McNeil Point

Wow.

On quite possibly our most amazing hike so far, we headed up to McNeil Point on Sunday with fellow Jiver and hiking enthusiast Matt (who also joined us on Nesmith Point earlier this summer… congrats on being the first repeat special guest! :)). Inspired by some recent trip reports, it looked like the time was right for this hike, with the snow on its way out and the wildflowers still in full bloom. This was only our second hike actually on Mt. Hood, and it brought us closer to the summit than we’ve been before. It’s a humbling experience to say the least.


McNeil Point
Mt. Hood National Forest
McNeil Point Shelter: ~6,100 feet; McNeil Point: ~6,870 feet
Total hike distance: 11.48 miles (including trip up McNeil Ridge)
Total elevation gain: 3,312 feet (including trip up McNeil Ridge)


Click map for full GPS data


We started up the trail at Top Spur trailhead (about 3,940 feet), and while it started climbing right out of the gate, it was pretty gentle.Β This hike is absolutely full of breathtaking views at every turn, with the first one coming around .7 miles in. We rounded a bend on the trail and came face to face with monstrous Mt. Hood. Note: Not only is the trail full of views, but also full of confusing junctions. There are trails criss-crossing all over this area… if you’re heading up, make sure you have clear directions as it’s easy to make a wrong turn (which we actually did at one point, and had to backtrack). The directions in the Sullivan book were pretty solid.



Well hello, Hood


Blankets of wildflowers


On a typical hike the major payoff view comes at the end of your climb. This time, we were spoiled with amazing views of Mt. Hood right away! And not only were we treated to mountain views the entire way (which you’ll see), but I’m pretty sure that we saw every single variety of wildflower that we’ve ever seen and then some, all on this hike. Ridiculous.



Matt (and Buckley’s butt)


I couldn’t resist the Tiger Lily


I am pretty sure these are Subalpine Mariposa Lily – anyone know for sure?





At about 3.5 miles or so, we came to a pair of shallow but perfectly clear tarns reflecting the mountain above. This part was a little confusing as the trail forks and it’s not obvious which one you should take (FYI, you can either fork right just after the first tarn, or go a bit further on the left-hand trail and take an unmarked side trail to the right that spurs off by the second tarn and meets up with the main trail). From the tarns you have a clear view of McNeil Point above.



The far point directly below the Hood summit is where we’re headed


You will know you are on the right trail when you hit this McNeil Point sign about .3 miles after the tarns. Despite this very clear sign, later on we saw people hiking through the protected meadow. Hey, you suck.





Shortly after this point we started to hit snow. We were expecting and prepared for a lot of snow, and in the middle of a sunny day we were fully expecting to post-hole through it. It actually ended up not being too bad. Most of the snow patches were pretty packed down with clear boot tracks to step in, the other parts were soft enough to kick in your own steps. At about the same time we encountered snow, we also encountered ridiculous views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. I just can’t get enough of this.



Mt. Adams in the distance


That tree looks a little threatening…


Looking back over the outflow of the Glisan Glacier with (L to R) Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainer and Mt. Adams


Most of the trail was clear of snow, but there were a few large snowfields to cross. It looks worse than it was. It was pretty comfortable to cross even without poles. It was also a very hot and sunny day, so I took advantage of the snow by mashing handfuls of it against my forehead and the back of my neck for quick cool-downs. πŸ™‚



The first big snow field


Another wildflower first for us! Got to see some Western Pasque Flower, also known as “Hippie on a Stick.” Heheee!


Before we knew it, we were at the McNeil Point shelter. This is a great place to declare victory and have some lunch, but the trail does continue up from here to the actual McNeil Point, adding another 800 feet or so of climbing. I think most people do turn around at the shelter, but that trail was beckoning to us…



McNeil Point Shelter


The trail just kept going… how could we stop??


We decided to press on and get to that point. It doesn’t look all that far away, but man… it’s up there. I struggled with this last stretch. I could only take about ten steps before I had to pause and catch my breath (I distinctly remember this feeling from South Sister!). Paul was crushing it, but little by little I made my way up.



Buckley stood there and cheered me on until I made it up this part. He is awesome.


About halfway up this extra hike I had to sit down for a minute. So did Buckley. πŸ™‚



Taking it in


The trail ends at that big rock outcropping just to the right of middle


So I have to admit… I didn’t make it all the way to the very end. I stopped probably a tenth of a mile short, and decided to hang back to take pictures of Paul. I was proud of myself for getting as far as I did anyway, since I really wasn’t sure if I could make it up the ridge. In any case, this is the closest either of us had been to Hood’s summit. It felt like it was right there! I felt microscopic next to this beast.



Almost there…


Made it!


After taking it in for a minute, we headed back to the shelter area for a quick lunch and then our return trip. The descent was relatively uneventful, but it was nice to revisit all of the gorgeous views again.



Hippies!


The view on the descent


Thousands of Avalanche Lilies


We did briefly meet one PCT thru-hiker when we were almost done. It was the first time we’d met one in person, very exciting! People actually backpack the entire Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada, over the course of several months. That’s 2,650 miles of walking. The woman we met (I regret I didn’t ask her name) was French, and had started from the Mexico border 3 1/2 months ago by herself. She said it was more difficult than she though it would be – not the hiking so much, but being dirty all the time. I totally identify! I feel so grimey after one day I can’t imagine what several weeks or months feels like. Even so, the thought of conquering the PCT is enticing… what an accomplishment. Maybe next year.


This was one of the most enjoyable hikes yet, and we will undoubtedly return. There were lots of great campsites along the way, so I have a feeling this will turn into a backpacking trip in the near future… πŸ™‚


p.s. I am just about to wrap up a beginner photography class that I have been taking for the last few weeks, which has been awesome! The day before this hike my class went on a little photo outing around downtown Portland. I uploaded some of my favorite shots to my Flickr photostream, if you’d like to see them you can click on the “More Photos” link in the Recent Photos box to the right!

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Soda Peaks Lake… sort of.

We had been wanting to hit Soda Peaks Lake for some time, which was still snow-covered as recently as a few weeks ago. After seeing some reports that the lake was snow-free (hooray!) we headed there this past weekend. And yes, it’s now Friday and I’m just now getting this post up. It’s been a crazy week! The lake is situated between the eastern and western Soda Peaks, and has two trails coming in from either direction. We chose the western trail starting from Trapper Creek, which is an easier route (no, we didn’t wuss out… there is apparently a washed out bridge blocking the other trailhead).



Ready to go! Taken with my phone (and no makeup) πŸ™‚


This hike and the lake are absolutely, absurdly gorgeous, and provided the backdrop for a perfect weekend… with one colossal fail. I broke my camera. Yep… I was totally heartbroken. What happened, you ask? Well, when we arrived at camp, as per usual I set my camera down on top of one of the logs surrounding the fire pit. All was fine and good, until Buckley decided to start snacking on the end of said log, which of course caused the log to roll a bit, which of course dumped my camera off the side. Right into his water bowl. Totally my bad for setting it down right by the water bowl, so I guess I can only blame myself. But man, what a bummer! I did manage to take a few photos before this unfortunate incident, and took a few with my phone, so that’s what we’ve got to work with this time. The good news! I had already been saving up for an upgrade. The upgrade came a little sooner than I had planned, but all things happen for a reason right? I got my new camera earlier this week and cannot wait to hit the trail with it!


Soda Peaks Lake
Trapper Creek Wilderness, Gifford Pinchot National Forest (SW Washington)
Lake is at 3,770 feet
Total hike distance: 4.53 miles
Total elevation gain: 1,273 feet


Click map for full GPS data


Be warned! The mosquitos at the Soda Peaks Lake trailhead are vicious. They started swarming the moment we stepped out of the car. Even after dousing myself in bug spray, they still attacked. I think the key is just to move as quickly as possible. There were tons of the little buggers at the lake as well; not as bad as the trailhead, but still very annoying. I counted 23 bites when I got home, and that was with frequent re-ups of bug spray.


This is a pretty aggressive little hike in. Even though it’s short, it’s a climb. On a hot, sunny day it felt pretty intense… but it was over before I knew it. Once you reach the ridge, you then descend pretty rapidly down to the lake.



Toward the beginning of the trail


There were lots of wildflowers along the way, lots of the same ones from Devil’s Peak; Bunchberry, Columbia Windflower, Queen’s Cup, Foamflower, etc.



A blanket of green


Entering Trapper Creek Wildnerness area


The highest point of the hike is up on a ridge; once you reach that ridge, the views are amazing. You can see Adams, Goat Rocks, and Rainier, and you can also see down to our destination, Soda Peaks Lake.



Mt. Adams looming over Soda Peaks Lake


Looking down to Soda Peaks Lake, you can also see Goat Rocks at the far left of the horizon


Once we were on our way down to the lake, I was just delighted to see hundreds and hundreds of Avalanche Lilies! I haven’t seen these in person before, so naturally I was just tickled (literally squealing with every new bunch of them we spotted).



One Avalanche Lily standing alone


A whole bunch of Avalanche Lilies!


After descending about 600 feet or so, we were at the lake. It is just beautiful… my camera met its demise before I could take photos of the lake, so you’ll just have to trust me! When you first get to the lake, there is a very large campsite right where the trail meets the water. It is large and has a great view, but also… it’s right on the trail. We had bumped into a father and daughter earlier who recommended heading around the lake a bit to a more secluded site, which is what we did. We turned right off the main trail, on a much narrower trail that took us around the edge of the lake (you do have to climb over a few fallen trees along the way). The campsite was just perfect, right on the water but still felt secluded. We saw a family of four take the main campsite, but didn’t see any other people the whole time (very nice!).



Our campsite (taken with my phone)


Sometime during the evening, we heard a very loud BOOM! in the distance, which sounded an awful lot like a big tree falling. Trees fall, it happens, but it did make me a bit nervous about the trees around our site. One in particular was poised and ready to fall, but was leaning precariously against a neighboring tree (which happened to be right next to our fire and tent). We kept a close eye on that one!



Please don’t fall!


For a lake at 3,700 feet, the water was remarkably warm. Had it been just a tad warmer outside I would have jumped right in. I did wade in up to my knees to play fetch with Buckles though, and it was quite nice. I did manage to get a couple lake shots with my phone.



Looking across the lake at a rock slide


The sun shining on the lake


We had a delightful evening (despite the skeeters) beside a roaring fire, with lots of food and coffee and beer and wine. And of course, a very restful night’s sleep. We woke up early the next morning, made some breakfast and packed up. I was sad to leave… this is such a pretty little lake. I can’t wait to come back and take some proper photos. And do some swimming!

Devil’s Peak

This is a hike that taught me not to go in too cocky. Eight miles, 3200 feet elevation gain… meh, that’s not so bad. Lesson learned!

This weekend we took on Devil’s Peak (via Cook Creek Trailhead) for the first time with Don, one of Paul’s coworkers. Devil’s Peak is tucked away in the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness of the Mt. Hood National Forest, a little southwest of Hood.


Devil’s Peak
Mt. Hood National Forest, Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness
Summit at 5,045 feet
Total hike distance: 8 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,200 feet
(Our GPS data is slightly off near the trailhead, but mostly accurate)


Click map for full GPS data

The trailhead is right off the side of the road, it will sneak up on you!


Two words: butt-kicker. The hike report I had read on this hike was terribly dramatic, with tales of endless climbing, gasping for air and sweating uncontrollably; at first I figured someone was exaggerating the details in order to tell a good story, but quickly realized that that is exactly how it is. It became painfully clear that I have been slacking this year (I can’t speak for the guys though, who bounded up the trail with no trouble… almost like they were part machine… hmm…).The trail is steep right out of the gate, with absolutely no warmup time. The first mile or so is pretty brutal, climbing up and up through dense forest. After that mile, the trail is slightly tamer, and starts to open up to gorgeous viewpoints. The trail is also lined with tons of wildflowers the entire way, including several I haven’t seen in person before, which was a nice distraction from my racing heart and profuse sweating.



Tons of Salal everywhere


Some Cascade Lily right where the trail starts to open up to the views – this was the only bunch on the entire trail


Red Paintbrush



The trail is over so slightly more forgiving after that first mile, but is always climbing at a pretty steady grade. There are a few spots with well-worn side trails to viewpoints and campsites along the way, perfect opportunities to catch your breath and take in views of Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and even Mt. Rainier on a clear day (which we had, woot!). It took most of my energy to even stay within sight of the guys ahead of me, so I really didn’t take too many photos on the way up. My mission was just to get there without keeling over. All physical over-exertion aside, this is a really enjoyable hike. Great scenery, and you really feel like you’re working hard toward something. It makes the summit feel that much more awesome.


A gentler side to the trail


You know you are close when you come to the junction with the Hunchback Mountain Trail; you make a right here, and very shortly thereafter is the glorious “<— Devil’s Peak Lookout” sign pointing you to the left toward the summit. It felt great to get to the summit on this one and breathe a collective sigh of relief. There are little wildflowers everywhere carpeting the ground; Phlox, Paintbrush, Larkspur, and I’m kicking myself for not taking a picture of the Subalpine Mariposa Lily, which is apparently somewhat uncommon. The views are fantastic and the weather was perfect – I could have stayed up there for hours. Actually, we did spend quite a bit of time hanging out up there, drinking beers and just relaxing. Super fun.



Don and Paul enjoying a very well-deserved summit beer


View of Mt. Jefferson from the summit


There is a very cool fire lookout situated at the summit here, which you can actually overnight in if it’s not already claimed. I’m not sure if I could sleep there though; it’s pretty dirty and there are reports of mice scurrying about at night. I think I’d prefer a tent.



The old fire lookout


View from the lookout


Giant shutters around the outsides


The way up


The bed looks inviting and all…


The lookout was surprisingly stocked with wood, supplies, snacks, fresh water and toilet paper… if you did decide to make a night of it, you’d be all set (and I can easily see how one might get to Devil’s Peak and not want to leave). There is supposed to be a log book somewhere, but all I saw were some nonetheless entertaining notes on a single piece of paper from visitors over last year.



Josh, Cody and Toby had a badass weekend.


The view of Hood out the front door


If you take the narrow trail past the summit, down and to the left a little ways, you come to another amazing viewpoint (on a small and steep rocky slope though, use extreme caution!) with views of Hood, Mt. Jefferson and even Three-Fingered Jack on this perfectly clear day. It was nice to do a hike with such a view of Jefferson, we don’t usually get that.



Trying to figure out what’s what on the horizon


View of Jefferson


Buckley found himself a nice shady spot up there too


This is either Rock Penstemon or Barrett’s Penstemon… I simply don’t know… which was growing straight out of the rocks at this viewpoint. Anyone know for sure?


My rugged mountain man


I’m including this picture because it’s the only one I’m almost in. See reflection in the left lens of sunglasses. πŸ™‚


After taking in Mt. Jefferson, you turn around and are face-to-face with Mt. Hood.



Mt. Hood


Up close and personal


Mountain love


After lounging around in the sun a little longer, we threw the packs back on to head back the way we came. Needless to say, the descent is almost as hard on the knees and toes as the climb is on the thighs and calves! At least I was able to stop and take a few more wildflower photos, now that I was actually able to keep up with the gang.



Wild Rhododendron were in full bloom


Bunchberry carpeted the ground


Dainty little Foamflower (I think?) was also in abundance


Columbia Windflower (in the Anemone family)


There were also Vanilla Leaf and Queen’s Cup all over the place that I didn’t get photos of. I was loving the flower variety!



One more look at that single Cascade Lily on the way down


Walking through a Rhodie wonderland


We got back to the trailhead in no time, and proceeded to nom out on BBQ, mac n’ cheese and deep fried pickles at Skyway in Zigzag (our first time there – it was totes awesome). This hike was quite the workout, and completely worth it, even despite the grueling ascent. As Don put it: Some trails are happy and nice and give you a good feeling, but not this one. This is a mean one. This one is like… “#&@%Β you.”

Shellrock, Middle Rock, and Serene Lakes

Happy Independence Day!


To take advantage of the long weekend, Paul and Buckley and I headed out for a two-night backpacking trip. We decided on a loop in the Mt. Hood National Forest (in Clackamas County) that includes Shellrock Lake, the Rock Lakes Basin (which includes Lower, Middle, and Upper Rock Lake – we headed to Middle), and Serene Lake.


Shellrock Lake, Middle Rock Lake, and Serene Lake Loop
Mt. Hood National Forest (Clackamas County)
Total hike distance: 12.23 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,407 feet


Click map for full GPS data


We found this loop in our One Night Wilderness guide book, and the distance from Portland and the distance between campsites on the loop seemed to make sense for the amount of time we had allotted (gotta have that Zipcar back on time!!). My only concern really was that it gave this loop a “Solitude” rating of 4. Out of 10. Not great right? We gave it a shot anyway, figuring if it was really that crowded and we couldn’t find a campsite, it was short enough to get back to the car. Over the course of the entire weekend, we saw eight people. Eight! I would rate this loop a solid 9 for Solitude, considering it was July 4th weekend and it was still so empty. Granted, the weather was not stellar (more on that later), so that might have kept some people away, but I certainly don’t think it’s as bad as the guide books made it out to be. The book also mentions some “poorly signed” junctions along the way, but honestly, this was probably one of the better signed hikes we’ve been on – plenty of signs and blazes to guide the way. Seems like the authors of that book need to revisit this spot.


We departed Portland on Saturday morning and made it to the Shellrock Lake trailhead in about two hours (because I was driving – we shaved a good 20-30 minutes off of that on the way home with Paul driving!). The last five miles or so are on a gravel road with plenty of potholes, so be careful on this one. So that we could hike out quickly on Monday morning, we decided to hike to Middle Rock Lake (about 3 miles in) to camp the first night, then complete the loop on Sunday and make our way back to Shellrock Lake to camp that night (about another 8 miles to that point), then just hike the .7 miles back out to the car in the morning. It worked out perfectly.



Toward the beginning of the trail


The entire loop is above 4,000 feet, so leftover snow can be a factor – it’s good to expect it and be prepared. We hit snow at about 4,530 feet, and had intermittent patches throughout after that. All campsites were clear of snow however, and even on the trail there wasn’t so much that you couldn’t find your way. Before I knew it, we had already hiked the three (or so) miles to Middle Rock Lake, our first destination. There are some campsites right where the trail hits the lake, but we found an even better (and more isolated) one about .1 miles further out on a narrow trail to the right, right on the water.



Middle Rock Lake from our campsite


Another view from our site (you can see some lingering snow across the lake)


It was already mid-afternoon when we got to this site, and despite the sun, it was pretty chilly out. After setting up, first order of business was to build a fire. We scrounged for some wood, adding another layer of clothing every few minutes it seemed. Sadly, most of the wood we found was pretty wet, but we had to try anyway.





By about 6pm I had on every single shirt that I brought with me, a hat, and my hood. It was cold! We got some sticks and twigs to start burning, and got a really nice bed of coals going, but it just couldn’t survive. I spent two solid hours huffing and puffing on that thing, adding twigs and more firestarters, but it was not meant to be.



The little fire that couldn’t


Eventually we had to give up… it just would not happen. It was a bit too cold to hang out outside without fire, so we ended up turning in to the tent around 8:30pm. Our tent gets remarkably warm with the rain fly on, and our sleeping bags are quite warm as well, so we ended up just having a nice cozy night in the tent. Paul had his Droid loaded up with movies, so we decided to put on a flick before bed (I know, how very rustic of us, huh?). Of all movies, we watched Zombieland. Nothing quite like the imagery of blood-spewing, flesh-eating undead to lull oneself into a tranquil night’s sleep in the middle of the woods, right?! I vaguely recall dreaming of zombies that night… but I think Woody Harrelson was in there too so it was okay.


We woke the next morning… very, very early… to a fog-covered lake. Like, gone… total whiteout. So, we went back to sleep for an hour or two. πŸ™‚ When we finally dragged ourselves out of the tent, the lake had cleared up but the ridge above still had fog moving through it. Amazing.



Fog moving through the trees above


Still clad in several layers, we cooked up some egg n’ bacon breakfast burritos and started packing everything up. At about 11am, hallelujah, the sun made an appearance! It didn’t stick around for too long, but it was nice to see for a little while.



The sun emerges just in time for us to hike on


Buckley really doesn’t care how effing freezing the water is!


We set out around noon to tackle the better part of the loop. By the way, what a great feeling to have a full day to hike, no worries about when we get started or when we need to get back to the car… the only goal is to get to camp before dark. It made for a very enjoyable hike. Our first destination was Serene Lake, about 2.5 miles from Middle Rock Lake.



After returning to the main trail from the spur trail to Middle Rock, it was two miles to Serene Lake


A cool downed tree along the way




After a decent amount of climbing we reached Serene Lake, and it was… serene. We were the only people there (that we could see anyway) so we had the place to ourselves. We hung out for a little while and made some lunch at one of the campsites.



Serene Lake


Buckley jumped right in… shocker eh?


A little chipmunk friend hanging out in the tree next to us


I actually made it into some pictures! Buckley and I having some lunch.


We will be climbing up to the ridge in the top left corner soon


Heyo!


After lunch we set back out on the trail. The remainder of the hike was a lot harder than I anticipated. There was a decent amount of climbing involved, plus heavier packs than usual (Paul got a new 70-liter pack, twice as big as mine!), plus some trudging through snow… plus we may have kind of spoiled ourselves lately with easier and shorter hikes. This hike was certainly a swift kick in the rear. A mile or so past Serene Lake, we had climbed up to a ridge high above the lake, and straight into the clouds. Luckily they parted often enough to catch some glimpses of the lake below.



A walk in the clouds


A (very) brief glimpse to Serene Lake below


And of course, some more snow


After a little dip in the terrain, we climbed back up to another great viewpoint over the lake. The clouds had also lifted a little more by this point, hooray!



Doesn’t seem like you’d be able to see much from here…


But then bam! Serene Lake!


The next “checkpoint” along the loop is Cache Meadow, a low-lying meadow full of pretty little wildflowers three miles from Serene Lake. We descended pretty rapidly from the ridge to get to this point (I tried to just enjoy it, and not think about the fact that we’d soon have to climb back out!). I’m not sure if it dries out later in the summer, but it was pretty wet and marshy this weekend. We slogged around a bit to look at the different flowers.



A small section of Cache Meadow


White Marsh Marigold (I found out just now when looking these up that they’re poisonous)


Some Shooting Stars, and I think the little yellow guys are Western Buttercup (but not positive)


After Cache Meadow, we were in the home stretch. It was just a couple miles back to Frazier Turnaround (which closes the loop portion), and then 1.2 miles back down to Shellrock Lake. Victory is close. But of course… we had to do some serious climbing again to get there.



Some cool upturned roots. I guess you can’t really get the scale here, but they were huge.


Back up to a snowy ridge (actually an old Jeep road) to close the loop


We made it to Shellrock Lake right around 5pm or so, and found a great campsite right on the water. Bonus! A previous occupant had gathered a huge pile of firewood and left it there! My least favorite part of camp-building is collecting wood, so this was a very welcome site. And extra bonus, the wood seemed to be relatively dry. We threw a bunch of twigs into the pit and dropped in a firestarter, and like magic, we had a fire. This stuff burned right up, and soon we had quite the roaring fire. This thing was devouring logs – we could hardly throw wood on it fast enough. While we were getting the fire going, a couple hiked past that, as it turned out, had stayed there the previous night and collected all that wood – but couldn’t get a fire started with it. I offered for them to come enjoy the fire, but they were on their way out to their car, not wanting to camp in the cold again. For some reason, I felt sort of guilty. Should I have offered to let them camp there? Given the rest of the wood back to them to set up their own camp? What is proper etiquette in this situation?? They carried on. After the previous night without a fire, I was especially appreciative to have this glorious, wonderful, soul-warming source of heat. So, this fire was in their honor.


Even with the fire, it was a chilly night and I was exhausted, so I retired my camera for the evening. I will try to paint a picture. Expansive blue-green lake backdrop with mist gently rolling by, butt plopped in front of a crackling fire as the sun goes down, glass of wine in hand, a giant bowl of orzo mac and cheese with chorizo and garlic that Paul made (actually made – not a prepared freeze-dried meal in a pouch, but cooked fresh at camp) in front of you, and a very tired and satisfied Chocolate Lab cuddled up in your lap. I mean really, does it get any better?


We woke to another foggy morning, but not quite as cold as the night before. The car was due back fairly early in the day, so made a quick breakfast and started packing up.



Shellrock Lake just starting to reveal itself


So pretty


Skunk Cabbage, named for its putrid scent, although we didn’t notice a smell (but of course Buckley went right for it)


I was trying to take a picture of the waterbug, and caught a little salamander friend underwater as well!


I thought these were so cool, but I cannot seem to identify them! Anyone know? They were about 6 inches tall.


The remaining .7 miles back to the trailhead (mostly downhill) felt like a breeze! We were back to the car in 30 minutes.



The trail back to the TH lined with wildflowers


Not exactly sure what this flower is either, might be more identifiable if it was fully bloomed…


One of my personal favorites, Beargrass


It was truly a wonderful weekend. There is something very satisfying about being totally self-sufficient for a couple days, sleeping on the ground and carrying everything on your back. We’ve kicked around the idea of taking a month or two off and just backpacking… who knows? The idea of being away from civilization for that long is enticing. But, I will admit, once we were back home I made a beeline for the shower. πŸ™‚

Oneonta Gorge

I didn’t realize how much I missed hiking until stepping into the Gorge after two weeks away from the trail. I think I actually breathed a sigh of relief.


Paul’s friend Ben came to visit us for the weekend from Michigan. Can we pause to reflect on that for just a moment? A friend… not a family member or anyone else who is legally obligated to spend time with us… came to visit! Ben told Paul when we first moved that he would be the first friend to come visit. Guess he was right! Who’s next?? πŸ™‚


We had a great time (hopefully Ben did too) gallivanting around the city for most of the weekend; bike ride to the A-Crop (I did not partake in this particular event), dinner in Directors Park, VQ brunch, farmers market, organic beer fest (with about 3,000,000 other people), Voodoo Donut, and of course, the Columbia River Gorge.


We decided to hit the Oneonta Gorge, starting at the Horsetail Falls trail, and then meeting up with trail 400, then the Oneonta Trail which took us up to Triple Falls, then back down to the 400 which took us the rest of the way down. So it’s not really a loop, not really an out-and-back… more of a wishbone shape. πŸ™‚ Unfortunately, although we had the GPS on, it did not get a good track (weak signal maybe). So, distance and elevation are estimates based on guide books we use, and the map is just pulled from Google (and then crudely marked up with Jing). Not at all accurate. But you get the idea.


Oneonta Gorge trail(s)
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Total hike distance: +4 miles (not including wading around the creek)
Total elevation gain: At least 500 feet, probably more with all the ups and downs on the trial


This is a sad representation.



If you don’t already know, summer just arrived in Portland last week (literally and figuratively). We’ve been dealing with unrelenting clouds and rain for months, but last week, this strange giant glowing orb in the sky made its debut. So what do you get on the first actual nice weekend of the summer, on one of the more popular and easy trails in the Gorge? Trails so crowded you are literally tripping over other people and kids and dogs and Grandmas on the way. Okay… it wasn’t too bad, but much more crowded than we are used to. I kid you not, there was actually one lady wearing a sundress and fancy high-heeled strappy sandals hiking with her family. She didn’t make it as far as we did, but still, it made me feel like a pansy in my cushy hiking shoes and synthetic fabrics. πŸ™‚



Getting our start on the trail


It doesn’t take long for a payoff on this hike, as Ponytail Falls (aka “Upper Horsetail Falls”) is about .3 miles in. Very close.Β  So also, very crowded. I couldn’t get any waterfall-only shots as there were people running around everywhere. Will have to get there earlier next time.



Ponytail Falls (Paul and Ben are across the way)


This guy walked in front of the camera at the last second!! Can we pretend he’s not there?


The rocky cavern under the falls


A short distance later, we came to Middle Oneonta Falls.



Middle Oneonta Falls


Making our way


The sun was beating down, so after what seemed like ages we reached Triple Falls. We’ve been here several times, but I’m always amazed by how cool it is.Β  Unfortunately, direct sunlight is no bueno for taking waterfall shots, so it’s a little washed out.



Triple Falls


When you hike past Triple Falls, there is a bridge that crosses the creek behind the top of the falls (you can see it in the picture). After crossing this bridge, there are several large boulders and downed trees along the water that are perfect lunch (beer) spots. I could spend all day here.



Break time


The little doggies we shared the space with.


Looking downstream at the top of Triple Falls


Looking back upstream at the bridge we crossed over


On the way back down we came across lots of cool wildflowers.



Tiger Lily


Phlox


Red Columbine


Showy Penstemon


After we got back down to the highway and our car, we changed into sandals and spent a little time wading up the Oneonta Creek. I can’t believe we’ve been in the Gorge a gazillion times and never done this. Oneonta Creek runs through the Oneonta Gorge (natch), and near the road is pretty shallow. There are lots of boulders and trees and little rocky beachy areas to hang out in, mini swimming holes for the kiddies and dogs to go swimming in, and beautiful scenery all around. You can go as far or not far as you like.



There is a small stairway down and to the right to drop down to the water


In the creek


You can also wade all the way up the creek and climb over a log jam to a view of the Lower Oneonta Falls. It was still crazy busy there, I only had flimsy flips flops on and Buckley can be a handful around crowds – so we decided to skip the climb over the logs. We will definitely go all the way next time, as the lower falls are supposed to be beautiful.



Approaching the log jam


The boys up on the boulder – that’s about as far as we went


Buckley was loving it!


Looking back downstream


Off to the side we found a little rocky beach area with a pocket deep enough for Buckley to swim. Copious amounts of fetch ensued.



Maybe copious amounts of beer too…


And now, an absurd number of pictures of Buckley. πŸ™‚



He will not let that stick out of his sight


Shake!


Again?


Heheeeee!




Buckley even got to meet another doggie friend who was willing to share his tennis ball.



Buddies!


BRRRGRBLRBLRGLRBLRRGL


A little game of tug for good measure


Looking back up the creek


While a relatively easy hike, it’s loaded with scenery and fun stuff to do and doesn’t take up your whole day (unless you want it to).

To celebrate the long weekend, we are heading out tomorrow morning to Shellrock Lake area for a two-night backpacking trip. Report soon, I promise not to wait until next Friday night to post!

Happy 4th everyone!