Sunday, November 29, 2020

Snowshoe: White River Snow Park, Government Camp, OR

Length: 3.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 688 feet
Type: Out & Back

Getting There

The trail starts at the White River Snow Park. There are lots of families enjoying the first 1/2 mile or so to about the ridge on the left (west). There is a large main parking lot and an annex parking lot a few hundred feet away. You have bushwhack a trail through the forest to the main parking lot, then pass through the gate.

The Hike

The road is where most people are recreating on sleds, etc but the valley opens up on the right, though there was a creek running down the middle. About a 1/2 mile up the road gets really steep to access the ridge. Only snow shoers from this point onward. A lot of snow shoers continue below up the middle of the valley. 

On the first recent hike, I stayed on the ridge the whole time. I did take a look at a possible crossing but decided against it. On the second hike, I started in the valley up the top but on the way down I found a suitable crossing onto the ridge.

This is the view of Mt Hood from the ridge

 This is about where I turned around.

Near the top of the trail

The valley about a 1mile from parking lot

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Hike: Ape Canyon Trail, Mount St. Helens, Cougar, WA


Distance: 11.0 miles
Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 2083 feet

High Point: 4359 feet

Duration: 5 hrs 15 mins


Getting There:

I'd originally planned to make an attempt at summiting Mt St Helens via the Ptarmigan Trail. I had a permit for Fri 10/30 but ended up booking a somewhat urgent dentist appointment. Nov 1st is the first day when there's no hiker limit, previously it was 100 per day. I knew the weather was going to be awesome, bluebird day. 

I set my alarm for 5am but tossed & turned. At 5am I hit the snooze but roused myself. I loaded my gear, hopped in the car, and headed toward Cougar.

Some cars were following me for awhile and I had a feeling we were all going to the same place. After the turnoff, I let the eager beavers go by. The 2mi gravel road was empty until I rounded a corner some distance from the parking lot. Way overflowing! If I'd beat those 4 cars I might have had a space on the shoulder. I drove down the hill to the next safe parking spot; 20 min walk to the trailhead. I considered that it was going to packed on the trail, covid-19, some people w/o masks. Fuck it!

I bailed and drove up the Ape Canyon/Lava Canyon. I was the only car at Lava Canyon. I'd wanted to check out the suspension bridge but alas it was closed due to damage. I went as far as I could but hardly got a workout.

Lava Canyon suspension bridge

Lava Canyon

I drove over to the Ape Canyon parking lot, 2mins away. It was about 8am and only a handful of cars. I parked and geared up. The sun was out in full glory.

The Hike:

"This is an incredible trail. Safe to say there is nothing quite like this anywhere in the states. You climb through a forest that somehow survived the blast of St. Helens with views getting better and better the farther you climb. Then, you pop out of the woods and begin traversing the Plains of Abraham."


I'd hiked a small section of this trail in the past while out exploring. I recognized the spot where I'd taken some photos and turned around as I passed it.

The AllTrails description says it all. I didn't know much about the trail (length, elevation gain). I just kept climbing up through this beautiful terrain. I remember looking up in awe at the trees. I interrupted an owl trying to catch a squirrel.

As the ridge narrows you can see Mt Rainier and Mt Adams and even Mt Hood eventually but Mt St Helens kinda looms in the background, a grey mass through the trees. The lahar flow below is otherworldly.

At the trail junction at the top, I continued on the Loowit Trail. There were 4 mountain goats sunning on the hillside a ways away. I'd seen tire tracks on the trails and thought ATVs used by rangers for trail maintenance but there were several mountain bikers.

I knew I had a grueling downhill hike ahead of me but was tempted to keep going forward toward Windy Ridge. In fact, this loop sounds amazing: Ape Canyon, Smith Creek, Lava Canyon Loop, 22.8 miles.

View of Mt St Helens from the Ape Canyon Trail

The white specks are mountain goats

The white specks are mountain goats

Trail junction at Pumice Butte

View of MSH from the trail junction

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Hike: Wildwood Trail ↔︎ Newton Road ↔︎ BPA Road Loop

Length: 5.46 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,109 feet
Type: Loop
Duration: 2.5 hours  

Getting There

The trailhead is off Skyline Road, north of Germantown Road. There's a short but narrow gravel road down to the trailhead parking lot with room for about 10 cars. I first found out about this place years ago when I did trail maintenance with the Forest Park Conservancy.

The Hike 

From the parking lot there is a spur trail to the Wildwood Trail. Head north and make a right at the junction onto Newton Road, then downhill for quite awhile (1.3 miles) to Hwy 30 and the BPA Road intersection.

Newton Road ↔︎ BPA Road intersection

Intersection of BPA Road and Newton Road

Hwy 30/Linnton

It's a steep grade up under the transmission lines, about a 800 ft gain in ~1 mile (15% grade) but the pay off is views of NW Portland, Kelley Point Park, and the Willamette.

View of NW Portland from 1/2 way up BPA Road

At the top, go left to stay on BPA Road (right goes to Fire Lane 13). It's 0.6 miles to the Wildwood Trail junction. It's 2.9 miles back to the parking lot. I opted to stay on the Wildwood until the Linnton Trail (spur trail).

Intersection of BPA Road and Wildwood Trail

All Trails:

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Hike: Ptarmigan Trail from Climber's Bivouac, Cougar, WA

View of the Green Knoll from the timberline

Distance: 4.0 miles (full trip on AllTrails is 8.2 miles)
Type: Out and Back

Elevation Gain: 1043 feet
(full trip 4,583 feet)
High Point: 4800 feet
(full trip 8287 feet)
Duration: 2.5 hrs (full trip ~8-9 hrs)


Getting There

I was just out for a day trip in the car and ended up at the Climbers Bivouac by chance. I'd take a drive on WA-14 to Carson. I sorta had in mind that I might head to Norway Pass or the Harmony Fall trail above Spirit Lake. I didn't exactly get an early start to I just keep driving the route between Carson and the Lakes/Reservoirs (Merwin, Yale, Swift).

When I got to Hwy 90/NFD-25 junction I realized I didn't have any water for a hike so I doubled back to Eagle Cliff Store & Campground, then back toward the junction. I paused briefly to consider heading to the Lower Smith Creek Trailhead but took a left instead.

I remembered going to Lava Canyon/Ape Canyon area so I thought that'd be a good spot for some photos and light afternoon hiking. At the last minute I veered left when I saw the Climbers Bivouac trailhead. I'd never been there so why not?

I was stoked to find the gravel road and surprised when I reached the top and found a nicely paved parking lot and campground. The fog was a bit heavy and it was cold. I hadn't planned to hike but parked and put on my gear to just scout the trail a bit. I read the sign that said the summit was 4 miles. I really wasn't up for an 8+ mile round trip, esp. when starting at 2:30 pm.

Permit Info:


The Hike

Whelp... I hiked as far as the 4800' ft mark where a permit is required to go further. It's the treeline and according to the trail description, it's a pretty grueling hike from there up and over the boulders and ash.

I passed a group of four women who sang "It's Only Just Begun", a siren's warning that I was in for a challenge.

Another guy was optimistic and said the rim was free of clouds. I thought "maybe the summit is reachable, the trail so far was certainly easier than the High Rock hike. I passed another group and asked when the situation was going up.

One guy said they'd left the trailhead at 7 am and it took 5 hrs to reach the summit. That lines up the estimates I've read: 4.5 hrs up, 3.5 hrs down.

I reached the 4800' ft / permit required marker about 10 min later. I venture in the scrub to take some photos. A couple was on their descent and looked at me quizzically. I waved and continued with the photos.

SW view from the trail

Intersection, Monitor Ridge, June Lake Tr, Loowit Trail junction

View of the Green Knoll from the timberline

View of ridge and boulder scramble, 4800' ft

SW view from the trail, sliver of Yale Lake in distance

Leaving the forest

Post-Hike Thoughts

Every single one of my hikes in recent memory going back to July has resulted in L knee pain on the descent. I believe it has something to do with my RA but it's also manageable (bearable) with stretching. But like clockwork, after an hour or three hours on the trail, it's the same. It's characteristic for the muscles used on descents vs ascents.

After reading this article, I'm going to start using the foam roller and see if I can reduce or eliminate this problem.

I remember Les Stroud talking about the Lemon scoring system (S7E7). (He also talks about the hazards of going uphill vs downhill, using big muscles quads & calves going up but small muscles in knee & ankle going down. Also, 1-10-1 rule: 1 min to calm down, 10 min decrease in limbs, 1 hr hypothermia)

For example:

  • A blister and old injury = 1/2 lemon
  • Hiking alone = 1/2 lemon
So today I might have scored the situation like this:
  • Time of day (later in afternoon) = 1/2 lemon
  • Not doing my homework on the trail = 1/4 lemon
  • No food = 1/4 lemon
  • Hurt knee = 1 lemon

Incidentally, I've found go backwards down steep sections like steps made from tree roots; it can be easier than using poles and baby steps.


The Map

I hiked to the #3 marker (0.2 mi past #2) on the map below, zoom in to see


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Road Trip: Cape Disappointment, WA; St Helens, OR; Warrior Rock, Sauvie Island, OR

This is a five-part, incongruous multi-day trip. First was the hike to Warrior Rock Lighthouse on Sauvie Island. Next was the trip to St Helens, OR to see the bell. Then, this long day trip to the coast to Cape Disappointment. Most recently, I took another trip to St Helens, OR to see the 1/2 scale replica of the Warrior Rock Lighthouse and the bell again. I'm not currently scheduled to go but the 5th part will be a trip to West Point Light in Seattle.

Photographed: Oct 3, 2020

 The Life of a Bell

Last weekend I hiked/walked to the Warrior Rock Lighthouse on Sauvie Island. The current lighthouse doesn't look like much; a small concrete structure with mediocre graffiti art around the base. After a quick internet search, I found it had an interesting history going back to the late 1800s. 

The original Warrior Rock Lighthouse was built in 1889 and "had living quarters below and an oil lamp beacon light with lens and a hand-cranked fog bell on top."

"The fog bell was cast in 1855 at the J. Bernhard & Co. foundry in Philadelphia was originally installed at the Cape Disappointment Light at the mouth of the Columbia River" (1856) and later at the West Point Light in Seattle (1881).

In 1969 A barge hit the Warrior Rock Lighthouse "destroying the foundation and disabling the light and bell" The bell was further damaged during removal, "putting it out of commission". "It is now outside the Columbia County Courthouse in St. Helens."


The Drive

As per usual, I don't always have a solid plan when I go out exploring. I actually drove south toward downtown and fueled up at the gas station by Broadway Toyota. Then, hopped on I-5 north and zoomed passed Columbia Blvd.

When I reached Woodland, I considered exploring around Mt St Helens. The air was not good for hiking, for example a trip to Norway Pass, so that was out.

By Kalama I'd decided a visit to Cape Disappointment & Long Beach via Hwy 4. 

It was a pretty chill drive, not much traffic heading west. 

Cathlamet is a crossing point via ferry to Oregon to Hwy 30. It seemed like a good spot to stretch the legs and snap a couple of photos. While not totally obvious in the photos, you could see the brown haze over the Portland area in the distance.

Cathlamet (southeast view), Julia Butler Hansen Bridge (WA-409)

Cathlamet (southwest view), Columbia River/Ryan Island

It was good to reach the coast finally. I cruised up the Long Beach peninsula but chose not to get anything to eat. It was a little ways south on Hwy 101 to Ilwaco and the lighthouse (Cape Disappointment and North Head).

View from Beard's Hollow View Point

I'd been to the North Head lighthouse a few times but not sure if I've been to Cape Disappointment. I don't think I realized there were two lighthouses in this area. 

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is closed due to the pandemic but the Battery Harvey Allen @ Fort Canby are open. There is a trail to the lighthouse from the Battery/Fort parking lot but it's closed as well.

It's similar to the Battery at Fort Stevens.

Trail from Fort Canby parking lot

Battery Harvey Allen

Battery Harvey Allen

Battery Harvey Allen

Battery Harvey Allen

Battery Harvey Allen (sacrifice pit) :)

Outside the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment is closed due to the pandemic but the views from the grounds are amazing. The Center sits on top of the Battery.

Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center
Ocean view

Selfie among the snakes

Return home

I messed up and didn't check out the jetty. I mistook the park entrance as just gate for the campground. I bet my Discovery Pass would have been enough for entry, if anyone was even in the booth. It was about 5 pm and I still had a 90 min drive back home. I drove through Ilwaco and south on Hwy 101 to the Astoria-Megler Bridge then returned back to Portland via Hwy 30.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hike: High Rock Lookout Trail, Towhead Gap, WA

Getting There:

Last time I was in the area, I'd stayed in Packwood, WA and took NF-52 to NF-84 up to Mile 8.5 and never found the lookout.

This time, since I was coming from Portland, I took I-5 to Hwy 12, then north on WA-7 from Morton to Elbe. Then went east on WA-706 which becomes Paradise Road E. 

This is the road goes through the Nisqually Entrance to Mt Rainier National Park and winds passed the Paradise Lodge and Reflection Lake.

From SR-706, I took the Skate Creek Road Turnoff which will take you to Packwood. It's 4.7 miles to the NF-84 turnoff. It's 6.8 miles to the NF-8440. It's 2.6 miles to the trailhead.

There is no signage at the last turn onto NF-8440 which is why I drove passed... twice! Today I drove passed cheerfully because I didn't do my research. I assumed that I just hadn't gone far enough passed the 8.5 mile mark. I waved as I drove by my previous turnaround spot. I saw a small road a ways up but continued. It just didn't feel right and I turned around at 10.5 miles and returned the small road (NF-8460).

NF-8460 was pretty narrow with overgrowth, and quite rutted. I panicked a little because there was no where to turn around. I backed down a couple hundred yards to a place I could do a 5-pt turn. (LOL, this is the length of the JK Unlimited biting me in the butt). I scraped some branches in the process on the driver's side. Matches the scrape I got on the passenger side on Red Bluff Road near Stevenson, WA.  :(.

Thanks to GPS I went back down the hill to the junction for NF-8440. I was a bit surprised at the number of cars in the little parking lot, for a Tuesday. Whatevs.

The Hike:

Length: 3.1 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 1318 feet
Type: Out & Back
Duration: 2.5 hours  

There is a lot of elevation gain. It's not quite as taxing at the Silver Star hike a few weeks ago but still a good leg burner. I was off my game, preparation wise - not enough water, no neck gaiter, didn't stretch properly. 

Honestly, I envisioned the lookout to a be a short walk from the road, maybe like Sherrard Point at Larch Mountain. I had my pack which seems to be better than the day pack I'd been using.

It's a well maintained trail with only one or two trees across the path. The route follows a narrow ridge which allows a lot of light to come through the trees but it's still mostly shaded. You eventually reach a steep section on rock and offers some early views of Rainier and Adams.

The top of trail is a bit of a switchback; you overshoot the lookout, then zag underneath it. As you pass a scree field, you'll see the structure above. The trail ends in the trees about 200 ft below the lookout. Looks like a foundation of an old structure. The climb to the lookout is steep on solid rock. There doesn't seem to be any right way but beware of some serious drop offs. 

From the lookout, you get amazing views all around, including the Cascade Mountains: Rainier, Adams, St Helens, and Hood. 

It helps to have hiking poles for the descent.

Here are some of the photos from the ascent and at the top.