Hamilton Mountain

SpringspringspringspringSPRING! It’s here.

The cherry blossoms, rhodies, and magnolias are out in full force in PDX… finally. We’re still having a pretty cool and damp spring, but we’ve been given some little pockets of nice weather, one of which was this past Saturday. The sun was shinin’ around 1pm in Portland, so we decided, let’s GO. To the Gorge!

Hamilton Mountain
Columbia River Gorge (WA side)
Distance: ~6 miles
Elevation gain: 2100 feet
Summit at: 2480 feet

(I haven’t had my GPS for the last couple hikes, so I don’t have terribly accurate data or a map. Sorry!!)

I had a feeling this hike might be interesting when we drove through sunshine… then rain… then hail… then more sunshine, just on the ride out. That weather pretty much kept up that way through the hike. We ended up getting somewhat of a late start (left the trailhead at 4pm), but the sun setting plus the weather made for a pretty dramatic landscape. You’ll see.

Also, I did do this same hike last year, at about the same time of year – amazing how different the landscape was, I’m guessing due to the exceptionally cold and wet winter/spring we’re having this time around. I will say, I was not really impressed with Hamilton last year. Much better this time around.

The trail sets off through second-growth Doug Firs, with a pretty easy climb for the first mile. At about the one-mile mark, we came to Rodney Falls. Just as I remembered. 🙂

Rodney Falls

More Rodney Falls


Don’t miss Pool of the Winds either, a short side trail up from the main trail. Stellar geological formation… the first tier of Rodney Falls rushes down into this sort of rock cave, forcing a constant gust of wind out the front (and onto your face). Hard to take a photo of, but amazing for cooling down.

The ascent was relatively uneventful (but plenty muddy). I remembered every step of the way that I haven’t been hiking much this year… damn my legs were burning. Got some really amazing views along the way though!

At about 1.5 miles in, looking west-ish

Totally thought we were almost there. But then saw this.

We hit the summit somewhere around 5:45 or 6:00ish, and were greeted with… a wall of clouds. Looking east was hopeless, but the view to the west was pretty cool.

Lots of tall brush at the summit (looking west)

Looking east (I swear). Pretty sure I spy some rainbows on the left side of this photo.

About five minutes later, boom, the clouds cleared (kinda). Got a partial view east!

Looking back toward Table Mountain

Didn’t hang out at the summit too long, since we were racing the clock (and the park gate closing at dusk). Typically this hike is done as a loop, and you would continue past the summit and kind of loop around the back of the mountain. I did the loop last year and honestly, not worth it in my opinion, aside from the added ~1.5 miles (if you’re just going for distance). It didn’t add much to the experience. Since we were pressed for time on this day, we just headed down the way we came. Had some amazing views on the way down, as the sun was setting behind the approaching clouds.

I mean… come on. Gorgeous.

That rain is beautiful. It’s also… uh… yep, that’s headed right toward us.

Last look back from where we came. Looking nice to the east now!

Made it back to the car at 7:00 on the dot, and it was still plenty light out. And still plenty of time to hit Walking Man. I kinda like this late-in-the-day short hike thing! Had the place to ourselves.

Good early season hike for sure. Let’s make this a more regular thing already.

Edit: I’m publishing this from my parents’ house on their computer, and noticing on their monitor that a lot of the photos look way overexposed. Wondering if it’s just their monitor settings, or do they look blown out to anyone else?

Columbia River Gorge

Waterfalls!! Somehow these never get old.

A few weekends ago (yeah, I’m tardy on this post!) I hit the Gorge with several co-workers (Team Jive: Matt, Kevin, Phil, Christy, Michael, Erin and myself) to do a series of short hikes/waterfall stops. We happened to catch some amazing weather. Cold temps, but came right after a bout of winter weather in the Portland area (snow?!?! OMGWTFBBQ!!!). This made for some truly astounding scenery as most of the waterfall areas were frozen over.

First trail was up to Latourell Falls. Ordinarily this is a pretty easy trek, however on this day we had a wildcard: ice. Everywhere! Several sections of trail were completely frozen over, making for some pretty interesting ice patch crossings. I didn’t mind, it added some excitement to the day. 🙂

The first of many icy spots

Trying to make our way down the trail (completely frozen) at Upper Latourell Falls. Me? I slid down on my butt. Bumpy but efficient.

Just as Kevin started sliding down.

Every single blade of grass, twig, string of moss… frozen.


The one little bit of sunshine we saw. 🙂

Hanging out up at the top of Lower Latourell.

So cold, even the sap was frozen.

Wonky tree.

Lower Latourell Falls.

It had this kind of lit-from-within look. Beautiful.

Uphill trail covered in a sheet of ice? No chance. We improvised and climbed up a little cutoff… still plenty challenging, it was also frozen.

More frozenness.

After Latourell, we stopped off at Bridal Veil Falls, a short half mile hike off the historic highway. Took a couple shots and headed back.

Bridal Veil Falls

The team

An off-the-side-of-the-road waterfall that I forget the name of. Shame on me.

Since we had an out-of-towner with us, we decided to swing by Multnomah Falls just so he could say he’s seen it. Now, I usually love to make fun of Multnomah Falls for its numerous tourist trap qualities. Soft serve ice cream, espresso bars, gift shops, strollers and grandparents as far as the eye can see (which is still pretty funny). But on this day, I was actually once again amazed by this place, which I never thought would happen again. I’d never seen it frozen over. Gorgeous.

Multnomah Falls

Put a bird on it (see it?).

The freezing mist created big ole piles of fluffy snow at the bottom of the falls.

From the bridge, looking down over the lower part of the fall.

Last trek was out to Elowah Falls, about another 2-2.5 mile loop. More ice on the trails, although this one was more snowy than anything. We did come across some pretty rad icicles. I didn’t consider it at the time, but in retrospect, I probably should have been more nervous about one of these breaking off right over my head. 🙂 Elowah was probably my favorite waterfall of the day, although it was SO powerful that the mist prevented me from taking many photos. 😦 Only got a couple, and they didn’t really capture it properly, IMO.

Ice crossing! Pretty certain I scooted across this one too. I’m lazy like that.

Man-sized icicles!

What? This seems like a perfectly safe place to stand.

Traversing more ice. Thankful for that handrail right about now.

The bottom of Elowah

Elowah Falls

And, because sometimes I like to make an appearance on my own blog (so what?), here are a few of Kevin’s photos from the day:

Matt schooling me in something.

A perpetual state of wonderment.

A totally organic, definitely not posed, moment.

Stellar day. So glad we made it out on this day… I feel like we lucked out and got to see something pretty special. Even better that it was with an awesome group of people. Of course, after a day of chasing waterfalls, it only made sense to hit Hood River for some Double Mountain… and then SE Portland for some Cascade Brewing Barrel House… and then Cartopia for some Wiffie’s Fried Pies. #loveportland

Hiking and backpacking season is right around the corner! Been thinking about it a lot lately. Can’t wait to get back out there…

Angel’s Rest

Happy New Year everyone!!

Now that we are ushering in a new year, it’s time to reset the miles hiked/elevation gained widget on the right. How did 2010 wrap up?

21 hikes (including 9 overnighters)
181 miles
43,900 feet

Not bad!

After a three-month hiatus (man that was painful to type), we decided to start 2011 out right! On a frigid New Year’s Day, we headed out to the Gorge to get in our first hike of the year. It was sort of a baby hike, mostly because of my irrational fear of hiking at high elevation in the winter… I think I’m coming around to that idea though. Angel’s Rest seemed like a good first step to winter hiking, since it’s a relatively short/low hike, and there was a little bit of snow but still a very visible trail. As it turned out, the snow should have been the least of my concerns. The ice-covered trail and insane gusting winds were much more likely to cause damage!

Also, I wanted to note, I’ve noticed lately that when I shrink photos down a bit for display on the blog page, WordPress is making them a bit blurry. If any photos particularly interest you, I recommend clicking on the photo to enlarge (and get a clearer view).

Angel’s Rest
Columbia River Gorge (OR side)
Total hike distance: 4.62 miles
Total elevation gain: 1,733 feet
“Summit” at:~1,600 feet

Click map for full GPS data

Did I mention it was bitter cold on Saturday?? Probably not by back-home Michigan standards, but I’m sure I’ve gotten a little soft since moving out west. 🙂 Temps were hanging out right around freezing (34 degrees or so), but the real kicker was the wind. It was a constant wind, but with gusts so strong they could knock a man down. Alas, we bundled up in lots of layers and headed up. Once we got into the trees, the wind was blocked pretty well (for a while) and we were quite comfortable.

After about a half mile we came to Coopey Falls, where we had a decent view, but an even better viewpoint was just a little ways further along and down a pretty steep (but short) spur trail. This takes you to the base of Upper Coopey Falls, a very pretty cascading fall. Well worth the extra few steps, although it was a bit tricky with the ice that had formed on the trail. Gotta be careful here.

Coopey Falls from the main trail

Upper Coopey Falls (forgot my tripod – this was the least blurry of all the photos I took here)

The steep cutoff that leads back up to the main trail

Feeding the upper falls… love all the icicles!

The next bit of trail was pretty straightforward, with several nice views across the Gorge along the way. We started to see snow around 900′ or so, and at about 1050′ things got really icy.

Looking across the Gorge

Onto some snow now, and even a tiny bit of sunshine

The snowy parts weren’t too bad, but the ice was killer. I couldn’t even take any photos of the real icy parts, since it was all I could do to just keep myself upright. The wind had also picked back up since we were more or less out of the trees, throwing another obstacle in the loop.

A glimpse at our destination

Rockslide crossing, not too far from the top

While certainly slippery and windy, for the most part the hike was manageable as long as we were being careful. How quickly things changed once we got to the very top! With no trees or rock for protection, that wind just blasted the hell out of us. Add that to the fact that the ground beneath our feet was a sheet of ice, and I began to wonder if I wouldn’t just be pushed along like a hockey puck right over the edge. So I clung to the rocks and stayed low to the ground instead. 🙂 Am I being a little dramatic? Maybe, but I felt a bit like I was taking a hurricane to the face. We decided not to climb to the very tippy top since that would be a little too dicey. I also didn’t take many photos at the top since I really just wanted to get down.

I regret not taking video here, but you can tell by Paul’s pants and Buckley’s ears that it was windy. That is absolutely the stance we had to take, head and body weight straight into the wind, to not be blown over.

So, we headed back down the trail. Once we got back down a little ways back into the boulder field, we grabbed some rock and took a break.

Very nice views looking west over the Gorge

Break time on the rocks

Buckley hot on his heels!

Buckles hearts the snow

After a brief break, we headed down. I thought hiking up on the icy trail was challenging… heading down was quite the spectacle! I felt like Bambi on that ice. So many wibbles and wobbles and near-falls (well, some actual falls) and flailing my arms wildly to catch myself. I caught Paul laughing at me a couple times. It was like a perfect chute of ice, dare I say Olympic Bobsled-grade. Despite my clumsiness, the hike out was relatively uneventful, especially once we got back on solid (dirt) ground. Lots of people on their way up, glad we got an early-ish start.

Another westerly shot of the Gorge

Straight across the Gorge

Not sure why this was here, but it was a pretty little thing

Whoa heavy icicles! Crossing back over the top of Coopey Falls.

While this was kind of a n00b hike, it was a good one (for me) to get back into the groove. I agree with a lot of trip reports that call this a good bang-for-your-buck hike… minimal effort but stellar scenery and views.

Looking forward to getting out there more. I recently acquired some gaiters and rain pants, just a few more pieces of equipment and we’ll probably be ready for snow camping. If anyone has any good recommendations for winter camping, please leave them in the comments! 🙂

Elk Meadow and Gnarl Ridge

Holy tardy blog post Batman! It is embarrassing how long it has taken to post this. Almost as embarrassing as how long it’s been since our last hike. 😦

So, uh, our last real hike was two months ago. The term WTF?!? immediately comes to mind, for two reasons: 1) I’m just posting about it now, and 2) how have we not gone on a hike in two months?! Of course, it’s November in Portland and the weather has turned less than stellar. Not like that’s a good reason for not getting out. It’s simply a convenient excuse. Paul has been working on me to actually go about our normal hike/camp activities in the rainy/snowy/cold weather. I’m slowly but surely coming around to the idea, but need some more appropriate gear first.

Back to two months ago. My mother-in-law Joyce and step-father-in-law Tom flew out from Michigan to visit us for a weekend. We had a fabulous weekend of eating and drinking and wine tasting and more eating and drinking (naturally), but I think all of us were most excited for a day of hiking. In Michigan, there isn’t much (or any) mountain hiking to be done, or anything terribly high elevation for that matter, so we really wanted to show Joyce and Tom a great time. Nice trail, maybe some water features, mountain views, decent distance and climbing… really wanted to fit it all in to one perfect hike. The weather in the city wasn’t looking great that day, so we decided to head over to the Elk Meadow/Gnarl Ridge trail on the other side of the mountain to catch some sun. We had perfectly blue skies and sunshine all day! Leaves were also starting to turn color, so we were treated to an all-around beautiful day.

Elk Meadow to Gnarl Ridge
Mt. Hood (east side)
Total hike distance: 11.87 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,638 feet

Click map for full GPS data

Picking up our wilderness permit

The trail starts out nice and easy until crossing the Newton Creek, then the climbing starts. When deciding which hike to do, I wanted to be sure we didn’t choose one too long or intense for our guests; not an insult to them, but Michigan is awfully flat, so I just wasn’t sure what level would be appropriate! They are super into mountain biking so assured me they were up for anything. After all my worry, they ended up kicking my ass up and down the mountain (big surprise, I know… I’m always the slowest).

Buckley doesn’t need no stinkin’ bridges! Crossing Clark Creek, an easy crossing on a footbridge.

Approaching the Newton Creek crossing

Newton Creek

Cairns lead the way through the rocky creekbeds

After crossing the creek, there are a series of fairly steep switchbacks that bring you up to a 4-way intersection of trails. You can take a more direct route to Gnarl Ridge from here, but we opted to go straight on the Elk Meadow Perimeter trail for a short detour that goes around Elk Meadow – well worth the extra 1.2 miles. You get a stellar view of Hood, the beautiful meadow, and can hang out at the shelter for a snack break.

The gang at Elk Meadow

The shelter just a little ways down the trail. We plan to camp here sometime soon!

View from the shelter

Tom and Joyce

Paul played photographer for a while 🙂

After a brief break at the shelter, we continued on our way. The trail from there hooks back up with the Gnarl Ridge trail and is pretty slow and steady,  interesting but fairly uneventful as you are winding through forests without much of a view. Then after about a mile you turn onto the familiar Timberline Trail, and get to that wonderful ~6,000 foot subalpine level. At about this point you round a bend and come back into full view of Hood, not to mention the expansive view of Adams and St. Helens to your right. The subalpine zone is always my favorite when moving through elevations; I love the adorable little Hemlocks and Firs and Pines and rocky terrain and krummholz formations (stunted, twisted, and crooked trees caused by fierce winds and little shelter).

Getting into the subalpine

Actually not certain if this is a Hemlock or Fir or something else entirely…

This section of trail takes you right around Lamberson Butte (which you can scramble up if you feel adventurous), and from there you are above treeline heading straight up Gnarl Ridge.

Gnarl Ridge leading up to Hood

Looking back out behind us, you can just barely make out Mt. Jefferson in the haze (we could just barely see the Sisters as well, but the camera didn’t pick it up)

Finally… beer and lunch break!

There are several ways to get back down the mountain, aside from taking the same trail that we took on the way up. We decided to make a loop of it. Rather than taking the Gnarl Ridge trail back down, we stayed on the Timberline trail which follows along the rushing Newton Creek. We started out high above the creek, but the trail eventually makes its way down to the creek itself, where we were left to figure out how the hell to cross it!

Remains of a stone shelter crushed by avalanche

Thank goodness for cairns to show us the way

When we got down to the creek, the trail kind of disintegrated into a creek bed of boulders and sand. It was not immediately obvious where we were supposed to cross the creek, which was much deeper and wider and faster than it initially appeared. We almost made the mistake of “just going for it” before discovering just a little ways down, there were some logs thrown across the creek. Turns out there were a few pink-taped branches sticking out of the rocks to guide the way that we had initially missed. Glad we found it! Although, it was still a fairly nerve-wracking crossing. Those logs were not particularly stable and that water was not slowing down for us.

The “bridge”

We all made it, some of us on all fours 🙂

On the other side

After crossing the creek, we followed more of the brightly-colored posts to a fun scramble that gets you back up onto the trail. Someone was kind enough to tie up some rope here to help hoist ourselves up.

Pretty much a straight shot from the creek bed up to here… maybe 20 or 25 feet? So much fun!

The rest of the hike out was uneventful but beautiful. The fall colors were starting to show themselves so we had plenty to marvel at.

A little natural spring that had… well, sprung

Farewell Mt. Hood

I have to admit, now two months later, I’m probably forgetting a lot of details on this one! I do remember that is was a huffer and puffer, but just beautiful. I have no idea what kind of shape this trail would be in now… I’m guessing covered in snow?

We’ve spent a lot of time at the indoor rock gym over the last month or two, working on our bouldering. Bouldering is addictive! I’ve conquered a pretty decent handful of V0’s thus far, and Paul has gotten several V1’s under his belt. Sadly, Paul suffered a sprained ankle a couple weeks ago so it’s put a little hold on things, but here’s hoping we’ll be back at it soon. This seems like the perfect time to get some low-elevation Gorge hikes in!

Dollar Lake

Whoa, it’s been a while. Three weeks since our last trip! I do believe that’s the longest we’ve gone since the spring. The week after Labor Day, we had another at-home weekend, and the week after that, Paul was gallivanting in LA while I went to Vegas with my Mom. Finally, this weekend, we made it out once again! It felt pretty damn good.

Summer is definitely winding down, and our high-elevation camping options are getting more limited (with the gear we currently have). We decided to head up to Dollar Lake (via Pinnacle Ridge Trail) on Mt. Hood before most of the mountain is covered in snow.

Dollar Lake via Pinnacle Ridge
Mt. Hood Wilderness (north side of Hood)
Total distance round-trip: 7.82 miles (including a small side trip to view Elk Cove)
Total elevation gain: 2,283 feet
Dollar Lake elevation: 5,960 feet

Click map for full GPS data

The original plan was to also hike up Barrett Spur after setting up camp, but we got a bit of a late start and ended up cutting it a little too close on time. I was pretty okay with that, as the hike in proved to be more demanding than I expected!

Stream crossing on the Pinnacle Ridge Trail

The Pinnacle Ridge Trail started out pretty gentle, which I was ever so grateful for (it’s amazing what taking a few weeks off can do to you). From the start, this trail is gorgeous. Huge trees and rock fields and streams and flowers. 🙂 After the forgiving start, it wasn’t long before I was painfully aware that it had been a while since we’d done any real elevation gain. The trail quickly turns upward and has some pretty steep sections to climb. Despite my burning muscles and lungs, it felt pretty damn good to exert myself that way again.

One of the steep chutes to climb

After a couple miles, we emerged from the woods and into the beautiful Pinnacle Meadow. This section is pretty amazing with all the reds and golds, but very, very muddy and swampy. We somehow missed the use path that skirts around the right side, and instead headed straight up the main trail. Whoops. We had to tread very carefully here to avoid boots and ankles being swallowed by mud. Luckily we passed another hiker coming back down on the use path, so we knew it was over there for the return trip.

Wading through chest-deep brush

Just reaching Pinnacle Meadow

After cutting through the meadow the trail takes a left back into the woods, which was a relief (although still a bit of mud to deal with there). After a few more steep climbs, the Pinnacle Ridge Trail meets up with the Timberline Trail. Relief! Once we got there, we knew there wasn’t much climbing left.

Right after making a left onto the Timberline Trail (St. Helens has almost no snow on it!)

The side trail to Dollar Lake is only a few tenths of a mile further, and can be somewhat difficult to spot. I guess we weren’t looking hard enough, because we missed it. Luckily we knew that if we came to a point where we had a view of Mt. Hood and Elk Cove below, we had gone too far. So, once we got to that point we turned around, and chalked it up to a little scenic side trip. 🙂 For future reference, the Dollar Lake trail is off to the right, and has three pretty large cairns at the base (which we also somehow missed). We had read that the side tail is about 370 steps back from the point where you first see Mt. Hood, so when we turned around, we started counting. Turns out it was pretty accurate!

Our first really good view of Hood

As I was standing there, this loud thing came flying right over my head… Drone maybe? They do make them in Hood River…

Looking down over Elk Cove, right before turning around and backtracking

We found the trail this time, and climbed a couple tenths of a mile further to Dollar Lake. The “lake” is little more than a pond, but it is perfectly round like a coin. The campsite right by the water was taken, as was the one across from that spot, but we found a great site just over a little ridge. No view of the water, but stellar views of Hood, Elk Cove, Barrett Spur, and the range to the north. Not to mention the bright fall colors that are coming out right now.

Home for the night

My little Buckles

Paul cutting some firewood

I was a little obsessed with the foliage

Adams and Rainier

Just chillin’

Okay, I had to post this one too, I think Buckley’s expression is hilarious

After getting everything set up, I got a fire going and we settled in for the night. It was a gorgeous night, completely clear sky with one of the brightest moons I’ve ever seen. We hardly needed headlamps it was so bright!

Right before sunset (click image to view larger)

Buckley playing with his new buddy Rory 🙂

Adams and Rainier at sunset

The only picture I got of Dollar Lake

At some point during the night, the wind started to seriously pick up. Our little tent took quite a beating, but held up just fine. We decided to get up early enough to see the sunrise. It was still incredibly windy with gale-force gusts (making it awfully difficult to take a clear picture), and a little bit of rain had started to move in. Slightly unpleasant, but so worth it.

Good morning

Click to view the panorama a bit larger

The mist moving over Elk Cove

After a few photos, we decided to go back to bed for a while and just let the wind and drizzle pass. It did not pass. We eventually had to drag ourselves out of the tent around 10am to even gustier winds and harder rain (I wasn’t able to take any more photos because of the blowing rain). Not exactly the conditions you hope for when camping, but, we dealt with it. Our gear was pretty wet by the time we got everything packed up and on our backs. Once we were back on the trail, the wind immediately died down, but the rain/mist/drizzle persisted. Remember those muddy, swampy areas we fought through on the way up? Yeah, those are even more fun when heading downhill after a rain. I nearly lost my right foot in what felt like quicksand at one point. We were able to find the use path back down Pinnacle Meadow though, so at least that part wasn’t too bad. Once we were through that section, we were back to the chest-deep brush crowding the trail. This time, all those leaves were wet, so any remaining square inch of dry clothing was done for as we charged through. We finished the hike out in wet clothes, wet boots, and with wet gear strapped to our backs. Which really, isn’t quite as miserable as it sounds.

So glad we got at least one more mountain camping trip in before it starts snowing up there. Paul is trying very hard to convince me to camp in the snow… we’ll see. 🙂