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Eagle Creek

13 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

One last trip out in 2016! Went to see the Metlako landslide, and weren't disappointed! It was a pretty cold morning, and we met at the outer parking lot. Driving in to the closer departure point was a bit sketchy, but not too bad. Only three cars ahead of us. We put on our microspikes in the parking area.

As we wandered on up, lots of little debris slides had come down recently across the trail. Especially right at first. Mixture of snow, ice, and rock. The streams were all running very low. We were glad we had spikes on, as we were routinely walking on snow and ice, and some of the passages would've been damn tricky without traction.

All of a sudden, we were at the Punchbowl Falls cut-off! WTH? We'd somehow walked right past the Metlako viewpoint spur. Not sure whether to be embarrassed for having absent-mindedly missed it, or whether this is a somewhat profound indicator of just how greatly the forest had changed. Just before getting back to Sorenson Creek, we took a side trail down to a spot where we got our first full-on view of the landslide. WHOA!!! It was YUGE!

Took a lot of photos of the slide. Tried to take some of the falls, but the view was severely less interesting than from the former viewpoint. Then wandered over to the old spur trail, which now leads straight to the edge of a cliff. This is just crazy. Took lots more photos. Then followed the slide southward a few hundred feet, and took lots more photos. YUGE, I tell ya!

Well, after getting our fill of this little "disaster," we once again headed up-valley and just enjoyed this most beautiful trail. The sun was out, snow was on the ground, it really couldn't have been prettier. Crossing Tish Creek was a piece of cake, especially using our microspikes over the logs. A giant tree has fallen across the High Bridge canyon.

We continued southward to the creek just beyond the Wilderness boundary. Ate a little lunch there, and turned around (to meet a curfew, as well as beat the incoming storm back home). On the way down, we found one more spot where we could see the slide, and were astonished to discover water flowing from the ground, right beneath a spot we had stood to take photos! Ai yi yi...

Great day in the woods! [This was actually hiked on 12/31, but a bug here on WentHiking forces it to be coded as 12/30 for it to be included in annual stats.]

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December 30, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

Hardy Ridge

12.5 miles of hiking • 3250' elevation gain •

Both inspired by Roman's recent report, as well as the relatively clear roads, we decided to hit up Hardy Ridge. Pulled out at Cape Horn on the way east, and were treated to another wonderful view from there! Rather than driving up to the Equestrian TH, with it's accumulation of snow, we just parked down on SR-14 beside the big rock (the gate was closed) and walked the 1/2-mile up to the customary starting point instead.

A tree has fallen into the 1930s-era CCC-constructed picnic shelter, but not done any obvious damage. Iciest portions of trail are along the lower stretch, getting up to the power lines. Just past there, we veered west to check out the abandoned cabin and continue bushwhacking over to the Hardy Ridge trail. It was pretty magical through there, if also extremely wet!

Getting up Hardy wasn't much of an effort, at least to the upper junction. From there, we lost any semblance of a boot trail, and just post-holed along. Snowshoes weren't of much use, due to all the droopy vine maple sagging over the "trail." It sure was beautiful, though, especially the firs flocked with mass quantities of snow. Clouds were washing over Hamilton below, and Hood was out in all its glory.

We turned around before hitting Phlox Point, thinking we still had time to go tag Hamilton. But the descent just took way too long, what with the deeper snow on the eastern side of Hardy. Boot rock is no longer on its stump! Hopefully, it's just buried in the snow somewhere nearby?

We just coasted back down along Hardy Creek, enjoying the last rays of sun as they lingered. Another great day in BRSP!

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December 28, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

Hamilton Mountain

10 miles of hiking • 2750' elevation gain •

Celebrating the Winter Solstice, in the sun, on a snow-covered mountain, with friends... Priceless.

Got a wake-up PM, asking if by any possible, last-minute, remote chance, might I be free to hike? Winter solstice? Sunny forecast? Before the first cup of coffee, "Yes!" was the only possible answer. Heh, but given the alarm hadn't been set, we weren't really off to the earliest of starts.

The fog burned off by the time we got through Camas. It seemed a bit windy. The Cape Horn overlook was as beautiful as ever. The park gate was closed, so we had to park down by the big rock and heated restrooms, oh darn. That added an extra mile, or so, to the classic loop, and starting as we were already after 11am on the shortest day of the year... Yeah, that was just about right.

The road up to the regular parking lot was glazed ice, so the gate thing was good. Found a fair sized tree had fallen on the CCC picnic shelter, but didn't appear to have done any significant damage. The iciest stretches came early, even before the power lines. But it was clear that the melt was on.

As we neared Hardy Falls, that little trickle off the to left was absolutely shooting off the cliff above, straight into the trees. The Pool of the Winds was churning as I've never seen it! Such a sight. And sound. Absolutely roaring.

As we stopped to admire one of the many spectacular viewpoints, another friend just happened to amble on up the trail and decided to join us! Most of the forest trail was fairly bare on the front-side, except for those areas in perpetual shade which were still a teensy bit treacherous. At least without microspikes.

Portions of the normally-in-December-frozen trail were more creek-like, as meltwater cascaded down. The final stretch to the summit was all snow-covered, though, as was the traverse over to the saddle. Whispy blue skies, low golden sun, and long - very long - shadows ruled the day.

It was breezy enough on the saddle that we only paused briefly for a quick lunch snack, before continuing on. Having less than two hours of daylight left as we departed, Don's Cutoff seemed the best way back. That turned out precisely true, as we witnessed a most wonderful sunset over Beacon Rock midway down, after walking through the most golden-lit forests covered in snow.

We arrived back at the big rock right as darkness descended. Couldn't have found a better way to welcome back the light!

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December 22, 2016

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Heart_bw

Dry Creek Falls

10 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Great day on the PCT, celebrating the birthday of a friend. Good sized group had a very late start, leaving the Bridge of the Gods trailhead just before noon. Ran into several groups of friends through the day, as many seemed to have also felt this was the perfect hike for the conditions (both driving and hiking!). The trail was pretty well packed, at least to our first destination - Dry Creek Falls. From there eastward, the snow was softer, but still easy enough to travel on as we headed to the Herman Creek Pinnacles and made Crest Falls our turn-around point. Just a perfect day in the Gorge, really!

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December 18, 2016

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Heart_bw

Salmon Creek Greenway

7 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

The roads were questionable, the Gorge was pretty miserable, so the pooch and I just took a really nice, long walk down in the valley below home. It was a great day to wander Salmon Creek! All the ice and cold weather meant we were virtually the only ones down there. Lots of wildlife close to the trail. Such a jewel, right (literally) in our own backyard!

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December 17, 2016

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Bell Creek

19 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

It really wasn't looking like a view-day, so we chose the darkest, deepest, nearby rainforest instead. Turned out to be a fine choice, too! Started fairly early, first cars at Horsetail Falls, and the miles to Triple Falls ticked off very quickly. The trail is in excellent shape, in particular the repairs to the landslide of a couple years ago.

We (I won't identify anyone specifically) found out, the hard way, that "someone really oughta" put in a barrier of some sort at the viewpoint for Triple Falls, to prevent dropped items from rolling right off the cliff down towards the roiling waters. Oh well, if you find a camera case down in Oneonta Gorge, give a holler! ;-)

Heading on past Triple Falls, we were all just a little bit anxious regarding the washout below the second footbridge. Two of us had been the original "discoverers" of that last November, when it simply wasn't passable at all. This time, we were delighted to find that someone had cut off the roots which would've blocked passage, and the footpath was easily navigated through the chasm. Climbing out was a little sloppy, but not as bad as sliding back down on the way out. As it is now, anyone ought to be able to make it through, especially if they're not alone.

Took the bypass on the east side of Oneonta Creek, between the second footbridge and the MHNF sanctioned ford 500' above. A better example of USFS malfeasance could not be imagined than this! Why they route people through a raging stream, when a bridge is that close, is simply mind-boggling.

Heading up the Horsetail Ridge trail was a good workout, mostly unmarred by obstacles. Had to duck under a couple limbo-logs, and hop a couple little streams, but this trail was in fairly good shape as well.

Finally, the payoff! I think the 3.3 miles along Bell Creek trail are some of my most favored of all in the Gorge. Just magnificent. You will, it should be noted, come to believe the trail's name is due to water running along it! But in time you do actually cross Bell Creek proper, so it's just a "happy coincidence." While portions of this forest were logged over a century ago, other portions retain their ancient character, and are simply mind-blowing.

Reaching the junction with Oneonta trail again, it seemed a good opportunity to pause and have a little lunch, before we continued on to Franklin Ridge and began our final descent down into the canyon again. Such a beautiful trail, in all regards... It'd been way too long since traveling through here.

Damn near dark, we donned headlamps well above Triple Falls on the way down. And traveled under artificial light most of the last 4+ miles. Just an awesome day, with wonderful friends; one I'd happy to relive anytime. :-)

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December 3, 2016

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Coyote Wall

12 miles of hiking • 2750' elevation gain •

Again, the forecast was pretty miserable, so we felt heading east may offer a bit of respite. Turns out, it rains in the Lyle-Mosier area, too! Who knew? :-)

After getting something of a late start, we headed up the Labyrinth and just sort of wandered without a plan. Ended up cutting across over towards the large talus fields, which are filled with native vision quest pits and trenches. (Not sure I've ever seen the trench structures before, anywhere else?) Explored those for a bit, before moving on towards Catherine Creek.

We decided to take the old jeep road up the west side of the creek, thinking we'd drop back down the next big wall before climbing back up again. But, as we emerged out into the huge green swath that goes back down to the trailhead, the rain began. And it was feeling rather cold. So we decided the extra climb just wasn't in the cards for this day, and just headed west along Atwood Road towards Coyote Wall.

As we got farther west, we started noting lots of improvements. There were two new footbridges. And lots of new trail junction signs! They even pointed out where the private properties were, and how best to avoid them. Huge improvement over the previous guessing game!

Anyway, got to the wall, and just descended right along down it. Relatively short hike, stats-wise, but another really nice day with good friends in the outdoors. And you just can't beat that. :-)

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November 27, 2016

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Eagle Creek

5.5 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

Time to walk-off the turkey! Unfortunately, or otherwise, Portland received 5% of its annual rainfall on Thanksgiving, which meant the creeks were raging this day. There were impromptu waterfalls on both sides of the canyon, spilling down over the trail on our side, and just looking wonderful across from us. The clouds were still hanging heavy in the hills, and were simply delightful.

But the rains had done their damage. A 100-foot gash, that ranged from 10- to 20-feet deep, opened up above the Metlako Falls viewpoint. Many large trees were either leaning into the valley, or had fallen entirely. It appears a landslide is imminent, and it just may take the viewpoint with it. Best hurry if you'd like to see the "before" conditions!

Also, the crossing at Tish Creek was just untenable this day. Would've had to wade through knee-deep whitewater, then crawl out a collapsing and muddy bank on the far side, hoping all the while not to be whisked down stream and over a rather roaring waterfall. No fun. We decided to call it a hike at this point, and revert to Plan B.

On our way back down the trail, there was one point near the petrified stump where a new little landslide had brought down another tree across the trail that wasn't there on our way up! Just not the best day to be in the Eagle Creek canyon, all in all.

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November 25, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

Elevator Shaft

10 miles of hiking • 2750' elevation gain •

We got skunked by Tish Creek earlier in the day, so decided taking a run up the Elevator Shaft might be the best way to kill the afternoon. What a great way to recover from the earlier failure! The Black Friday crowds at Multnomah Falls were epic, but we did the conga up to Benson Bridge and survived. Once past there, we saw hardly anyone, and took great delight in diving off the pavement onto the #400 at the first switchback.

Shortly, we arrived at the two boulder fields on our right, and found the trail leading up the far side of the second one. This was a fun scramble, as always, though the recent rains had left the rocks a whole lot slipperier than usual. After climbing the 1200' of exposed rock, we took the dive off towards the falls and Meadow Ridge to catch a glimpse straight down over 1000' to the MF parking lot. Fun! (But watch your footing out there!)

Back in the forest, we still had another 600' or so to climb (in only 0.3 miles!) up into the Basin. This went pretty quick, and soon we were traversing the rim past Cougar Rock and towards Nesika. As we approached, we could hear the sound of a generator indicating people were there.

Soon as we sat down on the front porch, we were kindly invited in to help them celebrate Thanksgiving with an incredible turkey feast! Oh my gosh... So fun. Such great viddles! Toasty fire in the magnificent fireplace. Coffee so thick it was known as Nesika Mud. Mmmmmm-mmm! Didn't really want to leave.

But around 3:30 we finally did put our packs back on, and headed out into the cold, wet forest again. Took our time meandering down the Ornament Trail, then went off in search of the old Buick. Darkness was now upon us, as we headed back down the High Water Trail. Winter Creek wasn't a rock-hop by any stretch of the imagination, so we just plowed right through knowing we only had a few more miles to go.

Headlamps came out pretty quickly, and it was pitch dark well before we got to the top of Multnomah Falls. Which, nicely enough, meant we didn't have to deal with the tourist hordes the rest of the way down! :-D

All in all, just an incredible day in the woods! (And, probably the first time I've ever come home from a hike heavier than before I left.)

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November 25, 2016

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Heart_bw

Nick Eaton Loop

16.5 miles of hiking • 5000' elevation gain •

Really awesome loop with an old trail friend. Had not a solid plan in place, but rather just wandered. Left the trailhead, heading up the Herman Creek trail. On an impulse, we turned off on Gorton Creek towards Indian Point. Ran into a bit of trouble (for the trail, not us) where a huge fallen tree's rootball completely tore out the trail, just a bit before the point.

The wind was howling ferociously, as we peered into the mists trying to determine whether to take the 200' hit dropping down to Indian Point. "No regrets!", yeehaw... down we go. Waaaaaay too windy to venture all the way out onto Indian Point, but beautiful regardless.

Heading on along Gorton Creek, we decided to cut up the Deadwood trail - a new one for me. Very steep! But fun. Wonderful forest. Along this stretch we encountered the only other people we'd see all day long. Two young ladies trail running - uphill! Wow, more power to them. :-)

When we hit the Nick Eaton trail, we continued our climb - just as steep, if not a bit more so - up to the ridge. Around 3800-4000' or so, we entered the snow zone. Not a lot on the ground, but the trees were nicely flocked. Winds were howling and temps near 30°, so it was definitely frozen fingertips territory.

Traversed the ridge, then returned to descend the Casey Creek trail - another new segment for me! Really filling in the track gaps with this hike. That sucker was as steep as its reputation had led me to imagine, dropping some 2300' in 2.1 miles, or so. But as we descended, the air was warming back into the mid-40°s, which certainly felt good.

After a brief snack at Casey Camp, we donned our headlamps and began the trek back to the trailhead. The waterfalls were glorious, with just the right amount of water coming on down. Creek crossings were straight-forward enough. The last hour out was under headlamp.

Another really great day in the woods!

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November 18, 2016

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Heart_bw

Cape Horn Loop

7.5 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Fun loop with a good friend and trusty companion. Enjoyed watching the clouds and various weather march through the Gorge, and avoided any nasty spills due to the increasingly muddy trail. A bit of rain, a bit of sun, mostly just pervasive dampness. Awesome option to have as just about the closest trailhead from home.

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November 12, 2016

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Badger Lake Loop

16.5 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Finally got back out into the woods, after six weeks off the trail. So re-invigorating to realize how the stress had just melted right away almost instantly up there. Started at the Gumjuwac trailhead, right on US-35, and climbed up the first couple miles through the woods before hitting the first viewpoint. Unfortunately, Mount Hood was stubbornly stuck in the clouds at that point. (Hint: Do the loop clockwise with the hope Hood will pop out of the clouds later in the day, should this be the case "next time" as well!)

The viewpoint did offer glimpses of Mounts Rainier and Adams, floating above the clouds in Hood River valley, though. And we could start to see the dimpled splotches of yellow, from the Western larches turning before losing their needles, splayed out across the valleys. Looking to our west, we surveyed the ridgeline, at least as far as Gunsight Butte, that we'd be traversing next. Beyond the viewpoint, it was a short and almost level stroll to Gumjuwac Saddle.

The trail beyond the saddle was pure delight! We traversed a miles-long ridgeline, rolling over one hump after another, taking in viewpoints as we went. Also along the way were miles of delightful forest, draped in shaggy moss, and misty from the fog blowing through. As we hiked, the sun poked through the clouds from time to time, providing a most astonishing show.

Finally, near Windy Camp, we happened to see our cut-off trail that led downhill towards the Badger Creek trail far below. This cut-off would be extremely easy to miss! It's almost as though someone tried to obscure it, and there are several trees down across it as well. But it was a great trail, and took us right down to where we wanted to go.

The Badger Creek trail seemed to be in want of a bit of maintenance. But then, it also seemed to be highly demanding in that regard. Mostly, it was a fine ramble, crossing numerous little creeks as we went. We crossed through the 2015 Badger Lake fire area, and were pleasantly surprised at how non-destructive it actually was. The area was quite well contained, and in places only the understory had burnt while the larger tree survived. That's how it's supposed to work!

Finally, we found the spur trail down to the lake, and just had a marvelous time soaking in the sun while enjoying the views with lunch. The lake level seemed to be a good 10-12' below normal. We were surprised to see that it could actually be driven to, and quite glad to have total solitude on this wonderful Friday.

Relocating the Divide trail, for our return to the saddle, was more troublesome than anticipated. It forks off a bit west of the lake access, and we'd been staring down at the lake as we arrived so completely missed that crucial fact. A bit of backtracking put us back on course, though, as we began the climb back up out of the valley. This was probably the steepest segment of the whole day, and another argument for doing the loop clockwise if the clouds were over Hood in the morning.

Coming back down Gumjuwac, the clouds had fully parted, and the views of Hood were astounding.

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October 28, 2016

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Heart_bw

Mississippi Head

12.5 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

Did my fourth loop over to Paradise park, then up to the viewpoint over the Sandy River headwaters, across and back down to the site of a B-26 plane crash in 1949 on Mississippi Head, and finally shooting back up to 8500' as we crossed back to the upper reach of the Palmer ski run high above Timberline Lodge. What a great day!

It was perhaps the last blue-skies day for some time, and we took full advantage of it. Fall colors are really popping up high now, especially the mountain ash. Hard to remember seeing so very little snow up there, as well, what with the blue ice of the Zigzag Glacier being readily apparent. Best of all, this time of year, are the magnificent colors revealed in the rocks high atop Hood when all the snow is melted away. WOW!!!

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September 16, 2016

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Spirit Lake Loop

21 miles of hiking • 4750' elevation gain • 1 night

Four years in the planning, dreaming, delaying, ... We finally did it! Looped around Spirit Lake. Nearly. As it turned out, we had two vehicles, so we shuttled the four paved miles between Windy Ridge and Independence Pass. That gave us the time to tag a number of fun peaks along the loop, and the luxury of starting and stopping under light of day. (Not to mention being able drive out of the worst of roads before dark!)

We began the day enjoying a brilliant sunrise at Windy Ridge. Not a cloud in the sky! After some coffee and a bit of breakfast, we drove to the Independence Pass trailhead and the real adventure began. This stretch, from trailhead to Boundary Trail, was new to me. Huckleberries in abundance! And a few washouts, though none too tough to get across with a little care and thought.

Norway Pass was as picturesque as ever. We continued on along the Boundary Trail, past copious fields of Fall colored huckleberries, choosing not to turn off towards Whittier this day. Soon enough, we were at Mount Tomroy, named after Tom, a fallen friend of ours who went by Roy online. This, his most favorite peak of all, was unnamed before but memorialized in his honor by PortlandHikers following his untimely death in 2015. I missed the original observation, so was quite pleased to finally get this chance.

The views from Tomroy were all they were cracked up to be! Just magnificent. Perhaps the best in the Backcountry. Three mountain goats watched us from across a small divide, as we cavorted about the mountainside, while lonely bull elk bugled plaintively farther below. From Tomroy, it's just a short hop over to Mount Margaret, the next peak on our itinerary. We'd hoped to finally establish which is higher, and our GPS units seemed to tell us it was Margaret, despite hearing reports from others that Tomroy was actually a few feet more. The mystery may continue, it seems.

The summit of Large Marge was swarming with some sort of flying termite-like creatures. Standing still only momentarily caused them to descend in hordes. We didn't stay too long. A few miles later, we arrived at the base of The Dome, our next destination. Neither of us had ever made it to the top before, so this may have been the other big highlight of the day. Again with the bugs! Yowsa... But the views were, again, simply spectacular. A little sketchy coming back down the 45° slope, covered only in dry grass, but we lived to tell about it.

Onward, the views of Saint Helens Lake just got better and better as we proceeded west. We chose to skip the climb up Coldwater Peak, as we'd both been there so often in the past and the day was wearing on while we were still only halfway around the lake. But we did enjoy second lunch at a most favored viewpoint - the saddle overlooking Saint Helens Lake. I will never, ever tire of that view!

The rest of the hike was more pedestrian in nature. After working our way up and through the rock arch, we bombed down the hill towards Harry's Ridge, and actually started encountering a few other hikers. We turned off Boundary onto the Truman Trail, and from here it was just a cruise over the rolling hummocky terrain of the Pumice Plains. Still lots of little creeks flowing freely, though the flower show had long since passed.

The last few miles dragged on for far longer than they seemed due. But the blastzone is brutal, and definitely takes a toll. We were both glad we didn't face the 4-mile paved stretch of FR99 to officially complete the entire loop on foot.

All in all, it was one of those days that will always be remembered. So glad we finally got to it! :-)

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September 10 – September 11, 2016

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Heart_bw

Spirit Lake via Harmony Trail

3 miles of hiking • 750' elevation gain •

Delightful little jaunt down to the water's edge, from a trailhead only a few miles shy of Windy Ridge. Absolutely worth the diversion if you're in the area. We were meeting up there, for a much bigger hike the next day, and I took advantage of the hour or so of sunlight still left to head on down to the lakeshore. The stats are quite similar to Multnomah Falls, though the effort seems far less. (Probably because it lacks the hordes of flip-floppers?)

Your total distance will depend on how much wandering you do at the bottom. For me, it was just a bit under 3 miles, round trip. I scrambled around a bit on the piles of massive driftwood. Be careful out there, though, as much of it is not resting in peace and huge logs will move as you leap between them.

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September 9, 2016

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Heart_bw

Indian Henry's Hunting Ground

19 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

Major revelation: Mount Rainier National Park is almost exactly the same distance from home as the Whitewater Trailhead into Jefferson Park! Whoa!!! Reality altering realization, there. It's always seemed much farther away, and yet it's actually much closer because the roads are so much better and no need to deal with crazy urban messes in the Portland-Salem corridor.

We drove up to Longmire and jumped right on the Wonderland Trail, heading for Indian Henry's Hunting Ground with the thought that we'd continue on (as time allowed) towards Mirror Lakes. The forest was incredible. I kept muttering, "It's like we're in a park!" It just seemed so well-tended, as though a grounds crew scurried about all night to make sure it was beautiful for visitors during the day. Surreal.

The first few miles, to Devil's Dream campsite and a bit beyond, were mostly forested and mostly very old growth forest at that. We crossed a few glacial streams, and some smaller ones, all nicely bridged. The views really started opening up around Squaw Lake, as the meadows just spread out in all directions. We'd missed the bloom, and could only marvel at how spectacular it had to have been. This is absolutely a return-destination for an upcoming July!

The ranger cabin was locked up tight, after apparently being open and serving coffee to passing hikers only the week before. People were sitting on the deck, eating lunch, and Tahoma was still cloud-capped so photos weren't keepsake calibre on this first pass. We found a nice log behind the cabin to sit on and enjoy lunch, while soaking in the mountain views.

After lunch, we headed towards Mirror Lakes, for which the expectation must be set that "lake" is just a tad generous when used for these geographic features. The first and biggest did offer a nice reflection, though, when the monster tadpoles were settled down a bit.

The trail beyond Mirror Lakes was marked as unmaintained, which was fine by us! We later learned it used to (and seems to still) lead to the route up Pyramid Peak. Oooh, to have just another couple hours, and get up that beast too. Next time! As the views opened up more and more, we ultimately stumbled into a wide-open meadow with magnificent views of not only Tahoma, but Pyramid Peak and Cooper Mountain right beside us, south over the Tatoosh, and beyond to Old Snowy in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. WOW!

At this point, the cloud cap on Rainier "miraculously" dissipated. Talk about timing. We were snapping so many photos... But we were also just a bit beyond our agreed-upon turnaround time. So before long, we hustled on back towards the hunting grounds, hoping to get more cloud-free shots both from there and the many fine viewpoints in-between.

Shuffling back along the Wonderland towards Longmire was a treat for the feet. Such a nice trail! Graded very similarly to the PCT; never very steep, but never unnecessary switchbacks, either. After crossing Pyramid and Kautz Creeks again, we diverted along Rampart Ridge for the final return to Longmire. That route offered a very nice viewpoint that made the extra mile totally worth it.

What an incredible place. "Like a park!" Definitely going back.

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August 28, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

Hamilton Mountain Loop [Extended Version]

12.5 miles of hiking • 3000' elevation gain •

Just an excellent little dog walk in our favorite nearby state park.

These trails are normally quite secluded, but on a Monday even more so! We saw three people on the way up, five or seven on top, and three coming back down. Wow!

Made it to the top in what I believe is a personal best time of 1:15. Wasn't hurrying, but it just worked out that way. Five or six guys, all staring at their cellphones, there. So we quickly moved on to my favorite sitting spot - the saddle. Spent maybe an hour there, enjoying lunch and just taking in the scenery.

Leaving the saddle, we took the long route following an old jeep trail nearly to the far north end of the park. Pooch wanted to do the side-trip up to the high point along the way, so who was I to argue? Coming back down towards the creek, we opted to extend just a bit more by crossing the equestrian bridge and wandering a bit on the west side of Hardy Creek.

On return to Hardy Falls, we found the sun streaming into the Pool of the Winds, which was just delightful. A bit farther along, the dog again chose a longer route past Little Beacon Rock to finish up on. Another excellent choice! He's a fun guy to walk with.

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August 22, 2016

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Heart_bw

Crater Rock

8.5 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

With a forecast of 102° in the city, we decided to get up early and get as high as possible. My good friend suggested meeting at Timberline Lodge at 4:00 am, and just seeing where we ended up. Why not? Sounded fun!

Though we had headlamps, there was really never a need for them. The nearly full moon kept us on track as we meandered up the Magic Mile between 6000' and 7000', in the general direction of historic Silcox Hut. Nautical twilight started painting the sky magical colors around this time, as we pushed on through towards the mid-point of the Palmer chairlift, before stopping to enjoy a little snack and the full-on sunrise.

We climbed a bit higher, before my friend had to turn back (no problems, just responsibilities in town), and I continued on up. Wasn't sure where exactly I might end up, but trended in the direction of Illumination Rock. As I reached an equivalent elevation, the only obstacle left was crossing the upper flanks of the Zigzag Glacier. My spikes were still holding firm, but I was concerned the snowy surface of the glacier would quickly soften as temps were rising quickly.

Decided to head uphill instead, to see how close to Crater Rock I might get. Around 9200', crossed paths with a couple climbers coming back down. They'd summited, but reported the snow "was total crap!" up there. I was feeling the same, by now, about crossing almost anything. Slush city!

Ended up right at the base of Crater Rock, and enjoyed first lunch there, at 10,000 feet. Beyond, neither choice looked good. Could have stayed on the crumbly rocks, sliding backwards with each step, or attempted crossing the Coalman Glacier which by now was getting fairly slushy. So, no real option of getting to Devil's Kitchen today!

Coming down, it was surprising to see both lots of junk (mostly old metal cable) and plenty of bivouac spots as well. Followed rock down nearly to the top of Palmer, but then had to cross lots of terribly slushy snowfields as I descended east of the skiers. Decided to enjoy second lunch beside some ski jumps, just relaxing and enjoying the show. Sat there for nearly an hour, I guess.

Then, I faced the "miserable task" of wading through throngs of tourists from Silcox Hut on down to Timberline. Oh boy, even though it was now in the 80s, there were lots of folks trying to cool off up here with me! Got back to the lodge about 1:00pm, which seems so early to be ending a hike, and thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the shade of their back porch on a beautiful adirondack chair for the next hour or so.

Awesome day on the mountain!

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August 20, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

South Sister Bivy

14 miles of hiking • 5500' elevation gain • 1 night

Have wanted to cowboy camp on top of South Sister, ever since first climbing it overnight to watch the sunrise a few years ago. Totally worth it!

Following a series of delays, finally left the trailhead in 94° heat about 2:45 in the afternoon. The pack was heavy with water for the dry, dusty trail. Kind of brutal, even through the shaded forest. After breaking out onto the plains, the thermometer started showing nearly 100°. Nearly everyone was coming down. I did actually beat my old time up, but that was a purposefully slow ascent in the dark. On arriving at the crater rim, I was astonished to find a pool of meltwater waiting for me, in the now-50° and rather windy conditions. Oh well.

The crater is 1/3-mile across, but it's 1/2-mile to walk the rim over to the summit. Which was, of course, the first order of business. Along the way, I checked out each of the several windbreaks built along the rim, and chose the one I'd come back to. I was entirely alone on the summit at this point. Incredible! After enjoying the sunset for a good half-hour or more, it was time to head back to my chosen shelter, and setup camp.

Night fell quickly. And a thin layer of clouds obscured many of the stars. Crawling into the sleeping bag, and just staring at the heavens, was the magnificent reward for all the work it took to get here. Within the hour, I managed to drift off. Around 11:30, my good friend Jess arrived, having left the trailhead about four hours after me. We enjoyed catching up for awhile, and watching what remained of the Persied meteors whizz across the sky. By around 2:30, the clouds were entirely gone, the moon had set, and the stars were simply magnificent! Never have I seen so many.

Wake-up call came early! Wanted to be up by or shortly after Nautical Twilight, when the sky really starts turning brilliant shades of purple, red, pink, yellow, before finally becoming blue again. We were not disappointed! Oh my, few places could compete for a better sunrise sky show!

After enjoying the sunrise, which words simply fail to describe, we packed up camp and began our way back down. Two folks crested the crater rim, just as we were about to go the other way. They were but a harbinger of what was to come. On the way down, we counted 441 people coming up! And probably two dozen dogs. Oh. My.. Gosh...! Unbelievable.

Our descent was rapid, taking less than three hours. The memories will last forever.

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August 12 – August 13, 2016

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Heart_bw

McNeil Point

12.5 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Decided to try a different route in, this time, and went to the McGee Creek trailhead rather than Top Spur. I like! It starts about 300' lower, and adds a mile or so in each direction. But the trail was entirely deserted, and lined with huckleberries. (Probably some causal relationship there, huh?)

Actually, it being a Friday, I only saw one other person on the way up to the shelter. I did take the Climber's Scramble route, which may have reduced the likelihood somewhat. But that's really the best way up, in my opinion. Reached the 7000' level in just a bit over two hours. Then just soaked it in.

There were a couple ravens hanging out, also enjoying the incredible day. At one point, they chased off an intruding juvenile bald eagle. So exciting to have them whizz just ten or twenty feet from me, before soaring off over the glacier. I think I spent close to two hours at the high point!

Coming down, with some regrets (it was sooooo perfect up high!), I turned right/north on the Timberline Trail, and followed it oh-so-slowly over towards Ladd Creek, before taking the more standard route back down. At the tarns, decided to finally follow the trail that leads north, to see where it goes. Turns out, back over to the Mazama Trail! Okay, mystery solved.

Nabbed a couple cups of huckleberries to bring home (husband points!) on the McGee trail before getting back to the jeep. Another most excellent day on the mountain!

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August 5, 2016

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Heart_bw

Stagman Ridge and Beyond!

18 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Soaked up alpine goodness on the western flanks of Mount Adams until well after the sun had set. Such a marvelous day, spent with a great friend.

The road to the Stagman Ridge trailhead is probably in better shape than any other in the Adams area. We arrived there less than a half-hour after passing through Trout Lake. After securing our Wilderness Permit, we were off to the high country. Stagman Ridge was burnt up pretty well during the 2012 "Cascade Creek" fire. But the grasses and flowers are coming back strong, and there was a good show the entire way up the gently graded trail.

We turned east on a user trail, just a bit below where Graveyard Camp is/was. It may be nothing but a spot on the maps, now? Traveled about a mile through wonderful flower displays, and past several creeks, before hitting Cascade Creek which was ripping pretty well. After contemplating a couple semi-sketchy options, we decided to just ford it. Good decision! Turned out, getting our feet wet here meant we could just motor through some other pretty wet spots without even thinking about it ahead.

Shortly after that crossing, we arrived at Lookingglass Lake. Oh my, what a beautiful sight to see, in the middle of a destroyed forest. We didn't even have to ask one another -- this would be our first lunch spot. Pulled up to a nice spot on the far side of the lake, looking across at Mount Adams and a lovely waterfall serving as the inlet. There was also a view of Mount Hood from the rock behind the lake, and several campsites scattered around its perimeter.

After lunch, we took the 9A up to Round The Mountain trail, which sadly doesn't actually do what the name says, but it's a good thought anyway I guess. Following that for awhile, we wandered through one floral display after another, crossing or fording one creek after another along the way. After rounding a big bend in the trail, which offered a stupendous view of the entire Indian Heaven area and beyond, it was time to go cross-country.

We picked what seemed an interesting way off the trail and uphill. It exceeded our wildest dreams... As we climbed, our environment just got more and more astounding. We crossed through a huge meadow brimming with paintbrush and lupine and fed by a waterfall all its own. About there, we finally got above the burn, and started the real high country traverse. Our goal was to go tag The Bumper and, with luck, The Hump as well. So we set a course in that general direction.

As we approached The Bumper, it was positively underwhelming, so we decided to just continue on above it. The views were only improving with each step. As we hit one high point, took a few photos and looked around a bit, we saw a beautiful little tarn a bit below us and another high point a bit above us. I assumed that to be The Hump, and set off towards it, while Woodswalker chose to go enjoy the tarn for a bit. Perfect!

Turns out, I was well above The Hump, but the views were fantastic! Took some more photos, sent a text (4G and 3 bars!) saying how late I'd be home, and headed back down to the tarn. My goodness, this was a thing of beauty! Great spot to empty all the ash from my shoes, and just soak it in.

We were only about 3/4 mile above the PCT, and it was getting late. Time to bomb on down! Which is pretty much what we did. The flower show continued unabated, and we were probably on overload by now. Got back to the trailhead a bit after sundown. Without question, one of those hikes that will long be remembered!

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July 31, 2016

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Heart_bw 2

Mount St. Helens

10.5 miles of hiking • 5000' elevation gain •

A call went out, "Who would like an unused volcano pass?" in the PortlandHikers Facebook group on Saturday, and on Tuesday I was on my way up! Went climbing with a great bunch of guys, mostly retired, and the day turned out to be just as perfect as perfect gets. Not an entirely sunny, bluebird day, but just enough breeze and clouds to keep us cool and add plenty of drama to the photos.

We started very early, leaving Salmon Creek at 5:30, and on the trail by about 7:00. It was cloudy and drizzly nearly all the way to the trailhead, but just as we pulled into the parking lot we broke through the clouds. Below us, stretching for miles and miles in nearly all directions, was a sea of clouds which would only slowly part as the day went on.

The two miles through the forest went quickly, stopping only to munch on copious huckleberries beside the trail. As we emerged from the forest, we got a hint of how many other folks were climbing along with us today! Oh my, not exactly a "wilderness experience." Immediately, the boulder scramble, and real fun, began!

At this point, we all pretty much motored on up at our own pace. Those jumbled lava blocks demand full attention. I passed numerous groups, both large and small, as everything was perfectly "in the groove" this fine morning. Traveled just west of a lava ridge, to stay mostly in the shade, but got a helluva good workout in the process.

Stopped to enjoy a sandwich around 7000', just before breaking out of the boulders and onto the steep, ash-y final stretch. Another in our party caught up to me here, and ended up summiting first. On arrival at the rim just before 11:00, there were probably two dozen others all within a few tens of feet of the end of the climbing route. I took a few photos, and decided shortly to wander along the rim for a little solitude.

Clouds were blowing through the crater, obscuring Spirit Lake for much of our summit time. But the views from Rainier to Jefferson (and, really, even to the Three Sisters) were totally clear. Only the lower elevations were under the clouds. A couple ravens were having more fun than any creature generally might, just swooping through the crater and looking for a little trail magic from the intruding climbers.

I was also the last to leave the summit, some two hours after arriving there. Was just thoroughly enjoying not only the indescribable views, but also chatting with many of the other folks up there, including a great MSHI mountain steward volunteer.

Again, on the way down, it was necessary to pass folks. There was the huge troop of Boy Scouts, kicking up ash like a desert camel caravan, first. Then a good number of others. We strayed a bit to our right, which wasn't a great idea, but meant a bit more fun trying to chart a course through the lava. Felt pretty good to hit the soft dirt trail once back down to the trees!

All in all, just another incredible day on the mountain!

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July 26, 2016

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Heart_bw

Yocum Ridge

20 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Forecast was calling for hot, so it was time to get high! Started the day down low, hiking through the lush, moss-carpeted Old Maid Flats. Crossing the Sandy was about as easy as it gets, these days, now that MHNF would rather not make sure it's safe for folks anymore. Hardly crossed trails with anyone going the back way up to Ramona, along the little creek where the trolls and faeries live and play. Shared the falls with only a half-dozen or so folks in the morning, two of them from the PortlandHikers Facebook group!

From there, we went north along the Timberline Trail, until we hit the Yocum Ridge cutoff, and it was all uphill from that point on. Very nice, steady grade, though. Mostly in the shade. Maybe 25 or 30 trees down that had to be scrambled over, around, or under. Not bad!

On the way up, the rhodies had all but given up, but the beargrass was pretty near peak. We also saw some nice avalanche lily displays. The rest of the flowers were still trying to reach prime. Maybe we were two weeks early?

But the views from the first overlook totally made the trip worth it. Wow! Love it there. The headwaters of the Sandy River, draining from below snowfields below the Reid Glacier, were just as sandy as much farther down. Magnificent, multi-tiered cascades tumbling down the mountainside.

After some photos and a snack, we continued north around the ridge to the Sandy Glacier side. More magnificent views opened up before us, as we looked across the drainage to McNeil Point and the ridge it rests upon. Couldn't see the ice caves, though that may have been possible had we continued up higher. (We stopped at about 6250'.)

The trip back down was very pleasant, though Ramona Falls was awfully crowded on return. In particular, spandex-clad idiots, draped all over the basalt, taking selfies. Endlessly. Others were unable to take photos of the falls, without those clods in them. I mean, yeah, we all want a photo or three, but GET THE HELL OUTTA THE WAY once you have them, eh?

Temps were busting into the mid-80s by the time we were cruising down the Sandy again. Decided against the side trip to the Guard Shack, as we had had a pretty great day already.

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July 24, 2016

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Heart_bw

Cape Horn

8 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Spent the morning "being responsible," and decided to take the pooch for a quick loop around Cape Horn later in the day. Went clockwise, for a bit of a change, getting the road walk out of the way first. Ran into an old friend on one of the trails "that shall not be named" and had a great conversation overlooking the Columbia. Really nice stretch on just about the closest trail to home...

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July 23, 2016

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Three Fingered Jack

22 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

An incredible loop all the way around Three Fingered Jack, taking off from Santiam Pass. We traveled counter-clockwise around the ancient volcano, hoping to both follow the sun for better photos, and to get most of the more grueling climbs out of the way earlier in the day. Probably 70% of the entire loop was through areas burned in the 2003 B&B Complex wildfire, and therefore relatively bug-free. The other 30%, though the forest, offered us reason to just keep moving as the little blood-suckers would descend at any opportunity when we stopped.

The first 5.5 or 6 miles wanders through the burned area south of TFJ, past Square, Booth, and a few other unnamed lakes. Because there were no trees, at least none tall enough to block, views of the Three Sisters, Mount Washington, and Broken Top were a constant presence to our south until we actually crested the TFJ saddle. When we hit First Creek, at nearly the 6-mile mark, we diverted off-trail towards TFJ, planning to crest the 6500' saddle before lunch.

This section was slow-going, but absolutely the most interesting (and fun!) of the entire day. Navigation was easy, as we could see our destination the whole way. But footing was tricky, as lots of dead wood covered the ground. Later, the steep scree fields leading up to the saddle presented their own tricks, as each step forward came with great exertion to avoid slipping back.

Our lunch spot just north of the saddle was sublime. Impossible to think of very many that could compare. Words don't help, but hopefully the photos will. (Sadly, upon arriving at the trailhead, I realized my camera was still at home! So, what you see here are nearly all from my cellphone. Ugh! It sufficed, though. And my friends were also busy snapping with their cameras.)

All too soon, we felt the need to get moving again. Still weren't halfway through the day's anticipated mileage, and were still on a course leading us farther away from the trailhead. Descending the saddle into Canyon Creek Meadows was trivial, as we had imagined it may still be snow-covered and require using our spikes. Luckily, the trail(s) were entirely melted out! Although, the melting was so recent, the meadows below were still entirely green, with darn few flower blooms punctuating the vista.

Heading north, we began running into a great number of folks coming in from the Jack Lake trailhead. (One said they'd gone less than three miles to get there, so far, which explained their lack of apparent preparedness.) Most were amazed to hear our plans for the day, and it was fun sharing a bit. We were again nearly alone before long, until we got to Wasco Lake, which seemed to be quite the popular place for camping and swimming.

Climbing up from Wasco Lake, we quickly hit the PCT, and began the long cruise back to Santiam Pass. Here we wove in and out of the burned area, passing many little mosquito ponds along the way. Stopping in the forest proved deadly, as there was no breeze at all to whisk the pesky critters away. The view of TFJ from the PCT in this direction is just stunning. With a low sun, even moreso! Ran into lots more folks, relatively speaking, as we hiked along the PCT. Definitely a highway compared to other nearby trails.

Finished the day back where we started, some 11 hours later. A most memorable day in the woods! :-)

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July 16, 2016

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Heart_bw

Larch Mountain

22.5 miles of hiking • 6000' elevation gain •

Got a late start, not arriving at Multnomah Falls until 10-ish, and the crowds were out in full force. Powered my way up to the top in just over 20 minutes, though, and it was clear sailing from there on up. The day was overcast, and rain was looking pretty likely. Really, the perfect day for a forest hike!

On the way up Larch, I crossed paths with quite a few SAR volunteers. Apparently, quite the training exercise was under way. Felt sorry for all the gear they were carrying, but temps in the low-60s had to help. Arriving at the summit, I was virtually alone! All along the north crater rim, I'd been walking in fog, and Sherrard Point was completely blanked in clouds. Oh well, I've seen it before, and the point was getting in the exercise in such a magnificent forest. (Beat my PR to the top by two minutes, as well!)

Heading back down the south crater rim, I crossed trail with a couple dozen folks! This explains all the cars in the parking lot -- seems they were all hiking the crater loop. Once past that cutoff, I really didn't see another soul for the next 13 miles! A bit past the Bell Creek trail cutoff, the Oneonta trail became literally overgrown with ripe huckleberries! No fair... Impossible to keep moving at a decent pace, now. So I stopped to pick a quarter-pound, or so. :-)

Franklin Ridge was, as always, a sheer delight to traverse. The sun was filtering down through the trees, magically lighting up the entire place. The overlook didn't offer much of a view, but that's okay. Rather than continue at the big hairpin turn, I took the "Bat Cave" turn off down to Nesika Lodge, and took in the views from Waespe Point. Just wonderful.

Decided to take the service road from Nesika over to Devils Rest. This added another 700' of elevation gain, or so, to the day, which rounded it all out nicely. Was surprised to have a sheriff's vehicle pass in out there, as well. Finally made it over to Devils Rest, and it was as boring as always, but offered me the Primrose Path cutoff down to Wahkeena trail. 800 feet down in just about 1/2 mile. Yeeehaw!

The rest of the journey was anticlimactic. Wahkeena Spring was gushing at full force, of course. The falls on the way down were just stunning. No people were to be seen, until the very bottom. Wow, what an incredible day in the woods!

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July 10, 2016

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Heart_bw 2

Loowit Falls from JRO

17 miles of hiking • 3000' elevation gain •

Surreal. Mid-70s, low humidity, and wildflowers just exploding across the Pumice Plains. Never seen such an amazing display before. Goat Rocks, at peak, can come close. Paradise Park pales in comparison. Rather than 10s of acres of gorgeous color, we luxuriated through 10s of square miles of unbelievable beauty, somehow dragging out 17 miles across 10 trail hours with Woodswalker. So many photo ops, the heart rate never really had a chance to spike. Not that there's anything, at all, wrong with that!

Had some drizzle on the way up SR-504 to JRO, and couldn't even see the mountain from Elk Rock viewpoint. As we left the parking lot, Johnston Ridge was in a cloud, though there were a few blue breaks above. By the time we'd gotten to Devil's Elbow, the skies had opened up, and we gloried in perfect conditions the rest of the day. I think the clouds actually enhanced the day. Looking around, we also decided that we'd absolutely picked the best volcano available as the other nearby peaks were cloud-capped much of the day.

Met a new trail friend out on the plains, and shared lunch at the falls with her. And, as it turned out, a steady stream of folks hiking in from Windy Ridge. Never seen so many people out along the Loowit! Willow Springs was once again a most inviting oasis, from which we enjoyed a good liter or more of ice-cold, volcano-filtered goodness. The plains were carpeted with dwarf lupine here, and the scent was intoxicating.

As we traveled back along the Truman from Windy, we traversed miles of paintbrush covered plains. Never seen anything like it before! This alone will be reason to remember this day forever. Just unreal.

By the time we'd gotten back up to the Boundary, it was starting to get a bit late, so we entirely missed the customary tourist crush. Words fail to express just what a wonderful day in the blast zone this turned out to be!

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July 2, 2016

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Heart_bw

Salmon Butte

12.5 miles of hiking • 3250' elevation gain •

Got a really late start, and didn't hit the trailhead until nearly 1pm. Which turned out perfect, as the clouds were just moving away from Hood's summit as I turned off 26 in Zigzag. Winding up Salmon River Rd, the pavement was steaming, and it seemed like a huge downpour had just passed through. Pretty well validates that sleeping in can actually be compatible with hiking!

Love this hike, for the incredible serenity as you gradually climb up through the forest. The first/last stretch along the reclamation-in-process roadbed is neither irritating or inviting, but it passes pretty quickly. Otherwise, the entire trip is just a delight. Easy to keep up a 3.0-3.5mph moving average, keeping the heartrate in the vigorous zone the entire way.

Saw some cool forest plants, the rhodies are just passing their peak but still pretty vigorous over 3400', and just enough beargrass up top to make the summit shots interesting. First time I'd been there with a view. (Previously, it was socked in, and a "wintry mix" was blowing in the wind.) Eight stratovolcanoes visible, ranging from Rainier to the Three Sisters.

Had a little lunch, then blew back down. For as crowded as the trailhead was (maybe 50 cars?), the trail itself offered remarkable solitude. Must've been that many were just camping along the river. All in all, another incredibly great day in the woods!

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June 25, 2016

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Heart_bw

Coldwater Megaloop

23.5 miles of hiking • 5000' elevation gain •

Picked nearly the longest day of the year for another megaloop (by my standards, at any rate) in the blast zone. Given how late the sun would be up, we got a lazy start around 9:30 at the Coldwater Lake boat launch. Best trailhead restrooms anywhere.

The lake was calm and reflective as we walked along its north shore. Foxglove and daisies were putting on an incredible show, with lots of other color spots (esp. monkeyflower) along the way. The waterfall crossing about halfway up the shoreline was trivial. Mountainkat saw a bear(!) near the beaver pond.

After crossing the Coldwater Creek inlet, we began the steamy climb up to the bulldozer on the side of South Coldwater Ridge. Trail was quite overgrown with lots of salmonberry and other stickery stuff. Got through with only a few real bleeders, which was good. The bulldozer is rapidly disappearing into the alder. The recovery is strong on this shielded side of the ridge.

Continuing on, we enjoyed a magnificent view at the "blue rock overlook." It was enhanced by a magnificent double rainbow around the sun! Quite the show. After crossing the saddle and pointing ourselves in the general direction of Coldwater Peak, we ran into four friends from the PH FB group. Fun!

Just a few snow fields as we crossed over to Saint Helens Lake. Nothing that couldn't easily be walked across or around. The views from atop Coldwater Peak were phenomenal, as usual. Seemed the flowers up there had taken a bit of a pummeling from late-season snows, though.

Debated scaling Harry's Ridge ("pad the stats!") on the way down towards JRO, but when we realized it was already 5:00pm and 10 more miles lay ahead, that plan was quickly scuttled. The paintbrush and lupine are really the stars of the show this year. Penstemon was not as prolific as it commonly is. Good flower show, overall, between Devil's Elbow to a bit beyond JRO, but not spectacular.

Finished up through the Hummocks and back to the TH by about 8:30. Really great day in the blast zone!

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June 19, 2016

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Heart_bw

Table Mountain

10.5 miles of hiking • 3750' elevation gain •

Got a chance to play "tour guide" for a couple friends who'd never been up this iconic peak before. The day turned out so much better than any of us had hoped. Just perfect hiking weather, in every possible regard.

We pungled up the $5 to park at Bonneville Hot Springs, now that the owner of that resort has posted "No Trespassing" signs at the old Aldrich Butte trailhead (under the powerlines). Not too happy about that, but carpooling took a dent out of it.

Rather than follow the herd, we diverted towards Aldrich Butte on the way up, and then again on the ridgeline trail that roughly parallels the rutted and rocky road and provides a far superior experience. This led to the PCT, and then back to the main road; highly recommended.

When we got to the Heartbreak Ridge cutoff, there was a tangled mess of humanity already there, trying to suss out "which way do we go?" We told them, and about half ignored us, choosing instead to go where the other half didn't. Crowded day on the mountain!

Took something of a break near the Two Chiefs, just to have a little snack and enjoy the marvelous views. The winds were relatively calm, with bugs out and about, which meant there was an ongoing air show of swallows zooming about feasting on the little blood suckers.

Continuing on, we hit that most enjoyable section - the boulder scramble! As we went up, we crossed paths with another woman, and I happened to finish about the same time as her. She asked me a few questions, one thing led to another, and we realized we had been online friends for years! So fun to finally cement that friendship in real life!!!

When we hit the summit, there were at least twenty folks mingling about the sign post, admiring all the volcanoes in view. Clouds obscured the top of Mount Rainier, and many thought it to be Saint Helens. (I corrected that impression, and pointed them towards the north ridge which offers a very fine view of "our volcano.") Good news: someone fixed the busted up table on top of Table!

Enjoyed lunch with magnificent views atop the cliffs of Table Mountain. Wow... The views there never fail to amaze. And never, ever have I seen even a tiny fraction of the number of people up there that day. Maybe fifty or sixty total??? Yowsa. Good thing it's a huge summit!

After quite a bit of time looking south, we headed north to relative solitude and views every bit as good. Met some new friends, and directed them down the north ridge, as they weren't too keen on what Westway threatened to do to their knees. Our party, 2/3 of which had never been on Table, wanted to full experience, though. On to Westway it was!

Although the tread is just terrible, the views on Westway simply can't be beat. (Just don't look around while walking, eh!?) Took us some time to get down, but we did, then hooked a left on the PCT for the hike back to the trailhead. We'd hoped to come down Cedar Mountain instead, but had pretty much burned up the daylight by this point.

All in all, a great day on the mountain, spent with wonderful new trail friends!

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June 12, 2016

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Heart_bw

Falls Creek Falls

4.5 miles of hiking • 1000' elevation gain •

Needed a walk in the woods to while away the afternoon. Hard to think of a much nicer place to do it.

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June 11, 2016

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Heart_bw 2

Ape Canyon to Loowit Falls

22 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

Just about as perfect as days come, spent with wonderful friends, up in the blast zone! Went up the Ape Canyon approach from the east, which offers a gently rolling climb through an old growth forest, beside a massive lahar, with some very nice volcano views along the way. As we were about to break out of the forest, an elk was startled just off-trail, and two mountain goats were spotted on the ridge across the valley. Mounts Adams and Rainier sparkled on the skyline.

After not finding snow on Mount Hood below 6000' two days prior, it was surprising to still find so much at 4500' as we crossed into the blast zone and began following the Loowit trail counterclockwise. Very large snow patches dotted the Plains of Abraham, and it seemed the flower show was still weeks away. The slick rock waterfall was a delight to behold, as it drained the plain.

We crossed over towards the junction with the Abraham trail, where we met one of the few folks we'd see up here, and talked awhile. She and her two dogs were heading the same way as us, but didn't continue too much farther. Windy Pass probably posed the greatest challenges of the day. Just finding the route up was something of a chore, on the loose pumice hillside. And then, on the way down, we encountered a very steep snowfield that meant diving off-trail into the ravine and a little butt-sledding down another snowfield.

As we toured around the volcano, it presented sides of itself rarely seen by most, and mostly unrecognizable to us. Just amazing what a different perspective it offers from these angles! When we arrived at the Willow Springs oasis, all enjoyed the most mountain-fresh ice-cold water they could. It just doesn't get better than that. I packed an extra liter-plus along, just because.

Not too much later, we finally hit the cut-off for Loowit Falls, and it was actually in sight. Folks actually started shuffle-jogging to get there quicker. Wow, what a build-up, and a pretty nice reward, too! On arrival, we dropped packs, and just enjoyed where we were for nearly an hour, eating lunch, watching a goat, looking out over Spirit Lake and the Mount Margaret Backcountry, with a thundering falls right there behind us. Wow, wow, wow!

The return was along the same general route, except we diverted off on the Windy trail after passing the springs again. This took us over to the access road for Windy Ridge, which we followed for a short while before switchbacking up the Abraham trail. While we probably weren't technically on Windy Ridge ourselves, at this point, hats were definitely not an option here! What an awesome traverse on a "knife" ridge made of pumice that formed the dividing line between the blast zone and the unaffected zone. INCREDIBLE!!!

The sand ladders up were a tremendous help. (Why can't they put those in the Eliot crossing on Hood???) Encountered a mountain biker here, who was the only person we'd seen since before entering the restricted zone. Winding back to the Plains, there were again some very steep snowfields to cross, most of which offered options to climb above and avoid the risk entirely. (Though none were impassable, by any means.)

The sun was slowly sinking over the summit, as we finally re-entered the forest. Hard to remember just how rolling the Ape Canyon trail was -- we actually gained 500' while descending! Arriving back at the trailhead, we encountered mosquitoes for the first time all day. It was time to go. Can't emphasize enough what an awesome day this was!

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May 30, 2016

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Heart_bw

Cooper Spur

12.5 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Supposedly, according to the MHNF website, the road up to Cloud Cap was supposed to be open. We were actually rather happy to see the gate still locked just beyond the Cooper Spur Ski Area, as that meant we'd be virtually alone all day and the extra climbing was already part of our plan.

We took the Polallie Ridge trail up to Tilly Jane; it had suffered a bit from blowdown over the winter, but wasn't all that bad. The views were a bit obscured by clouds, offering only glimpses of Adams and MSH but never Rainier. Hood kept its peak in the clouds most of the day, but we did get an occasional photo op when they parted.

First snow of the day was right about at Tilly Jane, and it got deep quickly. As soon as we busted out of the forest, it was nearly 100% up to the shelter. Compacted, but slushy enough to make the short distance from TJ to the CCC shelter the hardest part of the day. There, we enjoyed first lunch, waiting and watching the cloud show.

After awhile, we decided to continue on up. Saw some folks going straight up to the Spur, but it looked pretty steep and slippery the last 400'. We stopped at around 7400', where we still had a bare rocks. Microspikes were of no use. Enjoyed second lunch, again just absorbed by the cloud show over Hood. Wish I'd thought to do a timelapse!

On descent, we followed the southern lateral moraine down the Elliot Glacier, nearly all the way to Cloud Cap before busting off onto the Timberline Trail for the last little bit. Again, we just relaxed and enjoyed the views. Cooper and Barrett Spurs dominated the flanks of Hood, while the summit made very rare appearances every now and then.

Continuing on through Tilly Jane on the way down, ran into a new friend who was camping there for the night. And, finally, taking the Tilly Jane Ski Trail down, we saw the fabled "Survivor Tree" - an ancient Ponderosa Pine that miraculously didn't die in the wildfire that killed everything else on the ridge.

Another great day in the mountains!!!

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May 28, 2016

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Heart_bw

Point Defiance

10 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Skipped the very last conference session of the day, to go explore Point Defiance Park. What a gem! There's really something for everyone out here. Zoo, aquarium, historic trading fort, logging museum, rhododendron garden, rose garden, northwest natives garden, off-leash dog park, a beach, vistas over Puget Sound, and of course an extensive network of incredibly nice trails. I managed to get a pretty good overview of the entire place, as I criss-crossed and looped the peninsula. I think I'd be out here weekly, at least, if I lived anywhere nearby.

(All photos taken my new Samsung Galaxy S7. Still learning how to use that thing!)

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May 24, 2016

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Heart_bw

Swan Creek

4.5 miles of hiking • 1000' elevation gain •

Had to travel to Tacoma for some business, and Swan Creek Park provided a perfect end-of-the-day getaway! Walked close to 5 miles up and down the creek, starting near the community gardens. The woods were thick and lush, green as could be, even supporting some really nice old-growth. The trail itself was like one of those kiddie roller coasters -- up and down and up and down and up and down... The creek wasn't flowing too strong, and in fact was completely dry at the upper/south end. The north end was "just a bit sketchy" by some measures, and may not be a place solo hikers would feel comfortable - particularly near or after dark.

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May 23, 2016

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Heart_bw

Cat and Dog

17 miles of hiking • 6000' elevation gain •

Awesome day with good friends, exploring some new spots and some old favorites. Started with the Cook-Augspurger Traverse (CAT, eh?), which was entirely unexplored territory for all of us. The route up Cook was exceedingly easy to follow, and provided some spectacular vistas and wonderful meadows full of wildflowers. Fun to taking photos of balsamroot with the much-ignored backside of Dog Mountain in the background, as the masses amassed over on the flipside. We were entirely alone, of course.

Once we hit the summit of Cook Hill, it was a long and winding ridge walk over to Augspurger's unremarkable summit. (I believe much of this trail was constructed by Russ Jolley?) It's in need of love and boots, though following along the "tin can lid" route is never a difficult navigation challenge, there are spots where it's somewhat overgrown, as well as a bit of blowdown. Great views open up periodically, especially towards Mount Adams, but also up and down the Columbia River. The summit of Augspurger may be one of the few less remarkable than Devil's Rest, but there is now a new sign to assure you that, "Yes, this is all there is."

The real beauty of Augspurger is found by dropping a few hundred feet down the north ridge, where more meadows and rather spectacular views start opening up. We enjoyed second lunch on a four-volcano-view prominence, that also offered a great overview of Indian Heaven, Grassy Knoll, the two Huckleberries, Big Lava Flow, and more! We'd considered continuing north to the gravel pit, then winding back on old 4WD trails to the saddle between us and Dog, but the heat and humidity was taking a toll so we chose to return through the shaded woods along the traditional Augspurger Trail.

On the way back towards Dog, we encountered other people for the first time all day. By the time we reached Dog's summit, we'd seen a total of six! (Two on top.) Just an amazing dearth of humanity, considering the beautiful day it was. The fabled hanging meadows were a brilliant shade of yellow, and all was well with the world. Umm, other than the damn bugs! Zero breeze meant we continued to be plagued by these little flesh-eating criminals. You'll see them appear as birds in many of the photos, as they were so prominent.

All in all, another fabulous day in the woods!!!

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May 13, 2016

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Heart_bw

Weldon Wagon Trail

5 miles of hiking • 1250' elevation gain •

An unexpectedly pleasant surprise! Hadn't been here before, but this trail offers a really quick jaunt through some pretty nice balsamroot meadows and scrub oak. Very short, only taking two hours even with lots of photos. All uphill, and very exposed, so hitting it on an 85° day - one of the first of the year - took a bit of a toll. Lots of really irritating flying bugs, too, so they kept us moving rather than pausing to enjoy the scenery.

The directions in the Field Guide (linked below) are pretty good. But there is some road-building going on for the first 1000' or so of the "trail." Just keep an eye on the right side for the sign shown in first photo.

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May 1, 2016

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Heart_bw

Wind Mountain

3 miles of hiking • 1250' elevation gain •

Wonderful way to end any day out! Dog Mountain was beset with flip-floppers, cars parked up and down SR-14. Only four cars at this trailhead, though! Got our exercise in, and quickly came back down. Again, flying bugs were beyond the point of irritation, and the legendary wind just didn't help. Still, as good a late-day view as the Gorge offers!

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May 1, 2016

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Heart_bw

Ruckel Ridge

24 miles of hiking • 6000' elevation gain •

Totally wore ourselves out yesterday! Began the day with the always fun, and frequently spooky Ruckel Ridge climb. I will definitely call this stretch a climb rather than a hike. Frequent need to use hands. Peril abounds with a single slip. Helluva workout! Truly, one of those "the journey is the destination" places.

By the time we pushed through 3700', we were definitely walking within the clouds. After surmounting the Benson Plateau, we crossed Ruckel Creek and followed the Benson Way trail all the way to the PCT, where we turned south to go explore a little lake that shows up on maps. Had to detour a quarter-mile and 200' or so off the PCT, to find more of a watering hole or pond than a lake, but it was fun to bag it.

We then headed south along the PCT, all the way to Cascade Locks. Before dropping off the plateau, we briefly debated tagging the other hidden (unmapped) lake up there, but we had a long, long way to go still, and this side-trip would've meant dropping over 500' off the edge before needing to climb back up. Maybe next time? Snow has almost completely melted, with perhaps only a few dozen feet of trail covered in a few inches at most.

As we descended the PCT, the temps gradually rose nearly 20°, and the sun began to poke through. Took a much appreciated break at the 3000' viewpoint, and saw a little rainbow form over Nick Eaton Ridge. Wooly Horn and Tomline were in fine shape, too. We shifted into high gear at this point, and plowed through, stopping to enjoy Crest Falls and the Pinnacles along the way.

Got back to Eagle Creek a little after 9pm. Wow, what a day!

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April 29, 2016

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Heart_bw

Cedar Swamp

16 miles of hiking • 3250' elevation gain •

When it rains, embrace the rainforest! Wonderful walk in the woods with good friends and the faithful companion. The forest is literally Spring'ing back to life. Lots of little forest flowers, and every conceivable shade of green. The thick canopy protected our heads from most of the rain, and the soft humus floor protected our feet - impossible to beat.

We really "took our sweet time" getting up there, pausing or slowing down at every possible sight, just enjoying the heck out of this beautiful forest. (I'm pretty sure that's why my GPS had such an incredible overage - my mileage here is a best estimate based on past trips, plus some "bonus" wandering around the swamp.)

Due to the thick clouds, many photos were fuzzier than normal. But for some reason, the pooch was a real poser, holding still long enough for me to click the shutter more times than not. I guess that's its own reward, based on how many of the final photos he's featured in.

Just an amazing place...

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April 24, 2016

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Heart_bw 2

Sevenmile Hill

5 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

First of three "little" hikes today, to a place I'd only learned of the day before! I am basically tongue-tied. The beauty of the bloom here is incomparable to anything I've seen anywhere.

Getting here is made more difficult by the inaccurate directions in the Oregon Hikers' Field Guide. (Use those in Curious Gorge, instead.) And once here, you're on your own. Nothing but off-trail goodness.

If you hit the Hill during peak bloom, you will be dumbstruck. No question about it. Watch out for rattlesnakes and poison oak.

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April 15, 2016

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Heart_bw

Tom McCall Point and Rowena Plateau

6.5 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Second of three "little" hikes today, which included two places I'd heard of many times, but never been to before. It was a fun drive along the historic US-30, through the (in)famous Rowena curves, coming over from Sevenmile Hill, too.

I'd been warned how crowded this place might be, but was pleasantly surprised by just how few folks were out and about. The flowers seemed to be right at peak, especially the balsamroot. The views were spectacular, and I only wish I'd been here on a day with a bit fewer clouds to more fully enjoy Mounts Adams and Hood on the horizons.

Climbed McCall Point first, which was very enjoyable. Saw a trail continuing on past the summit circle, and almost followed it, but wanted to save some time for hike #3 so just did the loop up there. Lots of "Trail Closed" signs dotted the landscape on the way up, really trashing up the place IMO.

After getting back down to Rowena Crest, I discovered I'd left the headlights on in my Jeep - oh no! Rather than fret about it, I just turned them off, and looped the Rowena Plateau. Hate to say it, but I just wanted to "get it over with" while out there. Rarely feel that way hiking, but this little stop just doesn't do a lot for me. Might be good with a mobility-challenged companion, but otherwise the Gorge just offers so much better. Kinda rushed to get through. Ah well. Check another off the list, eh? :-)

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April 15, 2016

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Heart_bw

Memaloose Hills

5 miles of hiking • 1000' elevation gain •

Third of three "little" hikes today, also to somewhere I'd heard of but never been. This one seems like a real gem. The trail is nicely graded, with just a slight rise up Marsh Hill. Lots of flowers scattered amongst the oaks, and pastoral tranquility atop that first rise. Stumbled across a baby rattler sunning himself on the trail, there. Dude was all attitude! Made me smile.

Probably waited too long in the day to finally make it over to the grand finale - Chatfield Hill. Wow! Every bit as dense a show as Sevenmile Hill, albeit on a much smaller scale overall. Awesome view of Mount Hood on the way up, as well, and great look over to Mount Adams looming over Tracy Hill once on top. This is definitely a place to bring folks without the stamina for most Gorge hikes.

Getting back to the Overlook on US-30, I decided to follow the trail downhill to see how it connects to the rest area on I-84. Along the way, caught some more good views of the Catherine Creek area across the river, and wandered past some really stunning pinnacle formations that few probably know about.

Fun exploration that only added about a mile and a half, and a few hundred feet of climbing, to the end of a most incredible day!

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April 15, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

Wygant Point & Mitchell Point

15.5 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

Knocked two off "The List" in a single hike. Been wanting to go up Mitchell Point for a long time, but it never seemed to offer enough to make it stand alone. So, found another hike up to Wygant Point leaves from the same trailhead! Bingo. We did our best to make it as loopy as possible, but our pre-trip investigations indicated the Chetwoot Trail was impassable due to a landslide south of the powerlines. We did investigate the cutoff from the topside, and realized quickly that any landslide on that sort of slope wouldn't be much fun to get around, so the first part of the hike was all in/out.

Anyway, the OH field guide entry for Wygant begins with a dire warning about how terrible the trail is. We didn't find that to be the case at all. Seemed there'd been lots of fresh maintenance, and it was in very fine shape. You do need to hop 100 or 150 logs, or so, but nearly all have notches cut in them that make for fine footholds. No, the worst part of the nearly the entire trail were the extreme abundance of ticks! We were looking for and picking them off each other all day long. Crawl under a log, do a tick check! Jeeez... Lots of poison oak on the lower stretches, too.

The Wygant trail was just littered with viewpoints. Most pretty much of the same thing - Cook Hill, Dog Mountain, Wind Mountain, the Columbia River, Greenleaf Mountain, Table Mountain, Indian Point, ... you get the picture. But they were all beautiful. Felt sorry for the folks over on Dog, which was in a cloud until noon.

The summit of Wygant is nondescript. A cairn in the forest. If you squint through the trees, you can see Mount Adams. But if you continue to the southwest, following the ridge, you get to a marvelous little hanging meadow where the views really open up from Viento Ridge over to Dog Mountain. Could've sat there for a couple hours, if only we could've sat (remember: ticks!).

On descent, we took the Chetwoot south to the powerlines, then followed them over to Mitchell Point. It was a bit of an effort adding 1000' or so of EG on the tail end of the hike, but I'm sure preferable to going back to the TH and taking the standard approach. Very nice jeep trail to follow, and much of it was actually in the woods.

We'd been warned about crossing Perham Creek, but that was a total non-issue now that most of the snow has melted. Clearly, that thing was raging when the bridge got blown away. But it was just a simple log crossing now.

All-in-all, an incredible day, with really good trail friends! Would recommend anyone who hasn't should give this one a shot someday. We saw an abundance of spring wildflowers, and just generally had a great time.

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April 10, 2016

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Heart_bw 2

Harry's Ridge

15 miles of hiking • 3000' elevation gain •

With the sudden onset of summer weather, we decided to go snowshoeing - go figure! It was an unbelievably beautiful day up in the blast zone. So much so, we both came home with rather nasty sunburns, despite being at least somewhat cautious to avoid them. The views and fresh mountain air more than made up for that, though.

Started from the Hummocks trailhead around 9:30, or so, and it was already shirt-sleeve weather. No snow down here. Lots of frogs and ducks in the ponds. Saw a couple elk herds as we climbed Johnston Ridge. Decided to detour across the (snow-covered) ridgetop, rather than follow the Boundary Trail across the sketchy south slope. Arrived at JRO to find it completely plowed out, all the way to the front door! Sure wish they'd take down the gate.

Enjoyed a first lunch at JRO, considering what lay ahead. Decided this was the place to strap on the snowshoes. The trek along the ridge to the Devil's Elbow turnoff was beautiful. No way possible to stay on the trail from that point, so we just went cross country over the line of hummocks separating us from the Truman Trail junction side of the ridge. Very slow-going, due to the heavy show and intense heat.

Our original thought was to get up to Saint Helens Lake, then return via South Coldwater Ridge. But it was just too late in the day, and the snow was softening up far too much, to make that realistic. So we decided to scale Harry's Ridge instead, and take in the views from there. A helicopter made a number of passes by, including a landing or two on the ridge!

Spirit Lake was gorgeous! Not a ripple to be seen. Just a mirrored reflection of the hills beyond. The ridge had a perilous cornice along its entire length, and the view was great where we attained it, so we didn't continue all the way to the top.

Returned along a similar route, but diverted about halfway back to plunge back down to SR-504 for the final leg of the journey. We'd both "had it up to here!" with the snow conditions at this point. Took the opportunity to view the newly re-opened Spirit Lake drainage tunnel. Boy, was it gushing!

Great day, in a great place, with great company! :-)

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March 30, 2016

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Heart_bw

Wahclella Falls

2 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

After a decent lunch at "the restaurant formerly known as Charburger," the family worked it off with a fun walk in the rain to Wahclella Falls, followed with a visit over to see the giant sturgeons at the fish hatchery.

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March 5, 2016

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Heart_bw

Cottonwood Canyon

15.5 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain •

Another trip to the dry side, as clouds and possible rain threatened in greener areas. Spent the day exploring the Lost Corral Trail area along the south side of the John Day River in Oregon's newest state park. Very nice indeed!

The first four miles, or so, were very flat as they followed an old road. The canyon colors were really popping in the sunshine. Geese were abundant along the river, and we seemed to startle them repeatedly.

After hitting the official end of the trail, we went cross-country to the northeast, and then cut back west to Faro Point (peak?) - the highest point in the park. It offered us a pretty nice spot for lunch, and sweeping views in all directions. Seemed like prime rattlesnake territory, but none were to be seen. (No ticks, either!)

Spring flowers were all starting to bud, but very few were yet in bloom. While the hike along the river was nice enough, it was the climb up Faro that really made the day shine.

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March 4, 2016

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Heart_bw 3

Hamilton-Hardy Loop

16.5 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

Spring sprung! We had a most excellent day playing hookie from the real world, while getting the dog entirely exercised in the process. Took the customary route up to Hamilton's summit, enjoying the views and just perfect weather all the way up. It was a bit breezy, as the east winds kicked in for real once we hit the peak. Traversed over to enjoy a sunny lunch with a view on the saddle, before taking Don's Cutoff down towards the Equestrian Bridge. Proceeded, without a care in the world, up Hardy Ridge and finally to Phlox Point where the 360° views were incomparable. Words don't do the day justice, so hopefully the photos will help. Awesome day.

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February 25, 2016

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Heart_bw

Kings Mountain

14.5 miles of hiking • 4250' elevation gain •

Finally got back to the Coast Range, and remembered just how enjoyable it is! Day started out far sunnier than any of us expected, but as we climbed the clouds enshrouded the mountain and eliminated any hopes of an ocean view from on top, only to part again as we returned to the trailhead hours later.

We started at the Elk Creek Campground, taking the Wilson River Trail westbound for a couple miles past the regular Kings Mountain Trailhead, and took a new route (for me) to the summit along Coronary Ridge. Despite the name, I ended up thinking it was actually less taxing than the regular trail. Hmmm.

As we climbed, we entered the zone where snow had fallen overnight. Depths varied up high, from 4-8" of fresh slush, and the trails were slick as snot due to the warm-ish temps bringing on rather rapid melting. One group told us, "We got soaked standing under the trees!" Well, duh. Heh... Seemed like they'd signed the summit register under the trees as well, given how wet it was.

The traverse along the dreaded "backside of Kings" was a good challenge. Ground was so slick, and trail was so steep... Not sure how folks were doing it without microspikes, because even with them there wasn't much in the way of traction. Following the rope climb, and the return to the frontside near the pinnacles, things finally got a bit less tension-filled.

Lots of snow at the 3-way junction, and really for the next couple miles down towards Elk Creek. Passed a fresh rockslide along the way, and saw some other cool erosional features. All in all, another incredible day in the woods!

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February 20, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

Lewis River

14 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Wonderful walk in the woods with Woodswalker! "What she said." One waterfall after another... Wow! :-)

We felt as though we were absolutely the only ones out there yesterday, so much so that deciding not to drive through a pretty "iffy" slide only 3/4 mile short of the trailhead was an easy call. Just wasn't worth it. Why not pad the stats just a bit, eh?

Turned out to be the absolute perfect day for this hike. The river was positively raging, throwing up a cloud over much of its course. (We noted it had been even 6-8 feet higher very recently!) The darkness of the forest on this overcast day meant a whole lot of blurry photos, but the memories will last a good long time.

After a good 13.5 miles or so on our intended trail, we weren't quite ready to just drive home, given there was still a bit of daylight left, so... Did a quick one-mile diversion down to see Curly Creek Falls, which is just amazing and a must-see if you find yourself up this valley.

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February 15, 2016

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Heart_bw

Swale Canyon

25.5 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Weren't sure where we'd end up as we headed east. Made a quick stop at the Balfour-Klickitat walking loop, to see the eagles, but the only ones we saw were flying by as we drove in. After a mile or so of walking around, we decided to head for the eastern end of Swale Canyon, to see what we might.

It wasn't an ideal day, in that we mostly lacked the blue skies that make for such dramatic desert photos. Still, it was fun to revisit this old haunt. Decided to make a push for it, and shoot the entire canyon in and out. Not a lot of wildlife out, but we did see a few juvenile eagles, some wild turkeys, a heron with fresh-caught fish lunch, some deer, and absolutely no ticks! Oh, and a lovable old black lab, just as the banjos were becoming audible. Yeehaw!

While we grabbed a bite to eat at the western trailhead, we also decided that there was absolutely no reason to do the entire trail other than to say you had. Once beyond Hillbilly Heaven, it was just about an entirely straight shot to the far trailhead. Only highlight along that stretch was the turkeys. Otherwise, turning around at the 10-mile mark certainly catches the best the trail has to offer.

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February 6, 2016

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Heart_bw

Ape Cave

8 miles of hiking • 750' elevation gain •

Still seeking hikes out of the rain, we decided to go underground today! Had a lot of fun visiting a place I hadn't been in close to 20 years. Parked out by the "Trail of Two Forests," where the road was gated. Walked in to Ape Cave from there, and had some fun with the Whiskey Jacks near the entrance before taking the plunge in.

We ended up going down-cave as far as we could (without crawling), before turning around and heading back up-cave to the top. I guess it's been closer to 30 years since I've done the upper section, and I'd forgotten what a freakin' workout that is! Wow... and fun, too! We enjoyed our lunch after exiting at the upper end. Only disappointment was finding a lot of graffiti in a few places, mostly at the top. Altogether we traveled 3.2 miles underground (according to William Sullivan's map), although the GPS crapped out as soon as we were down there and only registered the straight 1-mile between entrance and exit.

After walking back to the car, we decided to wander around the "Trail of Two Forests" area for awhile. Not a good place to be off-trail with a light snow cover! Really awesome tree casts all over, some from trees that had to be close to 1000 years old. Incredible. Really good day!

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January 31, 2016

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Heart_bw 2

Deschutes River Trail

24 miles of hiking • 750' elevation gain •

Got my arm twisted (real hard, I tell ya!), and ended up heading for the desert again last weekend. This time, we decided to simply haul in and out the Deschutes to the old abandoned ranch (or better), and try getting back before dark. Success! Managed to maintain an average 3.4 mph moving pace for the duration. What a beautiful canyon to wander through!

Saw a coyote right at the get-go. Or rather, he seemed to see us, after which he just boogied right up the hill, carefully dodging behind sagebrush whenever the camera was almost ready to shoot. Saw all sorts of waterfowl down along the river, including geese, cormorants, several duck varieties, and more. Saw a herd of black-tail(?) deer, going both in and out. Saw some birds of prey, circling high above. Probably saw more, but there ya go.

The old ranch house appears to be about ready to collapse completely. The northern extension has separated completely. The backside has fallen off. The chimney is leaning precariously. One or two more heavy snow loads, and I'm betting it's gone. There were some more interesting buildings just beyond. Seems some of them may still be in use? Bizarre! Fun to see the historic water tower, as well.

After a quick lunch at the water tower around 2pm, we just high-tailed it back down the trail, making it back to the parking lot just after sunset. Most of the return was in the shadows, though, so it was good to have taken a lot of photos on the way in. But we did dawdle at the most awesome display of columnar basalt that I've ever seen, on the way out. Yowsa! The mind boggles at its formation.

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January 24, 2016

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Heart_bw

Syncline Wanderings

17 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

Absolutely delightful day out of the doom and gloom of the wet, west side. Blissful blue skies and temps in the mid-60s led us to linger much of the day, while just meandering all about the syncline. Mountainkat and I started the day by wandering up alongside Coyote Wall; the clouds lifted as we climbed. Cut east from the top, and ran into what (to me was) a brand new vineyard, which was fenced so we'd obviously ran off the public land at that point. A bit of off-trailing it found us at the delightful "are you bringing us wine and cheese?" no trespassing sign, from which we were able to get quickly back on course again.

Took the highline across until just before the powerlines, where we cut down a lovely trail alongside another cliffy section overlooking the vision pits and Rowland Lake. The lighting was superb for capturing the extent of native architecting that'd occurred millenia ago below us. From here, we came out down near the Catherine Creek trailhead.

Decided to lunch on top of Tracy Hill, so we headed up from there. Got a bit distracted checking out the rock arch, from both below and then above, before heading all the way up the hill. Found a wonderful view spot to lunch at, and by this time the sun and food was urging a leisurely nap. It was just that nice out! But, it was not to be.

Around 2:30 or so, it seemed time to consider heading back down, and then across the lower reaches towards the Labyrinth. About that time, a beautiful full moon was rising to our east, as the sun set in the west. We ended up making it back to our trailhead without artificial light.

The kind of day one can normally only dream of in winter. :-)

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January 22, 2016

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Heart_bw 1

Kah-Nee-Ta

7.5 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

We were all entirely frustrated with the wet side, so we went for (what we hoped would be) a nice walk in the rain shadow! The landscape was truly magnificent. So pleasant to be hiking without a jacket, again, too. The one thing we didn't count on was just how incredibly muddy the supersaturated soils would be. I'm sure we were hauling up to 20 pounds of clay on each foot at times, and each trekking pole must've weighed close to 4 or 5 pounds as well. At the end of the hike, and even the next morning, it felt like we'd gone at least 2x as far and climbed maybe 3x as high! It was an awesome day, to be sure. But would probably be better a bit later in Spring, when the soils may be somewhat drier and the flowers were coming to bloom.

(All photos that include me, courtesy of Mountainkat.)

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January 18, 2016

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Heart_bw

Salmon Creek Greenway

7.5 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Escaped for a quick eight-mile jaunt up and down the greenbelt with Harleigh and NO RAIN this evening! What a treat.

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January 17, 2016

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Heart_bw 2

Larch Mountain

16.5 miles of hiking • 4500' elevation gain •

Picked an awesome day to trek up to Sherrard Point from Multnomah Falls with Mountainkat. Ice on the trail, even below the Benson Bridge, kept all the tourists at bay. Saw just one fellow along the way going up, three couples arrived from the snow gate while we were on the summit, and then nobody again until we hit the paved trail near the bottom going down.

Conditions were perfect! The trail was well trampled, so we ended up carrying our snowshoes the entire way, using only microspikes instead. Temps were in the high-30s under bluebird conditions, with barely a breeze even up top. Really couldn't have been a much nicer day. :-)

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January 8, 2016

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