

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IMG_0919Mushrooms’ and some sedums.

Views to the west along the Columbia River opened up as we climbed.
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The trail briefly reentered the forest and climbed to a set of power lines and an accompanying road.
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The trail never quite reached the road instead turning east then north as it headed out toward Mitchell Point.
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IMG_0927Houndstongue

We followed the trail out onto Mitchell Points Ridge which was dotted with wildflowers including a lot of bright grass widows.
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IMG_0934Grass Widows

IMG_0961Woodland stars

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IMG_0931Yellow bell lily

IMG_0938Desert parsley and woodland stars

IMG_0954A saxifrage

IMG_0965Gold stars and woodland stars

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In addition to the wildflowers the view from Mitchell Point was impressive.
IMG_0962Looking west

IMG_0966North across the Columbia River into Washington

IMG_0964East

In typical Gorge fashion it was a bit windy (a theme that would continue throughout the day) which didn’t seem to bother the birds.
IMG_0985Looks like moss for a nest maybe?

We returned the way we’d come arriving back at the trailhead to find we were still the only people there, but we weren’t alone.
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IMG_1001Turkeys on the Wygant Trail

At just over 2 miles round trip the hike to Mitchell Point made for a nice short hike but it comes at a price gaining over a thousand feet on the way up. From this trailhead we continued east to Hood River where we paid the $2 toll to cross the bridge into Washington. We continued east on SR 14 through the town of Lyle then parked at a gravel pullout on the left hand side of the road just beyond a tunnel. This was the unsigned trailhead for the Lyle Cherry Orchard Hike. There were maybe a half dozen or so cars here already which we were pleased with given the large number of cars we already passed by at the Coyote Wall and Catherine Creek Trailheads (and it wasn’t even 8:45 yet). The unsigned trail starts near the eastern end of the parking area and passing along a rock wall through oak trees with lots of poison oak.
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IMG_1015Red leaves of poison oak behind a death camas

IMG_1017More poison oak behind a waterleaf

IMG_1012Poison oak around some balsamroot

A short distance up the trail there is a nice  map and trails signboard announcing the start of land owned by the Friends of the Columbia Gorge.

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From the signboard the trail continues to climb through the rock and oaks to a plateau where the poison oak is briefly left behind.
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IMG_1037Fiddleneck

IMG_1040Desert parsley

IMG_1045Manroot

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IMG_1057Lots of death camas blooming on the plateau.

We followed the trail as it headed gradually uphill toward a second plateau.
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IMG_1064Looking up at the cliffs above.

IMG_1068Balsamroot blooming below the rim.

At a fork in the trail we detoured left for a view of the Columbia River.
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We returned to the main trail which began to climb the hillside below the rim. While it was still a couple of weeks from prime wildflower season here there was a good balsamroot display along with a few other flowers in bloom.
IMG_1081Balsamroot

IMG_1085Woodland stars with some lupine leaves

IMG_1090Columbia desert parsley

IMG_1096A biscuitroot

IMG_1104Balsamroot

20210327_092349Balsamroot

The trail leveled out again after reaching the rim of the upper plateau where it also reentered an oak woodland.
IMG_1114View west (With a snow capped Mt. Defiance (post) in the distance.)

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Amid the oaks were some additional types of flowers.
IMG_1125Larkspur

IMG_1131Buttercups

IMG_1138Glacier lilies

IMG_1158Yellow bell lily, woodland stars, grass widows and shooting stars.

20210327_104840Yellow bell lilies

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IMG_1162Toothwort

IMG_1163Sagebrush false dandelions

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IMG_1167Tortoiseshell butterfly

Just under 2.5 miles from the trailhead we came to a junction which is the start of a short loop. We stayed left arriving at an old road bed a short distance later where we turned right and soon entered the site of the old orchard. Nearly all the cherry trees are gone and the few that remain only have a few branches that continue to bloom and we were too early for those.
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The trail looped through the now open meadow with views east of the Columbia River.
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A short spur trail on the SW part of the loop led to a viewpoint to the west.
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IMG_1183Tom McCall Point and the Rowena Plateau with Mt. Defiance in the distance.

After checking out the view we completed the loop and headed back the way we’d come. We had only encountered a couple of other hikers up to this point (we’d seen more from afar) but the return trip was a different story. There was a lot of mask donning and stepping aside on the way back to the trailhead.
IMG_1205Hikers on the trailhead and below.

One bit of excitement on the return trip was spotting a couple of orange-tip butterflies. We rarely see these pretty butterflies and it’s even rarer that I manage to get any kind of picture.
IMG_1217Just my third photo of an orange-tip.

The hike here for us came to 5.5 miles with another 1200′ of elevation gain giving us over 2200′ for the day so far. The parking area was now a full two rows of cars with more arriving (it was between 11:30 & 12:00). We quickly packed up and opened a spot for someone else and once again headed east on SR 14. We re-crossed the Columbia River on Highway 197 into The Dalles and took I-84 west for 5 miles following the Oregon Hikers directions to the Sevenmile Hill Trailhead

We weren’t sure how popular this hike is given that there are no official trails. That question, at least for this time of the year, was answered when we pulled into the empty gravel pullout.
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Our plan was to follow the entry in the Oregon Hikers Field Guide (description). The area consists of Forest Service land surrounded by private holdings (note the no trespassing sign across the road in the photo above).
We headed uphill and left, away from the blocked road passing a gravel pit on our left.
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We were supposed to reach a knoll with a small windbreak made out of erratics (rocks from the Rocky Mountains deposited by the Missoula Floods). The first knoll we climbed had some erratics but no windbreak.
IMG_1231Mt. Hood and Columbia desert parsley from the first knoll we tried.

IMG_1234Top of knoll #1.

IMG_1232A lone balsamroot blossom.

We weren’t sure if this was the right knoll or not but we did know from the map in the field guide that we should continue uphill and to the left. We kept climbing up the grassy hillside and reached the top of another knoll where we did indeed find a small windbreak.
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From the knoll we followed a faint grassy track past a spring to a stand of oak trees.
IMG_1243The path leading past the spring to the oaks.

IMG_1246The spring

There was a fence on the hillside at the oak trees. We got a bit confused here reading the hike description. It reads “Head up gradually to your left, reaching a draw. Walk across the broken fence line here and cross a small bench. Continue hiking up to your left. At some point, you should see the southwest boundary corner of the property and a fence line ahead.” We had not noticed another fence line and this fence was broken here with no signs so we continued on the faint path. That was a mistake and the fence we passed through was the boundary. When we reached a small crest where we could see everything ahead of us there was no other fence in sight.
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We quickly turned and began heading uphill to the NE to relocate the fence line and get ourselves on the correct side (Our apologies to whomever that land belongs too).
IMG_1262Back on the right side

Now we were back on course and followed the fence line uphill. While the wildflowers here would have been better from mid to late April there were a few splashes of color here and there.
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IMG_1249Balsamroot surrounded by some little white flowers.

IMG_1251Lupine thinking about blooming.

IMG_1254Larkspur

IMG_1259Yellow bell lilies

We deviated from the description as we neared the top of the hill electing not to follow the fence through a stand of oak trees, where the guide indicates there is a profusion of poison oak, opting instead to pass through the oaks lower on the hillside.
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IMG_1269We didn’t notice any poison oak here.

On the far side of the oaks we turned almost directly uphill reaching a viewpoint where Mt. Adams rose to the north beyond the Columbia River.
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IMG_1277A grass widow at the viewpoint.

IMG_1286Mt. Adams

IMG_1288Mt. Hood over the oak stand.

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We turned right along the rim following deer and elk trails through the oaks and past more viewpoints.
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From a grassy rise along the ridge we could see a faint path leading into another stand of trees where we could also make out the fence line marking the eastern boundary of the Forest Service Land.
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We headed downhill and followed the path to the fence line and then followed it down.
IMG_1310The Dalles beyond the fence line.

IMG_1318Heading down the fence line.

As we lost elevation we began to see quite a few more flowers. It seemed that the flowers at this eastern end were ahead of those to the west.
20210327_143435Large head clover

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IMG_1325A lupine with blossoms.

IMG_1329Hillside covered in Columbia desert parsley

IMG_1333Our car had been joined by one other. (middle left of photo)

IMG_1341Gooseberry Creek

We turned away from the fence on an old farm road following it back to the road near the trailhead by the “No Trespassing” signs.

This loop came in at 4.3 miles according to my GPS and was at least 1250′ of elevation gain which was made more difficult by the cross country terrain. There was little to no level footing for the vast majority of this hike and coming after we had already hiked 7.6 miles and gained 2200′ it really tired us out. That being said it was a great day to be out. One thing to note is that all three hikes are in located in tick country (we were lucky enough not to pick up any) and both Sevenmile Hill and Lyle Cherry Orchard are in rattlesnake country (again didn’t see any). Happy Trails and stay safe out there!

Flickr: Mitchell Point, Lyle Cherry Orchard & Sevenmile Hill

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Greenleaf Creek

With the arrival of May we officially started our hiking season by making an attempt to reach Greenleaf Falls. We knew it was a long shot given the little bit of information shown online, but the hike to Greenleaf Creek was a featured hike in the 2018 4th edition of William L. Sullivan’s “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington”. We would at least be getting one step closer to our goal of completing all 500 of his featured hikes (post).

We began our hike from the Bonneville Trailhead which is located on the Washington side of the Columbia River near Bonneville Dam.
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From the picnic area we followed a gravel path to a pointer for Table Mountain.
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We’d been to Table Mountain twice, in 2013 via a now closed trailhead at the former Bonneville Hot Springs resort and in 2017 from the north via Three Corner Rock.

We followed the Tamanous Trail a little over half a mile through the woods to its end at the Pacific Crest Trail.
IMG_6308Oregon grape

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IMG_6307Large solomonseal

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At the junction we turned left following pointers for Gillette Lake and Three Corner Rock.
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The PCT soon entered a series of clearcuts which provided some views of Table Mountain and a good amount of trail side poison oak.
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This area seemed popular with rabbits.
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The PCT did a little climbing through the clearcuts which revealed a brief glimpse of Mt. Hood to the south.
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Nearly 2 miles on the PCT brought us to a ridge where Gillette Lake was visible below.
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We followed the wide trail down passing by the lake and crossing the inlet creek on a footbridge.
IMG_6339Hamilton Mountain (post) to the left and Sacagawea and Pappose Rocks to the right beyond the lake.

IMG_6509Sacagawea and Pappose Rocks

IMG_6342Indian paintbrush

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Beyond Gillette Lake the PCT climbed gradually for a half mile through more clearcuts before passing a brushy unnamed lake.
IMG_6353Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Nesmith Point (post) is the rounded high point to the right on the Oregon side.

IMG_6356Unnamed lake through the trees.

After passing the lake the trail dropped to a bridged crossing of Greenleaf Creek then climbed via a series of switchbacks to Greenleaf Overlook.
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IMG_6487View east from Greenleaf Overlook with Dog Mountain (post) in the distance.

There was a nice little patch of chocolate lilies near the viewpoint.
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We continued past the overlook through the forest approximately half a mile to a four way junction (Two miles from the Greenleaf Creek crossing).
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IMG_6366Bleeding heart

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At the junction the left hand trail led to Carpenter Lake while the PCT continued uphill toward Table Mountain. We turned right onto the unsigned Two Chiefs Trail.
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One of the nice things about this trail was the lack of poison oak which we seemed to have finally left behind. The trail climbed through the forest gaining 500′ over the next couple of miles.
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20190504_091212Wood violet

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After approximately 2.25 miles the trail emerged from the tress at a massive talus field made up of rocks from Table Mountain.
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IMG_6395_stitchThe Two Chiefs on the left and Table Mountain on the right.

From the open talus area we had another view of Mt. Hood which was a bit better given the higher elevation than our earlier view.
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A half mile after entering the talus section we arrived at Greenleaf Creek.
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Greenleaf Falls consists of a series of drops, some of which were visible from the trail.
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20190504_110326Left side

20190504_110520Right side

After admiring these lower cascades we decided to go ahead and attempt to reach the upper tiers. I hadn’t seen an actual GPS track or route up to the falls but had seen a 2015 video which showed that this was not going to be easy if it was even still possible. Seasonal rains have caused repeated mud slides and left the steep hillside gouged with channels filled with loose rock.
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We picked what appeared to be the most reasonable route and started picking our way uphill. We managed to get about two tenths of a mile uphill from the trail before deciding that there was no remotely safe way to even attempt continuing. I had gotten a little higher than Heather having had her stop while I attempted to see if there was any viable route to continue on. From what we can tell from the maps I was just below the upper falls, but it may have well have been 100 miles. We did however get over to a couple of views of other smaller tiers of the falls.
IMG_6434The highest tier that I was able to see.

IMG_6432A middle section of Greenleaf Falls

IMG_6430Cascades along Greenleaf Falls just above the ones visible from the trail.

We’d given it a shot and I probably got a little too far up the hill. I had to use my hands a lot and spent a decent amount of time crawling to get back down to where I had left Heather. Luckily I was able to make it back down. Ironically I wound up falling near the end of our descent on what appeared to be nearly level ground when a rock rolled out from beneath my heal. A scrapped elbow and palm where the only results though.

As we were making our way back down Heather spotted a frog which we named kamikaze frog due to it launching itself downhill and landing upside down in the rocks a couple of times.
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We were both concerned about possibly knocking a rock loose which might hit the frog since he was in the same channel as we were and kept hopping down ahead of us. Thankfully we were able to hop out of that channel and go around it before anything bad happened.

In addition to the frog I had seen a small garter snake while I was searching for a route up and Heather had seen some sort of lizard in the talus slope earlier. As we passed back by the talus we kept our eyes open but didn’t see another lizard or snake.

We did however see a western fence lizard back at Greenleaf Overlook.
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The rest of the hike back was fairly uneventful other than having to check for poison oak every time we stepped aside to let other hikers pass. Heather did manage to get a neat picture of a blue copper butterfly in flight while she was taking some photos of flowers.
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20190504_124117Wild strawberry

20190504_135949Butterfly landing on leafy pea

We were a little fatigued when we finally made it back to the car. The GPS clocked in at 15.4 miles for the day. That distance combined with the extra work of trying to climb up the steep, loose hillside next to Greenleaf Creek was a lot for a hike this early in our season but it had been a beautiful day. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Greenleaf Creek

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Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Three Corner Rock to Table Mountain

What do we do when the temperatures are going to be nearing triple digits in the Willamette Valley? Take a 23.9 mile hike of course! Okay so that wasn’t our original plan, but due to some navigational errors that’s exactly what happened.

We were headed to Three Corner Rock and then hopefully onto Table Mountain via the Pacific Crest Trail. We’d visited Table Mountain in 2013 starting from the currently closed trailhead near the privately owned Bonneville Hot Springs. Our plan for this hike was to start at the Rock Creek Pass Trailhead where the PCT crosses CG-2090.

After purchasing a Washington Department of Natural Resources Discover Pass online we headed to the Columbia Gorge and crossed into Washington on the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, OR. From there we followed the directions from the Oregonhikers.org field guide to the trailhead.

Our first (and biggest) error of the day happened as we set off on the PCT. Not only does the trail cross CG-2090 but it also crosses CG-2000, which we took to reach the trailhead, further to the north. On the map below the black “x” is the Rock Creek Pass TH and the red “x” marks the PCT crossing of CG-2000.

Rock Creek Pass TH

We hadn’t noticed the PCT crossing of CG-2000 on the drive to the TH and for some reason I had it stuck in my head that our starting point was the red “x”. So based on the direction we had driven to the spot from, we needed to take the PCT to the left to be heading south toward Three Corner Rock. Had we stopped to question why the Sun was nearly straight ahead as we started on the PCT we may have realized our mistake.

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We also hadn’t paid enough attention to the guidebook stating to go right on the PCT from the trailhead so off we went blissfully going the wrong way. From the Rock Creek Pass Trailhead it should have been 1.5 miles to the junction with the Three Corner Rock Trail which meant we had expected to reach it between 45 minutes to an hour into the hike. Instead about an hour into the hike we crossed CG-2000. That didn’t tip us off because based on where we thought we had started and the direction we thought we were heading our route would have included a crossing of CG-2090 which we mistook this crossing for.

Heather had been questioning things for a while but it would have been impossible to be going north by following the PCT in the direction we had from where we thought we started, and we figured if we somehow failed to spot the Three Corner Rock Trail we’d just do it on the way back from Table Mountain instead. The forest along the trail was nice and we eventually came to a footbridge across what we soon realized was Rock Creek.

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Soon after crossing Rock Creek we came to a junction with the Snag Creek Trail quickly followed by Snag Creek itself.

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Neither of us remembered anything about having to ford a creek on our planned route but across we went. We were just over an hour and a half into the hike and now we were both having serious doubts about our direction. We pulled the map out again and this time I also zoomed out on the GPS far enough to see the Columbia River on the display which we had clearly been moving away from. It still took me a few minutes to realize what we’d done. I just kept thinking it was impossible to have gone left at the trailhead and be heading north until it finally sunk in that the trailhead wasn’t where I thought it was. Back we went having to retrace three plus miles and regain nearly 1000′ of elevation.

It was 10am when we made it back to the trailhead, nearly 3 hours after we’d set off in the wrong direction. This time we headed south.

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The funny thing was even though by that point I knew we’d gone the wrong way for at least the next hour I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were headed north. The PCT climbed away from Rock Creek Pass gaining views of Mt. Adams through the trees.

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Near the junction with the Three Corner Rock Trail many avalanche lilies were still in bloom.

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We turned right onto the Three Corner Rock Trail which popped out onto an old road bed after approximately .4 miles.

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We followed the road uphill just under a quarter mile to Three Corner Rock.

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It was really windy on the open ridge and on Three Corner Rock which was once home to a lookout tower.

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It was a five volcano day with a bonus view of Goat Rocks thrown in.

IMG_3386Mt. Hood

IMG_3390Mt. Jefferson

IMG_3394Mt. St. Helens

IMG_3395Mt. Rainier

IMG_3399Mt. Adams

IMG_3398Goat Rocks

To the SE a small section of the Columbia River was visible between Wind and Dog Mountain in Washington and Mt. Defiance in Oregon.

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Despite the wind the views were great, but it did make it difficult to take pictures of the wildflowers in the area.

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After a short break we headed back to the PCT where we decided to continue south toward Table Mountain. We told ourselves we’d play it by ear and could turn around at any time but we’re both stubborn and it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that we’d wind up making it all the way there.

From the Three Corner Rock Trail junction the PCT gradually descended for 1.25 miles to a road crossing at a saddle with a spectacular display of paintbrush and penstemon. Along the way the trail crossed a rough 4wd track and passed along a ridge still showing evidence of the 1902 Yacolt Burn.

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From the road the PCT traversed along the east side of a ridge through the forest for a mile before arriving at a large clear cut.

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Three Corner Rock was visible behind us.

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The trail climbed through the clear cut for about a half mile before reentering the trees.

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For the next 1.25 miles the PCT passed through a series of wildflower meadows, first on the west side of a ridge with views to the south of Table Mountain and Mt. Hood, then onto the east side of the ridge with a view of Mt. Adams and the Columbia River.

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The views were nice but we spent most of our time focused on the many wildflowers along the trail.

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The variety of colors of penstemon was particularly impressive.

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We had hoped to hop off of the PCT at a sharp right turn just uphill from some power lines and hook up to a dirt road just on the other side of the lines at a saddle. As we came around the ridge end though we couldn’t see any obvious signs of a connector trail so we stuck to the PCT as it began to quickly lose elevation. After looking at the map and realizing that following the PCT all the way to the road would add almost two miles and another 500′ of elevation gain we went back to look again for a connection. After a brief off-trail excursion on a steep slope with thick brush, we bit the bullet and took the PCT down to the road.

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We had to walk back uphill on the road and it was warm. We had benefited from a nice breeze most of the day which helped keep the temperature bearable but there was none along the road. When we arrived at the saddle we spotted a sign near an overgrown roadbed pointing 1.4 miles to Table Mountain.

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We followed the old roadbed for about half a mile to its end where a faint, and at times very brushy, trail continued along the north ridge of Table Mountain.

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When the trail wasn’t overgrown it too was lined with wildflowers.

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Not only was the route a bit of a challenge to follow due to the brush but it was steep at times, especially on two rocky climbs, the last of which brought us to the plateau of Table Mountain.

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Three Corner Rock was visible to the left of the ridges we’d followed to reach the plateau as were the power lines running over the saddle a mile away.

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We picked up the Table Mountain Trail on the plateau and followed it south to the viewpoint above the cliffs overlooking the Columbia River.

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We sat in some shade near the cliffs and took off our shoes and socks to give our feet a bit of a break while we ate a snack. We had no idea how far we’d gone (it was almost 16 miles already) but we knew our feet were sore and we were both developing blisters. We were also getting low on water but thankfully Heather had brought our water filter and we’d passed what I thought would be a sufficient water source in the meadows between the saddle and the clear cut.

We started back at 3:15pm hurrying as quickly as our protesting feet would allow. We both ran out of water shortly before arriving at the seep where the water was just deep enough to use our filter to get some much needed wonderfully cold water. We arrived back at our car at 6:48, almost 11 hours and 45 minutes since we’d set off that morning.

It certainly hadn’t gone as planned but we’d at least come prepared with enough food and water to make it through the day. In addition to some great mountain views and wildflowers meadows we’d learned a valuable lesson about how important it is to make sure you know where your starting point is and to consider everything when determining where you’re at. Had we taken the position of the sun and the description of the hike as beginning uphill to the right of the TH we might have realized much more quickly that we’d misidentified the location of the trailhead on the map. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Three Corner Rock to Table Mountain

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Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Dog and Augspurger Mountains

This was our second visit to Dog Mountain and probably our final one for several years at least. While the wildflower meadows on Dog Mountain are arguably the best in the Columbia Gorge, that distinction brings crowds. We do our best to avoid crowded hikes, but our visit in May 2014 was on a morning when low clouds covered the upper meadows limiting views of the gorge and the flowers. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/dog-mountain/

Reports of the flower show being near peak and the promise of a sunny day brought us back to Dog Mountain for the views we missed and an additional visit to Augspurger Mountain which we had done on our previous trip. We left extra early arriving at the trailhead just after 6am to find close to a dozen cars already in the parking area. The parking area has recently gone through some changes reducing the number of spots from 200 to 75. For more information check out http://www.oregonhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=23519.

Two trails start from the parking lot, the Dog Mountain and Augspurger Trail, which make an 7 mile loop possible. The Augspurger trail also continues 4.7 miles beyond its junction with the Dog Mountain Trail past the summit of Augspurger Mountain to meadows with views of 3 Washington volcanoes.

We started up hill on the Dog Mountain Trail gaining almost 700′ in the first half mile to a junction in the forest.
Dog Mountain Trailhead

We forked right at the junction following the slightly longer, less difficult, and more scenic trail. After another mile (and another 800′ of elevation gain) we arrived at the lower meadow. The flowers were still in pretty good shape here and the view was better than during our first visit.
Upper meadow on Dog Mountain from the lower meadow//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Columbia River from the lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Paintbrush, lupine, balsamroot and other flowers in the lower meadow

Wildflowers in the lower meadow on Dog Mountain

Wind, Greenleaf and Table Mountains from the lower meadow

The less and more difficult trails rejoined after another half mile back in the forest.
Dog Mountain Trail

Another 550′ climb over the next half mile brought us to the site of a former lookout at the lower end of Dog Mountain’s upper meadow. The balsamroot painted much of the hillside yellow. Other flowers were mised in adding splashes of red, white, and purple to the color palette.
Dog Mountain Trail

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Lakrspur and balsamroot with a little paint

Balsamroot, lupine and paintbrush

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Larkspur, balsamroot, and paintbrush

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

We continued .4 miles from the former lookout site to a signed junction where a .1 mile path led up to the trails high point at the top of the meadow.
Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Upper meadow on Dog Mountain

Balsamroot on Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain Trail

Junction in the upper meadow

The trail had not been too crowded, but we had already encountered more people in the first three miles than we had on our previous thirty-three miles of trail. It wasn’t the people that chased us from the top of the meadow though, it was the bugs. There was no breeze to keep them down and there were a lot of them including some biting flies. After taking in the view including Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance to the south and Mt. St. Helens to the west we headed back down to the junction.
Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance form the top of the upper meadow

Mt. Hood

Mt. St. Helens from the top of the upper meadow

Mt. St. Helens

Wind Mountain and the Columbia River from the top of the upper meadow

We continued on the Dog Mountain Trail another 1.1 miles, passing more wildflowers and fewer people, to its junction with the Augspurger Trail.
Paintbrush, buttercup, larkspur, balsamroot and chocolate lily

western stoneseed

Phlox

Balsamroot, paintbrush, phlox and larkspur

Meadow on Dog Mountain

White capped sparrow on balsamroot

Vanilla leaf and star flowered solomon's seal

Junction with the Augspurger Mt. Trail. (The spelling is wrong on the sign.)

We turned right at the junction and headed for Augspurger Mountain. It was immediately obvious that far fewer hikers used this portion of the trail. Brush crowded the path as it followed a wooded ridge dropping 400′ into a small valley.
Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

A fairly steep climb on the far side of the valley brought us to a dirt road which we followed uphill to the right. After passing under some powerlines the road reentered the forest. At a sharp right hand turn markers indicated the continuation of the Augspurger Trail.
Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

Another half mile of climbing brought us to the first of several small meadows. This one had wildflowers and views back to Dog Mountain and Mt. Hood and to the west down the Columbia River.
Dog Mountain, Mt. Hood and Mt. Defiance from the Augspurger Trail

Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

Augspurger Trail

Chocolate lily and larkspur

Serviceberry, paintbrush and larkspur
Lomatium and paintbrush

For the next 2+ miles the trail alternated between trees and meadows as it followed a ridgeline up Augspurger Mountain. Each meadow seemed to host a different combination of flowers and plants and the sections of forest all had different feels to them.
Augspurger Trail

Dutchman's breech

Augspurger Trail

Augspurger Trail

Fairy slippers

Augspurger Trail

Wildflowers along the Augspurger Trail

Chocolate lily and a beetle

Trillium

Augspurger Trail

Valerian

We momentarily lost the trail in the final meadow near the top of the mountain. Between some downed trees and new growth it was hard to tell where the trail was. I thought I had found it leaving from the right side of the meadow but quickly lost an sign of it in the trees. We went back to the meadow and picked up a faint but clear path heading to the left out of the top of the meadow.
Augspurger Trail

We followed this path into the trees. We were passing below the summit of Augspurger Mountain when we spotted a “summit” sign on a tree above us to the right. We headed uphill to tag the summit before continuing.
Summit of Augspurger Mountain

The path then began to lose elevation and entered another long meadow. This meadow provided views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier in addition to Mt. St. Helens and also contained a fair amount of glacial lilies.
Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams

Mt. Adams

Mt. Rainier

Mt. St. Helens

Glacial lilies

Glacial lilies

The one constant in all the meadows we’d been through was the bugs. The trail continued faintly down through the meadow which we could have followed down another couple of tenths of a mile, but we didn’t really want to have to regain any more elevation than we were already going to need to so after a brief rest we began our return trip.
Augspurger Trail

We ran into two other groups of hikers along the Augspurger Trail on the way back to the Dog Mountain Trail junction. There was a good deal of traffic on the final 2.8 mile stretch from the junction down to the trailhead, most of which was headed in our same direction. The parking lot was packed when we arrived back at the trailhead a little after 1pm and people were walking along the highway to cars they had parked along the shoulder. We had managed to get the wildflower and mountain views that had eluded us in 2014 and now we’ll leave Dog Mountain for others to enjoy. After all there are plenty of less popular trails we have yet to explore and even though they may not have the wildflowers to rival Dog they’re all worthy of a visit. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157668107094945

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Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Catherine Creek, Coyote Wall, and the Weldon Wagon Trail

Similar to last months hike our March trip consisted of shorter hikes at three separate locations. We had been waiting for a day off with decent weather to head out toward the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge to see some early wildflowers and finally got one on the day before Spring.

We started our day at the Catherine Creek Trailhead located approximately 6 miles east of Bingen, WA along Old Highway 8. We managed to arrive at the trailhead just as the sunrise began to light up with color.
Sunrise from the Catherine Creek Trailhead

Sunrise from the Catherine Creek Trailhead

Sunrise from the Catherine Creek Trailhead

We took the paved Catherine Creek Trail on the south side of the old highway toward the Columbia River. We followed the 1 mile loop past wildflowers, vernal ponds, oak woodlands, Catherine Creek Falls, and views of Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood catching some early sunlight

Grass widows
Grass Widows

Prairie Stars
Prairie stars

Shooting stars and saxifrage
Shooting stars

Lomatium
Lomatium

Lomatium

Mt. Hood across the Columbia River

Mt. Hood

Reflections along the Catherine Creek Trail

Catherine Creek Falls

After completing the loop we crossed the road and head north on an old roadbed marked as “20”. At a fork we should have veered right on another road marked with a “21” sign but we initially missed that turn which turned out okay because we came upon a scenic vernal pond reflecting the clouds in the sky above and were serenaded by a western meadowlark.
Catherine Creek Trail

Clouds reflecting in pool of water along the Catherine Creek Trail

Western meadowlark

Once we had backtracked onto the correct road bed we followed it to a crossing of Catherine Creek then on to an old corral below the Catherine Creek Arch.
Catherine Creek

Catherine Creek Trail

The Forest Service has closed off the area near the arch with fencing but the view from below near the corral is nice.
Sign near the Catherine Creek Arch

Catherine Creek Arch

We continued on the old road climbing gradually and after passing under a set of power lines we came to a trail junction. We took the signed trail to the right which led up a small hill to a ridge with a view of Mt. Hood.
Mt. Hood from the Catherine Creek Trail

This trail followed the ridge down toward the old highway passing the top of the Catherine Creek Arch along the way.
Mt. Hood and the Columbia River from the Catherine Creek Trail

We arrived at the old highway about a quarter mile east of the trailhead and simply walked along the shoulder back to the car. From there we headed back toward Bingen and our next stop at the Coyote Wall Trailhead just off Courtney Road (approx. 3 miles east of Bingen). Our early start allowed us to get to this second trailhead before 9am which was nice because this is a very popular destination.

From the parking area we followed a closed section of old highway 8 east passing a nice view up Coyote Wall. After passing some cliffs the scenery shifted to rocky green hillsides dotted with wildflowers.
Coyote Wall

Biscuitroot surround a small hole in the rocks

View from the old highway

Wildflowers on the rocks along the old highway

Our plan was to take the Labyrinth Trail up to the Rowland Creek Trail then head left from that junction to old road 20 following that left to a creek crossing and following it all the way to a junction with the Coyote Wall Trail. The Labyrinth Trail sets off from old highway 8 approx .75 miles from the trailhead, but before turning up that trail when we came to it we continued on a couple hundred yards to check out Lower Labyrinth Falls.
Lower Labyrinth Falls

Lower Labyrinth Falls

Mt. Hood from Lower Labyrinth Falls

After returning to the Labyrinth Trail we headed uphill climbing past wildflowers and rock outcrops to a view of Labyrinth Falls near a small cave.
Labyrinth Trail

Labyrinth Trail

Cave along the Labyrinth Trail

Wildflowers along the Labyrinth Trail

Wildflowers along the Labyrinth Trail

Labyrinth Trail

Labyrinth Falls

From the falls the trail continued to climb through a mix of grasslands and oak woods gaining better views of Mt. Hood.
Labyrinth Trail

Labyrinth Trail

Mt. Hood from the Labyrinth Trail

Mt. Hood

We saw lots of wildflowers along the way and passed a trail crew from the Washington Trails Alliance.

Grass widows
Grass widows

Prairie stars
Prairie star

Lomatium
Biscuitroot

Larkspur
Larkspur and a grass widow

Yellow bell lilies
Yellow bell lilies and a grass widow

Toothwort
Toothwort

We arrived at the road 20 creek crossing as planned but things began to unravel a bit shortly afterward. Signage had been virtually non-existent and after climbing up from the creek crossing we arrived at large junction where the WTA trail crew had parked their vehicles. Several trails and old roads headed off in various directions here and were not shown on the map we were using. We first set off straight ahead on an old road bed but quickly saw a sign indicating it was private property, we turned back to the junction and began to head uphill on a clear trail. It didn’t seem like we should be going that direction though so we pulled out our guidebook and GPS before going any further. After some deliberation we returned once again to the junction and headed downhill on another old road which was the correct route. Here we passed an impressive meadow filled with yellow bell lilies and grass widows.
Labyrinth Trail

Grass widows and yellow bell lilies

Grass widows and yellow bell lilies

Grass widows and yellow bell lilies

We passed several more junctions that were not on our map and made one more wrong turn (it appears it would have led us to the top of Coyote Wall in the end) before finally making it down to the junction we had been looking for with the Coyote Wall Trail. At this point we were about halfway up the wall and made our way over to check out the view.
Coyote Wall

Mt. Defiance (with the snow)
Snow on Mt. Defiance

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood across the Columbia River from Coyote Wall

From there we headed downhill staying as close to the wall as possible before the trail finally veered away as it neared the old highway.

We spotted a few additional flowers on this lower portion before popping back out on the old highway and making our way back to the busy trailhead.

Woolly-pod milk vetch
Woolly-pod Milk-vetch

Gold stars
Gold stars

Popcorn flower
Popcorn flower

Manroot
Manroot

The unfortunately named Broomrape
Broomrape

Fiddleneck
fiddleneck

Our final stop for the day was the Weldon Wagon Trail. For this hike we headed back through Bingen and continued west on Highway 14 to Alternate Highway 141 just before the White Salmon River. We followed this road north to Husum, WA where we turned right on Indian Creek Road. We followed signs for the Wagon Trail and parked at an unmarked pullout at the crest of Indian Cemetery Road. To reach the trail we needed to walk .2 miles up a logging road.
Weldon Wagon Trail

The Wagon Trail follows an old wagon road built in the early 1900’s to cart apples down to Husum. The trail began in a forest before entering more open grasslands.
Weldon Wagon Trail

Weldon Wagon Trail

View from the Weldon Wagon Trail

The trial offers a pretty good climb gaining over 1000′ in the first 1.8 miles where a conservation sign sits in the middle of a hillside with a view of Mt. Hood.
Interpretive sign along the Weldon Wagon Trail

Mt. Hood from the Weldon Wagon Trail

Weldon Wagon Trail

Although the trail continues another .7 miles to another road we turned around at the sign knowing we would be over 13 miles for the day by the time we arrived back at the car and that this was the best of the views from the trail.

On our way home we made one final stop, this time for food, at Mekong Bistro in Portland. We’re blaming this one on the good folks over at Trail Keepers of Oregon for having their Winter Meet-n-Deet there last year. 🙂 We enjoyed the food enough that night to have it now be our go to spot on the way back to Salem after hiking in the Gorge.  It didn’t disappoint and was a great end to a good day of hiking.

Although we did not have any issues ticks can be a problem on these hikes so be sure to keep your eyes out and check for any after your visit. Poison oak is also possible, as are rattlesnakes. Happy (and safe) Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157666169966955

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Cape Horn

For our November hike we chose the Cape Horn trail. We had wanted a hike that was a little shorter than our normal trips since Heather had just run her first race in awhile. The 7+ mile loop around Cape Horn fit the bill perfectly and it was a good time for a visit given the full loop is closed from February 1st to July 15th due to nesting Falcons.

Just 30 minutes from the Portland airport the trailhead is located at the Skamania County Transit Park & Ride lot near milepost 26 along State Highway 14 at Salmon Falls Road. The all volunteer Cape Horn Conservancy works with the United States Forest Service (USFS), Washington Trails Association (WTA), and Friends of the Columbia Gorge (FOCG) to maintain and improve the trail here which was evident by the well maintained trail and abundant signage along the way which began at the trailhead.
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Cape Horn Trailhead//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Almost immediately after crossing Salmon Falls Rd. and starting on the trail we faced the choice of going clockwise or counter-clockwise around the loop. We stayed to the right heading counter-clockwise and began climbing up toward the viewpoints on top of Cape Horn.
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Our first good views were to the north as the trail neared some power lines where several snow dusted peaks were visible.
Lookout Mountain
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Silver Star Mountain, Little Baldy, and Bluff Mountain
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The trail then crossed over to the Columbia Gorge side of Cape Horn for our first unobstructed views of the Columbia River. The Sun had just crested over Larch Mountain to the southeast and was creating some glare limiting the views. A cold wind was racing down the Gorge which made it a little too chilly to spend much time at any of the viewpoints which was too bad because they were nice enough to warrant a longer stay.
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A little bit of ice at the viewpoint.//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The trail then dropped down away from the Gorge (and out of the wind) briefly joining an old roadbed and then climbing to a crossing of paved Strunk Rd. where the trail passes through grassy fields on a gravel road.
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The next viewpoint of the Columbia Gorge was the Nancy Russell Overlook which had recently undergone some repairs. A long stone bench in the overlook offered plenty of space for hikers to relax and soak in the view, but again the cold wind wasn’t going to allow us to enjoy it for long.
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Columbia River from the Cape Horn Trail//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The trail began to descend after the Nancy Russell Overlook switchbacking and passing yet another viewpoint on it’s way down to a tunnel beneath SR 14.
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Yet another viewpoint awaited on the other side of the highway.
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A nice waterfall cascaded down a grassy slope near the viewpoint.
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The section that is closed for the Falcons begins shortly after that viewpoint but that wasn’t an issue now so we continued on. After another series of switchbacks the trail began to head back leading us east parallel to the river. The wind was really whipping down closer to the river and we were blasted by it every time there was a break in the trees. We passed an unsigned side trail to the right and momentarily paused wondering where it might go. After continuing on for a minute or so it dawned on us that it had likely led to an overlook of the railroad tracks as they headed into the tunnel beneath Cape Horn. We began looking for the other end of that side trail to rejoin the main trail and spotted it at a set of trail signs. We turned right and headed out to check out this unsigned trail. It led to a series of grassy viewpoints and the view of the railroad tracks as we had suspected.
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Railroad entering the tunnel beneath Cape Horn//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

The wind along here was so strong that we struggled to not be pushed around by it. It was a challenge to try and stand in one spot for anytime at all. We followed the side trail all the way back to the unmarked junction we had wondered about earlier and then resumed our hike on the main trail. Another windy viewpoint awaited not far ahead where three unique rock formations where visible. From this spot Cigar Rock, Beacon Rock, and Phoca Rock were all visible.
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Cigar Rock is the tall column of rock on the left, Beacon Rock is in the distance straight ahead, and Phoca Rock is in the middle of the Columbia to the right.
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After fighting with the wind attempting to take pictures of the rocks the trail turned uphill passing through an interesting rock field below some cliffs.
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As we crossed the rock field we got our first view of Cape Horn Falls.
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The falls were a delight. A small rainbow appeared and faded at the base of the falls as wind gusts blew the cascade from side to side. The footbridge below the falls was somewhat protected from the wind allowing us to spend some time watching the water dance in the wind.
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Rainbow beneath Cape Horn Falls//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Beyond Cape Horn Falls the trail continues through the trees below the cliffs until it finally drops down to Cape Horn Road.
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The paved road acts as the trail for the next 1 1/4 miles passing farmland below Cape Horn.
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The trail leaves the road just prior to reaching SR 14 leading to another tunnel and than a short climb to complete the loop.
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The hike was just what we were hoping for. Not too long (7.3 miles) but packed with views and diverse scenery. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/albums/72157661488144815

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Beacon Rock State Park – The Return to Hamilton Mountain

Almost two years ago we traveled to Beacon Rock State Park to hike the Hamilton Mountain Trail. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2013/05/ It was and still is the worst weather that we have ever encountered during a hike. Well enough time had passed and it was time for us to give this hike a second chance. We double checked the weather forecast before heading out which showed some morning clouds clearing up by mid-morning with little to no chance of rain and calm winds. That was good enough for us to give it a go so we got in the car and headed up to the Columbia Gorge once more. For most of the drive we were under a solid mass of clouds but as we headed east along Highway 14 toward Beacon Rock State Park rays of sunlight were shining down on the Columbia River in the distance. The edge of the clouds was just a bit further east than Hamilton Mountain so we decided to warm up on another trail in park, the .8mi Beacon Rock Trail, hoping to give the clouds more time to lift.

Parking for this trail is right along the highway and requires a Discovery Pass which can be purchased at the trailhead (currently $10/a day per vehicle). The trail begins almost directly below Beacon Rock itself.
Beacon Rock Trailhead

After a very short walk through woods the trail begins to switchback up Beacon Rock.
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In fact the trail switchbacks 52 times on its way up to the top of the rock. (I lost count but that is the number that was on one of the signs at the trailhead.)
Beacon Rock Trail

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When we reached the summit the edge of the clouds was still to the east above Bonneville Dam.
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We could also see that Hamilton Mountain still had a cloudy top making us wonder what the conditions would be by the time we got up there.
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On the way back down we watched a number of Turkey Vultures circling above the river as well as a lone Bald Eagle.
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After completing our warm-up we hopped back in the car and crossed the Highway following a campground sign to the trailhead parking area. The trail sets off at a signboard behind the restrooms.
Hamilton Mountian Trailhead

After a gradual .5 mile climb through forest the trail emerges to views of Hamilton Mountain from under some power lines.
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The summit was still in the clouds but they did seem to be breaking up and we still had over 2.5 more miles to climb before reaching the top. After another half-mile a sign announces a viewpoint for Hardy Falls. A narrow path leads down a ridge to a platform that has no view of Hardy Falls at all. The only views are along the ridge prior to reaching the platform, and they are not great.
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The disappointing viewpoint of Hardy Falls is quickly forgotten after just another tenth of a mile on the trail. Here another sign points up to Pool of the Winds.
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This short path leads to another railed viewpoint, but this time there is really something to see. The upper portion of Rodney Falls splashes into a rock enclosed splash pool. The force of the water falling into the pool combined with the narrow opening in the rocks causes wind to funnel out giving the pool its name.
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The view down is also nice as the trail crosses the creek on a footbridge below Rodney Falls.
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After spending some time enjoying the pool we continued on the trail passing below the falls. Rodney Falls is one of the more complicated falls we have seen. With the Pool of the Winds at the top followed by several smaller sections and then fanning out at the bottom it just has a lot going on. It also changes directions a couple of times which makes it difficult to capture it all well in a photo.
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Just over a quarter mile from Rodney Falls the trail splits allowing for a loop over Hamilton Mountain.
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We headed right which is the shorter but steeper way to the summit. We tend to prefer to go up rather than down steeper trails because it’s easier on our knees. Heading up the right fork the trail passes an increasing number of meadows where we were met with views and wildflowers. In 2013 the views consisted almost entirely of clouds so much of this we were seeing for the first time.

Beacon Rock from the trail.
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Larkspur
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Chocolate Lily
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Indian Paintbrush
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Phlox
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A side trail to the right leads to a rocky outcrop with even more views.
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Then the trail passes behind a knoll where more trees await.
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Larkspur along the Hamilton Mountain Trail

After making its way around the knoll the trail crosses a ridge between the knoll and Hamilton Mountains summit which looms ahead.
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The view of the Columbia River along this ridge is very nice.
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The trail then begins its final ascent switchbacking up through open meadows of flowers. Larkspur and Chocolate Lilies were the predominate flowers blooming at this time of the year.
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As we continued to climb the clouds continued to burn off and Mt. Hood suddenly appeared across the river.
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To reach the actual summit take a side path to the right near the top of the mountain. Here the view was vastly different from our previous visit.

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Mt. Hood from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

There were only a few bands of clouds left when we arrived at the summit and in addition to the view of Mt. Hood to the south Table Mountain and some of Mt. Adams were visible to the east.
Table Mountain and Mt. Adams from the summit of Hamilton Mountain

Mt. Adams

We took a short break and watched the clouds as they passed by. A few hikers and some other critters kept us company.
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We continued on the loop looking forward to reaching an exposed ridge that was the site of my infamous poncho battle in 2013. Wind and rain were whipping up and over the ridge on that visit but this time it was just sunshine and flowers.
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At the far end of the ridge we looked back to soak in the view that we missed the first time.

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Hamilton Mountain trail

Several paths lead off from the far end of the ridge, but we simply took a sharp left and headed down an old road toward Hardy Creek.
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The road leads downhill for a mile to Hardy Creek.
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Signs at Hardy Creek point to the 1.1 mile hiker-only trail that completes the loop .3 miles from Rodney Falls. By the time we arrived back at the falls a steady stream of people were coming up from the trailhead. We were once again glad we’d gotten an early start and made our way past a traffic jam at the footbridge. With the number of hikers and dogs coming up the trail we were surprised when Heather spotted a garter snake on the path. It took cover in a stump but then came out to take a closer look at us.
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We were really happy with the way this hike turned out. We had gotten the views we’d missed out on during our previous visit and the Beacon Rock warm-up was entirely new. Another great day in the Pacific Northwest. Happy Trails!

Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652309236702/

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Lacamas Park

We officially kicked off our hiking season this past week, a week earlier than we had originally planned. We got things started by attending a slide presentation by Adam Sawyer author of “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon”. He covered several waterfalls some we’d been to and others that we have yet to visit. We wound up adding one of the falls to this years schedule after realizing one of our planned hikes would have us driving right past the short path to Panther Creek Falls. The presentation got us excited about getting back out on the trails, and when we saw that the weekend forecast was for sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures coupled with reports of the camas blooms hitting their peak we decided to move our Lacamas Park hike up a week.

Lacamas Park is located in Camas, WA and is a much more urban setting than we are used to on our hikes, but it offers plenty of trails with very minimal elevation gain which we were looking for due to Heather having just run a half-marathon the previous week. In addition, a series of lily fields bloom in the park in April and early May (most years) and there are several visitable waterfalls. We began our hike at the Lacamas Heritage Trail located at the north end of Lacamas Lake.
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This 3.5 mile path squeezes between Lacamas Creek then Lake and a golf club and private homes. The gravel path also passed several benches and interpretive signs listing some of the plants and animals that might be spotted in the area.
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The area was full of birds, some we saw and others we just heard singing away in the crisp morning air.
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There were also plenty of flowers along the trail.
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The lake began to widen as we traveled along and would have offered a pretty nice view of Mt. Hood but the sky was oddly hazy so we could only make out the mountains silhouette beyond the far end of the water.
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It turns out the haze was likely caused by massive fires in Siberia and possibly a dust storm in China when the jet stream picked up the smoke and dust particles and delivered them across the ocean to the Pacific North West.

As the lake widened we spotted several ducks and geese.
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The Lacamas Heritage Trail ends at Camas Hertiage Park at the southern end of the lake but just across Highway 500 lay Round Lake and Lacamas Park. We crossed the road at a stoplight and entered the park.
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A series of signboards in the park gave all kinds of information on the area as well as a trail map of the park.
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We looked over the map which agreed fairly well with the one in our guidebook and headed off on the Round Lake Loop
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We crossed over the Round Lake dam and immediately realized that this was going to be a more confusing hike than what the maps had shown. There were several different trails heading off in various directions, all looking fairly well used. This wound up being the case throughout the park and even though there were a good number of signs the profusion of trails sometimes made it difficult to tell which trails the signs were referring to. We knew that we wanted to follow Lacamas Creek down to The Potholes so we picked the trail which seemed to be heading in the right direction and followed the creek. We found The Potholes easily enough and the water was really flowing.
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A short distance from The Potholes we entered a field of flowers.
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Mostly camas and plectritis, the meadow offered a nice view back to The Potholes.
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We continued on toward Lower Falls. The trail left the creek for a bit and passed through a forested section where we were serenaded by a little wren.
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At Lower Falls a footbridge crosses the creek, another possible starting point lays beyond, but to complete the loop we needed to stay on the east side of the creek. We did cross the bridge hopping for a better view of the falls but couldn’t find one.
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It appears we may have found one if we had stayed on the east side and explored further downstream, but when we returned to that side we just continued the loop which now lead away from the creek. We managed to find the correct trails and passed through a forested section of the park on a .4 mile path to an old gravel road. We turned left on the road and quickly spotted a sign announcing the lily field loop on the right.
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Before we took that loop we wanted to visit Woodburn Falls which was located off a left hand spur trial just a bit further up the road. This trail too was identified by a sign.
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The short trail led down to a pretty 20 foot waterfall that usually dries up after June each year. For our visit the water was flowing nicely making it a scenic little spot.
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After visiting the falls we returned to the gravel road and backtracked to the start of the lily field loop. The first lilies we saw were white fawn lilies along the trail.
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Then we came to the first lily field. It had both fawn and camas lilies but not in the numbers I had been expecting to see.
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We passed through a couple of these small meadows and I was beginning to think I had been mislead about the flowers when the path entered a larger field. Camas lilies carpeted the hillsides on either side of the path.
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The trail passed through a number of these meadows each full of camas flowers.
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After the final field the trail dropped back down to the Round Lake Loop Trail just a short distance from Round Lake. We completed the loop and recrossed the highway to get back to the Lacamas Heritage Trail for the final 3.5 miles of our hike. It was a little before 11am when we started back on the Heritage Trail and the day had warmed up nicely. We had given ourselves a mission on the final leg – to keep a lookout for turtles. We had yet to see a turtle on any of our hikes, or at any point in the wild for that matter, and had just read an article about their presence in the park we often take our runs in. The interpretive signs along the lake mentioned turtles so we knew we had a chance of seeing one so we set off watching for anyplace that looked like a good spot for a turtle. We were keyed in on the logs in the water which were playing host to some animals at least.
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We’d gotten almost to the end of the lake where it looked more shallow and was full of lily pads when Heather spotted it – our first turtle.
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We were staring at it for awhile before we realized that not far away on another log were more turtles. In fact there were turtles on a bunch of logs.
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Seeing the animals is one of the things we like about hiking and the first time you see one is extra special, especially when it’s one you’ve been looking for for awhile. We pulled ourselves away from the turtle bonanza and continued on the trail. Before we were finished we saw one more animal for the first time. A greater yellowlegs searching for food in the water.
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We probably saw more people on this hike than any of the others we’ve done save maybe at Multnomah Falls but we didn’t mind as it had a lot to offer. We managed to get 12.4 miles of hiking in, saw 3 waterfalls, some great wildflowers, and lots of wildlife. With all the options and access points Lacamas Park is a handy place for anyone to get outside and enjoy some scenery. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157651646192359/