The much more common hike in this area, but still strenuous and intense is Dog Mountain. We hiked Augspurger Mountain via the Dog Mountain trail. Augspurger Mountain trailhead is unfortunately located in the area of where major construction is taking place on Highway 14 (check ahead of time the road hours). We had to wait 30 minutes for the road to be cleared and reopened to the public. Most of the construction is actually just beyond the trailhead, but WSDOT is using this pull off for parking their machinery. While waiting I was able to locate our exact location and found that we were less than a half mile from the trailhead. We probably would have been okay if we’d arrived earlier to avoid the traffic that started well before the trailhead and extended far beyond.
After our long wait for construction to clear we were antsy to get on the trail. We started off and maintained a quick pace as we began our ascent up first Dog Mountain. The quick pace forced us to stop and de-layer as our bodies warmed fast and began to sweat from the sunlight hitting us.
We started to elevate above Wind Mountain (just West of Dog Mountain) we heard some big game hauling butt down the densely covered hillside in a hurry. It was within 25 – 30 ft of us when it finally heard us and stopped. We were unable to see the animal because the hillside is densely covered in brush, trees, and poison oak, but we could definitely see the movement in the brush. Based on the noise and the large amount of brush it was moving we knew the animal was large. We started yelling and throwing rocks into the animal’s area. We weren’t sure if it just hung low or high tailed out of there in stealth form – at any rate I got out my trekking poles to start using them while hiking and as a protecting force (or just a little peace of mind – cause a pokey stick wouldn’t do much when a bear is charging..).
[Wind Mountain – West Facing]
The thought of a big game animal stalking us quickly faded as we climbed up the last few hundred feet to the summit of Dog Mountain. From Dog Mountain the trail to Augspurger Mountain has mercy on our legs for a few hundred feet as it descends to an old access road. At the access road you go right (East/up) and follow for about one mile until reconnecting with the trail.
This trail starts to climb immediately through an older forested area. On the plus side the trail was soft and easy on the feet. The higher we hiked the less maintained the trail seemed. Seeing poison oak at lower elevations on the trail I decided to stay with pants rather than changing to shorts. This was a wise decision with all of the underbrush we had to constantly hike through. The underbrush would constantly catch your leg/foot making it difficult to hike through. As we reached higher elevations we hit patches of snow. Early in the day the snow we hit had not been exposed to the sun as much making our passage much easier. However, later in the day as the sun warmed the snowy patches it caused things to get a little tricky.
We were lucky enough to be hiking on a day with weather definitely cooperating. The skies were mostly clear and we had beautiful views of the Gorge.
[Atop Augspurger Mountain with views of Mt Hood]
Just beyond the top of Augspurger Mountain is a relatively flat spot with incredible views of the Columbia River Gorge. We did lunch here. We took off our shoes letting them dry out a bit from the soft snow we had to hike though. I find that airing your feet out on longer hikes is key for avoiding blisters and completely sour feet.
The hike back was not a piece of cake or straight down. With the long lunch break it energized us … to an extent. The underbrush is definitely wearing as it forces you to slip and alter your stride. On longer sections of downhill my “johnny long legs” cannot hold back all that long until I am in a full on out sprint. Luckily for me the trail had many softer sections, which didn’t hurt the knees as bad.
Back along the access road we came across some tracks that had not been there a few hours earlier –
After seeing this rather large track we picked up the pace a bit and made sure to be loud – or at least hold a regular conversation that way we wouldn’t spook any animals. Just beyond these tracks we hooked up with the Dog Mt Trail. There weren’t anymore tracks around… on the trail at least.
From the top of Dog Mountain we pretty much jogged the entire way back with occasional breaks for the knees. I was surprised to see a good amount of people heading up late in the day. I imagine it was locals doing a quick evening hike – as they were well aware of all of the Poison Oak / mud / tracks when we told them. This was a long, but very rewarding hike atop with a few cool views in between.