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Cape Horn Washington

August 13, 2011

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?

Further along the trail ascends switchbacks through a moss covered talus field.  David was in the lead.  I don’t mind ascending in a talus field, but descending can be tough on the knees.

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!

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