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Mailbox Peak

10.5 miles of hiking • 4000' elevation gain •

With a beautiful weather forecast and a planned trip to Seattle to see Front 242 Sunday evening, I decided to drive out early from Portland and find somewhere to hike. After a little research, I decided to knock off one of the more popular strenuous hikes near Seattle, Mailbox Peak. Since I was hiking solo, I opted for the "gentle" new way up, over the grueling old trail. Looking back at the time it took me with the longer switchbacks, I kind of wish I could have just gone for the more difficult up. I got a bit of a later start than I wanted, leaving the parking lot at 10:40 am.

I passed a few souls on my way up, but had mostly solitude until I hit the big talus slope that one must go up to get to the peak. Then it was trains of people slipping and sliding down, while I waiting patiently to be able to go up. Large amounts of people in tennis shoes and no traction devices or poles. I can see why this trail gets massive amounts of search and rescue calls every year. The trail was very icy once the snow started in the trees, and turned to slippery mush on the exposed slope. It went back and forth between rock and slush, so my microspikes went on and off, as I didn't want to damage the tips on the rocks. I chose to kick step in the snow next to the trail rather than follow the slush mess on the final push. Mountaineering boots would have helped here, but I did okay with my normal hiking boots, spikes, and poles.

The last push consists of 960 feet of elevation gain in half a mile - and boy did I feel it! Slow and steady at the end and I made it.

I didn't spend a heck of a lot of time on the summit, Front 242 was calling back in Seattle and I had to get off the mountain in time to get there. Once past the snow and back on clear trail, I really pushed myself to keep a quick pace and get back after all the time wasted waiting for others sliding on my way up.

Pics on my gps link below.

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April 22, 2018


Tickattack, Klickatick, Tickitat, Klickitat... aka Swale Canyon

9 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Gloomy rainy trip down Swale Canyon today.

I won't make the mistake of taking my dog down this trail again. I had heard reports of ticks, but I did not expect the onslaught of bloodthirsty beasts that I came across today. With the misty rain, we did not notice any ticks until we were around 4.5 miles down the trail, the rain had stopped and the dog was dry. The trail became grassy instead of rocky and we think this is where a large number lay in wait for us to come along. As we looked down our dog was attacked by at least 30 ticks, we swatted them all off and made the decision to turn back. Luckily, most had not bitten down, but the few that had we contended with back at the car after our hasty retreat. Dog was not happy, especially with the bath treatment she received once home.

Today was a rare day in which my partner had the same day off as me, and his first hiking trip since breaking his arm. (Driver in Portland drifted into the bike lane, he had to dodge and broke his arm in two places.) An umbrella worked well to protect it, but the act of hiking still amounted to some pain and swelling. Our turn around decision was made by ticks, but probably for the best.

Next time I'll conquer this trail via mountain bike and hopefully a shuttle car. Less chance for ticks to attack and a better chance to see the whole trail.

Photos on my gps track below.

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April 15, 2018

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Wygant Trail

9.4 miles of hiking • 2250' elevation gain •

Newly "reopened" Wygant Trail, one of the few trails on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge not affected by the Eagle Creek Fire. This trail has seen some improvements from Trail Crews since the last time I was here, but it is pretty obvious they have not gotten to the whole trail. There is one spot part way up where you have to climb over a very large downed tree, and a wrong move could cause injury or a tumble down the side of the cliff. Not for novice hikers. Once past the large tree the trail becomes much easier to pass. The creek crossing where the bridge washed out was not terrible, there is a suitable log that I easily scooted across on my bottom. Those who trust their balance could walk across it. Towards the summit the trail becomes more faint, but still easy to follow. The actually summit is not much to see, views are best taken on short spurs on the way up. I did not attempt the Chetwood Loop, as trip reports say that landslides have made much of it impassable.

For photos click on my GPS track below.

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April 1, 2018


Cottonwood Canyon Gooseneck Loop

8.8 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

First time out to one of Oregon's newest state parks. This hike is mostly off trail, and starts immediately UP from the parking lot at the Murtha Ranch Trailhead. The hike was lead by Mazama's hike leader Bill Stein.

Going up we could see a faint trail where others had gone before us, but nothing that is an official trail. Once we reached the ridge crest, we followed around an outcropping of rock on the right side. At Peak 1443, we had expansive views of windmills and the John Day River below. (And the parking lot, which you can spot for much of this hike) We then followed a fence line which lead us down into a steep gully, and back up the other side. This area would be treacherous if the ground was wet, but despite some iffy clouds the weather stayed dry for us. Across the gully we spotted some Bighorn Sheep, but they never got very close to us. This second ascent seemed less brutal than the first, perhaps because I was warmed up or because it involved more scrambling which I find fun. We found a nice spot to stop for lunch out of the wind, and then continued on to the top of the ridge. Once on top of the ridge again, we were able to follow an old jeep path along the fence boundary, with some great views of the red canyon walls across the river.

The descent was very steep, and we took a different route than Bill had scouted the week before. The group divided into a faster scouting group, and a those of us taking it a little slower. (I'm always wary of my knees and like to the take descents slowly.) We all felt a bit like mountain goats as we each made our path down. Eventually, we were in some trees, and I had to guess where the rest of my party was but we all made it through. Once down, we took a long break admiring the scenery as we sat along the river towards the end of the Pinnacles trail. From there it was easy going back to the parking lot on a flat dirt road.

And because the world is so small, I ran into an old college friend from Michigan (who also now lives in Portland), hiking along the Pinnacles trail. A brief hug, and I was off to catch up with the rest of the now speedy hiking crew.

I loved this hike, but I would only recommend to those who don't mind going off trail, and aren't afraid of a steep descent. The way to take is pretty obvious, but a fall here would not be pleasant. Trekking poles are a necessity.

For photos click on my GPS track below.

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March 25, 2018

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Criterion Ranch

11 miles of hiking • 1000' elevation gain •

This hike was recommended to me by local author of hiking guides, Matt Reeder, as being one of his favorite winter hikes. There was no lack of sunshine on the day I was there, and no lack of cows as the area is BLM land and an open range.

Lily (my dog) and my pal Brooklyn joined for an all girls day on the trail. Not a soul out there, which was a refreshing change from Portland area hikes. We did occasionally have to dodge cows who I felt were giving us the stink eye.

This area could be entirely hiked off trail with care taken to watching for rattlesnakes and ticks, but we opted to stay on the jeep path. The path was ruddy with hoof prints from a recent rain, but had dried which was somewhat challenging on our ankles with the unevenness of the ground.

The path is pretty clear, follow the jeep path until you run into a second path that goes through a gate and all the way on down to the Deschutes river. (Which would make for a very long day, we stopped at the viewpoint where the trail really started to go down.)

We were a little early for wildflowers, but I think I would like to come back when the flowers are in full swing. This hike had views of Hood, and the Sisters, and plenty of space for further exploration. Next time, with more energy, I will go a little further.

For photos click on my GPS track below.

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March 10, 2018


An Attempt to find the Valley of the Giants

1 miles of hiking • 0' elevation gain •

This was an attempt to find the famed patch of old growth in the middle of logging country near the coast of Oregon. Huge Douglas-firs, with a few large western hemlocks, some trees up to 500 years old.

The hike was lead by Mazamas hike leader Bill Stein, with Matt Reeder (local author of PDX Hiking 365 and 101 Hikes in the Majestic Mount Jefferson Region.) It was an exploratory hike as no-one knew if we could actually make it out there.

Sadly, we did not make it. We got around a mile and a half from the trailhead when all hell broke loose and we came upon an active logging site of Weyerhaeuser that halted our way onwards. We attempted to climb over the downed trees but quickly deemed it too hazardous to go on. 3 hours of driving... and so close we could taste it. Just wanted to throw this out there in case anyone was interested in attempting this.... It is impossible with the logging activity currently going on.

Disappointing after all the buildup, but not a wasted day. We stopped at Baskett Slough on the way back to stretch our legs and at least get a short hike in. Still fun to get out and meet people, and nice to grab a new hiking guide from Matt (and get insider scoop on unknown hikes on the drive there and back.)

Photos if you click on my GPS track below.

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March 4, 2018


Baskett Slough

2 miles of hiking • 250' elevation gain •

Just a quick stretch of the legs back when we had an unsuccessful attempt at reaching the Valley of the Giants. Pleasant place to visit, great for bird watchers.

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March 4, 2018


Saddle Mountain

5.3 miles of hiking • 1500' elevation gain •

Past trip, still trying to catch up on my hikes so sorry for spamming the site as I knock these out.

I love Saddle Mountain, and simultaneously hate it. The grating on the steep parts of the hike always make my footing feel a bit unsure. Chain link fence material has been put on a large part of this trail due to the lack of topsoil, but is in bad shape in many places. On this particular day, parts of the mountain that remained in the shade had sheets of ice still on the trail making us have to watch our step in my places. Hikers with dogs beware - I imagine some dogs would be bothered by the feel of the fencing, but my dog didn't seem to care.

With me on this trip, two friends who hadn't hiked in a very long time, but they were both troopers as I lead them up the mountain. My friend Jim remarked how he had driven past the road to the trailhead so many times heading to the coast, and never imagined that this was up there. Oh, the joy of hiking. I'm hoping this trip will light his fire for more exploration.

As we headed back down the mountain, the weather turned on us and it hailed a bit, and we were grateful for our early start in good weather. Sometimes it works out to skip out on beer the night before for an early start before the crowds kick in.

Back in Portland, a victory beer was had by all with a delicious brisket enchilada devoured from La Taq.

Photos if you click on my GPS track below.

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February 11, 2018


Tom Dick and Harry

7.8 miles of hiking • 1750' elevation gain •

Parked at ski bowl, which adds to the mileage of this hike.

This hike was lead by my friend Kat (who was an assistant when I took BCEP), who is a new Mazama's hike leader, through meetup. Cold, clear day and a steady pace. Trail was hard packed and snowshoes were not needed. Also along was my fellow BCEP friend and Mountain Dog, Prasanna. (Who is now becoming a hike leader - congrats to him.) The rest on the hike were strangers, which is always interesting. I go back and forth between solo hiking and joining meetups/Mazama trail trips since my boyfriend can no longer hike with me until his work schedule changes this summer. I do highly recommend meetup for those of you who seek company on the trail, and your friends are mostly non hikers. (I know...I know...who are these people? Why do we like them if they don't hike?)

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February 10, 2018


Ape Caves, Upper and Lower via sno park

6 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

Night hike through the ape caves. Worked a full day, and with a friend in town from Florida, we decided to take him out to Ape Caves because it was something we could do without daylight. Happened to be the night of a blood moon. Did both lower and upper, no other creatures or beings in site.

Icy descent into the caves, and pretty slippery hike back on the hard packed snow back to the snow park parking lot. No microspikes or snowshoes used, we just dealt with it. A few eerie things on this hike - an empty pair of cowboy boots left at the trailhead, and the night hike back in the dark with the blood moon. I always see/hear things while hiking by headlamp, but the thrill can't be beat.

Nothing reached out in the night and grabbed us, I survived to hike another day.

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January 31, 2018


Rampart Ridge

5.7 miles of hiking • 1250' elevation gain •

This hike was originally planned to be a snowshoe hike... well, we carried our snowshoes but we never actually unloaded them from our packs.

An abnormally beautiful and clear day, we lucked out and had a completely unobstructed view of Rainier. While I was disappointed I didn't get to use my snowshoes due to an almost completely snow free trail, I can't complain about what I saw.

Great little hike, and the drive from Portland really wasn't that bad. I really need to get out to Rainier more.

Photos on my GPS track below.

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January 14, 2018


Forest Park, Firelane 15

3.7 miles of hiking • 500' elevation gain •

Quick jaunt on a rainy day with my dog through the far end of Forest Park.

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January 7, 2018