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South Coldwater Ridge

8 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain •

The forecast looked fantastic. But NOAA seemed to have completely missed the winds. Skies were gloriously blue, and the windchills were probably into the negative range. We did luck out as the things calmed down to a mere breeze while we neared our turnaround time. Anyway, the scenery was top-rate! And the friends a joy to share it with.

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December 30, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

WSU Vancouver

4 miles of hiking • 750' elevation gain •

[Actually happened 12/31, but a site bug keeps that date out of the stats.]

Harleigh didn't get to to snowshoeing yesterday, so we did a romp up at WSUV this afternoon. I think I walked a bit over 4 miles, and I'm sure he did much closer to 8 or 10. What a perfect place to go, when the forecast is so grim in the mountains. Two highlights near the end of the stroll were some sort of little hawk, and then a forest floor just popping with frost flowers!

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December 30, 2015

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Hamilton Mountain

11 miles of hiking • 3000' elevation gain •

Intensely monochromatic, but lovely, day on an old favorite! Only crossed paths with ten (or fewer) folks all day long, but two of them were old-time PH TFFs - so fun to see them up there! No ice anywhere, but snow from the trailhead on up. It didn't really start accumulating until fairly high, with the depth increasing from about a 1 inch at 1500' to a solid 2 feet by 2000'! Most of the route was well beaten down, so no snowshoes were needed. The traverse from summit to saddle was "fun" in its own way, with weighed down branches blocking the way in many spots. Don's Cutoff was just plain fun. And, as I was coming back down the jeep trail, the sky seemed to be clearing, so I diverted for another climb up to the saddle. (Turns out visibility had increased from about 50' to nearly 500'. Heh.) Just another terrific day up there!

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December 28, 2015

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Heart_bw

Salmon Creek Greenway

6.5 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Yep, again. Closest trail to home. Water levels down a bit. Mount Hood made an appearance. Lots of herons and egrets, but Harleigh wasn't interested in just observing, so it was hard to get many photos.

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December 26, 2015

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Heart_bw

Salmon Creek Greenway

6 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Sick of the rain, but bogged down in one family thing after another, Harleigh and I just made an escape the other day for a brisk one up and down the greenway. Salmon Creek was flowing large! In places, right up to the trail. It was the only time in the last three years I didn't bring a spare camera battery, and of course the one that was in it died only a mile or so from the trailhead. Ah well... Really nice walk, anyway!

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December 19, 2015

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Heart_bw

Ruckel Fail, Herman Bail

22.5 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain •

The forecast said it was supposed to stop raining at 8am. HA! 10 hours later, it really hadn't let up at all, but we'd wandered pretty considerably. The initial plan was to tackle Ruckel Ridge, cross the plateau, and return via the PCT. However, right around 1000' elevation, we started running into 1" thick ice on the rocky 45°+ trail. If there wasn't another 2000' of climbing ahead, spikes would've probably gotten through this initial obstacle, but the thought of bailing from even higher wasn't very appealing, so it was time to come up with a Plan Z. (We'd had trouble all week arriving at this one!)

Ended up driving over to the Bridge of the Gods, and wandering up the PCT from there. Finally made it to Dry Creek Falls, which was pretty cool, and much bigger than it's always looked in pictures. Much of the trail was covered in storm debris, ice, and snow, but nothing horribly obstructive. There was a mighty washout just a short ways before the Pinnacles, however, that seemed still quite active. In fact, while we were at the Pinnacles, we heard two incredibly loud rock slides from above. Thinking they were probably coming down the gully we'd just crossed, a plan Z2 was now in order.

The thought of following the PCT all the way to Benson was considered, but daylight was already running short, so instead we wandered over to Herman Creek, and then up as far as Casey Creek Camp, before deciding daylight was nearly gone and it was time to turn around. The final bail was going straight to the Herman Creek TH, and walking back into town from there, rather than return on the PCT in the dark. Just too much storm damage to mess with.

Two very kind folks offered us rides, but the exercise was feeling good so we just walked on. All in all, a pretty good loop, and a really fine day in the rainy gorge!

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December 4, 2015

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Heart_bw 3

Strawberry Island

3.5 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Harleigh and I both needed to stretch after yesterday, and I thought he was especially deserving, so we joined a "hiking with dogs" group to wander around the frozen gorge this beautiful #OptOutside day! Both people and dogs made new friends. Pretty nice way to spend the morning. :-)

[The sign said "Strawberry Island" - no idea why the map calls it "Hamilton Island." Ah well.]

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November 26, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Tanner Butte

20 miles of hiking • 5250' elevation gain •

Awesome day with great trailfriends, old and new, visiting the gorge peak that's farthest from any trailhead. Two of whom bagged their first 20-miler! There really isn't a better trail to do it on, either. :-)

Started early, in the frosty cold, and never really escaped that. Although, the summit itself was a balmy 40-ish degrees with no wind! Otherwise, low-30s, and frosty/frozen ground, progressing to a couple-few inches of snow by beargrass alley.

We were treated to a most incredible spectacle as a several-mile wide vaporfalls of clouds cascaded across ridgelines to our east and south. This was absolutely the highlight of the day, although the "best in the gorge" views were nothing to scoff at either, what with 150-plus miles of visibility.

With many regrets, we left the summit at 2pm for the 10-mile return trip. Ended up in total darkness before hitting the old trailhead. Someday, perhaps, I'll finish a Tanner hike in daylight. Nahhh... that'll never happen! LOL...

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November 21, 2015

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Triple Falls and Beyond

7 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

The original plan was to do the Bell Creek loop, coming from Oneonta Creek. But the recent storm(s) have had their way with that trail! Repairs to last year's slide area held up well, but there were uncounted new log falls across the trail, or taking the trail out entirely with their rootballs. Nonetheless, getting to Triple Falls is still doable for the mildly adventurous. But less than a mile past Triple Falls, maybe a quarter-mile below the second bridge, the Oneonta Trail is simply gone. Washed away into the creek. There seem to be no "good" ways around this, either. Seriously adventurous folks could probably scramble up and around the washout, but all bets are off on the return journey! So, hitting this obstacle, we decided to go stretch our legs on another trail a few miles down the road.

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November 20, 2015

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Nesmith Point

11 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Following a spectacular failure trying to get to Bell Creek, Nesmith Point sounded like a good and nearby leg-stretcher! Lots of blowdown here, too, most all below 2000'. Very cold on top, but not much snow. Just occasional patches 1/2" or so deep. Finished last couple miles under headlamp. Curse "standard" time!

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November 20, 2015

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Salmon Creek Greenway

5.5 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Just a quick getaway on a nicer-than-expected evening...

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November 14, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Table Mtn-Cedar Mtn Loop

10.5 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain •

Got a really late start, not arriving at the Aldrich Butte trailhead until after 11am. The skies were broken, and it wasn't raining here. (Poured buckets as I was driving through Camas!) Seemed like it just might turn out to be a good sky-watching day. :-)

Headed up the old access road, turning towards Aldrich Butte, before coming across a fresh landslide. Not much of an obstacle, other than its slurry-like consistency which held absolutely no weight. Yuck. Then I hooked onto a ridgeline trail, that entirely avoids further backroad walking, over the PCT. The yellow maples just lit up portions of the forest! Seems like the kiosk at the cutoff up to Heartbreak Ridge has turned into something of a bulletin board. :-/

After the grueling stretch up to Two Chiefs, I decided to take a new old way that avoided the talus scramble. (Have to advise against doing this, unless you're fully confident of your own self-rescue skills!) Portions were pretty overgrown, and in others there was a maze of game trails. In fact, found three deer legs along the way.

Eventually got back onto the main trail well above the talus, and then topped out shortly. There's a new marker-feature on top! Wandered out to the overlook, and soaked in some magnificent and rapidly changing views for a short while, just as a series of potent flurries blew in. Wow! This is why we climb mountains!!!

After killing about an hour wandering the summit area, I realized I had less than two hours before sunset. Yikes! Got in gear, and quickly headed towards the shortest path down -- Westway to Cedar Mountain. Boy oh boy, without Vitamin I rushing this descent would've been intolerable. Westway was its usual slip-n-slide self. And though I'd stayed relatively dry until now, the unmaintained route over to Cedar Mountain just drenched me. Yes, we're having fun now!

The sun set right around the time I was at the high point on Cedar, and darkness fell pretty quick as I tried not to avoid controlled falls down the muddy razor ridge. Startled what I believe were a pair of falcons at one point. I can report that the anti-gravity tree is still there, too. Finally, the roar of Cedar Creek rose up out of the valley below.

Tried to cross on the "bridge" just downstream from where the trail goes. But it was slick as slug slime, and a fall here, dark as it'd become, wouldn't be cool. So, being entirely soaked anyway, I just decided to walk across the creek. Why not?

Circling around the backside of Aldrich Butte, still without artificial light, something crashed through the forest about 50 yards off-trail. Holy crap... Okay, I paused long enough to snatch a flashlight, and got back to the jeep a bit before 6pm. This was the perfect hike for this particular day.

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November 11, 2015

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Eagle Creek

15.5 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

The previous day's deluge set up the perfect conditions for a classic "waterfalls hike." And it probably rained another 2-4" just while I was hiking! Eagle Creek was raging like I'd never seen it before. Keeping my gear dry was an exercise in futility, quickly abandoned. Just an awesome day on one of the most awesome forest trails in the country.

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November 1, 2015

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Burnt Lake & East Zigzag Mtn

10 miles of hiking • 2500' elevation gain •

Lovely day in the woods, with some really nice views. The soft lighting offered by a very thinly overcast sky really brought out some incredible colors in our now nearly-naked mountain. Ran into extremely few folks, maybe six groups altogether, but the highlight was crossing trails with Mountainkat on the way up! While we were chatting, two groups of six others passed, but all must've gotten lost. Harleigh and I had the summit to ourselves when we got up there. So good to get back to this trail, after not having been there for over three years now.

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October 23, 2015

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Angels Rest Sunset

5 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Seems a bit cliché-ish, but a sunset run up to Angels Rest on a weeknight yields some pretty memorable moments. We crossed paths with a few coming down, and were left with the top near entirely to ourselves! So nice to have an option like this so close to town! Perfect alternative to the 'hood for the evening dog walk.

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October 22, 2015

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Bull of the Woods Lookout

8.5 miles of hiking • 2250' elevation gain •

A bit of a recliner hike, after not having been out much lately. Really nice loop through a new (to me) wilderness. Absolutely phenomenal views from the "antique" lookout. We counted 11 stratovolcanoes, ranging from Rainier to the Three Sisters. Fall colors were better on the roads to/from the trailhead, and seem to be fading fast at elevation. Spotted quite a smoke plume in the vicinity of Deschutes NF (perhaps a prescribed burn?). Absolutely worth the drive; go on a clear day!

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October 16, 2015

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Oberg Mountain Loop

3 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

The longest 3-mile hike you'll ever take! Especially if you do it in early October, when the Fall colors are peaking. Oh my! The lollipop trail around Oberg Mountain branches off from the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) not far from the trailhead. It climbs gently to a loop that circles the summit, breaking out to a series of stunning viewpoints at numerous locations along the circumference. Oh my, my, my... This is a must see stop along any Fall Colors Tour on the North Shore!

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October 1, 2015

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Heart_bw

Egge Lake

5.5 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

Had a great lunch at "Our Place" in Finland, before doing an in/out on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT), through a gorgeous birch and maple forest, to Egge Lake as the sun slowly sank to our west. The SHT was gently rolling through here, and the Fall colors were popping! Harleigh could barely be restrained from chasing the hundreds of squirrels and chipmunks we encountered along the way. Saw an old bear den, but no bears or wolves.

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September 29, 2015

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Cascade River Loop

10 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Finally found a chance to hike the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) from a gravel road that leads to our nearby cabin, along the Cascade River, clockwise down to Lake Superior, then back up again along the other side of the river. The SHT is sooooo different from our local trails, in particular from the PCT! Rocks and roots characterize the tread. And stairs. This isn't no 6%-max horse grade! Campsites are "official" and offer not only fancy fire circles but convenient latrines with nice views as well.

Fall foliage was just starting to light up, as Harleigh and I did this trek. Just beautiful. Red maples, yellow maples, and lots of yellow birch and poplar. Mushrooms everywhere. We lunched at Lake Superior (on Sven & Ole's pizza!), before trekking back up the valley. There were coho salmon attempting to swim up the river, and folks more than willing to catch them.

Within the state park itself are a series of magnificent waterfalls and overlooks. The river looks like root beer! It's dark brown and foamy. According to one sign along the trail, this is due to all the swampy areas it passes through along its 17-mile course. The foam is simply from the turbulence of the cascades. More detail in one of the photos.

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September 27, 2015

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Falls Creek Falls

11 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Was shocked back into Fall, as we hiked through the rain and enjoyed the onset of autumn colors. Lots of folks along the short 1.7 mile trail from parking lot to spectacular 335' Falls Creek Falls. But hardly anyone on the trail above, that leads to views of the upper tier and eventually all the way to Indian Heaven.

Perhaps the most amazing thing we saw all day, though, was a sign in the parking lot! The USFS is no longer asking that folks have the Northwest Forest Pass to park there. Perhaps they're "seeing the light" in view of recent court decisions? :-)

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September 6, 2015

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Cape Horn

8 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

The ongoing destruction of this trail is a serious disappointment to me. Yes, they've improved the viewpoint of the upper falls. But they've also removed a good number of other viewpoints, some of them seemingly entirely senselessly. Case in point, the railroad overlook! W.T.H...??? I swear, I was mumbling much of the loop about how boring they'd made it. The word "gentrified" kept coming to mind. Really a sad, sad situation. :-(

Anyway, got tied up in traffic, so wasn't able to head out hiking until 3pm. Just loaded Harleigh up, and hit the closest trailhead to home! Had some dramatic skies, and got to play with a new camera! (Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40)

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September 4, 2015

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Heart_bw

Hamilton - Hardy Loop

15.5 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain •

My "job" on Friday was to wear out the dog, in anticipation of relatives arriving to visit on Saturday. Mission accomplished! A bit after noon we headed out for Beacon Rock State Park, found a new way (to us) to loop Hamilton Mountain and Hardy Ridge, and thoroughly enjoyed the nearly pristine skies. The Cougar Creek fires on Mount Adams were barely discernible, and visibility was over 100 miles as we could see Mount Rainier from Phlox Point! The park was virtually deserted - we didn't see another soul from approximately mile 2.5 to mile 14! It was only the second hike off-leash (except the cliffy ascent!) for the pooch, who's turning into an absolutely awesome trail pup!

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August 21, 2015

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Heart_bw

Lemei Rock

10 miles of hiking • 2250' elevation gain •

The forecast called for north winds. The thought was to get some views of the Cougar Creek fire on Mount Adams. First attempt to accomplish that would be climbing Sleeping Beauty. When we got to the trailhead, the smoke was so thick we didn't even bother getting out of the Jeep. The second attempt was hiking in to Lemei Rock from the east. When we got to this trailhead, the smoke had diminished enough, we could still plausibly breathe as we got out to consider whether to continue. (First photo was taken near Trout Lake.)

Undaunted, well, not much anyway, we decided to make a go of it. This trail turned out to be delightful, and virtually unpopulated. It was an awesome place to practice, for the very first time, off-leash hiking with Harleigh! He spent just as much time making sure he still knew where we were, as we did him! What a joy. Never seen a little guy enjoy his freedom quite so much.

As we walked, we stopped numerous times to enjoy the huckleberries, and take a gander at what were supposed to be views. Nothing but smoke. Kept going, and found a few more folks clustered around the base of Lemei Rock. Visibility was perhaps a mile, at best. Decided there was very little point in climbing the rock, only to see the smoke better. So we found a lovely little tarn, had a nice lunch, then just wandered back the way we'd come.

Great day with an old friend; just not quite the day either of us had envisioned. Ah well! :-)

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August 16, 2015

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McKenzie River Trail

23 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain • 1 night

Lavapalooza, Day Five! This one was totally off my radar, but a friend had mentioned she wanted to go see it, I took a quick look at the 'net, and couldn't have been happier to accompany! What a treat. The water has a mystical blueness to it that defies the imagination. Tamolitch Pool, aka "Blue Pool", is positively electric! Never seen such a stretch of beauty before.

We started out about 2 miles south of Blue Pool, and warmed up with a brisk walk up to that, which we were able to enjoy entirely by ourselves at this early hour. Continuing on past the Carmen Reservoir, we crossed the river and walked beside countless waterfalls along the east bank of the McKenzie. While Koosah and Sahalie were the standouts, there were numerous little cascading steps that offered pool after pool of stunning blueness. A bit past Sahalie Falls, we found one such pool to provide the perfect lunch spot!

After lunch, we continued north, and then along the eastern edge of Clear Lake. Again, the color of the lake was just stunning. The water so clear! There were several lava fields to cross, which were a cause of concern since we had a dog along with us. As it turned out, all but the last had a paved pathway through, making it far easier for our barefoot companion. Vine maples were already beginning to turn, and the scenery was just delightful.

Rounding the lake, we discovered even more deep aquamarine pools. Just incredible. At about 15 miles in, we were realizing how much of our water we'd already consumed! Luckily, we were right at a little group of cabins, and came across a potable water spigot to refill at. The rest of the southward return was rather non-eventful, and somewhat hurried, as our imagined 17-miler had mysteriously grown by another 30%!

If you find yourself in this neck of the woods, this National Recreational Trail is surely worth a run!

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August 10 – August 11, 2015

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Obsidian Falls - Opie Dildock Loop

18.5 miles of hiking • 3500' elevation gain • 1 night

Lavapalooza, Day Four! The original plan was for an in/out lollipop to Obsidian Falls, but we had a strong group so the hike was extended into a full loop along the PCT over Opie Dildock Pass to the Collier Glacier Viewpoint, then back down the Scott Trail to our starting point. Despite a persistently overcast sky, it was yet another incredible day along the McKenzie Pass corridor.

The start of the Obsidian Trail is non-remarkable. And then... You break out at a lava field, and there are tremendously powerful views of the Sisters right before you. As we continued on, the ground became littered with chipped up obsidian. Our first crossing of Obsidian Creek was something of a letdown. No falls? Hmmm, well, carry on. Of course, there was the massive Obsidian Cliff right there beside us, and that was truly something.

After we hooked a left on the PCT, the actual waterfalls soon became apparent. Almost as beautiful as I remembered it from the last time I was here - forty years ago! (Things were greener, and there was more water, then.) We lunched above the falls, then wandered over to Sister Spring, which turned out to not only be the source of Obsidian Creek, but just about the only source of fresh water we'd see all day.

The trail took a steady dip as we wound around Little Brother, and then the climb up to Opie Dildock began. Wow! What an awesome stretch of PCT this was! Not sure I can recall many as fascinating. The turns and twists as we ascended a lava chute were entirely hidden from below, but totally visible from above. Very cool.

The group was a bit hesitant about climbing up to the Collier Glacier View, but only a bit. When each got there, an exclamation was heard. Totally worth every bit of effort, and then some! Most awesome view, which could only have been improved with a bit more blue in the sky and green on the ground. :-)

We lingered for a long time before continuing on over Opie Dildock and down towards Minnie Scott Spring (which was also dry). Finally, we encountered our return trail, hooked a left, and began the long descent. Lots to see on the Scott Trail, and it would ordinarily be quite the highlight. But we'd been on sensory overload for awhile, so just sort of scurried along across most of it.

Exceptional day with incredible new trail friends!

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August 9 – August 10, 2015

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Scott Mountain - Hand Lake Loop

12 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain • 1 night

Lavapalooza, Day Three! This awesome little loop heads out directly from the Scott Lake Campground, our basecamp for five nights. It winds through a pleasant forest, while passing a succession of beautiful lakes. Benson and Tenas Lakes were most gorgeous. We then wound up towards the summit of Scott Mountain, which offered sweeping 360° views across much of Central Oregon, including the High Cascades and the Old Cascades.

Enjoyed lunch on (a well populated!) top, and then wound down through more healthy forest before wandering into a burned area. Lots of fireweed to enjoy right now! Exiting the forest, we encountered the 1500-yo blocky lava flow from Little Belknap Crater. A portion of the Old McKenzie Wagon Trail cuts across it! We followed the wagon route so we could circle around the backside of Hand Lake. As it turned out, the lake was gone, so we just traversed the dry lake bed instead.

All too soon, we were back at a dry bay of Scott Lake, and then our campground. Four of our group of seven had to leave, but the three of us that stayed pulled out the ice cream maker and had a delicious treat before jumping in the lake to wash off all the trail dust! Mmmmm....!!!

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August 8 – August 9, 2015

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Belknap Crater

8 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain • 1 night

Lavapalooza, Day Two! Enjoyed another glorious sunrise at Scott Lake, followed by a trek along the PCT following 1500-year old lava flows to their source. First detour was a short 0.2 mile spur to Little Belknap Crater, enjoying a few lava tubes and generally insane topography along the way. Then we left the main lava flow and climbed what amounted to an 800' tall sand dune! We all felt it reminiscent of Cape Kiwanda, actually. Other than being surrounded by lava and volcanoes, of course.

On top of Belknap Crater, proper, we could finally see the actual crater - it was huge! The weather couldn't be beat, so we just enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch on top, before exploring some more. Coming down was far easier than going up (which was "two steps forward, one step back" much of the way!). Finished the day back at Scott Lake, with a quick swim, fantastic dinner, and light show over the Sisters.

Quite the life...! :-)

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August 7 – August 8, 2015

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Heart_bw

Black Crater

8 miles of hiking • 2500' elevation gain • 1 night

Lavapalooza, Day One! Started and finished the day at the Scott Lake Campground, just a few miles west of Dee Wright Observatory. It was to be our basecamp for five nights, as we wandered around the Three Sisters and Mount Washington Wilderness Areas by day.

Black Crater offers one of the most spectacular views of the Cascade volcanoes I believe I have ever seen. I easily counted 15 or 16 composite cones, and a great many more cinder cones, from this vantage point. The trail is relatively easy, gaining 600-800' per mile, mostly in the forest. The last mile or so rises above the trees, and the views really start opening up.

Awesome day, with some really wonderful new trail friends!

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August 6 – August 7, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Jefferson Park

18.5 miles of hiking • 3500' elevation gain •

Extended the usual trip, after a quick tour of the lakes, up to the perfect lunch-with-a-view spot atop Park Ridge. It was a hot day, hotter than we had expected to be sure. There's one patch of snow on Park Butte that still offered a running stream down across the PCT on our way up.

The Park is almost entirely devoid of wildflowers now, other than some few spots of gentians and a dozen or so paintbrush sprouts. All the little tarns are dried up. Rock Lake is nearly half gone, too. On the other hand, both Scott and Bays lake were glorious!

On the way back down the ridge, we took a quick wade into Russell Lake, which helped combat the heat immensely. Then it was on to Scott Lake for full immersion therapy. The water was probably 70° and oh so luxurious! Spent a bit of time talking to a sobo thru, before taking one last lingering loop around Bays Lake.

Oh, ran into Kyle Meyer on the way up the Whitewater trail, too! :-)

Just another incredible day in the mountains!

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August 1, 2015

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Heart_bw

Hardy Ridge & Beacon Rock

13.5 miles of hiking • 3250' elevation gain •

Had a mid-winter hike in the middle of the hottest summer ever. Felt pretty darned good!

On the way up the Hardy Ridge loop, we encountered a Pacific Giant Salamander - a first for both of us. Very cool creature! The trail up from the junction was as brushy as ever, and clouds sweeping over us insured it was dripping wet. By the time we reached Phlox Point, we were basically soaked to the skin. There were people in front of us, but they apparently didn't go all the way up, as we were totally alone on top.

Coming back down, we found that someone had once again knocked over Boot Rock. Fixed that! Took a turn towards the Equestrian Bridge, goofed around a bit there, then continued down and had lunch beside Hardy Creek at the next lower crossing.

Our plan had been to climb Hamilton Mountain after Hardy Ridge, but a minor injury forced us to choose just going up Beacon Rock instead. Which was nice, although it's a helluva task escorting two dogs through the flip-floppin' crowd on that thing!

Another great day in the Gorge!

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July 26, 2015

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Heart_bw 3

Whetstone Mtn - Opal Creek Loop

20.5 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain •

Awesome loop through a beautiful forest, past glorious opal blue streams, with a payout of 7- or 8-volcano view, lots of history, and incredible old growth. All spent with a great new trail friend.

We took the loop clockwise, climbing up to Whetstone Mountain first. It was a gentle approach, similar to many in the gorge. The views on top were pretty darn nice, stretching from Mount Adams to the Three Sisters. Easy to see why there used to be a lookout here.

The trail then continued along a ridge before descending to cross Battle Ax Creek. We lingered at the crossing for some time, as it was just drop-dead gorgeous. Perfect spot for a lunch break!

From there, we followed an old mining road back down to Jawbone Flats and Opal Pool. Along the way, we passed the remains of several abandoned mines; something I simply must go back and examine in better detail sometime!

Opal Creek (& Pool) are just indescribably beautiful. Can't believe it took this long to get there! After enjoying the creekside setting for far too long, we meandered back into Jawbone Flats and explored all around there. Very cool old company town, that's now a high-rent resort with some science and education going on as well.

Then it was another five miles or so back to the trailhead, though an ancient forest with some trees over 1000 years old. Oh my gosh. What a day. Allow far more time than you imagine necessary, if you do this loop!

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July 24, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Paradise Park

21 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

Hoped to escape the city heat, and mostly succeeded! Took an entirely new (to us) route up to Paradise Park from the Kiwanis Camp area below Government Camp, going up the Paradise Park trail and coming back down the Hidden Lake trail. Both routes were blissfully shaded by the forest, leaving only portions on and above the Timberline Trail with much sun exposure. Temps in Paradise were low-80s, while shadier spots along the Timberline were low-70s, as opposed to mid-90s in town. Sweet!

We were both amazed at how gradually graded the Paradise Park trail was, as we quickly gained over 2500' on the way up, barely noticing the incline. The final stretch was only slightly steeper. Unfortunately, the flowers had peaked (at least) two weeks ago, and the meadows were starting to brown. Ah well, views in all directions were still stupendous.

Seems this was the day for PortlandHikers folks in Paradise! We ran into one family we knew, they told us of another that they'd seen, and then the next morning learned of still more. Should've sent out smoke signals, or something. :-)

Had first lunch near Lost Creek, which held some of the very last monkeyflowers still in bloom. Headed over towards Split Rock for another nice scenery-appreciation break. Then it was finishing the Loop and heading back along Timberline down to the bottom of the Zigzag Canyon where we enjoyed second lunch. Brew, our hiking companion, greatly enjoyed the nice cold water at this stop!

Climbing out of ZZ was a non-issue. Funny how often I hear folks moan and groan about that exit, but this first time going in that direction just didn't seem like much at all. (Must be all those "training hikes" in the Gorge?) The views into ZZ canyon, and up to Mississippi Head were as awesome as always!

Easy descent down the Hidden Lake trail followed. We were both a little disappointed at hitting the lake, as it wasn't at all an option to take a quick dip (even for the dog) that we'd sort of hoped it might be. Nice enough, but nothing destination worthy, to be sure! Soon enough, we were back at the road for the short walk back to our starting trailhead.

This (lower) loop is definitely best done clockwise, although that does leave the somewhat steeper route for descent.

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July 19, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Sturgeon Rock & Silver Star

14 miles of hiking • 3750' elevation gain •

Finally made it up top on Sturgeon Rock! Tried a few times before, but have been stymied by icy or windy conditions, neither of which would make that a fun experience. Didn't get to Grouse Vista until around noon, and headed immediately down the Tarbell Trail so I could do Sturgeon first. I think that made a difference, too, as it's more often an afterthought on the way down. Along the way, I ran into a startling series of DNR signs saying "Timber Sale Boundary" - omg...!

Traveling this direction, a really slick way up Sturgeon Rock becomes obvious in a little meadow. Just follow the old jeep track. And then climb and shuffle across to the top. Simply outstanding views! Must go back on a day without clouds, for the full 5-volcano experience.

Descending, I think I startled a family as I burst out onto the trail from the woods above. Heh, oh well. Decided to hunt down the Spring I'd heard about before. Found it, and it's in very bad shape! Barely dripping. Maybe one drop every 1-2 seconds? Yikes. Not something to rely on this summer!

Had "second lunch" on Star 2, as the main summit was occupied within minutes of me arriving there. Found some nice solitude on the next summit over, and just enjoyed the breathtaking views for at least an hour.

Since it was still just a bit past 4:00, I decided to head down the north ridge, and loop back along Ed's Trail. What fun! Saw some other people, but no where near as many as I might've imagined. Basically had the mountainside to myself. On return south, I tagged the main summit again so I could text home my anticipated trailhead time. Then it was just the long shuffle back down to GV.

Another great day in the mountains!

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July 12, 2015

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Heart_bw

Soda Peaks Lake

13.5 miles of hiking • 3500' elevation gain •

Late start! The day started cloudy. Got to the trailhead at 2pm, and it was all of a sudden 81° and stinky humid. Thought a rainforest might be a decent refuge. What I'd neglected to find out, maybe I'm the only one who didn't know this?, is that the Soda Peaks Trail is akin to the Defiance Trail for long runs. Ai yi yi...! Thank goodness Harleigh was there to help pull me up the mountainside.

Didn't see another soul the whole way up. Two guys and a couple kids were fishing, swimming, and camping up there. Very nice lake. We walked about halfway around before finding a nice place to have a 5pm "lunch." Harleigh loved his peanut butter sandwich! In fact, it so energized him, I think next time I'll just give him half and save the other half in case he starts wearing out. (Something he's yet to do, while still on the trail!)

After completing our lake circle tour, we continued on up the trail towards the saddle, hoping to find a user trail to one or both of the Soda Peaks. Alas, we hit our turnaround point (6pm) before getting all the way up there, and headed back down. Really didn't want to chance the bugs as night fell, and it was looking a bit like thunderstorms may be moving in.

Grueling, but enjoyable, walk in the woods!

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July 10, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Larch Crater Loop

8.5 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Bored with A/C, and having just heard about the fire on Mount Adams, I decided to head up to Larch Mountain for a quickie. The immediate good news was, there was no visible plume rising up in the Trout Lake area! There was a thin layer of smoke across the northern horizon, though.

Anyway, it was a weird hike, starting at the high point and dropping down the crater rim to Multnomah Spur, only to climb back up to where I'd started. Decided, along the way, to walk out the "road" to the gate, just to see where it went. The trek through the crater itself was very odd, in that it was sooooo dry! Even if I'd never been there before, it was abundantly clear this trail was more often a creek. Lots of rocks and roots. Kinda fun seeing it so bone dry.

All in all, this is a great little getaway when it's really hot in the city. Very forested, and much cooler than down below. I probably added an extra 1.5 miles and 250' just wandering needlessly. Could've been a 7-mile/1500' loop hike. Got back to Larch, and the skies had cleared even more. Sure hope they can re-open Adams by next weekend!

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July 4, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Netarts Spit

14.5 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

The forecast called for temps over 90° just about everywhere. We preferred mid-50°s, and found it!

Located a trailhead along a road outside Cape Lookout State Park, which enabled avoiding the entry fees. This descended through the coastal rainforest to the beach, thus giving us our only EG for the day at the very tail end of the hike. Just meandered down the foggy beach for seven miles or so, before wrapping around the end of the spit to find a sunny, relatively wind-free lunchspot with a view of the bay, frolicking seals, and fun-seeking boaters and surfers. Then we returned the way we came, only seeing people in very close proximity to the state park.

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June 26, 2015

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Heart_bw

Sandy Ice Caves

13 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Despite arriving at the Top Spur trailhead right about 8am, the main parking was already consumed, and folks were starting to parallel park above and below. Still, we ran into very few other hikers all day, considering the number of cars we saw. The walk up the ridge, through the forest, was very pleasant in the coolness of morning. Not as many flowers out on Bald Mountain, or in the ridgeline clearings, as I had anticipated, though.

We veered off at the "climber's scramble" route to McNeil Point, and headed off-trail near the double-bivy site just a bit above the shelter. Traversing the hillside into the glacial valley was uneventful, and didn't even resemble work until we turned uphill along a convenient lateral moraine. Navigation is pretty straight-forward through here, though the footing isn't. Everything moves underfoot! Be sure of each step.

While on the glacier, we visited the entrances to the "Snow Dragon" and "Pure Imagination" ice caves. Neither of us felt it wise to go inside either. The ice was melting rapidly, with constant "rain" inside the caves, and rocks were tumbling wildly over the entrances. There was one set of fresh footprints going towards a cave, and right on top of them was a boulder the nearly size of a VW Beetle which had just tumbled down. Amazing!

We'd hoped to continue on over to Yocum Ridge, but the stream flowing out of Pure Imagination was really impassable. Up high, extremely tenuous snow bridges covered it. Mostly. Collapses were evident. Farther down, a lip of snow was on the far side, and would've collapsed had we tried to land there. At the one spot were a crossing was possibly viable, the far side was a very steep ash and rubble slope. Sliding backwards could've resulted in washing down a waterfall. Just not cool.

So we decided our main goal had been achieved, and the full loop would come again another day. Headed back towards McNeil Point, this time taking a higher line to hit the ridge about halfway to the normal turnaround point. Not a bad line, though we got "stuck" in a thicket of nasty brush for awhile. Otherwise, just a scramble.

Our descent followed the regular tourist trail down, along McGee Creek, and past the tarns. Some flowers out in this stretch, but nothing at all overwhelming. Looked up Gladd Ridge, to see the path we had taken just two days earlier up to Barrett Spur. I think we just missed Acorn Woodpecker, darn it.

This was a challenging trip, and ought to be avoided by those unfamiliar with glacier travel, and especially by anyone uncomfortable navigating off-trail.

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June 20, 2015

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Heart_bw 4

Barrett Spur

13 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain •

Snuck away for a fabulous day on the mountain with good friends! So many reports of avalanche lilies along Vista Ridge, led us to choose that trailhead as our starting point. Other than a short span, the lilies were mostly spent, but the beargrass was coming on strong in its place. We detoured over to Eden Park, and enjoyed the flower show along the way, particularly beside the several small streams we crossed. Getting over Ladd Creek proved to be moderately challenging, but we ended up rock-hopping with mostly dry feet.

After a quick stop in Cairn Basin, we continued on towards McNeil, turning shortly uphill along what we'll call Gladd Ridge. This is a lateral moraine that separated the Gleason and Ladd glaciers back when they were considerably larger than they are now. The ridge afforded us a magnificent stairway to the snow and ice above. At just about 7000', we crawled off the ridge and onto the Ladd Glacier, for a long traverse over to the southern snout of Barrett Spur.

Climbing the snout of Barrett Spur is not for everyone! It consists of extremely unconsolidated rock, much of it 2-3 feet in diameter, and even more of it feeling ready to roll on first touch. Getting up this beast was mostly an exercise on all fours, keeping a low center of gravity to prevent slides, and testing each hold before putting any weight on it. Once on top, it was a celebratory traverse to the high point of the spur, where we enjoyed nearly an hour of awesomeness while lunching. It was atop the spur that we saw two of the only four people we'd cross paths with all day.

After soaking in the view for awhile, we descended along the user trail towards Dollar Lake. First time I'd been there. It's very well hidden from the Timberline Trail, though there are now small cairns marking the off-ramp to it. The rest of the hike was uneventful, as we headed west on Timberline, and then north on Vista Ridge. Again, we couldn't get over the lilies in that spot they were still in all their prime! Oh what a sight it must've been a week or two ago. Looks like the fireweed will be pretty magnificent in the lower reaches within the next two weeks, as well.

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June 18, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Loowit 360 Fail Bail

26 miles of hiking • 6250' elevation gain • 1 night

Just an incredible adventure, with the most awesome trail friends a guy could hope for. Ended up "only" making it 26 of the 32 miles, bailing out at Windy Ridge due to rather severe heat exhaustion. (Two in our party continued on around, and finished, though!)

We camped at Marble Mountain Sno-Park, so we could get a really early start on the day. Left the June Lake trailhead, just a couple miles away, a bit before 5am. Hadn't ever seen June Lake before, and was actually pleasantly surprised at how nice it was, what with the very fancy water feature and all! Probably didn't please the tenters nearby as we stumbled past to take photos at this ungodly hour.

We chose to go counter-clockwise on the Loowit, to get both the terrible blocky lava fields and the Toutle crossing out of the way earlier in the day rather than later. This proved to be an excellent choice. Just cannot imagine what it would be like trying to get through those lava fields after dark. Probably impossible. The only people we saw on the south side were as we crossed the Monitor Ridge climbing route, which was something of a pit stop being there was an outhouse there.

As we continued around past Butte Camp Dome and towards Sheep Canyon, the flowers really started to come alive. Lots of beargrass at its prime, scattered patches of heather, some brilliant paintbrush, deep purple lupine, and all manner of yellow things. Very nice! I'd expected more of the paintbrush and lupine on the north side, so I didn't take many photos of that, which was disappointing as it was nearly absent entirely across the blast zone.

Descending 1600' to the South Fork Toutle River was the sort of thing one does knowing it's gonna cost. Climbing the 1000' back up wasn't too fun. By that time, I was starting to feel a bit dehydrated, with some minor muscle cramps. Probably should've heeded advice to turn around then, and return to the Blue Lake trailhead, but was way too stubborn to do that.

We continued across the face of the breach, marveling at the sheer scale of it all. Numerous waterfalls empty the crater, and send gushes flowing across the pumice plains, but nothing you'd want to drink in a non-life-threatening situation. While we (mostly) had to wade across the Toutle, everything on the north side was possible with rock hops.

At about 20 miles, the leg cramps were getting pretty intense. I knew of an oasis ahead, and was determined to make it there. As it turns out, that was the only other source of palatable water around the entire volcano! Well, finishing the loop was pretty hopeless at this point, so I and one companion took a bail trail off to Windy Ridge after an hour spent rehydrating (me) at the natural spring.

As luck had it, we hooked up with a (two-hour!) ride back to June Lake from the first folks we asked. What a miracle! Hikers are such cool people! We beat the two others in our group by about 45 minutes, and surprised the hell out of them as they finished.

Lots of lessons learned, and still being learned. This keeping alive business is serious stuff. :-)

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June 6 – June 7, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Eagle-Tanner Loop

26 miles of hiking • 5250' elevation gain •

Decided a little training hike was in order yesterday, after a few weeks off the trail, just to see if I could still get around. Ended up doing the Eagle-Tanner loop for the first time, and had my ass appropriately kicked! Who the heck turned up the heat??? Or maybe it was the humidity. Regardless, climbing 3000' after 10 miles up the Eagle Creek valley, as temps approached 80°, was one of the greater challenges I've taken on in awhile. Did I mention the humidity? Thunderboomers all around, and the air sticky thick with moisture. No breeze, either. Ah, well...

I was actually amazed at how few folks were along Eagle Creek! I didn't hit the trail until about 9:30, and there were fewer than a dozen cars at the trailhead. Only saw about a dozen folks by the time I'd gotten to Twister Falls, half of whom bailed at Punchbowl. And just a single human from that point on! Wow!!! Pretty amazing, considering the reputation of that trail. Of course, it also meant I "ate" a whole heckuva lot of spider webs, too. Small price, huh?

Pretty sure I've never been on Eagle Creek on such a sunny day, either. Made photographs a bit more challenging. Fair number of wildflowers in bloom. Up higher, the rhodies were just starting to pop, lots of avalanche lilies decorating the trailside, and Beargrass Alley is only a week or two away from peak! In the sunnier areas, the beargrass is pretty prolific, and the shadier areas should be likewise soon.

The Best View in the Gorge, atop Tanner Butte, was a bit subdued by the moisture-laden air. Three out of Five Volcanoes. Made me wonder why I struggled up that last 1/2-mile and 500' to the peak. But then, it'd be silly to walk this far and not tag the top, right?

Just a superb day in the woods, all in all! :-)

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May 29, 2015

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Heart_bw

Siouxon Creek

6 miles of hiking • 750' elevation gain •

Just a nice walk in the woods, and drive through the countryside, with family. :-)

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May 25, 2015

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Heart_bw

Salmon Creek Greenway

7 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

I guess there's no more snow in Clark County! Exhausted from a recent trip, I had only gumption for a quick run up and down the backyard valley. Water levels in Salmon Creek are at late-June to mid-July levels. It's nuts. The hunting grounds for the herons have shrunk considerably, so we saw many more than usual.

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May 15, 2015

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Heart_bw 3

Red Mountain

11 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Just a really nice day in the woods, with a special treat on top. Fair warning to any considering this one -- the mosquitoes are hatched and hungry in Indian Heaven, while the frogs are still in their early tadpole state. Not a good combo. A little DEET will do ya, but you could be miserable without.

Did an in/out on the PCT from Crest Camp trailhead. Very nice facility, there, and what I can only call a "moccasin trail" to Indian Racetrack. Nice and soft on the feet. We thought we'd make a loop of it, and come down the service road, but it was just too harsh to bear the thought after the lovely trip in.

Sunny and 70's for lunch on the catwalk, with just enough breeze to blow the blood-sucking bastards away. Who could complain? :-)

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May 9, 2015

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Heart_bw 4

Dog Mountain Loop

8 miles of hiking • 3250' elevation gain •

Left the city late, arriving at the trailhead after 3pm, and still there were 60 cars already there. On a weekday! Ran into a fellow PHer on the way up, and chatted a bit, then continued on. Ended up having the summit all to myself, despite back-and-forthing with a few folks along the way. Not that most would want to hang out up there that day. Gale force winds.

At any rate, the "real news" is, rumors of peak bloom on Dog are somewhat exaggerated. Below Puppy, yeah, probably peak. Above it, not so much. In fact, by the final approach to the summit, the hillsides are nearly bare. And there's a real lack of variety this year, too. Very little lupine or paintbrush blooming in the meadows, despite it showing up a lot down lower.

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May 4, 2015

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Heart_bw

Search for Kirk

6 miles of hiking • 1000' elevation gain •

Not a hike, per se. Volunteered to join the search for Gerren Kirk, a hiker who went missing last December. Spent the day bushwacking through brutral underbrush in our assigned search area, and in the process made some new friends.

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May 2, 2015

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Heart_bw

Moulton Falls Stroll

6 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

Nursing some abused muscles and joints, I decided to just go wander all the trails I could find around Moulton Falls. Very pleasant park, but an amazing number of dog walkers there for a Friday afternoon!

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May 1, 2015

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Heart_bw 3

Oneonta-Nesmith Traverse

17 miles of hiking • 4750' elevation gain •

Gained a new appreciation for Nesmith Point yesterday, by taking a route less taken! We met at Yeon, the traditional trailhead, then drove one car back to Horsetail Falls. This allowed a fabulous ascent, gaining the 4000' summit over 12 miles rather than 4, all the while soaking in a glorious sun-dappled forest full of rushing streams, waterfalls, a bit of snow, and the threat of thunderstorms. (Which I was totally stoked up for, but failed to materialize!) The sun shone bright on snow-capped peaks to our north in Washington. We were alone virtually the entire day, probably due to the forecast. Oh! And Harleigh set new PRs for both mileage and EG! What a perfect hike on what turned out to be the perfect day for it!

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April 25, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Three Corner Rock

20.5 miles of hiking • 5000' elevation gain •

Finally made it up to Three Corner Rock - a great day with good friends. First time hiking with one of them, which was a real kick. The trail is a long, winding, roller-coaster sort of thing, heading off along Stebbins Creek from Washougal River Road. Most of it is through a lusciously green forest, with the constant sound of rushing water. Crossing the creek was possible, at least with long legs, by hopping between about 15 or so rocks. It wasn't too deep to ford, either; mostly just above the ankles.

We did encounter one serious impediment, though. About six miles in, there's an active logging operation, which is apparently on private property. There is a sign at the trailhead advising of this, and when you get there tape blocks the trail and signs say it's closed. Well, at this point we could plainly see our objective, and weren't ready to turn around. We sat, ate our lunch, and observed the operations. At the point where no trucks were blocking the road through, we "made a run for it." It was pretty difficult finding the trail on the other side, but it's possible. You do have to traipse through some pretty nasty clearcut debris, or through a forest that's not very friendly either.

Getting by that obstacle, it was just a cruise to the summit. The closer we got, the smaller the rock looked! Very bizarre. And did I mention the switchbacks? They really don't end! That means the trail is never very steep, though. Up, up, up... Arriving at the rock, the views really open up. Quite the scramble to actually sit on top. Way worth it. Five volcanoes in sight. And nearly every peak within 75 miles that'd be worth climbing. I just sat and ticked off so many previous hikes... Tanner, Table, Larch, Nesmith, Defiance, Dog, Augspurger, Grassy Knoll, Little Huckleberry, Lemei, Observation Peak, Silver Star, etc, etc, etc...!

Seriously, the view is comparable to Tanner. Just amazing. It is, don't be fooled, an incredibly long day though!

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April 17, 2015

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Heart_bw

Angels Rest

5 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Following the service for a lost friend, a few of us chose to remember him with a quick jaunt up to Angels Rest. Given the weather conditions, we found rather remarkable solitude on this popular peak. It was a fitting end to a hard week.

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April 11, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Hamilton Mountain

12 miles of hiking • 2750' elevation gain •

Really didn't have it in me to stay at the office all day, so I got the heck out of there, grabbed the new pup, and took him on his first "real hike." We had a great time! He's a scrambler; never complaining about the climb once. Only real "issue" was he didn't have much/any interest in just chillin' a bit on the Saddle to enjoy the views. Ah well, he'll get the pattern after a few more hikes, I suppose.

The wildflowers are only starting to come in. Lots of bleeding heart down low, and again up near the horse bridge. (Dog was doing so well, we kept extending the loop!) A smattering of others here and there. Poison oak is definitely starting to leaf out.

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April 9, 2015

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Heart_bw 3

Silver Star from Grouse Vista

8 miles of hiking • 2500' elevation gain •

Expected crowds (Sunny Spring Break Saturday!), but found near complete solitude. Ran into snow a bit below 3000', and there was a good 6-10" of fluffy, crunchy powder by the time we summited. Tagged Pyramid Rock on the way down.

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April 4, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Horsethief Butte to Stacker Butte

17 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

A most awesome day traversing from the basaltic Horsethief Butte next to the Columbia, through Columbia Hills State Park, on up to Stacker Butte. We started down by the river, and found Horsethief to be (literally) just crawling with a hundred or more Mazamas out practicing rock climbing. Visited with a couple of PH friends for awhile, before exploring all around the butte, reaching its summit and then just wandering in search of ancient petroglyphs.

After seeing nearly all there was to see down below, we crossed SR-14 and headed up into the state park. I should say that both these places have very nice, new parking and outhouse facilities, though the Mazamas had all but consumed the first one. We followed a road for awhile, onward and upward, before diverting across the ranch fields, generally aiming towards the paragliding pullout along Dalles Mountain Road. Along this stretch, we found a great profusion of balsamroot blooms, with occasional bursts of lupine as well.

Took lunch at a convenient picnic table, and picked up the first tick of the day there too. Then we just rambled cross-country on up towards Stacker Butte. Along the way, we started a coyote, and enjoyed watching his flight. Then, as the flower show was really hitting its stride, we discovered a rattlesnake den with at least a half-dozen of the serpents bundled up together for warmth. As we approached with our cameras, they expressed their displeasure with some vehemence. First time I ever tried to make a rattlesnake shake its rattle!

We finally continued our push uphill, infinitely more "aware" of each footstep! Came across a couple heading down, and then a motorcycle with official Oregon plates. Very odd, that. By the time we peaked out, we were alone on top, and quite enjoyed the views and taking photos of that most phallic of all antenna structures. Decided to head west along the ridge to the farthest radio installation, signed threats to our health be damned.

The views from this ridgeline were superb! Even with the clouds, we could see from Rainier to Jefferson - a total of five biggie volcanoes - as well as the Goat Rocks. Lemei Rock in Indian Heaven stood out in front of Mount Saint Helens. The Dog-Aug-Cook complex called to us for future adventure. There seemed to be a handful of little wildfires to the south and east of The Dalles. Just a wonderful ramble up top!

At the end of the ridge, we took off cross-country and downhill, heading back in the general direction of the Dalles Mountain Ranch. Along the way, we crossed paths with a deer herd at least 30 strong. Flowers up high were still not making much of an appearance, but as we descended they came back on strong again. When we got to the ranch, we found that marmots had made a home under the ranch house, before heading around the barn to check out that rusty old car everyone likes to photograph. TICKS!!! Oh man, you have been warned.

Finally, we just walked the 4 miles or so back to the trailhead, enjoying views of the Columbia and much more all along. Just an incredibly fun day, in every possible way.

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March 29, 2015

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Heart_bw

Salmon Creek Greenway

5 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Another day, another "training hike" for Harleigh. The sun broke out, after morning downpours, so we got in a quick run up and down the valley below our house. He's really keeping up now. And even agreeing to "wait" while I snap photos! :-)

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March 21, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Zigzag Mountain Ramble

13.5 miles of hiking • 3500' elevation gain •

Have Dodge Ram, will hike! Wouldn't recommend the Burnt Lake South trailhead for anything less. That thing was cratered, and flooded, and just not the kind of thing you'd ever want to try a Suburu on! Definitely called for high clearance. That said...

Wonderful day! Headed up to East Zigzag Mtn, then just rambled across from the site of that old fire lookout all the way over to the site of another old lookout on West Zigzag Mtn, taking a slight detour up and around Cast Lake along the way. There was far less (virtually none) snow than 2.5 months later last year (5/30/14). The rhodies are really starting to come into bud.

Really fun day!

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March 20, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Mosier Meanderings

7.5 miles of hiking • 1250' elevation gain •

Spent the day just exploring around Mosier. Started with wandering all around the Mosier Plateau, where we found lots of balsamroot and parsley in bloom and an assortment of others (lupine, larkspur, grass widow, etc.) as well. Saw some monster squirrel-like things, and a little rock lizard of some sort, too. Then, we headed over to the Twin Tunnels bike path, and checked that out. It's kinda fun to go through the tunnels, and the views are nice, but the bike traffic is highly annoying (if not downright dangerous). Worth seeing. Once. Capped it off at Full Sail in Hood River. Ahhhh... :-)

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March 19, 2015

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Heart_bw

Salmon Creek Greenway

6 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

First "training hike" for the new pup. Longest walk before today was about 2 miles, as it was clear he'd never been on a leash or had any training of that sort before we brought him home a few weeks ago. Thought the high wind warnings and flood advisories offered the perfect chance to "see what he had." Took him for a good, brisk 6+ miler that even included some "tricky" water crossings! Heh..

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March 15, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Lewis River

8 miles of hiking • 750' elevation gain •

Thought the forecast of heavy rain all weekend called for nothing less than a hike in the rain forest. First time to the Lewis River Trail for both of us. Lovely stroll through beautiful old growth Western Red cedar and Douglas fir forests. It did, though, lack a bit in variety, so we called it a (thoroughly enjoyable!) day after fewer miles than usual.

As an addendum, we thought it might be fun to take a run through Ape Cave on the way home. HOLY CARP! We passed two caravans of four cars each leaving on the little access road above Trail of Two Forests. Then, arriving at the main parking lot, we were astonished to find somewhere between 50-75 cars already there! Seems like everyone else said, "Hey, let's take a hike indoors today!" Ai yi yi...

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March 14, 2015

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Heart_bw

Cinnamon Ridge & Butte Camp Dome

25 miles of hiking • 5500' elevation gain •

The day started out with a simple plan. Try the Cinnamon Ridge loop trail, as described in the Portland Hikers field guide (see link), starting at Kalama Horse Camp. But we found ourselves at the Red Rock trailhead, roughly the halfway point, at 10:30am. So... In a major "WTH?!" moment, we decided continue up past Butte Camp Dome, to the Loowit Trail for a bit higher vantage point to enjoy lunch with. Finishing that, we went clockwise around Loowit, until we found a good spot to bomb down an old lahar on the far side of the Dome. The bushwhack was relatively easy, but a bit denser than we'd guessed in places. We got back to Red Rock about 3:45, leaving just a couple hours until dark to climb and traverse Cinnamon Ridge. This was okay; not sure we missed much. The ridge was a bit underwhelming, being almost entirely forested with just a couple of viewpoint opportunities. We traveled the last 3+ miles under headlamp.

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March 6, 2015

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Heart_bw 7

Jefferson Park from Whitewater

14.5 miles of hiking • 2750' elevation gain •

Seeing a change in weather coming soon, it was entirely worth taking a vacation day to go hit up Jefferson Park in February! The conditions could not have been better. We chose the most direct route possible, from the Whitewater trailhead. It was clear, driving up the access road, that the windstorm earlier this week had done some damage. But we had no issues getting all the way in. Temps up top were in the mid-50s, with an occasional breeze. Extremely comfortable, considering!

Hiking up, we first hit "serious" snow around 5400', on a north-facing slope. Nothing that microspikes couldn't easily accommodate. Finding a decent spot to cross Whitewater Creek was a bit more problematic. It was partially ice-covered, and what was there certainly didn't look like it'd hold up a full-size human. Upstream from the natural crossing, we did find a nice pair of logs to use as a bridge, though, and on we went.

Upon entering Jefferson Park, our solidly compacted trail went every-which way, and so did we! Snow levels ranged from bare to 6' or so, averaging 2-3' depth. It was generally alright for walking on, though there were spots with some sinkage that made the going a bit slower. All the lakes were frozen solid, as we proved by walking across every one of them! There was flowing water in Whitewater Creek, across the entire Park, however. We made a few more crossings as we wandered.

Another incredible day in the woods! :-D

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February 24, 2015

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Heart_bw 4

Lemei Rock

17.5 miles of hiking • 3000' elevation gain •

Absolutely awesome day in Indian Heaven! FR65 is wide open (at least) all the way to Thomas Lake trailhead, which is where we began our hike. We left the trail about 2.5 miles in, near Rock Lake, and just traveled cross-country much of the rest of the day. Above 4700', the ground was almost entirely covered in snow, other than where the creeks were flowing or under thick cover. We briefly jumped on the PCT, before heading towards Lemei Rock, and quickly got off-trail again as we worked our way into the ancient crater. Lacking traction and ice axes, we chose to call it a day at this point, rather than climb the last 150' to the summit. It was drop-dead gorgeous enough where we were!

The exit was much the same. Got lots of practice navigating with maps and GPS, as we rarely saw a trail. That said, even buried in snow, you could still sense the PCT presence when traveling along it. We went south as far as Blue Lake before cutting back towards the trailhead, and pulled out of the woods just before headlamps were needed. Absolutely incredible day, in a place one isn't supposed to be able to enjoy during the winter!

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February 21, 2015

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Heart_bw 6

Saint Helens Lake Loop

17.5 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain •

Another beautiful day in the blast zone! Albeit extremely windy. Started at the Hummocks TH, where SR-504 is (needlessly) gated, and followed the Boundary Trail up to JRO and on towards Harry's Ridge. The trail out around Devil's Elbow is horribly washed out, so we detoured across that ridge using ready-made elk trails instead, and cut a mile or so off the day that way. Just didn't make sense to risk life and limb (given 50+ mph winds) dancing through scree on that hillside! Continued on up to the rock arch, which presented the only semi-hazardous navigation all day. Just one patch of really hard snow at a sharp angle with an uncool run-out. I spiked-up my trail runners, though my partner made it just fine with vibram soles. Three weeks ago, the lake was over 95% frozen, but it was entirely without ice this day. Due to the high winds, we just took a few snapshots, and hustled on along to find a sheltered spot for second lunch. (First lunch was down in the Spillover.) Decided to take the official Coldwater trail along the north side of South Coldwater ridge. It too was 100% snow-free. Just amazing, given the date! Really fun hiking this favorite loop backwards, with a new trail buddy!

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February 16, 2015

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Heart_bw

Archer Mountain Area

13.5 miles of hiking • 3250' elevation gain •

Spent a wonderful day exploring the area around Cruzatt Rim and Archer Mountain, with Brad acting as a most willing tour guide. First time up there, but won't be the last. Much of the day was spent off trail (so don't follow our track!). Ran into a fresh hatch of ticks on the way down -- they're out there in force, already.

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February 14, 2015

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Heart_bw 7

Mount St. Helens - Worm Flows Route

11 miles of hiking • 5750' elevation gain •

Probably the best use of a vacation day ever. Incredible day on the volcano, with visibility extending beyond 180 miles. To the north, we could see the Olympics, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, and of course Mount Rainier loomed large. To our east, Mount Adams and Goat Rocks dominated. To the south, there was Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Three Sisters, Mount Washington, and Three Finger Jack. Saddle Mountain was prominent to the west.

Snow was incredibly absent, not being a constant presence until probably 6000'. Traveling the worm flows was awful. We discovered that, minus snow, there was a "Good Worm!" and a very "Bad Worm!". Definitely choose the more eastward worm, if you have the option. We took that down, and were very happy there.

The temperature when first hitting the summit was a balmy 69°! Most comfortable day I've ever experienced up there. We lingered for well over an hour; me in shorts and shirt sleeves! Yowsa... :-)

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January 30, 2015

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Heart_bw 5

Tanner Butte

19.5 miles of hiking • 5000' elevation gain •

Spectactular sunny, 74°, and snow-free summit on Tanner Butte! We had it all to ourselves, after meeting the only two other people (PH TFFs, at that!) we'd see all day descending as we approached the summit. The entire Willamette Valley and P/V metro area appeared to be socked-in with fog, but the rest of the incredible 360° vista was nothing but bluebird skies. Views stretched from Rainier in the north to Three Finger Jack in the south, and even Saddle Mountain on the coast. Hung out on the summit so long, we ended up traveling the last hour-plus under headlamp. :-)

Views: Summit of Tanner Butte, the best view in the Gorge, on a gorgeous day! by Karl

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January 25, 2015

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Heart_bw 3

Salmon Butte

12.5 miles of hiking • 3250' elevation gain •

Really nice "training hike" up Salmon Butte. The first 1.3 miles is along a decommissioned roadway, which has been valiantly turned into a fairly nice trail. From there on up, it's a lush old forest, with a very comfortable, mostly duff, trail underfoot. The grade is consistent nearly the entire way, only leveling off a little bit along the final ridgeline before cutting up to the summit. Views were non-existent due to weather, though I think they'd be just splendid on a nice day! Most of the trail is totally forested, with only a couple viewpoints on the way up.

Virtually no snow to speak of! Isolated patches above 4200', only in forest canopy openings, and all between 2-12" deep and hard-packed. Crazy!

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January 23, 2015

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Heart_bw

Bells Mountain Trail

13 miles of hiking • 2750' elevation gain •

Had a good stretch wandering through the "post-apocalyptic" landscape on logged-over Bells Mountain, in northern Clark County, yesterday. The clear-cutting has been particularly aggressive in the last year, with loads of new views opening up, while plantings a decade or more old are slowly closing up some of the older harvest areas. The landscape is surreal, especially with dancing clouds. Might not be as pleasant in searing summer sunshine. Although, on a clear days the views of Mount St. Helens and Silver Star would likely be pretty extraordinary.

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January 19, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Multnomah Basin

11 miles of hiking • 2750' elevation gain •

Total recliner hike! Made a new trail friend, got together again with an old trail friend, and just enjoyed a nice walk through the rainy rainforest. Multnomah Canyon must be one of the more under-appreciated stretches in the gorge. Seems it's often an "issue" of getting past the tourists, but if you really slow down and enjoy it, you remember just how stunning it is. Looped around the basin, took in the ornaments, lunched on the veranda at Nesika, returned past Cougar Rock, and even took a quick spin in the old 1931 Buick. Fun day! :-)

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January 11, 2015

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Heart_bw 1

Cooper Spur

11 miles of hiking • 3750' elevation gain •

Magnificent day on the mountain! Tilly Jane trail was frozen as we ascended through a thick fog bank up the old ski trail. After enjoying the A-frame and campground vicinity, we headed over towards Cloud Cap Inn as neither of us had seen that in winter before. From Cloud Cap, we took the Timberline Trail (and a bit of cross-country) up to the lateral moraine alongside the Eliot. This provided an easy next 1000' of EG, as the moraine was bare rock on top. We ended up calling 7300' our turnaround point, as we were rapidly running out of daylight. On the way down, we "discovered" a memorial we'd never heard of before. Spent a little time around the shelter, and just generally enjoyed the views. Most of eastern Oregon was blanketed in clouds. The Washington volcanoes were shining jewels on the horizon.

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January 9, 2015

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Heart_bw 2

Hamilton Creek to PCT Loop

14 miles of hiking • 3750' elevation gain •

Decided that a long forest hike was the choice-du-jour, due what looked to be unrelenting clouds obscuring any hope of views. Wandered way up Hamilton Creek, starting just south of Aldrich Butte, following the old abandoned railroad grade to the extent possible. Then, took the incline route up to the PCT, and came back down the "normal" route. Along the way, Brad showed me a new option for getting off that gawd-forsaken, rocky, rutty road! The "ridge trail" nearly parallels the road, but is infinitely more pleasant to walk on. Bonus! :-)

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January 3, 2015

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