Posts Tagged ‘Mt Hood’

Tanner Butte – Columbia River Gorge 2/1/11

Garmin Interactive Map

20.7 mi

Elevation Gain:
5,806 ft

Min / Max Elevation:
78 ft / 4,111 ft

Matt, Dexter, Sadie & I

Tanner Butte had been a hike on my ‘ to hike list’ for along time. Its one of the many higher mileage day hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. I had finally dedicated myself to getting an early enough start to have the opportunity to finish before dark.

The trailhead starts in an awkward spot right off of exit 40 (Bonneville Dam). You can either park at the Wahclella Falls trailhead (just to the right/South as you come off i84) or the Tooth Rock parking lot (just left/East at the fork). Tooth Rock parking is free and is known for access to the Columbia River Gorge Historic Highway that has been converted into a walking / biking path in different sections. Tooth Rock is just West of Eagle Creek (Punch Bowl Falls & Tunnel Falls) and serves as the trailhead for Wauna Viewpoint. We parked at the Wahclella Falls trailhead (requires a NW Forest Pass) .

From the parking lot you walk back (North) towards i84 where the road forks – the hike begins here. The trailhead is halfway decently marked, but beyond this good luck…

Matt and I brought information about the hike; however, it did not completely help as there were many unmarked and obscure roads. We explored a few roads and one finally led us to the top of some ridge dead-ending. Discouraged as we were hiking down we started to plot our itinerary for the rest of the day – possibly hitting up a couple other hikes in the area. We ended up giving it one last shot and found the correct road, which led us to the Tanner Butte Trailhead … finally!

Apparently back in the day you were able to drive to the real Tanner Butte Trailhead. From the get-go the trail is beautiful! It starts with a series of small cascading waterfalls. We had to hike across a small icy creek that required some rock-hoping preplanning to prevent getting wet. My dog Dexter loved walking through the creek hydrating while my brothers dog Sadie is still deathly afraid of water. Sadie would not budge – I had to grab her scruff and pull her across the creek. This didn’t wade well for my feet as they got slightly damp with many more miles to go.

There was a strong East wind that kept the air brisk – chilly brisk that is! Needless to say, I wasn’t willing to bust out my camera much and sacrifice my hands freezing. Much of the hike we stayed in the dense forest somewhat protected from the wicked East wind of the Columbia River Gorge.

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[The Snowy Tanner Butte Trail – Dexter loves to run ahead]

Luckily once we got onto the Tanner Butte trail it was mostly easy to follow. As you can see above the trail clearly cuts through the forest. Sections of the trail we hiked were actually an old road. There was a few areas where it almost got away from us (due to the deceiving snow) that we took loose tree limps and logs to clearly mark  the trail to see on the way back.

The snow level had been at a high elevation for awhile leading up to this trip, but since much of the trail hikes through dense forest the snow is protected from the sun leaving us to hike though it. Most of the way the snow was firm and icy. As the snow melted off the tops of the trees the moisture created divots in the snow – this was definitely wearing on your feet and ankles causing your foot strike changed constantly. Hiking a few miles through this type of terrain slowed us down tremendously. As we reach a vista we felt like we were near the summit, but it was a false summit – a beautiful vantage point though!

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[Mt Hood with Tanner Butte in the near distance]

It was starting to get late in the day so we had to make some difficult decisions. From the ‘false summit’ we decided to give the summit a shot. After a half mile or so the trail disappeared as did our summit fever. The snow had gotten thicker and icier and the forest had grown a few too many trees leaving us to poor visibility. Just a few hundred vertical feet from the summit we decided it was best to not show up in the news and turn around.

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[Mt Adams in the distance]

When hiking you see so many different things – when you are leading vs following or when you are going ‘out’ or coming ‘back.’ As we were hiking ‘back’ we got a glimpse of Mt Adams in the distance.

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[Matt in good spirits]

The decision to turn around or keep trekking is a difficult one to make. Like many, I want to reach my final destination – the summit! However, there are many factors that are considered prior to turning around – time/day light, trail conditions, supplies packed, individual’s fatigue. We probably would have been okay, but didn’t want to risk coming back to the wrath of our significant others for arriving way late 😉

IMG_2624[Munra Point just West of us]

On the way back we took full advantage of the downhill keeping a solid pace. With just a couple miles left the sun started to set behind the might ridges of the Columbia River Gorge. It made for a cool shot of Munra Point and reminded me of how steep of a climb it was!  We arrived back to the car just as it was nearing complete darkness. The dogs fell asleep instantly as they probably put in double the mileage we did!

Cooper Spur / Tilley Jane Area 1/22/2011

Garmin Interactive Map

3.91 miles

Elevation Gain:
1,401 ft

Min / Max Elevation:
3,803 ft / 5,213 ft

Kristin, Dexter, Myself

Cooper Spur is located on the Eastside of Mt Hood. Cooper Spur is a smaller resort (hotel/cabins) with one ski lift. The last few winters the resort itself hasn’t had the greatest snow winter with having to be closed much of the season. This side of the Mountain is a nice escape as it is much less busy compared to Highway 26 side with Timberline Lodge, Ski Bowl, Summit and Mt Hood Meadows traffic coming from Portland.

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The trailhead is just above Cooper Spur Resort off of the Cloud Cap Road. This trail is popular for snowshoers, cross-country skiers, snowboarders, and climbers. Typically most people hike to the Tilley Jane Cabin area, which is about a 5 mile RT hike. During the winters the conditions beyond Tilley Jane toward Cooper Spur (Top of Spur – 9,000 ft) can be wicked windy. During the summer time the trail is heavily used by hikers as it accesses the Timberline Trail#600 (Loop around Mt Hood).

 

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[Trail is well marked]

This area has changed dramatically over the last few years due to major wildfires. The Gnarl Ridge Fire burnt many acres leaving behind limbless trees. Prior to the fire the forest was dense and cozy feeling – now the terrain is much more open with just burnt trees standing behind. With the help of mother nature the forest’s openness provides much clearer views of the Cascade Mountain Range.

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[Looking into the Valley through the burnt trees]

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[Mt Hood]

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[Mt St Helens]

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[Mt Adams]

Sadly, there wasn’t any fresh powder or really any snow. I had packed our snowshoes thinking we may use them on a few steep parts, but it wasn’t necessary as other hikers had imprinted the trail with their large snowshoe prints creating a stairway to Tilley Jane.

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[Snow Hiking]

I was surprised how little snow there was and how many bare spots lay at 5,000 ft in the dead of winter! It definitely made hiking less tiring minusing out the extra weight of snowshoes on the feet.

 

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[Dex & I]

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[Kristin & Dex]

This is a popular trail for dogs. Most of the dogs (huskies) we saw were more winter-fit compared to our short-haired friend Dexter. Dexter definitely got a workout in sprinting up and down hills investigating the trail ahead. We discovered afterwards that Dexter’s paws were a little raw due to the ‘ice’ so it might be wise to get some booties for these types of conditions in the future…

 

 

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[Cloud Cap Cabin]

We decided to turn back before making it to Tilley Jane due to the sun setting. I tried reassuring Kristin that I had headlamps and it would be doable – needless to say we turned around and headed for Hood River. We hit up Big Horse Brew Pub in Hood River for a quick burger and brew before making the trek back to the city..

Snowshoeing – Government Camp Area 12-29-10

Garmin Interactive Map

2.89 mi

Min/Max Elevation:
3,971 ft / 4,328 ft

Andrew, Cole, Dexter & I

Huge winter storm had rolled through the Cascade Mountains dumping massive amounts of fresh white beautiful snow leaving us with no other choice but to go play in it. It was hardly a secret as we noticed everyone and their mom heading up to the mountain. The snow covered areas heavily as low as Sandy, Oregon. The drive up was slow as many rooky-mountain-goers pushed the limits of their unsavy-unsafe-mountain mobiles.

Many people hate chaining up, myself included! However, the problem is many people don’t chain up until they absolutely need to – usually when their mountain mobile starts to slip or even worse when they loose control. This was somewhat the case as we headed up. This created a mall of traffic going up highway 26.

IMG_2490[Highway 26 – before the dead stop traffic jam]

As we approached the ‘silent rocks’ there was a large icy patch causing the ill-equipped cars to completely loose control – sliding ever which way and even doing 180s. Before reaching this area we saw one hell of a brave sole out braving the conditions on the unthinkable – a bicycle. Stupid or brave at this point he was probably moving just as fast as the cars heading up to the mountain.

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[Hardcore, Brave, and stupid bicyclist]

Partly due to time constraints, the stubbornness of not wanting to pay to literally go the extra mile for gas and the urge to drink good beer at the Mt Hood Brewing Company we started from Summit Ski Resort / Government Camp.

Andrew and I have had a few snowshoeing adventures that have started from this point (Gov Camp) and that have barely and miraculously somehow ended here as well. Our last adventure was snowshoeing from Government Camp to Timberline lodge … and back 😦  – a steep 2,000 ft elevation gain! Somehow we survive this one.

IMG_3214 [Near Timberline Lodge w/ the Mt just barely visible behind us]

This outing was much different. Cole was a first time snowshoer and was promised no near death situations.

There is a multitude of trails in this area and many are even marked. We usually parallel the ski run then veer off into the untracked powder. I really enjoy snowshoeing because it brings more solitude than hiking – especially if you are bush-waking sort of speak.

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[Cole, Andrew and Dexter – Dexter was our trailblazer]

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[Crossing over a bridge… barely visible]

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[Dexter and I – Dexter has icicles hanging from his mouth]

This was Dexter’s first time in the deep white snow and he loved it. He is still a puppy and doesn’t understand pacing so he was out for the count even a few days after.

Timberline Loop #600 – Mt Hood, OREGON

40ish mile Round Trip (Pacific Crest Trail #2000, Timberline Trail #600)

Elevation Gain:
10,734 ft

Min/Max Elevation:
3,322 ft / 7,392 ft

Andrew, Casey, Brian, Jake, Myself

Brian’s Garmin Stats / My Garmin Stats (my watch died just before finishing)

Ah yes, the Timberline Loop. The 40-ish mile loop around the base of Mt Hood, OREGON. I have backpacked the Timberline Loop 3 times prior to attempting this outlandish goal of run-hiking it in “less than 24 hours.”

It all started when Andrew was asking me about good trails to run. I gave him some info on Ramona Falls and a few other relatively flatter

trails with good terrain. After looking through pictures and listening to my rants about how cool the TLine Loop is he came up with the crazy idea of run-hiking it in less than 24 hours.

Against my better judgment I agreed to this ridiculous idea as did Casey, Brian and Jake. Andrew seems to get us to do the craziest (also stupidest) adventures. The last time I ran into Jake was when Andrew got Casey, Jake, myself and a few others to go on a snowshoeing trip one winter.

A quick story to preface this one…

We all crammed into Andrew’s ‘other’ van with high hopes of surviving another Andrew-planned-trip. Almost to the Mountain we learn of Andrew’s van’s issues as we hit snow. We pull over as the road is getting more sketch to drive as we gained elevation. It turns out not only are the tires completely bald (bald even for completely dry and perfect roads), but the tire chains that came with the van are the wrong size and do not fit. With just a few close calls and a hell of a lot of weight in the van we made it to Government Camp.

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[The Van, the snowshoers and a lot of snow!]

There was no real plan except to head up – up to Timberline Lodge that is and mostly because we couldn’t drive the van up there. For awhile we followed some trails then apparently decided that this was too ‘easy’ and started to hike in some crazy deep snow in the trees.

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[Andrew gettin stuck in some deep POW]

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[Trailblazing through the trees up to Timberline Lodge]

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[Hangin just below the Lodge with the Mountain looming in the background]

We ended up making it up to Timberline Lodge and back to Govy all in one peice. We were lead by Andrew (the marine) going some crazy grueling militant pace.

[Snowshoe racing]

We all survived … barely, well at least enough to hit up the brewery in Government Camp – Mt Hood Brewing Company (Ice Axe Grill).

Okay, back to Timberline Loop…

Immediately once Jake and I saw one another – we remembered our last experience together with Andrew. “Good times” we both said as we prepared for the worst.

We got up to Timberline Lodge and hit the trail about 2:15am Sunday morning. Most of us were very much sleep deprived including myself. I had gotten up at 6am Saturday and had not gotten any naps in – smart, i know.

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[In climber’s registration before hitting the trail]

[2:15am, we are hardcore, or maybe idiots?]

We started from Timberline Lodge and headed clockwise around the mountain. The trail is well define and wide. We had bright headlights that had provided adequate light. In addition, Andrew had brought his bike light he uses when cycling. This light is so incredibly bright and shines a great distance that when he is cycling cars flash him thinking he is a motorcycle with brights on.

As we hiked we could see the glow of the city, the outline of the Mountain, and from time to time animals. We spotted a 4x buck grazing on the hillside.

For the first 13 miles or so we hiked solidly in the dark. Just after Ramona Falls and just before the Muddy Fork we started to see day light. We stopped for a moment to take in the first views of the day.

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[The gang]

Prior to the hike I put together a tentative plan for stops, breaks, and water refills. I feel that it is absolutely essential to take 5 minute breaks every few miles to refuel your body (food, hydration), take the weight off your back, and to rest your feet – especially when doing endurance hiking. We sort of abided by the plan… didn’t do so well at the beginning then proceeded to take more rests towards the middle and end. Just after the Muddy Fork near Bald Mountain Jake decided to check his feet and found a colossal blister on the bottom of his foot, which he proceeded to cut through with his pocket knife. This would be the beginning of our bad luck.

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[Trail surgery]

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[Jake trail surgery – Casey bandaging his own wounds]

Also, just before this stop Casey just about fell to his death on a slightly washed out area. Luckily whatever reflexes he did have saved him from eventually ending up in the Pacific Ocean; however, he messed his knee up pretty bad. 28 more miles to go boys, lets do it!

[Mile 15-ish checking in…]

Just beyond mile 15 Jakes blister worsened forcing him with no other choice but to hike barefooted. The combination of his tough feet and softer trail allowed him to continue on with minimal pain – what a trooper!

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[McNeil Point/Carin Basin Area]

Just before arriving to the McNeil Point area I was viciously attacked by one of the biggest hornets I’d ever seen. I was wearing shorts with leggings underneath minding my own beeswax when all of a sudden this hornet latches onto my leg and stings me. I am slightly allergic and have become less allergic over the years it seems. However, the fear of being stung still exists.

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[Few minutes after being stung. It proceed to swell over the next few days]

[Casey sums up our current status – we are pretty haggard at this point]

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[pumping some tasty water]

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[Very cool spot to stop – I ended up taking a little snooze as everyone was pumping their water]

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[Not far from the Elliot Glacier wash out area – Jake leading the way in flipflops]

Jake was having a difficult time hiking with his blister situation. When we stopped at McNeil Point I took my pack off and realized that I had flipflops that he could wear. This seemed to make life much easier for the time being.

[Trail Closed]

From here you have to hike up the ridge line towards the glacier for about .25 miles or so. If you know wear to look there is a giant boulder visible with a rope anchored to it. The grade of the hill is pretty steep, but is doable without the rope. The rope just allows you to go faster and balances your body with your pack on.

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[Andrew getting into position to use the rope to hike down]

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[Me coming down… ]

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[Gives you perspective of the steep grade – maybe 150 ft to bottom of rope]

[Elliot Glacier Washout area]

After guiding yourself down the rope about 150 feet or so you have to meander up and over boulders down around to the river. The trail markers are okay. The best thing to do is to plan out your trip from the top of the canyon. The trail on the other side of the river is viewable so it is best to know the general direction to go after rappelling and crossing the river.

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[Coming up the other side]

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[me]

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[Brian]

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[Andrew w/ Mt Adams in distance]

In my mind from the Elliot Glacier on is the most difficult portion of the Timberline Loop. There is much more technical hiking involved with more river crossings and elevation gains. From Elliot Glacier washout we would climb up to about 7,300 ft (about 2,000 ft of elevation gain).

From beyond the Cooper Spur Shelter the terrain is made up of fine grain sand and the area is extreme desolate looking. As you curve around the Mountain you can faintly see in the distance rock stacks marking the trail. The weather on this side of the mountain was much colder and windier – layers were in order.

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We had stopped to pump water long enough for Casey to fall asleep on some rocks.

We ended up making to the Mt Hood Meadows Ski Boundary before seeing the sunset. My goal was to be across White River before dark, but with all of the blisters, bum knees, and fatigue I was okay with it. Just beyond Mt Hood Meadows my feet were toast – I had to switch to flipflops. I had some killer blisters that started after mile 5. Each step I took I could feel my heels being rubbed raw. It was such a relief to go flipflops and relieve the pressure from my heels.

The White River crossing is a little tricky because there are a few islands you have to cross over onto since the river is so wide. Luckily with Andrew’s crazy bright cycling light we were able to locate the trail markers relatively easy and make it across quickly. We all moved quick through that section because the wind off the glacier water was frigid cold.

From White River up to Timberline Lodge it is about 2 miles with 1,000 ft elevation gain. With already hiked 30 some odd miles with some intense elevation gain fatigue was setting in. The wicked mountain winds made it seem like we were climbing up Everest at times. This gave us just enough adrenaline to finish it out strong. We finished at about 9pm.

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Andrew had decided he was the least tired out of us and best suited to drive ‘the van’ home – Brian acted as co-pilot keeping him awake. Well, for us 3 in the back – we passed out in a matter of minutes.

Overall – definitely not the ideal hiking experience. In the past I’ve done the Timberline loop in a 2-3 day backpacking trip and still feel this is the best way to go. With our run-hike experience we were not able to enjoy it (with nagging injuries included). We were too worried about meeting our time versus hanging out taking in the scenery, which is really what hiking is about. As for myself I am going to retire the Timberline Loop for awhile and explore other areas…. more days and less miles! 🙂

Paradise Park, Mt Hood

August 14/15
Elevation – Min: 4700ft Max: 6200ft
12.5 mile Round Trip
Myself & Kristin
Paradise Park Hiking Photos
Garmin Connect –  Day 1 stats,      Day 2 stats

Video Action

Paradise Park is located just West of Timberline Lodge Ski Resort. There are a few different approaches to Paradise Park – via Ramona Falls, Burnt Lake, and Timberline trails. We chose the Timberline Lodge approach because of peace of mind parking the car at the Lodge and the mileage/elevation is the less strenuous of these approaches.

It was a perfect weekend to escape the Portland, Oregon heat and run to the Mountain for some cooler temperatures. We had just recently moved into a new place that unfortunately does not have central air or any kind of air conditioning for that matter; however, it does have plenty of storage room to my plethora of outdoor gear that definitely makes up for it (except when its 90+ two weeks out of the year). So to eliminate the problem of sleeping in the house, which definitely felt like was on top of the equator we headed up – 6,000 ft to be exact.

Timberline Lodge is located at 6,000 ft and is one of the select few areas in the world that have year around skiing/snowboarding. We left the house relatively early in anticipation of others thinking the same way we were. We hit the trail just after 8am.

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[Looking South towards Timberline Lodge w/ the Flag blowing in the furious winds]

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[Kristin amped for backpacking]

From the Timberline Lodge parking lot up to the trailhead we encountered frustrated skiers/snowboarders. The lifts were being delayed (not sure if they actually ever ran that day) due to heavy winds. The distance from the parking lot to the trailhead always seems like it is an eternity away because you are just starting to acclimate to the heavy pack, the elements (tornado like winds), the elevation (6,000 ft is a big change from living at 200 ft!), and warming up em’ cold muscles. For the first .25 miles from the parking lot to the trailhead it wakes you right up – the steep trail, beautiful views of Mt Hood & a few other Cascades, and fresh mountain air get you going.

I have hiked the entire Timberline Loop (41-ish mile hike around base of Mt Hood) the past few summers and have always noticed the trail juncture for Paradise Park, but had never made it up as it is early on in the trip (trail juncture is about 5ish miles from Timberline). I have always enjoyed the first section of the Timberline Loop and decided it was time for Kristin to enjoy it as well.

To Paradise Park you hike along the Timberline Loop trail #600, which is also shared with the almighty Pacific Crest Trail (trail that spans from Mexico to Canada).

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The trail is continuously winding in and out of the forest giving you great glimpses of the Cascade Peaks and beautiful treed valley. From time to time you’ll come across snow patches that have been so lucky to survive most the summer. Just under a mile into the hike you will come across a Wilderness Permit Box. When entering the Mt Hood National Forest (and many other forests for that matter) you are required to sign in by filling out some basic information. This info basically is used to track the usage of the area and does influence the amount of funding it granted as well – so fill it out!

From Timberline Lodge to the top of Zig Zag Canyon it is mostly down hill (which makes for a good warm up to the hiking experience). Despite it being downhill we were still bundled up because of the heavy winds. The winds were causing mini dust storms blowing the fine-grained sand everywhere coating everything in it.

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[Atop Zig Zag Canyon enduring the crazy winds/sand storm]

 

The descent into Zig Zag Canyon is long, gradual with just a couple steep grade switchbacks. Trekking poles are nice to have on much of this trail especially when you are carrying a decent amount of weight. The 4×4 traction gives you more balance and provides you with a little peace of mind through sketchy sections of washed out trail and river crossings. Hiking down into Zig Zag Canyon there are a couple of narrow spots along the trail with a decent cliff like drop. Unforntuately for “Daisy the dog” a few years ago she took the tumble. While hiking the full Timberline Loop we had “Daisy the dog” & “Max the dog.” Along this particular narrow section of trail the dogs were vowing for the lead. Needless to say Max won as Daisy slipped and tumbled down the hillside after being launched off a log. A 1 hour rescue operation took place. It was extremely difficult to get to her as the ground was wet and steep. She was luckily just a little dazed and sore – we were able to continue along the trail.

Along the river in Zig Zag Canyon is always a great spot to rest for a few minutes. If you hike a few hundred yards up river there is a sweet waterfall.

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Crossing the river can be somewhat tricky depending on the time of year / time of day you cross. We usually cross in the morning when water levels are not as high – but even then it can be a little tricky to keep the feet dry. Usually if you hike up river a ways it narrows just enough to make a leap across with minimal danger of your feet getting wet.

After crossing the River the elevation climb begins. From the River (4700 ft) to the top of Paradise Park (6200ft) it is up up and up for about 3 miles. Not far after hiking above the river you come to a trail juncture. To the left you continue around the Mountain on the Pacific Crest Trail/ Timberline Loop #600 and to the right is the Paradise Park trail.

From Trail #600 / Paradise Park trail cut off the steepness increases a bit. Portions of the trail are made up of fine grained sand, which make it difficult to hike it – every step you slip back a few inches. Again, the ole trekking poles come in handy! Along the Paradise Park Loop trail you come to the Paradise Park Summit Trail cut off. This area is truly Paradise – a high Alpine Meadow with amazing views of the Cascade Mountains and the valley.

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Hiking up to the Paradise Park summit is fairly steep so we decided to pull over in a shady spot and hang out for awhile as we were way ahead of schedule. We watched other hikers head up the hill to the summit – by the looks of the hill it looks pretty steep! 

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At the Paradise Park Summit the wind was blowing hard so we had to layer up. We hung out up there for awhile – long enough for Kristin to get a nap in. While she was napping I jotted up towards the Mountain a ways. We were a few weeks late on seeing the wildflowers in few bloom, but there was a few left.

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Its pretty cool to see the headwaters of some of the major rivers in the area. Here’s a sweet “fresh” (a few hundred yards from the glacier) waterfall.

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It was starting to get late in the day and we were seeing some crowds roll in so we decided to hike down and claim our camping spot. We scored a sweet spot near a creek with a perfect view of the Mountain.

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We hiked up on this bluff to watch the sunset. Truly beautiful!

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[cool wildflowers up there]

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[Enjoying the sunset]

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[if you look close enough you can see the I205 bridge!]

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[cool moon]

 

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[my best attempt at getting a night shot – I had the shutter open for 15 seconds (max my camera goes) pic doesn’t do it justice.. as always]

And of course in the morning we watched the sunrise… It rose at 6:10am, but from our camping spot we didn’t see it until 7:30am-ish.

IMG_1318We didn’t stick around for long as it was heating up fast! I didn’t want to wait for it to get hot while I was climbing up Zig Zag Canyon!

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[I let Kristin wear my “positive energy” bracelet to increase her balance :)]

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[Timberline Ski lifts in the distance – we are close!]

This was a perfect backpacking trip for Kristin’s first backpacking experience. The weather mostly cooperated and we were able to enjoy the clear skies with both sweet sunset/sunrise’s. I highly recommend checking this one out as either a day hike or short weekend backpacking trip. 

Augspurger Mountain

4,400 Feet
15.2 miles Round Trip
Myself, Randy
Augspurger Mountain Hiking Photos
NW Hiker Trail Info

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.

Larch Mountain – Columbia River Gorge

Reminiscing…

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Now that we are in the Holiday season I find myself with even less time to get out and play. So to “get my blog on” this week I decided it would be best served by reminiscing about one of my favorite hikes in the Columbia River Gorge – the almighty Larch Mountain.

Larch Mt is one of my favorite hikes in the Columbia River Gorge due to its close proximity to the city and diversity of scenery along the trail. This hike can be done a few different ways –

Popular Starting Points: Larch Mountain

Multnomah Falls*

Horsetail Falls

Angel’s Rest

These are a couple of my favorite approaches. Multnomah Falls is definitely the shortest amongst all. However, Multnomah Falls (15 miles RT) is usually crowded and makes for a longer hike having to weave in and out of the numerous people making the “short” hike to the top of the falls. The “short hike” to the top is a far too common misconception amongst tourist as well as many Portland Metro Goers. Despite people even being able to visually see where the top viewpoint (noting the elevation gain) and seeing the mileage marker sign of 1 mile at the trailhead.

*A side note* – I have hiked up this trail passing women walking in high heals, pregnant women, people that were pulling up their 16 year old son in a wagon, morbidly obese people who look like they are going to collapse out of exhaustion, and many other misfits – but hey, at least they are out there right? Multnomah Falls recently has updated the one mile climb up with signage on each switchback to show what # of switchback you are on and the distance to go so people can decide if they still feel its worth it…

The trail follows up Multnomah creek most of the way up providing for beautiful views of multiple waterfalls and vistas. At the top – Sheppards Point 4,050 ft – views of Mt Hood, Mt Adams, Mt St Helens, Mt Rainer… on a clear day.

The first and last 2 miles are the most strenuous. Generally speaking – in the Columbia River Gorge, the first mile of most trails are steep and strenuous climbing to the top of the ridge of the gorge.

Just beyond the top of Multnomah Falls the trail traffic slows. The trail parallels Multnomah Creek for most of the way as it continues a slow but steady incline up to Sheppards Point. There are many waterfalls ranging in size – each very unique in their own way.

Three bridges cross over Multnomah Creek as the trail winds through the rugged hills up to Larch Mountain. Shortly after the third bridge crossing there is an open rock clearing. At this point it begins to steadily become steeper.

The next big trail juncture is 2 miles from Sheppards Point. The last 2 miles of the trail climb through a highly dense forested area with little visibility of the surrounding area making it difficult to navigate in the dark or when snow is on the ground.

I have gotten out of some sticky situations by understanding the topography of the area. I have hiked this trail in June on an 80+ degree day and 2.5 miles from Sheppards Point we hit snow. By knowing the topography of the area I knew it would be more efficient to stay along the ridgeline rather than following up the trail through the dense snowy forest. Many people have gotten lost in this area by coming into similar situations – the dense forest turns people around and disables their sense of direction completely.

I will be the first to say I have been lost. I actually like to phrase it more like “I was temporarily misguided.” I believe that being lost in somewhat of a controlled environment (comfortable weather; within close proximity of civilization; readily prepared – food, first aid kit, emergency blanket, etc) only strengthens your abilities to navigate and survive in more extreme situations. In some of my experiences of being lost people have the tendency to make irrational decisions that can potentially be damaging. It is absolutely quintessential to think clearly through each decision and action taken.

For all day hikes I go prepared with –

  • Day pack
  • Water (water treatment – iodine tablets)
  • Food (energy bars, trail mix, candy, etc)
  • First Aid (athletic tape, alcohol pads, pain reliever)
  • Clothes (Layers, rain jacket, fleece, gloves, beanie hat)
  • Knife
  • Whistle
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Headlamp
  • Fire (matches/lighter)

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Happy Hiking!