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! 🙂

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?? 🙂

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. 🙂 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. 🙂

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.  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.  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


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. 🙂

He will not let that stick out of his sight




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



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!

Memorial Day Weekend

And now for a little non-hike blogging…

Finally posting about the holiday weekend! Yes, I realize that was now a week ago. I think I needed until now to recover. Paul’s Dad and Marissa came out from Orlando to visit us for the long weekend, and I think we sufficiently wore them out as well. 🙂

We got together on Friday for happy hour and dinner. We started with some amazing drinks at Beaker & Flask… we hadn’t been here before, and holy crap are the drinks good. Of course I’ve forgotten what mine was called, but it consisted of some really good rum, pineapple gomme, and coconut water ice cubes. Mind blown. As the ice melted down it gave the drink a tropical flavor. Spectacular. After that we headed over to Laurelhurst Market for dinner, another first for us. I had been dying to try this place after hearing rave reviews, and it did not disappoint. Pretty classic fare, but with top-quality cuts of beef.

Saturday morning we headed over to the Farmers Market to grab some breakfast and wander a little.

Tom and Marissa

Pine State Biscuits breakfast!!! We had to wait in line for like a half hour, but so worth it.

After the market, we headed over to NW 23td area to grab some beers and do a little shopping.

Goofing around at Lompoc

Lompoc’s beer garden… the sun actually came out for us!

Fun at the hat store

After a few beers we walked up to the International Test Rose Garden to see what was in bloom. It’s still a little early, but lots of roses are just starting to bloom… a few more weeks it should be perfect.

After that, of course it was time for more drinks!

Wild Turkey!

From our balcony, picking out his next house out in the West Hills 🙂

Obligatory cute Buckley picture

And all capped off with dinner at the drunk carts (late-night food cart pod in SE Portland).

We kept ourselves busy on Saturday, but we had a very full day on Sunday. We started with breakfast at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. We were bummed that it was a very cloudy day (and spent a decent amount of time actually driving through the clouds), but the mountain was beautiful anyway. After breakfast, we cruised through Hood River for a quick drink (and a little shopping, it turned out). We then crossed the river into Washington and did some wine tasting at a few small wineries. Oh, and met lots of cute doggies along the way!

Timberline Lodge

Mimosas at the Hood River Hotel

Our new friend Lucy 🙂

At Syncline winery… grapes and chickens?

Syncline tasting room

Amazing chocolate collection!!

The Syncline winery dog

Next stop, Cor Cellars

Had a few glasses already 🙂

I just love this picture

The Cor Cellars doggie! She was all about playing fetch.

Our final wine stop was at Memaloose, which we read was a great picnic spot. We brought a cooler with some cheese, fruit, sausage and bread and wanted to find the perfect place… this was it! They weren’t kidding about the scenery. It’s gorgeous.

Preparing lunch, overlooking the Gorge

The Memaloose dog, Dixie, came right over and decided to hang out with us for our picnic. She was so sweet and loving! We found out later that this is one hardcore dog… she does not eat any dog food, only hunts. Gophers and squirrels. I didn’t know I was staring into the face of a hardened killer. 🙂

Dixie under our picnic table. So sweet.

Oh, and the wine was pretty delicious too!

Not a bad lunch spot

All tuckered out 🙂

If Buckley found out I was taking so many pictures of other dogs, he would not be happy…

Monday was spent… what else… eating and drinking around town, until Tom and Marissa had to depart for their flight back to Florida. It was a whirlwind weekend, and hopefully our guests had as much fun as we did! It is pretty exhausting trying to fit in all the things there are to see and do around here, and we barely scratched the surface. It’s always fun to have visitors though, it allows us to be a little bit touristy. 🙂 Paul’s best friend Ben is coming to visit next month, so we’ll get to do it all over again!

Paul and I spent last night camping by the Siouxon Creek in Washington, so I will have another blog post coming up on that soon!

Dog Mountain, Revisited

Screw you, weather man! Despite the dismal weather forecast for the weekend, we sucked it up and headed out on Sunday.

At about this time last year, we embarked on the ever-popular Dog Mountain hike for the first time. There is a small window of time (around late May and early June) in which Dog just erupts in the bright yellows, blues and reds of the Gorge wildflowers. We happened to catch this hike during prime time last year, and I was determined to do the same this year. I think we hit the sweet spot again this time, with all the balsamroot, lupine and paintbrush in full bloom… we even caught some chocolate lillies!

Sadly, given the tree- and cloud-cover, our GPS just didn’t perform at its best. Our track got really messed up somehow (unless we actually did somehow dart into the middle of the river and back mid-hike), so we don’t have the GPS data for this one. 😦

Dog Mountain
Columbia River Gorge (WA side)
Summit at 2,948 feet
Total hike distance: 7 miles
Total elevation gain: + 3,000 feet
Hike time: 3.5 hours (including about 20-30 minutes at the summit)

Click on the image for the full Google Map

We were joined on this hike by our friends Kelly and Eric Fischer and their Vizsla puppy named Pinot (also known as Buckley’s girlfriend). Kelly and Eric also hail from Michigan, although we didn’t meet until we all lived in Portland. They joined us and the local MSU alums on the South Sister summit last year; actually, Dog Mountain was also the first hike we all did together last year when we were training. Here’s to tradition!

Trying to take a photo with Buckley in hand, behind Kelly and Pinot.

I mentioned there is a relatively small window of time in which to enjoy Dog in full bloom. Unfortunately, this means that everyone and their mother (and grandmother, seriously) hits this hike at the same time. And on a Sunday, ugh… it’s a good thing we started somewhat early, because this trail was packed. Although I will say, I think it was more crowded last year (we also started early then and beat most of them), so I think the crummy weather worked to our advantage. If you don’t mind shimmying yourself around slower trail-goers or leap-frogging other hiking parties as you alternate photo stops, it’s not too bad.

Given the other hikes we’ve accomplished this year, on paper Dog Mountain doesn’t look too intimidating. Seven miles, 3,000 feet? Easy! But for some reason, this one kicks my butt. I forgot how tough it is. A serious quad-burner for sure, it had my legs trembling almost the whole time. Do not let the short distance fool you! After warming up your calves on the initial climb, the trail soon comes to a fork, where you can choose the “less difficult” trail which is 2.6 miles to the summit, or the “more difficult” which is 2.2 miles. While the more difficult route will give you the benefit of a more strenuous climb (if that’s what you’re into) through the trees, the less difficult is much more scenic as it takes you out to a mountain-side ridge, allowing for a bonus Gorge viewpoint.

At one of the first lookout points over the Gorge.

View of the summit in the background.

Boys and the dogs…

And I’m sorry, but can we zoom in on that one for a sec? I find this to be completely hilarious. Pinot has such a crush on Buckley.

Red Paintbrush

If I had only one mission today, it was to see some chocolate lilies. As far as wildflowers go, these are pretty cool, but kinda hard to spot. Luckily Kelly was on the lookout too and spotted this one (she says it’s because she’s closer to the ground :)). I’m glad she did, as I only saw one other one for the rest of the day and it wasn’t as pretty. We overheard someone saying that the week before was prime week for the chocolate lilies… oh well. I’m not particularly happy with the way the pictures turned out; it was kind of dim and windy in that spot, so I kept getting blurry shots. I didn’t have time to mess with settings (since there were so many other hikers hot on our tail) so I ended up using the flash.

Sort of harsh lighting with the flash, but you get the idea.

A little blurry, but you get a truer sense of the color.

After some more climbing, we finally reached the holy grail, the mountain-side meadows overflowing with balsamroot, paintbrush, larkspur and phlox to name a few. The photos really can’t do it justice (especially since the overcast sky managed to wash out many of the photos), but it is really cool to stand there and just stare at this wash of yellow.

After floating through the flower meadows a little longer, the trail turns toward a rocky ridge which gets you to the summit in .4 miles (or .6 if you choose the easier route). This brings you to the very top of the meadow with a sweeping view of the Gorge in both directions. Of course, on this particular day the view was a little cloudy, and the summit was very cold and windy (I ended up piling on all 4 layers I had with me, plus a hat). We had a quick lunch and headed back on our way, since the conditions were not particularly enjoyable.

The Fischer clan.

Getting ready to head back down.

From this summit viewpoint, we were able to see that there was a pretty mean-looking wall of rain headed down the Gorge in our direction. Ack! We kind of hightailed it back down to beat the rain, and went at a very past pace. On the way down, we took the alternate “more difficult” 2.2 mile section that we opted out of on the ascent. My knees and back are still thanking me. Since we were moving at a pretty quick pace, I didn’t stop to take too many photos… but I did get some. 🙂


More Balsamroot!


Trying to keep the dogs moving fast by throwing sticks. Totally worked.

Just some trees


We finished this one in no time. Good thing too, because once we got a mile or two down the road, the sky opened up and it downpoured. We watched comfortably from the front booth of the Big River Grille. 🙂

If you are taking on Dog Mountain anytime soon, if at all possible, go on a weekday. If you have to be a weekend warrior, go early. We got there at 9:30am and they were already directing traffic in the trailhead parking lot, which was almost full. This is a wonderful hike for wildflower enthusiasts during these few weeks. Aside from that it is a great workout hike with a nice payoff viewpoint, although I’m not sure I would do this hike without the flowers. Maybe next time I have the urge to punish my knees.

Nesmith Point

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!

Nesmith Point
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.

Lovely trees.

New life on dead life.

Trilliums everywhere!

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.