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Grayback Mountain

11 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Opted for an easy stroll up Grayback after the sufferfest up Defiance last weekend. One of my favorite hikes for solitude. Mount Adams was out and looking pretty majestic. Maybe I'll have to take a stroll up there soon....

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May 2, 2021

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Heart_bw 1

Mount Defiance

11 miles of hiking • 5000' elevation gain •

Had to spend last weekend (with it's beautiful weather) in self imposed quarantine, as many of my coworkers tested positive for Covid 19. Ended up doing a 20 mile bike ride once I got my negative results Sunday afternoon.

As a result of them testing positive, my skeleton crew of 3 did everything we could to keep our department going minus 5 people. Lot's of anger, as I had previously complained to my HR that the guys didn't take proper precautions. My personal crew and myself were almost to our second vaccination dose, and we were very lucky with our negative test results. Kind of amazed it took this long to have this happen.

Anyway, a week off of hiking (aka anger management), with lots of extra work and frustration leads to... the biggest sufferfest I can think of. Defiance. Kat suggested it, and at first I was like, "I'll let you know how I feel on Saturday..."

Then I said screw it, let's go.

Our friend Tom was added to the mix and a meetup time of 9 am was decided. I had the most fatigue and I'm the slowest, so I was chosen to lead. It was very slow going up. I've been up Defiance twice before but somehow I forget how relentless the up is. Somehow, it ended up being a completely magical day, despite the suffering.

We had so many different types of weather. Sunshine, fog, rain, snow, sleet. We were going up in t-shirts, then a snowstorm where we put on rain layers, and just as quickly, the sunshine overcame all and we were back to shedding layers. We originally had intended to do the entire loop, but with my slow lead, I decided we should just follow our footsteps back through the snow rather than spend more time finding the route the other way. I've been down Starvation and seen the views, but honestly, my knees hate either way. The worst part of going up Defiance is coming down Defiance.

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April 25, 2021

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Heart_bw 1

Elk King Traverse

10 miles of hiking • 3750' elevation gain •

This was long overdue. I'd been up King, been up Elk, and even had attempted the traverse years ago when I first moved to Portland. (It was winter without much daylight, and we had turned around at the rope and went down the gentler Elk Creek Trail instead of finishing)

In my head, I wanted to see if I had grown enough as a hiker to finally complete this mental and physically exhausting adventure.

I knew that I didn't want to have to complete another 3.5 miles on the Wilson river trail after all the work off the traverse, so we began at Kings trailhead and got that part out of the way first. We only ran into one other group, who were starting from Elk and doing it in reverse. That section of trail is not as flat as one would think, and started us gently upwards towards the beginning of Elk.

Anyone who has been up Elk knows that it is punishing. Not only does it climb something like 2000 ft in 1.5 miles, but a lot of it is scrambling. I put my poles away when going up Elk, they just get in the way. I did have my leashed dog in my hands, which proved to be doable, though somewhat annoying.

We took a much needed lunch break on top of Elk, only a couple of other hikers shared the summit. After the summit, is where you begin the much more serious section of the traverse. Coming down is a moderately intimidating steep downwards scramble. (You certainly wouldn't die if you fell, but it wouldn't be a pleasant tumble.) More scrambling along the ridge, more cliff edges, until you finally come to the only really pleasant and respectable section of trail. The trail becomes a nice stroll through the forest. It was full of snow, but all of it was hard packed and made for easy walking. The trail then opens up to a junction with the Elk Creek, and you come out of the woods to see your next summit (King) in view. This section would be absolutely stunning since it is treeless, if it wasn't for all the clear cuts that come with the view in the coastal range.

At this point I was really regretting not pushing my initial point to my partner, that it would be smarter to leave the dog behind on this one. Repeated rounds of, she is way better at being steady than both of us with her 4 legs, and I had agreed to let her come along. Sometimes I really need to just put my foot down.

We didn't run into anyone except for the other group doing the traverse the opposite way during the section between Elk and King. We reached the roped section, and made a plan that from now on, the dog would be unleashed and we would guide her between us until we reached the top of King. This section was the most technical part of our day.

Zane went down first, taking full advantage of the rope, then dog, and I stopped at the branch that serves as a mid point to the big drop. I handed the dog to Zane, and they continued down to wait for me. At that point I felt the rope was more in my way than a help, and I just used hand holds on the roots around me to get down. Once that was over I naively thought the worst was over. WRONG. Lingering snow still on the trail, hard packed and somewhat icy, and next to us a cliff edge with just enough vegetation to make me think I cold grab onto something if I started to fall.

Microspikes were an incredible help during this section. The snow had nice footprints in it, probably from a warmer day when the snow had started to melt out. The footprints were perfect for me to step into and I felt relatively okay though still concerned for the dog. Her toenails seemed to work in her favor, and she climbed up between us. We soon ran into at least 3 trail runners through this section, heading the opposite way. Not the best place to try to get around other people, both for covid but also it is damn narrow.

Zane and I have never felt so happy to reach a summit, we had the top of King all to ourselves and were thankful we had safely made the traverse. What a day! Coming down King is a kneebuster. We had initially talked about taking Coronary ridge down to avoid people, but I had had enough, and was ready for pizza and beer. Glad I did it, but I really wouldn't recommend doing the back section of King with snow.

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April 11, 2021

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Heart_bw 2

Phlox Point via Hardy Ridge

9 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain •

Cloudy day in the gorge, but beautiful views (minus volcanoes) and fun playing in the snow. Mostly solitude on Hardy, except for a group of bunny ear wearing BCEP'ers we nicknamed the Hardy Hares.

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April 4, 2021

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Heart_bw 2

Green Canyon Way #793A until blowdown/snow, partial Salmon River Trail

7 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain •

It was Katrin's turn to pick our weekly comfort optional hike, so Green Canyon Way #793 was chosen. We made a plan to go up until we hit sketchy snow or blowdown. This trail rises up, and I mean UP, rapidly. One slightly sketchy section of trail that involves a scramble with a dropoff. Trail is narrow, but felt fine event with snow. We brought spikes, but I didn't end up using mine much. We finally hit a large tree across the trail, in a steep section, without a good way to go around in the snow. Down we went, and added a little bit of the Salmon River Trail till we had enough of seeing other humans. Always fun to just check out trail conditions even if the destination wasn't likely to be met.

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March 28, 2021

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Heart_bw 1

A walk through the Soda Springs Unit of the Klickitat State Wildlife Area

9.5 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain •

Fun day with team comfort optional exploring game trails, old farm tracks, and bushwhacking up steep slopes overlooking the Klickitat. No official trails so it was a choose your own adventure day. A bit grey, windy and cold, but it was a good adventure anyway. Mt. Adams tried to make an appearance. Founds lots of animal bones, and spotted a ton of deer. (Sadly, no turkeys.)

I would love to come back here for wildflowers and more exploration, but starting April 15th, the area is popular with turkey hunters.

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March 21, 2021

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Heart_bw 2

Herman Creek Trailhead - partial PCT up towards Benson, then side trip to Herman Creek Pinnacles

10 miles of hiking • 3000' elevation gain •

Still can't park at Herman Creek Trailhead, parked on the road and walked in.

I usually wait to hike on Sundays, (I work on cement and I've been having issues with my feet hurting lately) but I couldn't resist a good weather day. So instead of a day of rest, I opted to try for some conditioning. Last week I was inspired looking back across the gorge to the Oregon side.

I knew I wouldn't make it to the Benson Plateau, but told myself to go until I felt like turning around. I had never been on the PCT in this section. There were many cars in the road around 9 am, but I honestly hardly saw anyone, probably partly because there are so many different ways you can go from Herman Creek.

The trail itself was mostly clear, though one section was a little eery with how many boulders were in the middle of the trail. Yikes. A few large trees across the trail, but all were easily passable. I still find the forest floor in burn sections makes me a little queasy on cliff edges, I feel it is because I can see further now and with a fall there would be nothing to grab onto. I had to force myself not to look down as this trail is at cliff edge for a lot of it. We hit snow around 2400 feet, and stopped for lunch. My heels were hurting, but I wanted to see if we could make it up to a viewpoint. I had microspikes with me, but I decided I should listen to my feet and come back another day. Down we went, but I did make a side trip to the Herman Creek Pinnacles. I did a quick scramble up and and then headed back.

Not a bad day in the woods, despite my foot pain.

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March 13, 2021

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Heart_bw 3

Two Chiefs Trail

15 miles of hiking • 2500' elevation gain •

I've had my eye on this hike for a while, but I was waiting for more hours in the day to make sure I wouldn't be hiking out in the dark. I knew weather was going to be rain on and off on Sunday, but decided to make a go of it even though I couldn't talk any of the usuals other than my partner Zane into joining.

Got up at 6 am, but couldn't quite get motivated to get out the door until a few cups of coffee in. At the Bonneville trailhead by 9. It was surprisingly empty. The early morning rain must have been scaring everyone away.

We started our journey on a very muddy trail, but by the time we were out in the clearcut it was starting to get sunny.

We enjoyed the emptiness despite the desolation, taking in the views across the gorge as we climbed up towards Table Mountain. That summit will be for another day.

The mountain was out, but not for long. We hit our junction - and turned onto the unmarked Two Chiefs trail. The old ATV road was in pretty good shape, nature taking over slightly but still a pretty clear trail with just a bit of blowdown.

As we neared our destination - the base of the slide of Table Mountain, the weather turned on us. It hailed, it rained, the wind picked up and everything was socked in. No major views for us but I still enjoyed the mossy road. We reached the creek and enjoyed the waterfall. I've read that the upper drop is more dramatic but it was too cold for any off trail shenanigans. I was interested in seeing the 2007 slide past the falls, but the dog was shivering and I wanted to keep moving.

Instead of enjoying a lunch we turned around at a brisk pace to keep up our body heat.

Of course, as we reached our trail junction, the sky cleared and the sun came out again.

Going to have to give this one a go again on a warm day.

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March 7, 2021

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Heart_bw 2

Wilson River Trail - part of Lester Creek section

6 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Went on a long bike ride Saturday, so I slept in a bit Sunday and got a late start. Went with a plan B and decided to head out from the King's Mountain trailhead. Lucked out at the busy parking lot and nabbed a spot just as someone else left.

Instead of going up to the summit of King, I set off on the Wilson River Trail towards Lester Creek, without a destination in mind. I just set a turnaround time of approximately 3 and trudged my tired legs up. It felt like spring, and as I sweated blue I was down to hiking in a t-shirt for the first time in months.

Trail was mostly clear, until we ran into a ton of blowdown as we neared the crossing of Lester Creek. (And the creek itself was full of fun debris to climb over.) We only ran into two other groups, lots of solitude on the trail. Around the bad blowdown a couple of mountain bikers abandoned their bikes and it looked like they were following an old roadbed on foot instead.

We stopped for lunch when we reached an overlook to the Lester Creek Pinnacles. With only one car we had to turn around come back the way we came. I would love to tackle the whole Wilson River Trail one of these days as a shuttle.

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February 28, 2021

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Heart_bw 1

Mississippi Neighborhood before/after the storm

5 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

A few trips over the weekend checking out the neighborhood, before and after the ice.

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February 14, 2021

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Heart_bw 2

Storey Burn Loop

8.5 miles of hiking • 1250' elevation gain •

A day filled with tree stumps with hair.

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February 7, 2021

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Heart_bw 1

Dry Creek Falls

4.5 miles of hiking • 750' elevation gain •

Slept in, felt guilty about not getting up and getting out.

Decided to try for a late start, breaking my rule of hiking popular trails on a weekend. Luckily the late start gave me some solitude as most hikers were on their way out as I was heading in. Managed to get one waterfall in before dark, and the rain didn't really start coming down until I was back to my car.

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January 31, 2021

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Wygant Peak

7 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Wygant trail sadly in need of some clearing again. We stopped shy of the summit due to to some nasty blowdown.

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January 24, 2021

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Heart_bw 3

Mowich Butte from Trout Creek

14 miles of hiking • 2500' elevation gain •

Set out to explore again away from crowds. Started at Trout Creek Trailhead, onto the PCT.

First creek crossing made a little difficult with a newly fallen huge tree. What looks like it used to be a rock hop is now a balanced log crossing unless you want to get wet. The tree was so large that it also blocked the trail prior to the crossing. We passed it and wondered what we were getting ourselves into for the day. We ran into one more large blowdown and one slide, annoying but both easily passed. Another obstacle was a huge pond that had taken over the trail, but we bushwhacked through the forest around it and were able to meet up with the trail and stay dry. Part way up, there is a wonderful viewpoint of Trout Creek at a cliff edge.

Going through the Yacolt burn it was interesting to compare old forest with new. There was still some old growth that hadn't burned, but most of the largest trees in the area were snags.

After a bit of gain, we finally reached a junction with an abandoned forest road, and opted to take it to get up to Mowich Butte. The road did have some snow, and we saw many cougar tracks. It was a super pleasant stroll after working hard to switchback up there.

We finally reached the viewless summit, (trees block any view) and sat for lunch. Looking at our gps, we were suprised at the additional mileage. It was further than the Oregon Hikers entry. It must have had quite the view before the trees grew tall. But now, it is just a high point to say I have reached.

Only ran into two backpackers on our way back out - otherwise total solitude. They must have had a saw with them because our tree crossings were slightly easier on our way back, as they had cut a partial path through.

Excellent day in the woods.

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January 16, 2021

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Heart_bw 1

Bunker Hill and Whistle Punk

6 miles of hiking • 1250' elevation gain •

Bunker Hill was a fun little jaunt up a 20-25 million year old igneous volcanic plug. 1200 gain in 1.7 miles, a good training hike when I am feeling lazy (like yesterday) and want to sleep in and still get some exercise. While no wow views yesterday due to clouds, it had interesting rock formations to scramble on, old growth, and cool fungi to check out. Best part, I only saw 5 other humans. We ended with an additional trek on the interpretive Whistle Punk Trail to add some mileage. Trail was flooded on the PCT but otherwise in good shape. We cleared a bit of branches from the trail as we walked, but otherwise no major obstacles of any sort. Drop off on the spur trail with views was steep, but I didn't venture anywhere I didn't feel safe.

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January 9, 2021

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Heart_bw 1

Eagle Creek

7 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

I should have known better, but I got Eagle Creek Fever and totally forgot that I hate to be on crowded trails. I managed to spend most all of last year off the beaten trail, but curiosity got the best of me. I wanted to see how the trail had changed since the fire.

I arrived at the parking lot around 7:20 am, and was able to get a spot close to the trail head, but it quickly filled up around me as I waited for a few friends from my covid hiking crew to arrive.

We all masked up, and faced the fact that even with an early start we were going to be sharing the trail with a lot of people.

I found it hard to stop for photos, there was always someone either ahead or behind, or groups of trail runners swooping past.

Most wore masks while passing, but many did not. We did not go down to the punchbowl, the water was raging and with the wall slide we didn't think we would see much. However, we saw a good view of the damage from above.

With the missing undergrowth and loss of trees (and the huge amount of rain) I saw more waterfalls than I have ever seen on this hike.

Eventually, we ran into a what looked like a fresh slide, and I started to get the feeling I should have listened to my hunch that recent rains would wreak havoc on the already unstable slopes. We passed it, and continued on. Eventually we ran into another slide, this one worse - and decided to call it. The crowds just kept coming and I just didn't want to deal with it anymore.

Next time, I'll wait it out for more stable weather, and try for an earlier start time.

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January 3, 2021

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