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

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IMG_2522Large-flower tritelia

IMG_2528Mt. Hood beyond Horsethief Lake

IMG_2534Standing at the fence looking east.

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IMG_2535Horsethief Butte

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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

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

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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

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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

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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
Hiking Oregon Portland Trip report Willamette Valley

Three Hikes on Sauvie Island

Our latest outing was a three stop trip to Sauvie Island in the Columbia River. After purchasing our $10/day parking permit online from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife we headed for our fist stop at the Wapato State Greenway.
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Here a short loop trail passes around Virginia Lake and along the Multnomah Channel.
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We set off on the entrance trail which quickly split (not shown on the map). We veered left on a mowed path through some grass.
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Our plan had been to visit the viewing platform first thing but this left fork was not the true entrance trail and we wound up joining the loop trail a tenth of a mile south of the side trail to the platform.
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We turned left onto the loop trail deciding to visit the platform near the end of our hike instead.
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We passed a view of Virginia Lake and arrived at a viewing blind after a tenth of a mile.
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Other than the occasional red-winged blackbird sighting we didn’t see anything from the blind on this morning. We continued on the loop ignoring a spur trail to Hadley’s Landing Dock just before arriving at the Multnomah Channel.
Multnomah Channel

The trail passed through woods with occasional openings to grassy meadows. There were a few woodland flowers here and there but the most interesting thing was the wildlife. We saw a lot of birds and couple of shy rabbits. Most of the birds were busy foraging in the bushes or flitting from tree to tree so we didn’t have a lot of luck with pictures. We did appreciate the many songs they were singing as they made their morning rounds.
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IMG_6569Black-headed grosbeak

We also spotted what we at first identified as a pair of deer under a large oak.
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As we watched them disappear into the brush we kept noticing more deer and ended up counting five of them.

After passing the picnic shelter we turned right down the side trial to the viewing platfrom.
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We had more luck with the wildlife from this viewpoint spotting a couple of different types of ducks, a great blue heron, and a pied-billed grebes.

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IMG_6595Mallards with a great blue heron in the distance.

IMG_6608Cinnamon teal and a mallard

IMG_6604Pied-billed grebe

We had never heard of a pied-billed grebe and were wondering what it was. Then we took the time to read the interpretive sign at the platform.
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After leaving the platform we headed back to the car. Along the way we spotted another new bird to us. A Black-throated Gray Warbler. She was hopping around on the trail gathering something for a nest it appeared so the photos are a bit blurry.
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Our second stop was at Oak Island,technically a peninsula. It is part of the Sauvie Island Wildlife Area and only open to hikers from April 16 through the end of September.
From the parking area a mowed path leads past a large signboard for .3 miles to the start of a loop.
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The rabbits were a little less shy here.
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We had a few cattle cross our path prior to reaching the start of the loop as well.
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We actually missed the start of the loop which was marked by a post with a hiker symbol on it.
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We stayed straight on the obvious track past this sign as the path leading right was so faint we hadn’t noticed it. Continuing in this clockwise direction the trail leads through open grass with Steelman Lake to the west.
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A number of great blue herons could be seen flying over the water and along the lakes shore we spotted a pair of white pelicans and a family of Canada geese.
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The distinctive call of red-winged blackbirds was prevalent.
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After passing through a gate the grass grew taller and the trail began to turn away from Steelman Lake. Here there were many butterflies and a few blooming camas.
Nature Trial at Oak IslandLooking back at the gate.

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Just before turning south near Sturgeon Lake a .1 mile spur path to the left led to the narrows, a narrow channel connecting Steelman and Sturgeon Lakes.
IMG_6661Looking toward Steelman Lake from the Narrows.

IMG_6662The Narrows. Another lake, Mud Lake, is on the other side of the trees.

As we were returning to the loop we spotted a pretty yellow warbler and a wood duck.
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Shortly after rejoining the loop Heather spotted a path down to a small beach along Sturgeon Lake where both Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams were visible but due to the lighting very hard to make out.
IMG_6671Mt. Adams (it is really there)

IMG_6676Mt. St. Helens

We had been similarly unsuccessful at getting a picture of Mt. Hood earlier from the Narrows. We finished up the loop and returned to our car ready to head to our final stop at the Warrior Point Trailhead. A coyote raced across the road near the parking are for the clothing optional Collin’s Beach. We’re not sure what it had been up to but it looked like it thought it was being chased. We had some fun imagining it had tried to run off with someones clothes.

After that excitement we parked at the trailhead and before setting off walked down the the sandy beach along the Columbia River.
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As we began hiking a bald eagle flew overhead.
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The trail had occasional views of the River as well as Mt. St. Helens which was now a little easier to make out.
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IMG_6699Mt. St. Helens and an Osprey nest.

Our visit to the Island had already been on of the most diverse for birds and the Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail just added to this. After the bald eagle and osprey we spotted a pair of American goldfinches.
IMG_6705Female

IMG_6712Male

These were followed by a Bullock’s Oriole and a yellow throated warbler.
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The trail itself varied as it spent some time in the woods, some along the river, and other passing through tall grass.
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Considering the combination of grass, nearby water, and warm sunshine it seemed like the perfect conditions for snakes but we only spotted one.
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After three miles we arrived at a sandy beach near the Warrior Rock Lighthouse

IMG_6753Mt. St. Helens again.

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After a short rest on the beach we continued north on the sand to an old concrete gun mount.
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This is where things got a little interesting. Our guidebook said to turn inland here on a small access road to a T-shaped junction. The map accompanying the description on Oregonhikers.org appeared to show the track continuing north from this point along the river. We couldn’t see any sign of the small access road so we continued north along the beach until it was no longer possible. We faced the choice of backtracking or following a faint path inland to try and connect to an old road bed that would take us to Warrior Point. We headed inland.
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There was a faint path, we’re guessing it was more of a game trail than anything but it wouldn’t have been too hard to follow except for all the blackberry bushes. We managed to push through what turned out to only be a tenth of a mile to arrive at the grassy road bed.
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A brief detour right led us to a viewpoint at Warrior Point of the town of St. Helens.
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IMG_67671905 Columbia County Courthouse

We followed the old road bed back from Warrior Point for a half mile where it met the Warrior Point Trail near the beach at the lighthouse.
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We had only seen a handful of other hikers all day but on the way back to the car (it was only now a little after 11am) we passed a number of people heading toward the lighthouse. We were once again thankful to have gotten an early start.

Our distances for the day were 2.6 miles at Wapato Greenway, 3.3 miles at Oak Island, and 7.3 miles at Warrior Point for a total of 13.2. It had been a great day for wildlife and another enjoyable set of hikes in the Portland area. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Sauvie Island Hikes

Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Lower Deschutes River – SE Oregon Vacation Day 1

It’s been awhile since our last post but we have a good excuse, we were busy hiking. Eight straight days of hiking in fact. 😊

For the last two years we’ve had plans to visit SE Oregon in May but each time our vacation week arrived so did rain in the forecast. Since May wasn’t working out we decided to give June a try. A dry Spring had things looking promising but a system moved in at the end of the week prior to our leaving that had us a little worried. There was rain in the Willamette Valley (and snow in Cascades) but our destinations looked like they would escape mostly dry. At least dry enough that we could rearrange a few of our planned hikes to let things dry a bit before attempting the drives that would be impassible if wet.

Before we could even attempt those hikes we had to get to SE Oregon. Conventional wisdom would have had us driving through Bend via Santiam Pass but we aren’t conventional. First the Sisters Rodeo was happening which meant even more traffic than usual in that little town. More importantly we wanted to squeeze a hike in on the way to Bend were we planned to stay with Heather’s parents again.

Following up on our recent hike along the Deschutes River at Macks Canyon (post) we decided to kick off our eight days of hiking at the Deschutes River Recreation Area near the mouth of the river. From Salem we drove north to Portland and took Interstate 84 ten miles east of The Dalles to the park. It seems a bit odd to kick off a SE Oregon vacation with a hike near the northern border of the State, but it’s a hike we hadn’t done yet and it was sort of on the way.

We parked at the end of the park and walked across a grassy area to a trail sign at the far end where we followed a pointer for the River Trail.
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Unlike the trail at Macks Canyon, the River Trail stayed close to the water.
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We stayed right at junctions sticking to the River Trail where we passed several groups of Canada geese.
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The trail did climb away from the river to cross over a rocky area at the 1.5 mile mark.
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Pigeons kept an eye on us as we passed the rocky cliffs and a family of mergansers sat on a rock in the river below.
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The trail improved again beyond the rocks and it passed below a rock arch.
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A short distance beyond the arch we passed Rattlesnake Rapids.
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Up to this point we’d seen a few flowers and an interesting dragon fly.
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Showy MilkweedShowy milkweed

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IMG_5134Blanket flower

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After 3 miles on the River Trail we passed by a 10 acre wheat field.
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At the far end of the wheat field we followed an old dirt roadbed uphill to a gravel road where we turned right, crossed small Gordon Creek and veered right again on another dirt roadbed down to a primitive camp site.
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After checking out a small beach where one could wade in the river we headed back to the gravel road.
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The road led up to the same old railroad grade that we had followed on our hike at Macks Canyon.
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Here the grade is in good shape and used by bicyclists as well as hikers.
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We followed the old railroad grade for a mile and a half from the primitive camp to a signboard.
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The unmarked Ferry Springs Trail led off to the right a little before the sign and use paths to the left of the sign led to a view of the rock arch from above.
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After checking out the arch we took the Ferry Springs Trail uphill.
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This trail gained nearly 500′ as it climbed up and then traversed the hillside above the Deschutes River.
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As we gained elevation we also gained more wildflowers, primarily yellow blanket flower and purple lupine.
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Just over three quarters of a mile along this trail we came to Ferry Springs where we crossed a brushy creek.
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A lizard greeted us on the far side of the creek.
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The trail then passed a less than informative sign and passed through an old fence.
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Beyond the fence the trail began to descend back down toward the river. From here we had a good view of the river’s confluence with the Columbia.
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Near the end, the trail follows a section of the Oregon Trail.
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After almost 1.75 miles on the Ferry Springs Trail we arrived back at the railroad grade. Here we had the choice of following it back to the parking area or continuing on hiker only trails. We opted for the hiker trail and flowed a pointer on the far side of the bike path.
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This trail traversed the hillside between the River Trail and the bike path and brought us back to the start of the River Trail in just under three quarters of a mile.
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The hike came in just over 8 miles which was a nice way to start a week of hiking. It had been pretty windy (not unusual for the area) but the rain had stayed to the west which we took as an encouraging sign for the rest of our trip. We left the Deschutes and headed east to Biggs Junction where we took Highway 97 south to Bend and had a nice visit with Heather’s parents before heading further east (and south) for more adventures. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Lower Deschutes River

Categories
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.
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We followed the forested old road uphill past some old structures.
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IMG_2448Arnica

20180428_070754Fairy slippers

As we climbed the forest began to give way to an oak grassland.
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The old road passed by the Memaloose Pinnacles, a group of basalt towers.
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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.
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We turned uphill to the left climbing up toward the Memaloose Overlook.
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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_072117Paintbrush

20180428_072134Desert parsley

20180428_071825Larkspur

20180428_072234Vetch

20180428_072416Lupine

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20180428_072846Shooting star

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We arrived at the overlook a mere .8 miles from the rest area.
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The overlook is along Highway 30 which makes it a possible alternate trailhead.

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There was a large patch of fiddleneck near the overlook.
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After admiring the view from the overlook we crossed the highway and continued uphill.
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The flower show not only continued but it picked up as we climbed.
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Even some of the seed heads were photogenic.
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The forecast had called for a chance of showers but the showers weren’t materializing and instead we got some nice sun breaks.
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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.
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The star of the hike though was the balsamroot which was thick in areas.
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The trail crossed a small stream which we hopped across.
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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.
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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.
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Much of Marsh Hill was covered in yellow balsamroot with purple lupine and white large-flowerd triteleia scattered about.
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From the hill we could make out part of Mt. Hood to the south through the clouds.
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To the east the grassy southern slope of Tom McCall Point (2015 trip report) was easy to identify.
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The green hillsides of the Washington side of the gorge rose above the blue waters of the Columbia River to the north.
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To the west was nearby Chatfield Hill.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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We followed an old road bed for a quarter mile then followed a trail sign when the road veered left.
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We soon rejoined the road for another half mile before turning left at another sign.
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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.
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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.
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Soon after the sign for the Chetwoot Loop we arrived a ridge above Perham Creek.
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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.
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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.
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A decent sized log served as an adequate replacement for the bridge allowing us to cross dry footed.
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The trail then climbed away from the creek, at times fairly steeply. As we passed through a brushy clearing we spotted a spotted towhee.
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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.
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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

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IMG_2787Ballhead waterleaf

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At the 2.5 mile mark a side trail led to a middle viewpoint.
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IMG_2803Dog Mountain

This viewpoint was covered in pink plectritis.
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Just uphill from this viewpoint we passed the upper junction with the Chetwoot Loop Trail.
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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.
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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.
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We were a bit surprised to see what appeared to be a grass widow blooming at the viewpoint.
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There was also a couple of clumps of phlox present.
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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.
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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.
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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

Categories
Hiking Northern Coast Oregon Oregon Coast Trip report

Astoria and Fort Stevens State Park

We continued our year of shuffling hikes on our latest mini-vacation.  The string of wildfires starting in  Northern California in the Klamath Mountains and continuing along the Cascade Range north to the Canadian Border had us looking for a last minute location for 4 days of hiking. We turned to the coast hoping to escape any possibly smokey conditions and wound up deciding on checking out the northern most part of the Oregon Coast as well as our first foray along the Washington Coast line.

We booked a room in Gearhart, OR and I began putting an itinerary together. We are still plodding along in our attempt to hike all of the featured hikes in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes guidebooks and there were several in the area we’d yet to tackle. I managed to fit eight of his featured hikes into the four days and even threw in an additional stop at Fort Columbia on our third day.

We set our sights on three of the hikes for our first day starting with a relatively short loop around Clatsop Spit. The spit is located inside Fort Stevens State Park at the mouth of the Columbia River and is the northern terminus for the Oregon Coast Trail.

As we were driving to the spit along Jetty Road we spotted some elk and had to stop for a couple of photos.
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Once we had parked at the large parking area at the spit we checked out the view from the South Jetty observation platform.
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We then headed west beside the jetty toward the Pacific.
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We then turned north along the beach heading towards the Columbia River where we could see plenty of traffic on the water.
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We turned inland at the river we had a view of the distant Megler Bridge.
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We passed a host of people fishing along the shore but didn’t see anyone having any luck.
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We looped around a peninsula near Jetty Lagoon and located the wildlife viewing bunker near the park’s Parking Lot D.
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IMG_8084view from the bunker.

We crossed a footbridge to the parking lot and then had a 1.1 mile road walk back to the spit parking lot.
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We drove back along Jetty Road and parked in a signed lot for Battery Russell.
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We took a set of stairs up to the concrete bunker.
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For forty years (1904-44) the battery guarded the Columbia River from enemy attacks. We spent quite a while exploring the old bunker. The history made it neat but too many video games and horror movies kept us imagining what might be hiding in the dark corners of the rooms.
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We followed a path at the far end of the bunker toward Coffenbury Lake.
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The path passed another set of old buildings.
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We continued on this path a total of 1.25 miles to a signed junction where we followed a pointer to the lake.
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We headed around the lake counter-clockwise on a nice trail.
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After completing the 2 mile loop around the lake we followed “Shipwreck” pointers for 3/4 of a mile to the beach and the remains of the Peter Iredale which ran aground in 1906.
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We backtracked from the beach a short distance and turned left on a paved path at a pointer for Battery Russell (among other possible destinations).
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We followed this path for a little over half a mile before turning right at another pointer for Battery Russell.
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We followed this 1.1 mile paved path back to the parking lot.
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The total distance of the Clatsop Spit hike had been 5 miles and this hike came in just under 7.5 miles. Twelve and a half miles is pretty good for a day, but due to our typical early start we were done with these two hikes before 1pm. Our check-in time wasn’t until four so we still had a few hours to kill.

We had been prepared for that and headed north from Fort Stevens to Astoria where we parked at the Columbia River Maritime Museum
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From the museum parking lot we headed west following the Riverfront Trolley line.
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Seabirds lined the waterfront and we also heard some sea lions but never saw any.
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We more or less stuck to Sullivan’s described route (Hike #4 in the 4th edition of “100 Hikes/Travel Guide Oregon Coast & Coast Range) following the the trolley line to 6th St. then turning inland for three blocks before taking a left on Commercial St. After a block on Commercial St. we turned right on 7th for two blocks passing the Oregon Film Museum and the Flavel House.
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We walked around the Flavel House and headed downhill on 8th St. turning right when we arrived back at Commercial St. We turned right several blocks later on 12th Street and right again a block later on Duane St. passing a Chinese Garden.
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We continued zig-zagging through town passing numerous historic homes, churches, and other buildings. One home that stood out was an old run down home that had the quintessential haunted house look.
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We also passed Fort Astoria on the corner of 15th and Exchange.
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By the time we were done we wandered around town for a total of 3 miles.
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One of the landmarks not on the route was the Astoria Column. It was visible from the waterfront rising above the city. It was one of the times the 30x zoom on the camera came in handy.
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We still arrived a little early at our hotel but luckily our room was ready. We had a nice view south to Tillamook Head.
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It had actually rained lightly on us in Astoria which was a wonderful change of pace. The sun went down behind the clouds that evening ending the first day of what was shaping up to be an interesting vacation.
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Happy Trails!

Flickr: Astoria & Fort Stevens

Categories
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

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Wildflowers along the Augspurger Trail

Chocolate lily and a beetle

Trillium

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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

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.
Pool of the Winds

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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.
Hamilton Mountain

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.
Chocolate Lilies

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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 River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Tom McCall Preserve and Mosier Twin Tunnels

We do our best to plan and prepare for all of our hikes, but we were reminded that now matter how much pre-trip preparation we’ve done things can still happen. For our last hike that meant an extra 4 miles of hiking.

We had headed back to the eastern end of the Columbia Gorge for a combination of several hikes near Mosier, OR. First up was the plateau trail at the Tom McCall Preserve. The trail sets off from the Rowena Crest Viewpoint located along the Historic Columbia River Highway 6.6 miles east of Mosier.
Rowena Crest Trailhead

The trail heads out onto the plateau toward the Columbia River passing several viewpoints and lots of wildflowers including our first bachelor button sightings.

Bachelor Button

Balsamroot at Rowena Crest

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Columbia River from Rowena Crest plateau

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The trail also passes a pair of ponds where we had to be on the watch for poison oak.
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After approximately one and a quarter miles the trail ends at a viewpoint on the edge of the plateau. Across the river was a train while below on our right were a pair of turkey vultures and on our left a couple of deer down in Rowena Dell.
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Deer below Rowena Crest plateau

After returning to the parking area we headed up the second trail at Tom McCall Preserve to Tom McCall Point. The summit of the point had been shrouded in clouds while we were on the plateau trail.
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The clouds were breaking up as we began our climb though.
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This path was wonderful. There were plenty of views as well as some wooded sections. We also saw several types of flowers that we had not seen along the plateau trail such as paintbrush, broomrape, larkspur, and chocolate lilies.
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The clouds finally lifted from the summit by the time we were about halfway up the trail.
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We were also high enough to see the entire plateau behind us.
Rowena Crest from the Tom McCall Point trail.

The views from the summit were impressive, but alas the clouds had not broken up enough to reveal either Mt. Hood or Mt. Adams which on a clear day would have been visible.
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Summit of Tom McCall Point

We had planned one more hike for the day since the two trails at Tom McCall Preserve only totaled 6 miles. The Mosier Twin Tunnel trail set off on the west side of Mosier at the Senator Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead.
Trailhead for Mosier Twin Tunnels

The trail is actually a portion of the Historic Columbia River Highway that has been converted to a hiking and biking path. Our plan was to hike out about 2.5 miles to an overlook of Koberg Beach State Wayside to add another 5 miles to the days totals. The path begins amid rock piles that reminded us of the lava flows in Central Oregon. Here the basalt cliffs that are typical of the gorge had broken up leaving the jumble of rocks. A fence separated the path from the rocks to protect pits made by Native Americans, possibly used as vision quest sites. One such pit is visible in the upper left hand side of the picture below.
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About a half mile from the start of the trail is the first viewpoint.
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Not long after the first viewpoint the trail comes to the first of the twin tunnels.
First of the Mosier Twin Tunnels.

Inside Mosier Twin Tunnels.

The first tunnel has a pair of windows carved into the rock wall offering views of the river.
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Upon exiting the second tunnel the path continues under an odd concrete structure. Dominique thought it reminded him of being in a parking garage. The purpose of the structure is to act as a rockfall shield able to withstand a 5000lb. boulder falling from 200ft above.
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Just under a mile from the tunnels is a second overlook at the county line between Wasco and Hood River counties.
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Our planned turnaround point was to be .8 miles from this second overlook at a .2 mile side path. We continued on toward the turnaround but Dominique wasn’t feeling all that well so he eventually took one of the car keys and headed back. It turns out he was only about 100 yards from our planned turnaround point. I was waiting for Heather by a gravel path that led off through a fenced meadow.
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Viewpoint along the Mosier Twin Tunnel trail.

This was in fact the path we were looking for, but it ended at the fence where there was no view to speak of and certainly no sign of a beach wayside. On top of that I had viewed the hike on Google Maps and had expected the side path to drop down a bit and this path led up. We also felt like we hadn’t gone .8 miles since the second viewpoint so I checked the Garmin which showed that Koberg State Park was still ahead. We decided this wasn’t it and continued on. We kept walking and talking thinking the viewpoint was going to be just ahead. We began seeing more and more people but it was now after noon and that made sense, but when we passed a couple with a stroller we both began to wonder what was going on. They didn’t look like they had hiked over 2 miles already. Then Heather spotted some signs ahead. There were quite a few and they were big which didn’t make sense for a small side path, then we noticed an RV parked above the trail to the left. Now we knew something was wrong for sure because there were no roads open to vehicles anywhere near our planned turnaround point. Then we saw the parking area, restrooms, and information center at the western trailhead near Hood River. We’d gone nearly 2 extra miles! The good news was they were nice bathrooms and we had spotted a snake and our first California Poppies (while on a hike) in those extra miles.
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California Poppy

It turned out that the main portion of Koberg State Park is located across the Interstate from the western trailhead, but a portion of it is also located below the outcropping that the gravel path led onto. There just isn’t anything there to see. We hurried back as quickly as our sore feet would let us. On the way we spotted a bald eagle soaring above the trees and some wind surfers sailing above the Columbia.
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At the car we found a napping kid who it turned out had stuck to our original plan better than we had. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157652170987082/

Categories
Columbia Gorge North Hiking Trip report Washington

Columbia Hills State Park

Spring came early to the Pacific Northwest and many of the flowers are running a week or two ahead of schedule so I’d been keeping my eye on the wildflower situation in the Columbia Gorge. Recent trip reports from the east end of the gorge showing the flowers out in force, a promising forecast, and a free day at Washington State Parks made for a combination that I just couldn’t pass up. Due to Heather training for the upcoming Corvallis half-marathon she was unable to accompany me this time, but my parents were able to join me for three short hikes in Columbia Hills State Park.

The park is located in Washington just across the Columbia River from The Dalles, OR and encompasses 3,338 acres offering rock climbing, fishing, sailboarding, and many other activities in addition to the hiking trails. We started our day off at Horsethief Butte, a rocky outcrop left over from an ancient basalt flow popular with rock climbers.

Basalt cliffs on the opposite side of Highway 14 from the trailhead.
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The trail starts off with a nice view of Mt. Hood over The Dalles.
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The trail crosses a short section of flat grassland before splitting with the left fork heading up into a canyon of Horsethief Butte and the right fork leading around the mesa to rejoin the left fork on the far end of the canyon. There were a variety of flowers to be seen along this portion of the trail.

Manroot
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Bugloss fiddleneck
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Death camas
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Prarie star
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Large-flower triteleia
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Western stoneseed
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Larkspur
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Desert parsley
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When the trail split we took the left hand fork and headed for the canyon. At Horsethief Butte the dirt trail gave way to a short rock scramble up to the canyon entrance. At the top of the scramble the canyon opened up to reveal a good sized slot dotted with yellow balsamroot flowers.
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Members of the Mazamas, an outdoor group based out of Portland, were busy setting up and climbing among the rocks.
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At the far end of the canyon the view opened to the Columbia River and Mt. Hood.
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Here the trail dropped out of the canyon (without a rock scramble) to rejoin the right-hand fork. Before heading back we turned left and continued another quarter mile behind the butte to a viewpoint where poison oak patches were growing.

Poison Oak
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We headed back and completed the loop with Mt. Hood looming to our left.
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Next we headed to the Dalles Mountain Ranch, a short 4.5 mile drive away. To get there we drove 1.8 miles west on Hwy 14 and turned right on Dalles Mountain Road for another 2.5 miles to a fork. The trailhead for the ranch was to the right about .2 miles. Here an abandoned farmhouse and other buildings sat amid fields of balsamroot and lupine.
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We explored the area around the farmhouse first where several pieces of old equipment were on display along with the flowers and views of Mt. Hood and distant Mt. Jefferson.
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There were also a couple of trail options. I wandered down to Eight Mile Creek through a spectacular field of balsamroot and lupine.
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Our final stop was another short 1.4 mile drive up Dalles Mountain Road where a gate marked the end of the drive and the start of the Columbia Natural Area Preserve.
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We set off on the 2.5 mile hike up the closed road that would led us to the summit of Stacker Butte. Entire hillsides were covered in yellow from the balsamroot with a smattering of other flowers thrown in.
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The total climb was a little over 1100′ but it was never too steep and the sweeping views drew attention away from the climb.
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It was interesting to note the change in the mix of flowers as we climbed. Along the lower portion balsamroot and lupine dominated with a few prairie stars mixed in. A little higher up we ran into paintbrush and phlox.
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Next came larkspur and big-head clover.
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Flowers weren’t the only things we spotted. There were numerous birds and a few deer in the area.
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We had lost our views of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Hood to the clouds, but when we reached the summit of Stacker Butte new views opened up. To the NW Mt. Adams was mostly obscured by a line of clouds, but Mt. Rainier and Goat Rocks were virtually cloud free.
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Almost directly below us lay Stacker Canyon where the Klickitat Rail Trail follows Swale Creek toward the Klickitat River, a hike we had done last April. https://wanderingyuncks.wordpress.com/2014/04/27/klickitat-rail-trail-swale-canyon-from-harms-rd/

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It was a little too windy (and chilly) to spend much time at the summit so after a quick snack break near an air control wigwam we headed back down the road.
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On our way down I got my first butterfly pictures of the year.

Sheridan’s Hairstreak
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Blue Copper
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With all of the options Columbia Hills State Park has to offer it makes a great place to spend a day outdoors, especially during the spring flower bloom. There are ticks and rattlesnakes in the area in addition to the poison oak so you’ll want to pay attention if you visit, but don’t let that stop you from checking this park out. Happy Trails!

flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157649434751593/

Categories
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.
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In another .3 miles we came to a second junction where a right hand fork heads up to Upper McCord Creek Falls.
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We headed toward Upper McCord Falls climbing through a forest before views opened up across the Columbia River to Hamilton Mountain.
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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

Trillium

serviceberry

Sweet Coltsfoot

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Fringecup

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.
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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!

flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157651027769877/