Elk Meadow and Gnarl Ridge

Holy tardy blog post Batman! It is embarrassing how long it has taken to post this. Almost as embarrassing as how long it’s been since our last hike. 😦

So, uh, our last real hike was two months ago. The term WTF?!? immediately comes to mind, for two reasons: 1) I’m just posting about it now, and 2) how have we not gone on a hike in two months?! Of course, it’s November in Portland and the weather has turned less than stellar. Not like that’s a good reason for not getting out. It’s simply a convenient excuse. Paul has been working on me to actually go about our normal hike/camp activities in the rainy/snowy/cold weather. I’m slowly but surely coming around to the idea, but need some more appropriate gear first.

Back to two months ago. My mother-in-law Joyce and step-father-in-law Tom flew out from Michigan to visit us for a weekend. We had a fabulous weekend of eating and drinking and wine tasting and more eating and drinking (naturally), but I think all of us were most excited for a day of hiking. In Michigan, there isn’t much (or any) mountain hiking to be done, or anything terribly high elevation for that matter, so we really wanted to show Joyce and Tom a great time. Nice trail, maybe some water features, mountain views, decent distance and climbing… really wanted to fit it all in to one perfect hike. The weather in the city wasn’t looking great that day, so we decided to head over to the Elk Meadow/Gnarl Ridge trail on the other side of the mountain to catch some sun. We had perfectly blue skies and sunshine all day! Leaves were also starting to turn color, so we were treated to an all-around beautiful day.

Elk Meadow to Gnarl Ridge
Mt. Hood (east side)
Total hike distance: 11.87 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,638 feet

Click map for full GPS data

Picking up our wilderness permit

The trail starts out nice and easy until crossing the Newton Creek, then the climbing starts. When deciding which hike to do, I wanted to be sure we didn’t choose one too long or intense for our guests; not an insult to them, but Michigan is awfully flat, so I just wasn’t sure what level would be appropriate! They are super into mountain biking so assured me they were up for anything. After all my worry, they ended up kicking my ass up and down the mountain (big surprise, I know… I’m always the slowest).

Buckley doesn’t need no stinkin’ bridges! Crossing Clark Creek, an easy crossing on a footbridge.

Approaching the Newton Creek crossing

Newton Creek

Cairns lead the way through the rocky creekbeds

After crossing the creek, there are a series of fairly steep switchbacks that bring you up to a 4-way intersection of trails. You can take a more direct route to Gnarl Ridge from here, but we opted to go straight on the Elk Meadow Perimeter trail for a short detour that goes around Elk Meadow – well worth the extra 1.2 miles. You get a stellar view of Hood, the beautiful meadow, and can hang out at the shelter for a snack break.

The gang at Elk Meadow

The shelter just a little ways down the trail. We plan to camp here sometime soon!

View from the shelter

Tom and Joyce

Paul played photographer for a while 🙂

After a brief break at the shelter, we continued on our way. The trail from there hooks back up with the Gnarl Ridge trail and is pretty slow and steady,  interesting but fairly uneventful as you are winding through forests without much of a view. Then after about a mile you turn onto the familiar Timberline Trail, and get to that wonderful ~6,000 foot subalpine level. At about this point you round a bend and come back into full view of Hood, not to mention the expansive view of Adams and St. Helens to your right. The subalpine zone is always my favorite when moving through elevations; I love the adorable little Hemlocks and Firs and Pines and rocky terrain and krummholz formations (stunted, twisted, and crooked trees caused by fierce winds and little shelter).

Getting into the subalpine

Actually not certain if this is a Hemlock or Fir or something else entirely…

This section of trail takes you right around Lamberson Butte (which you can scramble up if you feel adventurous), and from there you are above treeline heading straight up Gnarl Ridge.

Gnarl Ridge leading up to Hood

Looking back out behind us, you can just barely make out Mt. Jefferson in the haze (we could just barely see the Sisters as well, but the camera didn’t pick it up)

Finally… beer and lunch break!

There are several ways to get back down the mountain, aside from taking the same trail that we took on the way up. We decided to make a loop of it. Rather than taking the Gnarl Ridge trail back down, we stayed on the Timberline trail which follows along the rushing Newton Creek. We started out high above the creek, but the trail eventually makes its way down to the creek itself, where we were left to figure out how the hell to cross it!

Remains of a stone shelter crushed by avalanche

Thank goodness for cairns to show us the way

When we got down to the creek, the trail kind of disintegrated into a creek bed of boulders and sand. It was not immediately obvious where we were supposed to cross the creek, which was much deeper and wider and faster than it initially appeared. We almost made the mistake of “just going for it” before discovering just a little ways down, there were some logs thrown across the creek. Turns out there were a few pink-taped branches sticking out of the rocks to guide the way that we had initially missed. Glad we found it! Although, it was still a fairly nerve-wracking crossing. Those logs were not particularly stable and that water was not slowing down for us.

The “bridge”

We all made it, some of us on all fours 🙂

On the other side

After crossing the creek, we followed more of the brightly-colored posts to a fun scramble that gets you back up onto the trail. Someone was kind enough to tie up some rope here to help hoist ourselves up.

Pretty much a straight shot from the creek bed up to here… maybe 20 or 25 feet? So much fun!

The rest of the hike out was uneventful but beautiful. The fall colors were starting to show themselves so we had plenty to marvel at.

A little natural spring that had… well, sprung

Farewell Mt. Hood

I have to admit, now two months later, I’m probably forgetting a lot of details on this one! I do remember that is was a huffer and puffer, but just beautiful. I have no idea what kind of shape this trail would be in now… I’m guessing covered in snow?

We’ve spent a lot of time at the indoor rock gym over the last month or two, working on our bouldering. Bouldering is addictive! I’ve conquered a pretty decent handful of V0’s thus far, and Paul has gotten several V1’s under his belt. Sadly, Paul suffered a sprained ankle a couple weeks ago so it’s put a little hold on things, but here’s hoping we’ll be back at it soon. This seems like the perfect time to get some low-elevation Gorge hikes in!

A Michigan Wedding

Okay, one more non-hiking related blog post…

As I mentioned in the last post, we were in Michigan last weekend for my mother-in-law’s wedding. She had asked me to be the official unofficial photographer, which of course I was thrilled to do! I take thousands of pictures every month, but don’t get to shoot people all that often, so I was psyched. It was certainly a learning experience. I enjoyed every minute of it, but yeesh, weddings move fast! There were definitely moments I wish I had been more prepared or better positioned for, people I wish I would have gotten more photos of, and details I wish I would have paid more attention to (I will never forgive myself for the bride’s diamond ring being turned the wrong way during cake-cutting!).

The wedding was just gorgeous. It was a perfect Michigan summer afternoon, right in their beautiful backyard with a gathering of their closest family and friends. There was a very emotional afternoon ceremony followed by dancing, eating, laughing, and lots and lots and lots of bubbly. 🙂 Since there were so many photos (271 to be exact) I’m including a smaller selection of them below as a slideshow.

Update: I’m also including the photos as a gallery below the slideshow, so you can click on individual photos to view an enlarged version.

Cheers to Mr. and Mrs. Nugent!! ❤

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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!