Hamilton Mountain

A week after Eagle Creek, we decided to try Hamilton Mountain (also in the Gorge). Our friends Nikolos and Nate came with us for this one too. This is a good, relatively easy hike, although less scenic than other trails we’ve been on. I’m guessing it’s a lot prettier in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.

Hamilton Mountain
Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
Summit at 2,488 feet
Total hike distance: 7.4 mile loop
Total elevation gain: 2,058 feet

Click for full GPS data

This hike starts climbing right away, getting right into the switchbacks. Luckily we didn’t have to go far for the first payoff – only one mile in for the waterfalls!

One of the first spots to open up to a view

Morning sun

There are actually three named waterfalls on this section of the creek, but we only caught one. You can take a side trail to the lowest one, Hardy Falls, which we didn’t do. There is another trail that heads to Pool of the Winds,  a really cool spot at the base of a fall where water plunges into an enclosed whirpool, forcing air to blow out through a big gap in the rocks. You can walk right up to it and feel the mist and air rushing out on your face, but it would be hard to take a picture without soaking the camera… so, I didn’t. 😦 I can imagine this spot would be great on a hot summer day, to cool down mid-hike. We also passed Rodney Falls, which is just along the main trail.

Rodney Falls

Another viewpoint

We summited pretty quickly, so we grabbed a spot to hang out and Paul made another awesome trail lunch. The summit is covered in a lot of brush so views, especially to the west, can be obscured.

Looking east from the summit

One final shot at the summit before heading back down

The loop descends on the other side of the summit to a ridge with great views to the east and west. It then continues on to an old abandoned road, which takes you most of the way back down.

A solid hike for sure, but not sure I’d jump at the chance to do it again. Of course, Hamilton Mountain had the disadvantage of Eagle Creek still being fresh in our minds, which was just breathtaking… so perhaps I am being too hard on it. 🙂

Eagle Creek

Our first hike of 2010! February 21, 2010 to be exact.

We started the year off relatively easy with the Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls trail. Located in the Columbia River Gorge, this hike is popular due to its relative flatness and high concentration of waterfalls (not to mention the lush green rainforest, basalt cliffs, and dizzying narrow trails blasted right out of cliff faces). I wasn’t sure what to expect this time of year, but it turns out the Gorge is gorgeous in the winter!

Now guide books told us that this trail is a 12 mile out-and-back with about 1,640 feet in elevation gain; however our GPS read somewhere around 17 miles with almost 1,900 feet elevation gain. I am not sure which is more accurate, so we’ll say it was somewhere in the middle (but definitely felt closer to 17 miles!).

Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Total hike distance:  Somewhere around 17 miles
Total elevation gain: Somewhere around 1,900 feet

Click the image for the full GPS data.

The first couple miles of this trail are particularly crowded, especially on the weekends, and can include lots of families. Luckily the crowds aren’t too bad in the middle of February. 🙂 This stretch also happens to be where some of the most breathtaking scenery is.

Trails blasted out of the rock. One misstep could be disaster!

Paul and Buckley making their way. This trail not for those with vertigo.

Matleko Falls, about 1.5 miles in.

At about the two mile mark is Punchbowl Falls, a 35-foot fall with a bowl-shaped basin. You have the option to take a side trail down to the bottom for a head-on view, or you can just continue on the trail for an overlooking viewpoint. For the love of mother, take the side trail. It is well, well worth the few extra steps. You can splash around in the swimming hole at the base of the falls, dive off of cliffs into a lower falls, or just lounge on the surrounding rocks and catch some sun.

Approaching Punchbowl as the morning sun peeks over the trees.

Looking straight at the falls, after tiptoeing over some rocks and then balancing on a fallen tree trunk.

Most people make Punchbowl Falls their turning point, so the trail is significantly less crowded carrying on from here.

One of the many babbling brooks the trail crosses.

Loowit Falls

One of many dizzying chasms along the way.

Approaching Tunnel Falls, the sun shining through the mist.

We finally reached our destination, 175-foot Tunnel Falls. The name references the trail itself, as it actually goes through a tunnel crossing right behind the rushing falls. The work to carve out this tunnel was done in 1910, and has not been touched since!

Paul and Buckley on the way back after passing behind the falls once.

Coming out from behind the falls.

Headed back… I just love this spot!

About halfway back we stopped for lunch along the creek. Paul has been experimenting with backpacking meals for when we start doing overnighters; freeze-dried stuff, certain pastas, and generally stuff that only requires adding water. And might I say, the stuff he’s come up with has been delicious. We went with orzo mac n’ cheese for this trip, and also got to try out our camp stove and cookset outdoors for the first time. Oh, and of course cans of Caldera IPA. 🙂

The stove, cups, bowls, mugs and sporks all nest into the pot so it takes up minimal space in the backpack.

Buckley takes a break too.

Does it get any cuter than this?!

I highly recommend this hike to anyone. It’s long, but it makes the elevation gain seem like less work when it’s so spread out. It’s also one of the most scenic in the Gorge, so great for visitors (even if they only want to do the first couple miles). I am really looking forward to more trips to Punchbowl Falls in the summer… that swimming area will be awesome on a 90 degree day.

Welcome to Such Great Hikes!

The time has come to move away from my former blog, Moving to PDX; after living in Portland for almost two years, I think it’s safe to say we’re out of the “moving” phase! We’ve made ourselves at home here and love every minute of it.

Since settling into life in the PNW, we’ve been spending a lot of time hiking, taking pictures, and taking pictures of hiking. I decided to launch a new blog (yep, this one here… bonus points if you get the title reference) that is focused on the trails we take on, but will still include other noteworthy stuff we do in and around Portland. I’m guessing the winter months will be more “other stuff” heavy, unless Paul can manage to drag me into the wild when it’s cold and rainy…

I am going to start posting here with 2010 hikes. We already have a few under our belt this year, so expect to see a few posts over the next few days. We did a number of hikes in 2009 as well, which I documented on the old blog. In case anyone is interested, here is a chronological rundown of them with links:

Dog Mountain
Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
Summit at 2,815 feet
Total hike distance: 6.9 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,800 feet
Blog post:

Mount Mitchell
Mt. St. Helens Wilderness Area
Summit at 3,894 feet
Total hike distance: 5.0 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,050 feet
Blog post: http://movingtopdx.blogspot.com/2009/06/mount-mitchell-and-ape-caves.html

Indian Point Loop
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Total hike distance: 7.6 miles

Total elevation gain: 2,800 feet
Blog post: http://movingtopdx.blogspot.com/2009/06/indian-point-loop.html

Mount Defiance
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side – tallest point in all the gorge!)
Summit at 4,959 feet
Total hike distance: 9.6 miles
Total elevation gain: 4,940 feet
Blog post: http://movingtopdx.blogspot.com/2009/07/defying-mt-defiance.html

South Sister
Three Sisters Wilderness (Central Oregon)
Summit at 10,358 feet
Total hike distance: 10.8 miles
Total elevation gain: 5,400 feet
Blog post: http://movingtopdx.blogspot.com/2009/08/summiting-south-sister.html

Pacific Crest Trail – Timberline Lodge to Zigzag Canyon
Mt. Hood (Oregon)
Total hike distance: 8.0 miles (although this trail, in total, is over 40 miles long)
Total elevation gain: 1,500 feet
Blog post: http://movingtopdx.blogspot.com/2009/08/camping-at-lost-lake.html