Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon

Throwback Thursday – Mt. Defiance

This week’s hike took place on 7/15/2012 when we tackled the challenging Mt. Defiance Trail in the Columbia Gorge. Unfortunately the area was affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire making it’s current status uncertain.

Our hike that day began at the Starvation Creek Trailhead.
Starvation Creek State Park sign

Prior to setting off on the Mt. Defiance Trail we made the short walk to Starvation Creek Falls.
Trial to Starvation Creek Falls

Starvation Creek Falls

After visiting the falls we followed pointers for the Mt. Defiance Trail.
Trail sign at the parking area

At the time a path followed the shoulder of the freeway for a short distance before veering away into the woods. In 2016 changes were made to the first mile plus of this hike making it wider and putting up a nicer barrier along the freeway section.
Columbia River

Just over a quarter mile from the trailhead we passed our return route, the Starvation Cutoff Trail, and just a bit beyond that we came to a small sign for Cabin Creek Falls.
Sign for Cabin Creek Falls

That small fall was mostly hidden.
Cabin Creek Falls

A little under a half mile further though was a less obscured waterfall – Hole in the Wall Falls.
Hole in the Wall Falls

This waterfall is not a natural occurrence, it was created in 1938 when the Oregon Highway Department rerouted Warren Creek due to Warren Creek Falls being too close to the old Columbia River Highway. The falls name comes from the waters emergence from the cliff via a man made hole.
Hole in the Wall Falls

A tenth of a mile beyond Hole in the Wall Falls we passed a junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail. A left turn here would have brought us to the upper end of the Starvation Cutoff Trail in a mile allowing for a short two and a half mile loop.
Junction with the Starvation Ridge Trail

Having loftier goals we continued straight passing below the lower portion of Lancaster Falls after .2 miles.
Lancaster Falls

It seemed like a nice “little” waterfall but interestingly this lower portion was only a small part of a much taller fall as we would discover in 2014 when we spotted the waterfall from across the Columbia River on the Dog Mountain Trail (post).
Lancaster Falls from Dog Mountain

Another half a mile of fairly level trail brought us to the start of the 4700′ climb to the summit of Mt. Defiance. The trail passed under some powerlines up a fairly open hillside where low clouds only provided a limited view of Wind Mountain across the river.
Wind Mountain and the Columbia River

The trail then entered the trees as it gained 4000′ over approximately three nearly unrelenting miles.
Columbia River

Mt. Defiance Trail

Mt. Defiance Trail

Along the way we passed a Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness sign.
Mt. Defiance Trail entering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness

A little further on was a viewpoint along a rocky hillside. Low clouds limited much of the view but a nice rainbow was visible in the valley below.
View along the Mt. Defiance Trail

Rainbow seen from the Mt. Defiance Trail

After gaining those 4000′ we arrived at a junction with the Mitchell Point Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

We would be taking that trail on our way back, but first more climbing.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Two tenths of a mile from the Mitchell Point Trail junction a new (at that time) trail led off to the right. The trail was unmarked except for two small rock cairns.
Mt. Defiance Trail

This mile long segment of trail traversed a talus covered hillside above Bear Lake up and around Mt. Defiance to a microwave building at its summit.
Mt. Defiance Trail

Bear Lake

Towers on Mt. Defiance

Unfortunately for us the clouds had not burned off and Mt. Hood was completely hidden.
View from Mt. Defiance

The only view we had from the summit was to the SE.
View from Mt. Defiance

After a nice rest at the summit we opted to head back down to the Mitchell Point Trail via the older summit route which shaved off .2 miles.
Sign for the Mt. Defiance Trail

When we reached the junction we turned onto the Mitchell Point Trail and headed east toward Warren Lake. The clouds to the east had been breaking up revealing some nice blue skies as we reached a viewpoint above Warren Lake.
View from Mt. Defiance

View from the Mt. Defiance Trail

We arrived at the lake .8 miles from the junction.
Warren Lake

Warren Lake

We followed the Mitchell Point Trail another half mile from Warren Lake before turning left onto the unsigned Starvation Ridge Trail.
Trail sign for the Mitchell Point Trail

Mitchell Point Trail

The Starvation Ridge Trail began heading downhill offering a view back to Mt. Defiance.
Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance

It was still a bit cloudy for views in other directions though.
View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

View from the Starvation Ridge Trail

The view of Wind Mountain had greatly improved.
Columbia River

As the ridge narrowed the decent steepened and we were soon barreling downhill. The trail ahead would occasionally vanish as is dropped leaving us wondering if it just dropped off a cliff.
Starvation Ridge Trail

For over three miles the trail dove and yet the Columbia River didn’t seem to be getting all that closer. Then the trail came to an opening at the end of the ridge across from Dog Mountain.
Dog Mountain

Wind Mountain on the Columbia River

The view was nice except for the one down to the Starvation Creek Trailhead where our car looked smaller than a Hot Wheels.
Trailhead from the Starvation Ridge Trail

From the ridge end the trail headed downhill away from the trailhead. We turned right onto the Starvation Cutoff Trail at a signed junction and switchbacked down .3 miles to the Mt. Defiance Trail and followed the freeway back to our car.
Trial sign along the Starvation Ridge Trail

Mt. Defiance had lived up to it’s reputation as a challenge and it would have been nice to have had a view at the top but it was rewarding to know that we could accomplish it. It was a boost to our confidence going forward. We look forward to heading back someday when the skies are clearer. Happy Trails!

Flickr: Mt. Defiance

Categories
Columbia River Gorge South Hiking Oregon Trip report

Wyeth Trail To North, Rainy, and Black Lakes

This past Veterans Day we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a hike. Heather had spent the first part of the week in Las Vegas attending a convention for her work so we were looking to spend some quality time together and what better way than out on the trail away from distractions.

Our hike on the schedule for this month was to be a lollipop loop starting at Wyeth Campground in the Columbia Gorge and passing North, Rainy, and Black Lakes before returning via Green Point Ridge. I had originally estimated this hike to be a little over 16 miles with around 4000′ of elevation gain. Both of these figures turned out to be low. The total elevation gain was closer to 5000′ and the GPS read 21.5 miles when all was said and done.

The Wyeth Trail begins at Wyeth Campground which was gated closed for the season so we parked near the gate on the side of the Wyeth Road (Exit 51 off of I-84) and walked through the empty campground.
Sunrise from Wyeth Campground

Wyeth Campground

The campground is the eastern terminus for the Gorge Trail #400 which we followed briefly to a signed junction near a footbridge over Gorton Creek.
Footbridge over Gorton Creek

Wyeth Trail junction with the Gorge Trail

We turned left following the pointer for the Wyeth Trail passing under a set of power lines before the bridge-less crossing of Harphan Creek.
Creek crossing

Not long after crossing Harphan Creek the Wyeth Trail began its climb. The trail gained approximately 3500 over the next 4.8 miles. This mostly forested section used numerous switchbacks to keep from ever being too steep.
Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail

There were a couple of open areas which offered small views across the Columbia River toward Mt. St. Helens. Although the mountain was free of clouds the gray skies above and behind it provided a good camouflage from the camera.
Columbia River from the Wyeth Trail

The trail leveled off at a saddle where it began following the ridge south to the Green Point Ridge Trail junction.
Wyeth Trail juntion with the Green Point Ridge Trail

Green Point Ridge Trail

The Green Point Ridge Trail was our return route so we stayed left and continued 1.4 miles to North Lake. Along the way there was a nice view of Mt. Defiance from a rock field.
Mt. Defiance from the Wyeth Trail

To see North Lake we followed an unsigned trail to the right at a junction where signs pointed back to the Wyeth Campground and ahead to the Mt. Defiance Trail.
Wyeth Trail

Wyeth Trail sign for the Mt. Defiance Trail

North Lake
North Lake

After sitting for a bit on some rocks along North Lake we continued along it’s shore back to the the Wyeth Trail at a junction with the North Lake Trail.
North Lake Trail

We took the North Lake Trail following it for a mile past a small pond to another trail junction.
Pond along the North Lake Trail

North Lake Trail junction with the Rainy Lake Trail

We headed to the left onto the Rainy Lake Trail.
Rainy Lake Trail

A quick .4 miles brought us to Rainy Lake with a view of Green Point Mountain on the far side.
Rainy Lake

Green Point Mountain from Rainy Lake

Green Point Mountain

A tenth of a mile beyond the lake the trail left the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and ended at the Rainy Lake Campground, which can be driven to. Directions

Mark O. Hatfiled Wilderness boundary near the Rainy Lake Campground

We walked through the campground passing the unique outhouse to the Rainy-Wahtum Trail.
Outhouse at the Rainy Lake Campground

Rainy Lake Trail

The Rainy-Wahtum Trail would lead us up to a junction with the Gorton Creek Trail where we would begin our return to the Wyeth Campground but before we did that we had wanted to visit nearby Black Lake. Both the North Lake Trail map available on the Mt. Hood Forest Service website and Google showed a trail descending to Black Lake from the Rainy-Wahtum Trail. We were keeping our eyes out for this trail and just when we began to think we had missed it we spotted a path near a small cairn.
We thought this was marking the trail to Black Lake

We turned left onto this faint path passing the remnants of an old sign that could no longer be read. All traces of the path soon disappeared and we looked around for old blazes or any other sign of the correct route. With nothing to be seen we pulled out the Forest Service map and compared it the map shown on the Garmin. The GPS didn’t show the trail but we could compare the topography of the two maps to get a good idea of where the trail should be. We bushwacked downhill using the topographic maps in an attempt to pick up some sort of trail but weren’t having any luck so we finally decided to follow a decommissioned logging road down to its junction with Dead Point Road which went by Black Lake after passing the Rainy Lake Campground.
Road to Black Lake

We found a few flowers along the road before arriving at the Black Lake Campground.
Thistle

Black Lake Campground

Black Lake

Black Lake

We took a break at one of the picnic tables which we shared with a caterpillar.
Caterpillar

We followed the road back to the Rainy Lake Campground and set off once again on the Rainy-Wahtum Trail. We watched again for any signs of a different trail to Black Lake both before and after the one we’d turned down but never saw anything.

The Rainy-Wahtum Trail followed what was once Wahtum Road up to a 4-way trail junction.
Rainy-Wahtum Trail

The junction is the meeting point of the Rainy-Wahtum, Gorton Creek, and Herman Creek Cutoff Trails.
Rainy-Wahtum Trail junction with the Gorton Creek, and Herman Creek Cutoff Trails

Gorton Creek Trail

WWII signal Hut

Our route was to follow the Gorton Creek Trail but first we took a very short detour on the Herman Creek Cutoff Trail to check out a WWII signal hut which seemed fitting on Veterans Day.
WWII signal Hut

We started down the Gorton Creek Trail reentering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and gradually climbing Green Point Ridge.
Wilderness sign along the Gorton Creek Trail

As we approached Green Point Mountain, which is really just the highest point on the ridge, the first view to open up was of Rainy Lake and Mt. Defiance beyond.
Mt. Defiance and Rainy Lake

Rainy Lake

The Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry forĀ  Green Point Mountain mentions views of Mt. Defiance, Rainy Lake, and Mt. Adams but we quickly found that there were more views than that. Before we were able to see Mt. Adams to the north a glance behind us to the south revealed Mt. Hood rising above the tress.
Mt. Hood

A viewpoint near the summit offered the Mt. Adams, Mt. Defiance, and Rainy Lake view.
Mt. Adams, Mt. Defiance and Rainy Lake

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

The view of Mt. Hood was especially nice with a layer of clouds in the valley below it and an opening of blue sky in the clouds above.
Mt. Hood from Green Point Mountain

When we reached the summit we were a bit surprised to see Mt. Rainier join the view to the north and Mt. Jefferson to the south.
Mt. Rainier from Green Point Mountain

Mt. Jefferson and Olallie Butte
Olallie Butte and Mt. Jefferson from Green Point Mountain

Mt. Hood & Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson from Green Point Mountain

In addition the Goat Rocks were also visible between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams.
Goat Rocks from Green Point Mountain

After enjoying the surprisingly good view we began our descent. It was nearly 2pm and we’d been hiking for almost 7 hours already. I was beginning to suspect that the hike was going to be longer than what I had estimated. We tend to average right around 2mph so a 16 mile hike should take us 8 hours. We hadn’t taken any extended breaks and it didn’t feel like we’d been going particularly slowly on the climb up so extra distance was the only explanation for the time. We picked up the pace on the way down not wanting to have to rely on using lights to finish the hike in the dark.

A quarter mile from the summit we left the Gorton Creek Trail at a three-way junction. The Gorton Creek Trail headed downhill to the left and on the right the North Lake Trail came up from the lake. We stayed straight on the Green Point Ridge Trail.
Green Point Ridge Trail

We followed the wooded ridge another 2.5 miles ignoring the Plateau Cutoff Trail to the left after 1.5 miles.
Green Point Ridge Trail

The steepest section of trail we’d been on all day was the final descent down to the Wyeth Trail.
Green Point Ridge Trail descending to the Wyeth Trail junction

Once we were back on the Wyeth Trail we retraced our steps down to the power lines. Mt. St. Helens was a little more visible on our way down in the afternoon light.
Mt. St. Helens in the distance

Mt. St. Helens from the Wyeth Trail

That morning we had noticed a trail coming up from the Wyeth Campground at the power lines which appeared to be a shorter route than what we had done so when we spotted it on the way down we followed it into the campground arriving back at our car ten minutes before 5pm.

We had hiked from dawn to dusk (nearly 10 hours) without seeing anyone else on the trails. The views had been much better than expected and the lakes were all nice. One of the things that held our interest was the amazing variety of mushrooms along the way. The various colors, shapes, and sizes were impressive. Here is a small sample of that variety.
Mushrooms along the Wyeth Trail

Mushrooms

Mushroom

Mushrooms

Mushroom

Green mushrooms

Mushroom

Red mushroom

Another mushroom

Orange mushroom

Yellow mushrooms

Mushroom on a log

Mushroom groud near Black Lake

Mushrooms along the Wyeth Trail

Despite the hike turning out to be a lot longer than planned it was a great way to spend our anniversary. Happy Trails!

Categories
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 portlandhikers.com 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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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After leaving the lower meadow the trail reentered the forest.
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As the trail emerged from the trees we passed through a short stretch of thimbleberry bushes before entering a hillside filled with balsamroot.
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There were many other wildflowers mixed into the balsamroot too. We were doing our best to spot all the different varieties.
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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.
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Except for that of the meadow.
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The viewpoint as we continued up.
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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.
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A trail junction announces the final .1mi to the summit where a little balsamroot was outnumbered by some smaller yellow flowers.
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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.
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The Ausgsuprger Mt. trail headed down a narrow ridge and then wound around Dog Mt. back to the parking area.
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Along the way were many woodland flowers in the forest and the occasional view once we had descended below the clouds.
Wind Mountain:
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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.
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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!

flickr:https://www.flickr.com/photos/9319235@N02/sets/72157644304483710/
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