Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

We officially kicked off our 2018 hiking season with a pair of hikes toward the eastern end of the Columbia River Gorge. We started our day off by driving east of Mosier on I84 and parking at the Memaloose Rest Area. At the western end of the rest area a gated service road serves as the trailhead.

We followed the forested old road uphill past some old structures.



20180428_070754Fairy slippers

As we climbed the forest began to give way to an oak grassland.



The old road passed by the Memaloose Pinnacles, a group of basalt towers.

Just over a half mile from the rest area the trail left the old road. Here a small viewpoint looked across the Columbia River to the Coyote Wall/Catherine Creek (2016 trip report) areas of Washington.

We turned uphill to the left climbing up toward the Memaloose Overlook.


Our pace was slowed as we searched the grassland for different wildflowers. It felt good to get reacquainted with our old friends some of which we hadn’t seen in quite some time.

20180428_072134Desert parsley





20180428_072846Shooting star


We arrived at the overlook a mere .8 miles from the rest area.


The overlook is along Highway 30 which makes it a possible alternate trailhead.



There was a large patch of fiddleneck near the overlook.


After admiring the view from the overlook we crossed the highway and continued uphill.

The flower show not only continued but it picked up as we climbed.
IMG_2543Prairie star


Even some of the seed heads were photogenic.

The forecast had called for a chance of showers but the showers weren’t materializing and instead we got some nice sun breaks.

With all the flowers we had been discussing there were some we had yet to spot. One such flower was the chocolate lily which we suddenly began seeing with some frequency.


The star of the hike though was the balsamroot which was thick in areas.



The trail crossed a small stream which we hopped across.


Not far from the stream crossing was a four-way junction. The right hand path would have eventually led to the top of 957′ Chatfield Hill which on a clearer day would have offered views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood along with wildflower meadows. The left hand path would have led to nowhere in particular. We went straight and headed up 822′ Marsh Hill.

As we began our climb a pair of hawks flew overhead engaged in an aerial duel. I did my best to capture some of it but it’s not easy with a point and shoot camera.




Much of Marsh Hill was covered in yellow balsamroot with purple lupine and white large-flowerd triteleia scattered about.




From the hill we could make out part of Mt. Hood to the south through the clouds.


To the east the grassy southern slope of Tom McCall Point (2015 trip report) was easy to identify.

The green hillsides of the Washington side of the gorge rose above the blue waters of the Columbia River to the north.

To the west was nearby Chatfield Hill.

We stuck around on the summit for awhile hoping that there would be enough of a break in the clouds for Mt. Hood to pop out but it soon became clear that wasn’t going to happen. We decided to save Chatfield Hill for another year given the clouds weren’t going to let the mountains come out and play. We returned the way we’d come. We only saw a few other hikers, no rattlesnakes (they are prevalent here), didn’t notice any ticks, and stayed out of the poison oak.In addition to the dueling hawks we did see countless smaller birds.


This first hike came in just under 4 miles which is why we’d had a second stop planned. That next stop was at the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The order in which we chose to do these hikes proved inconvenient from a driving perspective as both trailheads are only accessible by eastbound traffic on I84. In addition neither trailhead provides access to westbound I84 so in order to reach the Mitchell Point Trailhead from the rest area we headed east on the interstate to the Rowena exit (76) where we could get back onto the interstate headed west. We then had to drive by Mitchell Point to the Viento State Park exit (56) where we again exited the interstate only to immediately return heading in the other direction. After driving up and down I84 we arrived at the trailhead right around 10am.

There are a couple of trails that start from the Mitchell Point Trailhead. The Mitchell Point Trail climbs to the top of Mitchell Point in just over a mile and the Wygant Trail which leads to the top of Wygant Peak. Our trail for this visit was the Wygant Trail although our goal was not the view-less peak itself which is 4.2 miles from the trailhead. We were headed for the last good viewpoint along the trail which was only approximately 3 miles up the trail.

The Wygant Trail is located to the west of the parking area and begins along an abandoned section of the Historic Columbia River Highway.


We followed an old road bed for a quarter mile then followed a trail sign when the road veered left.

We soon rejoined the road for another half mile before turning left at another sign.

The Trailkeepers of Oregon have been working on this trail which was one of the earlier trails to reopen after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire. The fire didn’t reach this particular trail but it had been closed none the less. A work party from TKO had been out the day before working on the trail and their efforts did not go unnoticed.

There is a lot of poison oak along the majority of the trial so a big thank you to the volunteers that have been clearing the brush. The difference between the sections that they had worked and those that had not was huge.

After a mile we spotted a sign for the abandoned Chetwoot Loop to the left of the trail.

Soon after the sign for the Chetwoot Loop we arrived a ridge above Perham Creek.

We chose not to follow the viewpoint sign here due to the amount of poison oak seemingly lining the trail in that direction so we turned left and headed down to Perham Creek. A footbridge had spanned the creek up until 2016 when a slide washed it out.

Interestingly it didn’t appear that it was the creek that did the bridge in but rather a slide down a small gully on the east side of the creek.

A decent sized log served as an adequate replacement for the bridge allowing us to cross dry footed.

The trail then climbed away from the creek, at times fairly steeply. As we passed through a brushy clearing we spotted a spotted towhee.

We continued on watching closely for the ever present poison oak arriving at a lower viewpoint after a little over a mile and a half. Here we had a nice view of Mitchell Point to the east.

Despite this not being a wildflower hike like our previous stop there were some flowers present, including varieties we hadn’t see in the Memaloose Hills.
IMG_2783Vanilla Leaf


IMG_2787Ballhead waterleaf


At the 2.5 mile mark a side trail led to a middle viewpoint.


IMG_2803Dog Mountain

This viewpoint was covered in pink plectritis.

Just uphill from this viewpoint we passed the upper junction with the Chetwoot Loop Trail.

From the junction it was just another .6 miles to our goal at the upper viewpoint. It was pretty good climb during which we passed the only other hiker we’d see on this trail. This section of trail had not been cleared yet and was somewhat crowded by the poison oak. I also had picked up a couple ticks which were flicked off. The good news was another TKO work party was planned for the following Friday.

The upper viewpoint had a nice view west down the Columbia River and of Wind and Dog Mountain (2016 trip report) on the Washington side of the gorge.

We were a bit surprised to see what appeared to be a grass widow blooming at the viewpoint.

There was also a couple of clumps of phlox present.

We headed back down to the trailhead dodging the poison oak and keeping an eye out for any more ticks (one did manage to make it all they back home with us before being apprehended). We had briefly considered doing the Mitchell Point Trail before we’d started on the Wygant Trail but that idea had completely left the building by the time we arrived back at the trailhead.

We have plans for that trail at a future date. We did however walk over to the Mitchell Point Overlook before heading home where the forested top of Wygant Peak could be seen to the west.


It was a nice way to start our season. A total of 10.2 miles hiked with a decent, but not insane, amount of climbing to get us started. The views and the wildflowers had been good and aside from a couple of sprinkles while on the Wygant Trail the weather had exceeded our expectations. The difference in the terrain and vegetation between these two hikes was also enjoyable given that they are less than miles apart as the crow flies. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Memaloose Hills & Wygant Viewpoint

Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Nesmith Point

With the remnants of Typhoon Songda sending a series of storms over the Pacific Northwest we were wondering what kind of conditions we’d be hiking in as we headed out to the Columbia Gorge for our 56th hike of 2016. The storms had not lived up to the dire predictions we had been hearing but there had been a good amount of rain and some stronger than normal winds over the previous couple of days.

Our goal for this hike was Nesmith Point, a 3800′ climb from John B. Yeon State Park.
Nesmith Point Trailhead

We had started at this same trailhead in March 2015 when we visited Elowah and Wahclella Falls. The trail set off uphill from the parking area where it promptly forks.
Trail sign for Nesmith Point

We hadn’t originally been planning on revisiting any of the waterfalls from our previous visit, but the recent rainfall piqued our interest enough that we decided to hike the .7 miles to Elowah Falls before heading up to Nesmith Point. There was definitely a lot more water pouring over the basalt now.
Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls

One of the great things about Elowah Falls is that the Gorge Trail crosses McCord Creek on a footbridge very close to the waterfall’s splash pool. Crossing it was literally a blast as wind and water sprayed out from the thundering waterfall.
Elowah Falls

After crossing the bridge we turned right back around and headed back across. We were sufficiently wet at that point and ready to begin the day’s big climb. When we got back to the fork in the trail near the trailhead we stayed on the Gorge Trail following the pointer for Nesmith Point. The Gorge Trail led uphill at a reasonable grade crossing an unnamed creek that was also swollen with rain water.
Creek crossing

Our maps showed the Nesmith Trail splitting off from the Gorge Trail after approximately .9 miles at a swtichback along another creek. We passed the switchback without realizing it because there was no sign of the Gorge Trail continuing from it across the creek. It turns out a 2.4 mile section of that trail is missing from the creek to Ainsworth Campground. We were now climbing in earnest and wondering when the .9 mile section was going to end. I eventually took a peak at the Garmin which is when I discovered that we had already passed the switchback where we should have split from the Gorge Trail. Heather was quite relieved when I informed her that we were now well into the 2.4 mile climb from the phantom trail split to a ridge top saddle. This portion of the Nesmith Trail was forced to climb steeply due to the narrowness of the valley we were heading up. Several sets of switchbacks alternated sides of the valley allowing views from different angles.
Nesmith Point Trail

Fall colors and seasonal waterfalls along the Nesmith Point Trail

Fall colors along the Nesmith Point Trail

View from the Nesmith Point Trail

Occasional views across the Columbia River included Beacon Rock along with Hamilton and Table Mountains.
Beacon Rock from the Nesmith Point Trail

Hamilton and Table Mountains from the Nesmith Point Trail

The trail showed little sign of damage from the storms as we slowly made our way up to the saddle where a trail sign awaiting announcing it was only 1.6 more miles to Nesmith Point.
Nesmith Point Trail

At the saddle we could see across the McCord Creek valley to the next ridge but not beyond.
View from the Nesmith Point Trail

From the saddle the trail wrapped around the SE side of a ridge extending to the NE from Nesmith Point. One of the rewards of climbing up out of the Gorge is getting to experience the change in the forests. At the lower elevations along the Gorge the forest typically looks something like this:
Forest along the Gorge Trail

Gorge Trail

On top of the basalt plateau the forest is noticeably different.
Nesmith Point Trail

Nesmith Point Trail

The stark contrast makes it hard to believe that these ecosystems are so close to one another as they feel like different worlds. We were now climbing at a much more reasonable grade. Approximately 1 1/4 mile from the saddle the trail curved sharply to the right at a pointer for Nesmith Point.
Nesmith Point Trail

Trail sign for Nesmith Point

Less than a quarter mile from the sharp turn we arrived at the now closed road that led to the former lookout tower on Nesmith Point.
Trail junction near Nesmith Point

Nesmith Point Trail

We followed the old road uphill .3 miles to the now overgrown site of the old fire lookout.
Anchor for the former lookout tower on the rocks

Just before reaching the lookout site there was a break in the trees that offered a bit of a view across the Columbia River Gorge.
View from Nesmith Point

Columbia River from Nesmith Point

Columbia River from Nesmith Point

To get a better view (and on a clear day a view of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams) we continued on the trail past the old lookout site. This path led downhill before splitting. We took the right had fork to begin with which led us down to a cliff top viewpoint that was a little sketchy on such a damp day. The cloudy conditions weren’t allowing for any better view than what we’d seen at the viewpoint before the lookout site either, so we backtracked to the split and took the left hand fork. This fork led to a viewpoint across from where we had just been. Again the clouds effectively canceled the views but it was fun to watch them as they swirled below.
View from Nesmith Point

View form Nesmith Point

We decided to take a break there and eat some food. It was very peaceful being that far above the noise of the cars on I-84 and the trains chugging through the gorge. I found myself thinking I could spend quite a while just watching everything pass by below. Just a couple of minutes later our hands were becoming numb and we were ready to get moving again. Between the damp conditions and the breeze on the plateau our core temperatures had fallen and now we were cold. So much for the peaceful bliss 🙂 We retraced our steps making our way back downhill past several hikers and a number of beetles.
Beatle on the Gorge Trail

At the switchback where we had expected the Gorge Trail to split off we looked for any signs of the other trail. The only thing we could see was a wooden post surrounded by rocks at the switchback but there was nothing on the other side of the creek to even hint at where the Gorge Trail had been. We felt better about having missed that spot now that we knew there was really nothing there that we should have seen. We returned to the now full trailhead having finished our 56th hike of the year equaling our total from last year. Only 4 hikes remained on our 2016 schedule and we wondered what would be in store for us on those. Happy Trails!


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.

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

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//

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


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


Augspurger Trail


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!


Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Elowah & Wahclella Falls

The Columbia Gorge is famous for its many waterfalls, three of which we visited on our most recent hike. The numerous trails and trailheads in the gorge offer plenty of options for hikers. Some of the waterfalls can be seen at the parking areas and others can be visited on hikes less than 5 miles total. Our plan was to combine two of these shorter waterfall hikes by connecting them using the Gorge Trail #400 which follows Interstate 84 for 35 miles from the Angles Rest Trailhead in the west to the Wyeth Trail #441 in the east. Starting at the Elowah Falls Trailhead we could hike a 3.1mi section of Trail 400 from the base of Elowah Falls to the Wahclella Falls Trailhead.
Elowah Falls Trailhead

We headed up the trail to a junction with the Gorge Trail and turned left toward Elowah Falls.

In another .3 miles we came to a second junction where a right hand fork heads up to Upper McCord Creek Falls.

We headed toward Upper McCord Falls climbing through a forest before views opened up across the Columbia River to Hamilton Mountain.


Hamilton Mountain

We got our first glimpse of Elowah Falls below us as we rounded a ridge end.
Elowah Falls

The path leads to McCord Creek just above Elowah Falls then follows the creek a short distance to Upper McCord Falls.
Upper McCord Falls

The creek turns at a right angle at the base of this twin fall then flows over the canyon lip forming Elowah Falls.
Upper McCord Falls

After visiting this fall we returned to the Gorge Trail and made our way to the base of Elowah Falls.
Elowah Falls

The bridge across McCord Creek is close enough to the base of the falls that the spray really soaked us as we passed by. Once across we continued on Trail 400 and headed toward our next waterfall trail. Because the Gorge Trail follows both I84 and the Historic Highway 30 traffic noise was constant on the trail, but it didn’t bother us much as we enjoyed the views and various spring flowers that we spotted.

Beacon Rock

Hamilton & Table Mountains

Bleeding Heart



Sweet Coltsfoot



Midway through the 3.1 mile stretch the trail crossed Moffett Creek on a footbridge.
Moffett Creek

Moffett Creek

It rained off and on while we were on the Gorge Trail but the weather began to clear as we arrived at the Wahclella Falls Trailhead along Tanner Creek.

Tanner Creek

The Wahclella Falls trail follows Tanner Creek for a mile to Wahclella Falls, but before reaching that waterfall it first passes Munra Falls. The trail is actually so close to Munra Falls you can touch it from the footbridge as you pass by. What you can’t do is get the whole thing in a picture due to how close you are.
Munra Falls along the Wahclella Falls Trail

Munra Falls along the Wahclella Falls Trail

Near Wahclella Falls the trail splits creating a loop that passes near the base of the falls. We opted to do the loop counter-clockwise which would lead us first to a lower viewpoint of the falls then up to a higher view before completing the loop. From this direction the first glimpse of the falls revealed two sections to the falls. An upper section on the left-hand side of the canyon then a lower section falling into the splash pool.
Wahclella Falls

Wahclella Falls

As we made our way across Tanner Creek and began to climb to the higher views we noticed a third section of falls located directly above the lower section.
Wahclella Falls

One of the perks of having set off early was we were able to spend time at each of the falls alone, but more people began arriving as we completed our loop and headed back. When we arrived back at Elowah Falls there were quite a few folks milling about. I detoured up an unmarked side trail to a former viewpoint above Elowah Falls to get a couple of final pictures.

Elowah Falls

Elowah Falls splash pool

One of the neat things about the gorge waterfalls is how different they are. All four of the waterfalls we saw on this hike were unique in their own way making each one that much more memorable. Happy Trails!


Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Dog Mountain

Oh those pesky clouds. We had been moving this hike all over the calendar in hopes of catching the wildflowers that this hike is famous for at the optimal time. After checking in on and seeing some encouraging trip reports we decided it was now or never. The forecast was iffy but there was a chance of some sunshine and little chance of rain and this hike fit our schedules here better than it would again while the flowers were still in bloom. A more flexible schedule would have allowed us to head up earlier in the week when the sky was clear and the sun shining, but that won’t happen for some time yet. For now we are at the mercy of the weather.

Dog Mountain is on the Washington side of the Columbia River just east of Carson. This is a very popular hike, especially during flower season, so we were sure to leave extra early to beat the crowds. We were car number 4 at the trailhead when we arrived shortly before 7am. We were beneath the clouds and could see their edge to the east where clear sky taunted us just a bit further up the gorge. As we began the 3 mile climb to the summit we could see that Mt. Defiance was cloud covered on the Oregon side of the river.

There were some nice flowers along the early part of the trail but I had a hard time getting decent pictures due to the cloud cover and dim light of the more forested lower parts of Dog Mountain.

At the half mile mark (which seems much further given the almost 700′ the trail has already climbed) the trail splits offering two routes to the upper meadow. The right hand spur is the recommended spur both for scenery and ease. For once we took the “less difficult” route and opted for the scenery of the lower meadow.

Just about a mile form the split we came to our first view of the lower meadow which was filled with a large variety of flowers, but dominated by yellow balsamroot.

The wind was really blowing on the exposed hillside and the clear skies to the east were still teasing us but the beauty of the flowers trumped all.

We could see the lower portion of the upper meadows from here and it was obvious that the clouds were passing right over the summit area. We held out hope that by the time we climbed the final 1.6 miles the conditions would improve.

After leaving the lower meadow the trail reentered the forest.

As the trail emerged from the trees we passed through a short stretch of thimbleberry bushes before entering a hillside filled with balsamroot.

There were many other wildflowers mixed into the balsamroot too. We were doing our best to spot all the different varieties.

There is a viewpoint that was the site of a lookout in this lower portion of the meadow but on this day we didn’t have a view.
Except for that of the meadow.
The viewpoint as we continued up.

The flower display continued as we kept climbing. It was pretty cold due to the moist air and steady wind and even climbing couldn’t keep our hands from being a bit numb. The flowers that were in bloom changed as we got closer to the summit showing that there would still be time to get up there and enjoy them in the next couple of weeks.

A trail junction announces the final .1mi to the summit where a little balsamroot was outnumbered by some smaller yellow flowers.

On a clear day Mt. Hood would have been peaking over the shoulder of Mt. Defiance and the Columbia River would be snaking along below but with no sign of the clouds ending we took a short break and began our return. For the return trip we turned right at the junction and headed for the Augspurger Mt. trail. This trail passed through even more wildflower meadows before reaching the Augspurger Trail in just over a mile.

The Ausgsuprger Mt. trail headed down a narrow ridge and then wound around Dog Mt. back to the parking area.

Along the way were many woodland flowers in the forest and the occasional view once we had descended below the clouds.
Wind Mountain:

As we got closer to the trailhead small patches of wildflowers began to be more frequent. In places where there the hillsides were free of trees flowers reigned.

The parking lot had filled when we made it back just before 10:30. We’d seen a handful of hikers coming up the Augspurger trail but the majority of them obviously went up the way we had. We had joked about doing the loop again if the sky had cleared by the time we got back to the car. It hadn’t and seeing the number of cars in the lot all I could picture was a conga line going up the trail so even if it had I think I would have passed and saved the view for another visit. The wildflowers had certainly lived up to their hype even with the poor visibility. We plan on putting this hike back on the to do list in coming years, and this time we’ll look for a sunny day on which to tackle it. Happy trails!


Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Eagle Creek

This year we are redoing several hikes for one reason or another. The first of our redo’s was Eagle Creek in the Columbia Gorge. We had attempted this hike back in October of 2012 but we weren’t able to get to the final two falls due to the trail being closed because of a forest fire. Being Fall the water flow was also very low so the falls we did see were nowhere near their peaks. Having learned from our timing issue I put this one in the middle of our first week of vacation in order to catch the falls at a good flow and to hopefully avoid the crowds that visit the gorge trails on the weekend.

We arrived at the trailhead at 6:30am and set off on the trail. Portions of the trial had to be blasted out of the side of the cliffs when it was constructed making for some dramatic views.
One immediate difference from our previous trip was the presence of many wildflowers. Plectritis, larkspur, and giant blue eyed mary lined the trail. In some open places and shooting star could be seen near seepage.

The first big fall can be seen after 1.5 miles via a viewpoint looking up Eagle Creek to Metlako Falls.

Shortly after leaving the viewpoint a set of signs announce the .5mi side trail down to Punchbowl Falls. The difference from our last visit was immediately noticeable when we reached Lower Punchbowl Falls.
Oct. 2012
May 2014

Even more noticeable was the creek level below Punchbowl Falls. In October we would walk on dry rocks far enough out to get a nice view of Punchbowl Falls, but now the only way to see the falls from below was to wade out into the creek.
Oct. 2012
Punchbowl Falls
May 2014
Punchbowl Falls
Another difference was the tree that had fallen down into the pool below Punchbowl Falls which happened sometime this past Winter.

The main trail then travels above Punchbowl Falls where a partly obscured view looks down into the bowl.
Some arnica was blooming here.

The trail crosses many side streams that are flowing into Eagle Creek from the canyon walls. These were much pretty this time as well.
Oct. 2012
May 2014

The next major falls along the trail is Loowit Falls. This was the most disappointing of the falls in 2012.
Loowit Falls
That was not the case this time. Not only were the falls much fuller but a lovely patch of Larkspur lined the trail at the viewpoint.

The next marker is High Bridge at the 3.3 mile mark where the trail crosses over Eagle Creek on a foot bridge. Scenic views abound here too and not just down at the creek.

Next up is Skoonichuck Falls. This one is hard to get a good view of as it requires a little scrambling down to a little ledge above the creek. In 2012 I didn’t go down to the better viewpoint but I made it down this time.
Oct. 2012
May 2014

The trail crosses back over the creek at 4 and a half mile bridge. On our previous trip we’d had lunch shortly after crossing this bridge below Tenas Falls. In 2012 we didn’t realize these were a named falls, it was just a scenic place for a break. We found our way back down to the spot this time to see the difference.
Oct 2012
May 2014

Continuing on the trail it enters the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Not long after entering the wilderness the trail crosses Wy’East Creek where you can see the top of another waterfall back in the forest a bit.
There is a primitive trail that leads back to the falls. It requires a lot of climbing over, under and around debris but eventually you arrive at the base of the falls where a decent trail leads behind them. There was another drastic difference in Wy’East Falls.
Oct. 2012
May 2014
I hadn’t bothered to go behind the falls the last time but this time I couldn’t pass up the curtain of water.

Our previous trip had ended shortly after leaving Wy’East Falls at a trail junction with the Eagle Benson Trail where there was a posted notice of the trail closure.
This time we were able to continue on passing more wildflowers, distant falls, and cliff edged trail.

Near the 6 mile mark we got our first glimpse of Tunnel Falls.
Tunnel Falls got it’s name from the tunnel that was blasted out of the rock in order to pass the trail behind and the falls and continue on up Eagle Creek.

Leaving Tunnel Falls the trail is at it’s most dizzying. Sometimes called the vertical mile the trail traverses along the cliff to the next and final big fall – Twister Falls.

Twister Falls was really interesting but also very difficult to get a good view of. The best view is from a little ledge just below the trail.

Looking down the chasm gives you an idea of the complexity of this fall.

Above Twister Falls the trail levels out but is extremely rocky and somewhat slick for a bit. Heather had gotten ahead of me and was focused on something in the creek as I approached.
It turned out to be a pair of Harlequin Ducks who were paddling around a pool diving for food.
Harlequin Duck

After hanging out with the ducks for a bit we started on our return trip. The sun was shining and the butterflies had come out.

When we got back to Loowit Falls I stopped to take a couple more pictures with the different lighting when Heather notice a pair of ducks in the creek below. It was another (or the same?) pair of Harlequin Ducks.

It was a lot of fun to go back and redo this hike at such a different time of year. Being able to compare the changes that the seasons bring and to also finally reach Tunnel & Twister Falls made this a very satisfying hike. No matter what the season – Happy Trails!


Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Table Mountain

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After our recent string of cloud obscured views I was determined to break the streak. I had been watching the weather forecast all week and decided everything was lining up perfectly for a return to the Columbia Gorge and another attempt at a view of the Cascades. The nasty weather and the poncho attack on Hamilton Mountain needed to be avenged so for this hike I picked Table Mountain.

Table Mountain is located less than 5 miles east of Hamilton Mountain. It should have been what I was looking at from the saddle when I was sucker punched by the poncho during that hike. Much of Table Mountain collapsed into the Columbia River centuries ago leaving dramatic cliffs on the south face. With an elevation of 3417′ it is nearly 1000′ taller than Hamilton Mountain so the potential for views is great.

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning but as we approached Portland an ominous cloud hung to the east of the city. The skies all around were blue and we hoped that Table Mountain was far enough to the east to be clear of the cloud. We formulated a plan b just in case when we reached Hamilton Mountain which was once again covered in clouds, but when we arrived at the trail head behind Bonneville Hot Springs the summit of Table Mountain was cloud free. With blue skies to the north and east we decided to give it a try.

The first 2.2 miles of the trail pass through a pretty forest, first on a volunteer created trail, then following an old road up to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This first section was nice but unremarkable although we did come across some ripe salmonberries to sample. After a short walk on the PCT we reached the sign for the loop trail to the summit of Table Mountain. The aptly named Heartbreak Ridge Trail gains 1770′ in 1.5 miles. In order to do this the trail heads up with a vengeance. After 0.6 miles (and 800′ of elevation) the trail arrived at a saddle viewpoint. To my dismay the clouds that had been to the west were now heading east obscuring much of the view and had now covered Table Mountains summit. The trail then dipped down to the base of a 500 yard long rock slide where we spotted our first beargrass bloom of the year (on a hike not from the car).

The trail appears to end at the rock slide but the rocks are the trail. Following poles we scrambled up the rocks to the continuation of the trail. This part proved to be quite fun. Just a few tenths of a mile after reaching the trails continuation we reached the meadows on the summit. An all to familiar view greeted us here. We had come all this way and couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet due to clouds. The meadows were filled with various wildflowers creating a colorful display and many plumes of beargrass stood at attention along the meadows edges.

As we headed south along the summit trail toward the viewpoint at that end a faint window opened in the clouds and there stood Mt. Hood. The clouds had begun to slowly break up and by the time we reached the viewpoint better and better views were opening up.
We could now see Mt. Hood and the tip of Mt. Jefferson at times. Below we could see the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River and the Heartbreak Ridge trail as it crossed the viewpoint saddle. We spent awhile here waiting for the openings and then headed back down the trail to find a spot for lunch.

We chose a spot that offered a view to the north and east in addition to Mt. Hood to the south. As we ate glimpses of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier began to appear. We eventually traveled further north on the summit loop to a second viewpoint at that end. There we discovered a beargrass meadow and ever improving views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and also the rim of Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

We never quite got a clear view of any of the Washington peaks due to a pesky line of little clouds but after getting our fill of the view we headed down the west ridge. This trail was almost as steep as it made its way down and contained a lot of loose rocks. In addition it traveled close enough to the edge of the ridge that anyone with a fear of heights might really have a hard time. That being said the views from this trail were great. Mt. Hood lay ahead while behind was Table Mountain and the rock slide we had scrambled up.
The going was slow but we eventually made it down to the PCT. I had no takers when I asked if anyone wanted to go around again when we reached the Heartbreak ridge junction so we returned to our car satisfied with the days views and ready to plan our next adventure. Happy Trail.

facebook photos:
way too many flickr photos:

Columbia Gorge North Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Trip report Washington

Hamilton Mountain

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).

Soggy pictures on facebook:

Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Angel’s Rest & Wahkeena Falls

The weather threw us a curve ball this last week. After enjoying a couple of weeks of summer like weather snow returned to some of the lower elevations. A fact we discovered on the way to our most recent hike. After seeing the amount of snow on the road to the Wildcat Mountain trail head we decided to alter our plans a bit and headed to the Columbia Gorge instead.

Despite the side trip we arrived at the Angel’s Rest trail head (Bridal Veil exit 28 off I-84) before 7:30am. There was only one car in the parking area which we knew would change by the time we hiked back out given the popularity of the Gorge trails. The weather was typical of our experience hiking in the area, low clouds and mild temps. The trail set off in a damp green forest and made it’s way on a steady climb up to Angel’s Rest, a rocky bluff overlooking the Columbia River. The trail was lined with flowers along the way, mostly larkspur and columbine but many different varieties were present. After passing Coopey Falls views begin to open of the Columbia River to the west especially as you reach a rock field crossing.

We were surprised by the width of Angel’s Rest when we arrived at the bluff. It was much wider than we had expected and we spent some time exploring around the area and because we arrived early we had it all to ourselves.
When we first arrived here we were in the midst of some very low clouds which obstructed our views but they eventually moved on allowing us to see across the river to Washington.

The round trip to Angel’s Rest is about 4.6 miles so we had planned on combining this hike with the Wahkeena Falls trail a couple of miles to the east via the Foxglove trail. This trail obviously doesn’t see much traffic and was fairly overgrown but usable. By the time we had completed this 1.3 mile segment we were pretty soaked from the damp leaves that we brushed against. We then continued on the Angel’s Rest trail passing pretty Wahkeena Spring to the junction with the Wahkeena trail.

The Wahkeena Trail followed Wahkeena creek down through the forest with a brief side trip to Fairy Falls.
After passing below the falls the trail rejoins Wahkeena Creek crossing it twice before joining a paved path that switchbacks down to Wahkeena Falls.

The closer we got to the falls the more crowded the trail became but we eventually picked our way down to the double cascade of Wahkeena Falls.
Next came the most dangerous portion of the hike, crossing the historic Columbia River Highway and the seemingly endless stream of cars creeping along trying to get a glimpse of the waterfalls along the way. After a successful game of Frogger and a brief pit stop we headed back up the Wahkeena Trail to begin the 6.7 mile trek back to our car.

By now the trails had become even more crowded but once we reached the junction we lost the crowds for awhile. The advantage of an early start was clear upon arriving back at Angel’s Rest. At least two dozen people, likely more were mulling around on the bluff that we had had to ourselves just 6 hours earlier. When we reached the now full parking area cars were lined along the shoulders of the highway and more were cruising around looking for a free spot. The gorge has some amazing waterfalls, beautiful forests and amazing views which explains the crowds. Our advice is to avoid the weekends, get there early, and don’t stop at the most popular spots. With a vast network of trails many of the real popular falls can be reached from less crowded trail heads if you’re willing to do a little extra hiking and really when is that such a bad thing :). Happy Trails ~

Photos – Facebook: