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!

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Green Lakes

Back to our usual adventures this weekend! My Dad flew out from Michigan on Friday for our annual camping trip. The tradition started as a Father’s Day gift in 2006, when we decided to take him camping with us (since my Mom would never, ever be down for that :)), and we’ve done it every year since. Up until this year though, it’s been car camping every time. Since we’ve come to love backpacking so much we decided to bring pops along for a new kind of experience.


We went back and forth a hundred times on where to go for the weekend, as the weather was not looking great anywhere near Portland. Mt. Hood, St. Helens and Adams all had forecasts of clouds and cold temps… not what I was looking for! We decided to make the extended drive out to Central Oregon to hike into Green Lakes, situated in Three Sisters Wilderness right between our old friends South Sister and Broken Top. This part of the state is considered high desert, so it’s almost guaranteed to be sunny (and it was definitely sunny in the daytime hours, but it surprised us all how cold it got that night). Still a good time had by all.


Green Lakes
Three Sisters Wilderness, OR
Elevation: ~6,500 feet
Total hike distance: 9.46 miles (this can vary depending on where you camp)
Total elevation gain: 1,746 feet (also varies depending on campsite)


Click image for full GPS data


We took off early on Saturday and made it to the trailhead around 10:30am, and were greeted by about a hundred other cars. Oy. Luckily most of these seemed to be day hikers, but it was still a pretty busy area this weekend. While picking up our wilderness permit at the trailhead, we saw that there was a campfire ban where we were headed. 😦 Bummer! We’ve camped without a fire before, but I was most disappointed for my Dad because I know he loves campfires. Sorry Dad!!





It’s about a 4.1 mile hike to the Green Lakes, but not too much elevation gain, which made for a very pleasant hike. The trail follows the appropriately named Fall Creek for the first couple of miles, which is just lousy with waterfalls.



One of the many falls along the way


After the trail parts ways with Fall Creek, it follows a smaller creek the rest of the way to Green Lakes. This part of the trail is very cool, with rock slopes full of shiny Obsidian glinting in the sun, stream crossings and tons of wildflowers.






You can see Broken Top peeking out between the trees



One of the many little stream crossings



Bright and colorful flowers everywhere


A short time later we arrived at Green Lakes! The area consists of the main Green Lake, and the smaller North and South Green lakes on either side. Next task was to find our campsite. The process of finding a site here was different than anywhere we’ve been. It’s kind of organized, but also not. There are a number of designated campsites around the lakes (I think about 28 in all), which are numbered and have corresponding post markers at each site. A map of the area with the numbered campsites is available at the trailhead.  But, there aren’t necessarily trails leading to all the sites; rather, they give you the GPS coordinates for each of the numbered sites, and you have to find your way there. Some of them are fairly obvious as they are close to the trail, but most of them take some wayfinding. It was early afternoon by the time we arrived in the area, so of course most of the sites that were relatively easy to find were already taken. Rather than all three of us wandering around trying to find a campsite, Paul took the map and GPS and set off to find our home for the night. With the GPS, he was able to find an available site (site #14 to be exact, near South Green Lake), hooray! This was one of the sites with no designated trail leading to it, and happened to be perched way up on a ridge. So, we climbed… straight up a fairly steep slope a good 100 vertical feet or so (and at that elevation, my Dad and I were huffin’ and puffin’ to get up there). Despite it not being the easiest site to get to, it actually was quite a nice spot. There weren’t any other sites within view which made it feel more secluded, and we still had a view of South Sister through the trees.


We got to work setting up camp, us in our tent and Dad in Paul’s brand new bivy sack. I think sleeping in a bivy sack makes Dad a more hardcore camper than myself… it’s basically a sleeping-bag-shaped tent with just a little head room on one end. Not for the claustrophobic.



Taking a little nap after setting up his sleeping quarters



ZZZZzzzzzzz… sorry Dad, had to post it 🙂



That’s some nice handiwork to keep this thing stable



Beer time



Buckley’s already a very tired pup


After having a little Mountain House lunch (natch), we headed out to explore a bit more. Heading down the back of the ridge that we were camped on, there was a giant meadow sprawled out before Broken Top. Lots of cute little flowers (we were careful not to trample them), a creek, and amazing views to enjoy.









Broken Top



Adorable!



All the little plants and flowers made the ground look pink



Contemplating



The wide angle view: Mt. Bachelor waaaayy in the distance on the left, South Sister, and just the peaks of Middle and North Sister on the right






On the way back down





Back at camp, we downed a few more beers/glasses of wine/pulls of whiskey with dinner. When the sun started setting, it started getting cold. We all added as many layers as we could to keep warm… and the effing campfire ban didn’t help things! We did see a couple deer running our site after dark though, which was pretty cool. At about 9pm (maybe it was 10pm? who really knows) it was time to turn in, as it was just getting way too cold. We anticipated it would get down to maybe the upper 40s but damn… it was f-f-freezing. Luckily we all had several layers, so we were all just about warm enough overnight, but a few degrees cooler and we might have had some issues.



Night night


Usually once the sun starts to come up, it instantly warms up in the tent and I can sleep a couple more hours in peace. Not this time… I swear when the sun came up, it got colder. None of us wanted to get out of our sleeping bags until it was tolerable, so we ended up sleeping in until like 8:30am! That’s late, for us. Even then, when we got out of our tents we were greeted with frost on the outside. Frost! Luckily after that point it warmed up very quickly, and we were comfortable in no time.


We decided to gather our food and cookset and have breakfast down by the water. It was just beautiful… sunshine, blue skies, and crystal clear views of the mountains. That morning made up for the entire frigid night.



Good morning, South Sister



The panoramic view over South Green lake



Paul bringing us our morning coffee


After a (very) leisurely breakfast, we slowly started packing up to head out. It was quite a pleasant hike out, very flat but the creeks and falls made up for it.






My brand new 64-liter pack (so exciting!!), before shoving everything in it



Broken Top






A trailhead beer to celebrate the close of a great trip





After heading back through Bend for lunch (at the Bend Brewing Co.), we stopped at Smith Rock briefly just to show my Dad. Still an awesome place… maybe one day we’ll be good enough at rock climbing to scale some of these walls!








Despite the freezing cold and campfire ban, we had a great annual camping trip with Dad. Hopefully he thinks so too! 🙂

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


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. 🙂



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!

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!