Alright, we may as well start a Gorge checklist.
This weekend we headed back into the Gorge once again to hike to Nesmith Point, a true endurance-tester that a lot of mountain climbers use as training. The distance and elevation gain don’t seem too daunting on paper, but it’s the fact that it is a constant, steady uphill battle (pun intended) rather than some other hikes where you get a break between excruciatingly steep sections. My legs were burning the entire way up. This time around we were joined by a co-worker of mine, Matt (Sales Engineer at Jive) and his wife Kelly. And of course, after all my talk about what hardcore hikers Paul and I are, they kicked our butts to the top. Figures!
Tops out at around 3,870 feet
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Total hike distance: 11.01 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,793 feet
Click image for full GPS data
The trail does not start out too steeply – pretty standard stuff. After the first mile or so, the trail takes you up! Steep switchbacks for the next few miles kept my legs screaming.
Starting out pretty flat, with great scenery.
Peeking through the trees, we had a view across the Gorge to Hamilton Mountain on the left and Table Mountain on the right. Bagged both of those summits this year!
Kelly and Matt: Adventurers.
We got in some good quality sunshine on this one!
We were a little apprehensive about tackling this trail this weekend; after an unusually cold and rainy week, the snow levels were a little low in the Gorge (as in, more snow at lower elevations). We watched the trip reports and checked snow levels carefully. Luckily we had warm sunny days on Friday and Saturday, so some of it melted and we decided to go for it. We encountered snow starting at about 3,000 feet, but this also happened to be about the time that the trail leveled off a bit so it did not present a problem.
The first patches of snow.
Just Buckley, just wearin’ a backpack, just eatin’ some snow.
We finally made it to the top, but wait… what the… where’s the view? The expansive, sweeping view of the Gorge we’ve become so accustomed to?? Turns out Nesmith Point does not overlook the Gorge, but rather the woods below. Whomp whomp!
The pointy rock behind Matt is the actual, USGS certified Nesmith Point.
There was a spot near the point that offered a view looking West (Portland is somewhere waaay in the distance), but not quite as majestic as our usual views.
All the guide books and hike descriptions we had consulted said that while there wasn’t much of a view at the true “point,” if we traversed a ways down the slope at the top we’d come upon a much better view of the entire Gorge. We trudged up and down this damn slope three times looking for this coveted spot, and could not find it! There were several other parties up there as well who couldn’t find it either (most of them using the same book that we have), so we didn’t feel so bad. We did find one clearing that offered a partial view.
Mt. St. Helens over the Gorge.
After a lunch break at the top (enjoyed some more Mountain House freeze-dried noms… man that stuff is good!), we started back down the trail. This is an out-and-back hike, so we descended the same trail that we ascended on. My knees are still thanking me.
One last look from the viewpoint.
4.6 miles and we’re homefree.
I don’t know which is worse, the way up or the way down! Gasping for breath on the ascent, or hearing the insides of my knees getting mashed with each step on the descent. But you know it’s all worth it. 🙂 At least on the way down, I had more of a chance to take pictures.
New life on dead life.
Let’s get serious here, okay guys?
Fiddlehead fern! I wanted to sautee it up right there.
Lots of big boulders on the trail to climb over.
Hey, that’s the rockslide we climbed up last week on Table Mountain!
Some neato bark.
One of the many obligatory “Paul and Buckley on the trail” shots. They never get old to me. 🙂
I believe these are Tall Bluebells… someone correct me if I am wrong! Bleeding Hearts.
Break time (i.e. waiting for me to catch up).
An old rockslide taken over by moss.
For my Mom, who won’t be happy unless there’s a picture of me somewhere…
We actually made it back in pretty decent time. Dare I say, we even hauled ass. Including about an hour at the top, we finished in about six hours. Not bad for 10 miles and 3,800 feet!
Celebration beer (we also had beer at the summit, how did I not take a picture of that??).
This is a pretty straightforward hike overall. There aren’t any intersecting trails, so it would be difficult to get lost unless there is lots of snow and you are making fresh tracks; the only exception being that elusive “view of the entire Gorge,” which I am still not convinced exists. We were definitely feeling this hike the next day though… sitting through the Monday morning Sales meeting for almost two hours was borderline torture (who schedules a meeting at 8am on Monday morning anyway?). Lack of stellar viewpoint aside, this is still a solid hike.