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! 🙂