Table Mountain

On the scary scale of 1-10, I’d put this hike at 9.5. For reals.

Okay, I know there are much tougher hikes out there, but for what we’ve done so far… this was certainly one of the most difficult/terrifying/rewarding/awesome trails we’ve taken on. My legs are still wobbly from Heartbreak Ridge, and the West Ridge Trail might have made me cry a little. Maybe. Only the rocks know for sure.

In all seriousness… wowowowowow. This hike was amazing! I love any hike that pushes me to my physical and mental limit, which this one certainly did. Not to mention some of the lushest, greenest scenery of all the hikes we’ve been on, almost unreal. And I do love me some green.


Table Mountain
Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
Summit at 3,417 feet
Total hike distance: 9.2 miles
Total elevation gain: 3,561 feet



Click the image for full GPS data.


There are a couple different route options, one starting at Bonneville Dam and one at Aldrich Butte Trailhead – we did the Aldrich Butte trail. Even more so than Coyote Wall, I highly recommend having a detailed map and directions along with a GPS for this one, or at least hike it with someone who is familiar with the route. There are a lot of questionable forks in the trail, abandoned roads weaving their way through the area, and random cutoff trails, so it’s important to know where you are going. Paul downloaded a series of waypoints for this trail onto our GPS before we left, so we always knew where to take our turns.



A previous hiker was nice enough to show others the way.






After a couple miles and a few forks in the road, we came to Heartbreak Ridge Trail. I had ready plenty about this section of trail, as it strikes fear into the hearts of many. Not because it’s necessarily dangerous, but for its punishing grade. Seriously… I think we gained some 700 feet in under a half mile. I thought we were making good time until we hit this section, but after a few steps I was moving slower than molasses. Better than any stairmaster any day!



Marking the beginning of Heartbreak Ridge.



I don’t even think this photo does it justice.


There is a gorgeous viewpoint at the top of this chute, but a somber one. Just off the trail is a memorial for Kate Huether, a hiker who tackled Table Mountain on her own a couple months ago and apparently lost her footing at this spot, falling to the rocks below.  It was humbling to stand there and realize how elusive life can be.



Her memorial.


The view from the saddle.


From this same spot, there is also an awesome view of the top of Table Mountain, where we are headed.



Only like a thousand more feet to go!


After the uber-steep section of Heartbreak Ridge, the trail ends at a large rockslide that requires some scrambling – about 500 feet of hand over hand through large and sometimes loose boulders. I think I was the most afraid of this section, but it ended up being my favorite part. There is no distinct trail, you just make your own way up crawling over the rocks. So much fun!!



At the base of the rockslide.



Paul and Buckley making their way up.



And me making my way up!




Conquered the slide!


Once we were past the great equalizer, it was just a short jaunt to the top. This summit is not for the faint of heart; you are literally walking along the edge of a cliff where a rockslide cut loose 500+ years ago, with nothing underneath. Note to Mom: I know these pictures make it look like we stepped right up the edge to take them, but I can assure you we stayed a safe distance from the edge. The beauty of zoom.



Looking down from where we came, and across the river to the Oregon side (the saddle down below to the right is the area near the memorial, where we took photos looking back up at this spot).



One misstep and there’s no looking back. Don’t worry, I laid on my belly and stretched my arms out to take this one.




Of course we had our usual lunchbreak at the top, where Paul cooked up some chicken and dumplings. It was particularly chilly that day, so I can’t tell you how nice it was to have a hot meal for lunch. We also brought along some more Starbucks Via, this time mixed with a little hot chocolate powder for a “mountain mocha.” 🙂 Since it was so cold and windy, we headed around toward the back side of the mountain for lunch where it was a little more protected.



The view from our lunch spot.


After our break we started making our way back down. Rather than try and climb back down the rockslide and Heartbreak Ridge, we took the recommended loop route which takes you down the West Ridge Trail. This was the scariest part of the whole hike. This section of trail is a loose talus area; the stones have been loosely formed into switchbacks, but they are by no means solid. With every step, these rocks would roll and slide right under your feet. We had to test almost every step before taking it, and by using trekking poles and large boulders for balance made it down. It didn’t help my nerves that the gusting winds were howling through these rocks. It added a certain ominousness to the ordeal. I later learned that these rocks are aptly named Windbreak Rocks, and if you’re there on a breezy day you’ll know why. I should note that at least on this particular day, we never felt as though the wind was dangerous or was going to blow us off the mountain, it’s just intimidating.



No matter how scary, still breathtaking.




Looking back at the rockslide we scrambled up!


Once we were through the talus area and back into the woods, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way down back to the car. A few more trail photos:



Red paintbrush, one of my favorites! And no, I didn’t turn up the red in this photo, they really are that vibrant.






Back at the car I was feeling pretty proud of us for successfully conquering Table Mountain. I think I was more dirty, tired, and exhilarated than after any other hike (well maybe not South Sister). I know I probably made this whole thing sound more terrifying and death-defying than it really is… just trying to express how I felt in the moment I suppose. 🙂 Tons of people hike this mountain no problem, all the time. Side note: this trailhead is located behind the Bonneville Hot Springs Resort, so you might also consider splurging for a soak after your hike. If we didn’t have Buckley with us, I would have so been there. Next time.

And with this post, we are caught up on this year’s hikes! From now on this will probably be updated on more of a weekly basis (unless we sneak in some mid-week fun) and might include more non-hike stuff. I’ve been focused on getting the hikes up here so haven’t included much else (maybe that’s a good thing?). Oh, and awesome hike recommendations always welcome!

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Coyote Wall

It’s WILDFLOWER SEASON! It’s a glorious time of year, full of balsamroot, blue lupine, red paintbrush, trilliums and bluebells and penstemon and…

Last weekend we decided to take a relatively easy hike up to Coyote Wall, located in… you’ll never guess… the Columbia River Gorge.  Coyote Wall is a 200′ outcrop of basalt rock, with an expansive flat top perfect for wildflowers. The peak season on this particular hike is in April, so we hit it at just the right time (if not a little early). This hike is located on the Washington side of the Gorge, a little further east than most hikes we’ve done. It is amazing what being on just the other side of the Cascades will do; rather than the lush, mossy green terrain we’re used to, this was more like high desert with short grass, dusty trails, low bushy vegetation and knotty, twisting trees. Everything is still bright green, just in a different way. It was an awesome change of scenery.


Coyote Wall
Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
Top of the meadow at 1,640 feet
Total hike distance: 8.85 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,021 feet (due to lots of up and down on the trail)



Click the image for full GPS data


Pretty standard start to the trail on this one (but the vegetation is noticeably different right away… note the very pale green moss). This is a relatively new network of trails in this area, and most of them on Coyote Wall are shared with mountain bikers. I would highly recommend having a detailed map/directions, a GPS or a guide on this one. There are a lot of criss-crossing trails, old abandoned roads and forks in the trail that can be really confusing. Without decent directions you’d be lost in no time. About halfway up we came across another couple walking toward us. I figured they had already been up to the top and were on their way down, so I asked if they knew if we were on the correct trail to the top. The guy had a handgun strapped to his leg and a SEARCH AND RESCUE t-shirt on, and they were both geared up, so I figured they’d know something. They confirmed that yes, the trail we were on should take us right up. Great! Strangely enough, at the next cluster of forks in the road, we came across this couple again. Huh? Yeah, turns out they were also on their way up but were more clueless than we were. We ended up guiding them to the correct trail. If that guy was really search and rescue, I fear for my safety.






Blue Lupine lined the trail.



Hmm.


It was a short 4 miles or so to the top of Coyote Wall, where you are met with a vast, flat (although sloped) meadow peppered with bunches of balsamroot and lupine.



On this hike, it is a good idea to frequently look back/up… there could be a mountain biker barreling down at any moment.



Wheeeee!


We had a beautiful sunny day to boot, so we hung out on top of the wall for a while and Paul cooked up some lunch. This time we tried a pre-made freeze-dried meal we got at REI, Mountain House Chili Mac w/Beef. Wow, for a freeze-dried meal this was satisfying and tasty. The nice thing about these is that they come in a pouch, are extremely lightweight and only require water, so all we had to do was boil some up and pour it in. You can eat it directly out of the pouch, so no bowls to clean up. Highly recommend, and we will be stocking up on this brand for sure.



Buckley hangin’ out on our cliffside lunch spot.



This either says “Aaah, I love basking in the sun” or “No pictures, please…” I can’t tell.



My hair was getting in my face, but luckily I had my stylist with me. Bandana styling by Paul.



Once more with shades.


Another product we decided to give a try is Starbucks new instant coffee, Via. I was skeptical… I mean, it’s instant coffee… but we had heard good things so gave it a shot. We were pleasantly surprised. This stuff is good! I might even say it almost matches a fresh cup (of S-bux that is… it can’t hold a candle to french-pressed Stumptown of course). And being able to enjoy it on the trail makes it one thousand times better.



Not a bad way to enjoy a cup of coffee.



Christmas card?


And now, a series of gratuitous wildflower and Buckley shots.






Balsamroot bunches.






Romping down the trail.






Heeheeeeee



Balsamroot and Blue Lupine spring up everywhere.


We took a different route back down through some more mountain bike trails on the east side of the wall, after a biker we met on the trail recommended it. This trail was definitely not what we were used to… no huge trees, forest floors carpeted in fern or moss. This was more like a desert with low brush and crazy trees. I loved it.



One of the crazy crooked trees on the trail.



Another one.



Making our way down.



We didn’t know it at the time, but this appears to be wild fennel… and it was everywhere. Wish we would have known that! The plants smell amazing too.








Although it was relatively easy, this is one of my favorites that we’ve done this year. It was really nice to experience a little different terrain and vegetation but still be so close to home. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: if you ever want to truly understand how many shades of green really exist, you have to come to Oregon and do some hiking. We’ve hiked probably close to two hundred miles over the last couple years, and it never ceases to awe and inspire (ask Paul… every single hike I gush about how green and pretty everything is and how it’s so amazing that we live here). I’m sure you all know by now, but all our family and friends have a standing open invitation to visit! We are fabulous hosts and tour guides, I promise! Just get a plane ticket here and we’ll take care of the rest…

Larch Mountain

On March 27th (yes, there was a bit of hiking lull) we headed back to the Gorge to hike up Larch Mountain.

So, Larch Mountain… yeah, this one kind of kicked me in the arse. It took me a little by surprise. Somehow I failed to notice that the summit was at 4,061 feet. In turn, I failed to realize that there would likely be snow at 4,000 feet in March. Note to self: snow makes hiking one billion times harder. Lucky I had an extra pair of socks with me.

There is an option to drive most of the way up the mountain, then take a short walk to the summit… but what fun would that be? We decided to start at zero, and follow the Multnomah Falls trail, to the Larch Mountain trail, with a little side detour on the Oneonta trail, back to the Larch trail up to the summit viewpoint, Sherrard Point.


Larch Mountain
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Summit at 4,061 feet
Total hike distance: A little unclear, GPS says almost 19 miles but I think it was closer to 17 or so
Total elevation gain: 4,321 feet



Click the image for full GPS data.


This trail starts at tourist hot spot Multnomah Falls. The first mile is a paved switchback trail, usually chock full of families with little kids, strollers, ice cream, and sometimes towing Grandma and Grandpa along too. Best to start early on this one to avoid that crowd. That trail takes you up to the top of the falls before taking a left and getting more trail-ish.



Okay, this is more like it.



Holy tall trees, everywhere.



Okay, I know what probably caused this footprint…  but I prefer to believe there is a slim possibility that the Sasquatch was indeed here.


As you can see, even toward the beginning there was a layer of snow on the trail. It was a nice sunny day, so all the snow that was in the trees started to melt, essentially causing a downpour for us. So, I wasn’t able to take too many photos in the “rain.” Not to mention the occasional ice chunk that would nail us. After about four miles in, we took a side trip on the Oneonta Trail to add a little distance in to the hike. Another gorgeous trail, covered in snow (which made the trail a little difficult to identify). Not gonna lie, it made me slightly nervous that we were making the first set of tracks in the snow on this trail, but hey, that’s what GPS is for. 🙂 This trail hooks back up with the main Larch trail after a few miles, and then we head up the last pitch to the summit. For the last mile or so, no joke, we were trudging through at least a foot of snow, if not a foot and a half. Yep, legs and feet were soaked, but luckily not frozen. Lesson learned: be prepared with gaiters. After what seemed like forever marching through the snow, we finally made it to Sherrard Point. And yes, there is a parking lot about a quarter mile away from it. In the warmer months I can imagine this place is packed, so I’m glad we got this one in on the off-season (this part is not even accessible by car during the winter, due to the snow).



Mt. Hood from Sherrard Point.




Looking the other way, Mt. St. Helens in the distance.


So the worst part about such an accessible, touristy summit: fences and benches installed. Boo. It makes the summit feel a lot less natural. But given the snow on the ground, it was kinda nice to have something to sit on I suppose.



Enjoying the view, despite the fugly chainlink fence.



He’s about as tired as we were after bounding through all that snow.



Looking down from the summit.



Time to head back down.


The hike back down was much more pleasant, as most of the melted snow/ice had made its way out of the trees. We took the straight Larch trail back down, and had a more or less uneventful descent.



Still some snow, but at least it’s dry overhead!



Still green, even in the winter.



Just to show you how tall some of these trees were.



Crossing back over a rockslide.


Now this was a first. Usually Buckley is running circles around us on these trails, but I think we officially wore him out. He decided a water break was a good time for a nap. And yes, that is his collapsible water bowl he’s using for a pillow.



Zzzzzzzzz.



There’s something about creek crossings that I just love.



A quick glimpse at Weisendanger Falls from the trail.


Of course, when we got back down to the paved Multnomah Falls trail for our final mile, it was absolutely packed with the above mentioned: families, strollers, ice cream cones and diapers. We could barely take three steps without someone stopping us to pet Buckley and express their amazement at his gear (“Oh my God! That dog is wearing a backpack! That is CRAZY!” “Ugh, those lazy people are using their dog as a pack mule, whatever.”). This was a great hike and really wore us out, more so than I expected. I sort of want to do this one again in warmer weather, but maybe early in the day to avoid the crowds. In any case, it’s a Columbia River Gorge must.

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.