The Trailkeepers of Oregon is a fledgling organization, affiliated with the Portland Hikers group, that puts together work parties to maintain area trails. Working with them was a great experience. Nice people doing good things. Here is a link to the “after action” report filed by our leader Ryan. http://www.portlandhikers.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=9849
For what it’s worth, I’m in the white hat.
This is a hodgepodge of photos from late September and early October. It has been a busy time. The annual Hawaii trip took us to Oahu, with stays in Honolulu and on the beach at Ko Olina. Lots of time for just kicking back and reading in the sun. Great sunsets too. As always, click on the photos to enlarge.
We got back home to the onset of Fall. On one of the last warm, sunny days I expect for a while I wanted to get some pictures of the Old Grist Mill east of Woodland, Washington.
There hasn’t been any serious hiking for several weeks. David and I had hoped to hike Silver Star from the south side in September but that trip was a total bust. Apparently during the drive out over the forest road a rock damaged the valve on one of the front tires so by the time we got parked the tire was half flat. We headed back down the road hoping to get to pavement but wound up changing the tire on a very rocky surface. Not fun; I was glad to have David’s help.
I did get to hike this past weekend with a group from Friends of the Gorge. It was a good hike with a friendly group, led by Jim Denton who schooled us about the 1991 Multnomah Falls fire and generally answered questions about local geology and plant life. Good stuff. We took off from the Angel’s Rest trail head, up to Angel’s Rest for a lunch break (thanks for bringing brownies Margo), then crossed to the east to the top of Wahkeena Falls. Down via Wahkeena Falls and then the return trail to Multnomah Falls Lodge. About 7 miles with 1,500 feet of elevation gain. No photos on the hike but I did snap a couple at Shepard’s Dell before the hike began. The sun was just coming up over the south side of the Gorge.
For Saturday, September 3, 2011, I just wanted to do a little exploring above Multnomah Falls. On the drive to the trailhead I noticed that leaves are just starting to fall. A season change is near.
The plan was to go up via Multnomah Falls to the Larch Mountain Trail, No. 441. From there I would go up to the Franklin Ridge Trail, No. 427, follow 427 to the Oneonta Gorge Trail, No. 424, then return. It was going to be a simple out-and-back.
Plans don’t always work out. Not long after starting down the Franklin Ridge trail it got pretty overgrown. Since I didn’t feel like fighting bushes for several miles out and back I back-tracked to the Larch Mountain Trail. But I couldn’t go back to the car so soon. That just would not do. So I went left, up toward Larch Mountain. This is a well-used trail that follows up Multnomah Creek most of the way. There is plenty of scenery along the creek, even though it is probably relatively low at this time of the year. You cross three times on footbridges – well one bridge and two logs hewn flat on the top side.
Multnomah Creek starts somewhere up near Sherrard Point at around 4,000 ft. elevation. As you go up the Larch Mountain Trail two tributary creeks flow into the Multnomah. The smaller of the two, which is comes in from across the ravine, has a sharp fall and, at least for today, wasn’t that obvious. The other is a more substantial but flows gently into the Multnomah. This is where the more substantial flow joins Multnomah Creek — a very pretty area. After the third creek crossing (the second log) the trail winds up and to the left, heading more or less south. It is forest most of the way but there is a talus slope to be crossed. Rocky footing.
Beyond the talus slope, and after more forest hiking uphill, you reach the intersection of trails 441 and 444. The signage here is a little confusing. As it happened, a mountain biker came down the trail and stopped to figure out where he was. If you look behind you as you face this sign you will see a smaller sign that says “Multnomah Spur, Tr. 444”. This junction appears to be at the northern base of the Larch Mountain Loop Trail. If you take the Spur you go around the Loop clockwise (assuming the top of your map is North). Continue on from this junction to Larch Mountain and you are on the Loop counter-clockwise. At least that’s the way I see it. Will have to verify this on another day. Since I was about 5 miles above Multnomah Lodge at this point I headed back down 441.. I think the elevation change from Multnomah Lodge to this point is just a little less than 2800 feet. I also knew the Larch Mountain Loop, starting from Multnomah Falls TH is 14.4 miles, and that was not in my plan. The biker headed down the spur trail. Note for mountain bikers: there is a posting for no bikes from this junction toward the highway. Anyway you would not like riding a bike on that talus slope.
Back at the intersection of trails 441 and 420, which goes west toward Devil’s Rest and Wahkeena Falls, I decided to avoid the crowds around Multnomah Falls by going back to the highway via Wahkeena. I did this trail coming from the west a few weeks ago so wanted to see it from the other direction. Not much new here. Did get an interesting shot of Fairy Falls on Wahkeena Creek.
I don’t know how Fairy Falls got its name, but it sure seems to me that if you enlarge this image you can see a person standing in the Falls, wearing a black hooded cape, and raising the right had to wave. Doesn’t remind me of a fairy, but then what do I know?
I figure this hike was between 11 and 12 miles (might as well have done the Larch Mountain Loop), with an elevation gain of around 2800 feet. Six hours counting lunch and photos. (You have to click on the photo 3 times to fully enlarge it.)
Silver Star wasn’t initially on my list for this summer but I’ve read so much about the views and the flowers that I decided to fit this hike in on August 27, 2011. David joined me for the 5.7 mile loop, with 1240 feet of elevation gain. A lot has been written about the road to this trail head and it turned out to be a significant part of the adventure. I’ll skip the details as they are available online at a number of sites, but suffice to say that once we got onto FR (Forest Road) 41, progress slowed considerably. Forest Roads aren’t that well maintained so you have to deal with potholes. It took us almost an hour from Battleground to the trail head — a distance of only about 25 miles on the odometer. You might think twice before you tackle this road in your passenger car as there are several places where you could bottom out.
Maybe I should note that there are two trail heads leading to the summit of Silver Star. We used the approach from the north, known as the Silver Star Trailhead. The other approach is from the south and starts from the Grouse Vista trail head, reached by coming up through Camas, Washington. For more information see the Portland Hikers web site at www.portlandhikers.org and look under the Field Guide, moderate hikes. Anyway, if you want to do the loop you want to start from the Silver Star Trailhead. Silver Star is on the rim of an ancient volcano and gets its name from 5 peaks of the rim, which are supposed to be in the shape of a star. The loop hike follows the western ridge of the volcano’s rim.
According to other trip reports it is a bit late in the season for peak flower blooms. We considered this an initial investigation of Silver Star with the intention to come back at different times of the year. However, the views are great and there were still plenty of flowers. We also tasted a few wild huckleberries at several spots along the loop. Signage at the trailhead is limited to an area map. There are two trails from the parking area and no indication which is the “correct” path. Just pick one, they both come back to the main trail before you reach the beginning of Ed’s Trail. Personally I think the better choice is to go up the path near the map sign and return on the other path. But that’s just me.
I definitely recommend going up Silver Star via Ed’s trail and returning on the western side of the crest. Ed’s trail is scenic the entire way, but does have a couple of sort stretches where you need to do some rock climbing. Its probably something you would reconsider if there were ice or you were hiking with small kids.
Nearly anyplace along Ed’s Trail, and from the summit, you have views of 4 snow-capped peaks: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood.
At the top you have the choice of a northern peak and a southern peak with a short saddle in between. Clearly you want to visit both, but here David and I are at the northern peak with St. Helens and Rainier in the background.
Onward and upward. I decided to tackle Hamilton Mountain alone on August 20, 2011. Hamilton Mountain is in the Beacon Rock State Park, a great area with numerous trails, equestrian trails, and camping facilities. The Park Ranger’s office is on Highway 14 just opposite Beacon Rock and the entrance to the park is off the north side of the Highway opposite the Beacon Rock trail head. Go up the Park road about 1/4 mile to the trail head parking area. A Washington State Discover Pass is required. See www.discoverpass.wa.gov for more information. A day pass can be purchased at the trail head.
This is a loop hike of 9.4 miles with elevation gain of 2,100 feet (rated difficult by Friends of the Gorge). I planned to do the loop counter-clockwise. The Park gate opens for day use at 8 am and I was at the gate when the Ranger arrived. Head up the trail through forest and round the bend you will notice another trail merging in from the left where you are under the power lines. This trail goes back to the campground. Moving on, at around a mile into the hike you reach the waterfall area. There are a couple of viewpoints for the falls. I’ll need to come back here next spring for more photos because this late in the season the water was low. All the snow is long gone and there has been no rain for days. Temps today are going to reach 90 degrees before noon. Anyway, the obligatory falls photo (click on photo to enlarge image): Continue across the foot bridge ascending into the forest. A short way on you come to the fork where you must decide whether to do the loop clockwise or counter-clockwise. My shot of the trail sign is a little out of focus but it gave me a chuckle. Who decides between “difficult” and “more difficult”, and how subjective is that? Take the Hardy Creek Trail to go clockwise. With my plan in mind, and after some deliberation about the meaning of “more difficult”, I figured “hey, no better time than now to find out”. More difficult sounded like a good challenge. Now, having completed the loop, I can give my impression. More difficult wasn’t that bad. Of course you know you’re going to be climbing, and there are a few short bursts of steepness, along with some rocky stretches across talus, but overall I join in recommending the counter-clockwise approach. The trail is well maintained.
Along with the spectacular views, one of the joys of hiking is finding new flowers or critters. Along the trail I noticed this guy (girl?). I later learned from a Ranger that it is a Rubber Boa. Back at home I Googled it and learned that this is a fairly unique snake. Boas are typically found in warmer climates but this one lives where it gets much cooler. In order to cope it has evolved with a very slow metabolism, which causes it to move very slow — explaining why I initially thought it might be dead. Not to worry, (s)he began crawling off the trail just after I snapped this photo. (S)he appears a little bigger in the photo than actual size because I got close to get the picture. Cool!
As you near the summit you see a south facing bluff. I think this is actually Little Hamilton Mountain. From there the trail goes through a number of switchbacks before you get to the actual summit.And eventually you follow the trail around to the right and almost stumble on the summit sign. The trail goes a short distance further toward the edge but it seemed to me the better overall views were right near the summit sign. Many animals mark their territory. Humans seem to mark not only their territory but places they’ve been. Hence the condition of the sign. More serious hikers take pride in leaving nothing behind. Back on the loop the trail heads north through forest and before long you emerge on what is called the saddle. This is a good place to take a breather and have a little refreshment, which is just what I did, looking back toward the summit. Mt. Hood is in the far background here but you can’t see it because of the haze.
You get a nice view of Table Mountain to the east (also on my “to do” list). From the saddle you can go further north on the trail but the loop follows an old road downhill southwesterly. Follow the somewhat rocky road down to a junction. If you go right at this junction you head to Upper Hardy Creek. I wasn’t too sure which way to go here and took a short side trip about 1/4 mile up toward Upper Hardy Creek. Unless you want to add an extra little bit to your loop hike, learn from my mistake and follow the road downhill to the left. You will then come to the creek and a picnic table where the loop rejoins the Hardy Creek Trail. This is the backside of the “difficult” trail and will return you to the start of the loop. Frankly I found nothing difficult about the trail from this point pack to the sign. It is a pleasant, mostly level, trail through forest. Follow it and you return to the Hamilton Mtn. Trail, and back to your car.
Remember that first trail that merged into the Hamilton Mtn. Trail where we went under the power lines? I thought I would take that route back to the car and went through the campground, and also followed the spur out to Little Beacon Rock. It’s a nice path but it does add to the overall distance of the loop hike by probably a half mile or more. If want to see the area go for it; if you’ve had enough for this day follow the original trail back to your car. With my side excursions I figure I did a little over 10 miles in about 4 hours. I was at the summit at at 9:55 am and back at the car at 11:55 (91 degrees, whew!). This is a great hike and one I will surely do again. Happy hiking!
Continuing on my list hikes “to do” this summer I headed out to the Columbia Gorge to visit Beacon Rock on August 17th. “The Rock” is a volcanic monolith sitting near the edge of the Columbia River on the Washington side. The hike is short — less than 2 miles out and back. The elevation gain is only 680 feet but it is rated “moderate” because you are climbing pretty much all the way. While there are great views at most points along the climb, what was most interesting to me was the construction of the trail itself. Henry Biddle bought the land for the sole purpose of building a trail to the top and a plaque part way up the trail indicates that Biddle and Chas. Johnson built the trail between October 1915 and April 1918. It is a bit of an engineering marvel. After a short walk through forest to the base of the rock you ascend on switchback after another, occasionally crossing wooden footbridges, until you reach the top. Click on photos to enlarge image. Most of the trail is on the west side of the rock but there are some east views just before the top. Views at the top are 360 degrees. Here we are looking east along the Columbia River.
More on Hamilton Mountain in the next post.
The Cape Horn trail is a 7 mile loop (when the full loop is open) with 1,630 feet of elevation gain. A lot of work has been done here to improve the trail and build a very nice overlook of the Gorge. Part of the lower loop is closed from February to July to protect a falcon nesting area but we had the full run on this day. And it just happened to be the day a great new overlook was being dedicated. The weatherman said it would be warm and partly sunny but as we started from the parking area just before 8am it was misting rain and probably not over 60 degrees. Still nice hiking weather and the rain, such as it was, barely made it through the forest cover. This was my first hike with a new hiking partner, David.
About a mile and a half into the trail you get the first view points: Pioneer Point and Fallen Tree View Point. Here’s David at the Fallen Tree. Nice view of the Gorge to the east from here. As always, you can double click on the photos for a larger image.
The trail is well marked for the most part. We did find some unmarked forks but they seemed to be at places where either choice would bring you back to the main trail. Even so, we did some backtracking to be sure we were headed the right way.
Past the new Nancy Russell overlook the trail heads back down hill and eventually crosses highway 14. There is a new tunnel here to get hikers safely under the highway but some construction is still in progress.
Along the lower part of the loop there are some very nice places to overlook the Gorge in both directions. We stopped for an early lunch overlooking the Columbia River,to the west, and the railroad tracks below.
The Gorge offers some really interesting rock formations on both the Oregon and Washington sides. From the lower part of the Cape Horn trail we got this dynamite view of Cigar Rock. I wonder how they come up with these names?
The last 1.3 miles of this loop is a gentle uphill climb on a private road. But before you get to the road the trail passes behind Cape Horn Falls. David caught a shot of this critter hanging out under the Falls. It’s a little hard to see the water on the right side of the picture but I assure you there was water. We did the full loop in just under 4 hours and 40 minutes. Not a bad time considering we did some backtracking, stopped to talk with some very pleasant ladies volunteering at the dedication, had a short lunch overlooking the Columbia, and took a number of photos. All-in-all a very nice hike, and an especially nice way to get to know a new friend. Glad to meet you David!