Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Hike: Forest Park (Firelane 12, 15, Wildwood, Newton Road, BPA) VII, Portland, OR

AllTrails map

Getting There

There is room for a few cars on the side of the road at the Skyline Blvd trailhead (Firelane 15). It's about 1.6mi north of NW Germantown Road on NW Skyline Blvd. Today there were like 7-8 cars, unusual for a weekday or even on the weekend.

The Hike

Distance: 8.55 mi
Elevation Gain:
1,847 ft
Calories: 1,594
Avg Pace:
Moving Time: 3:00:55
Total Time:

This is my 7th hike in this section of Forest Park from the Skyline Trailhead and 12th hike on the north end of the park.

Still not much flowing water at the Firelane 12-15 junction considering the recent change of weather. Same with Newton Creek. There are definitely some puddling on the trail and a few slippery spots, including exposed roots & rocks. I met a Park Ranger just finishing up clearing a fallen tree across the trail on Wildwood.

Oh, and I encountered a huge group of hikers just climbing the hill at the Wildwood-Firelane 15 junction. They all must have driven separately (and I realize the hypocrisy since all I do is solo hike.)

I wanted a little extra mileage and elevation gain so I added a little extra to my usual loop. Where Wildwood intersects with Newton Road, instead of turning left and going straight downhill I turned right on Newton Road and walked beyond the Newton Road Trailhead until I found Wildwood again. Then backtracked to the Wildwood & Newton Road and resumed my usual route.

The air in the valley looked gray and awful but I felt pretty good. I passed by that old guy I'd seen earlier this past summer. He was by himself this time. An inspiration to keep walking even when your body is declining.

I met a girl with three dogs and commented about the "pack leader". She laughed. I noticed she'd dropped her little container of poop bags so I grabbed 'em and handed them back. It was like a recreation of the Creation of Adam; we were a little too far from each other for a clean hand-off so we were both stretching & straining. An extra step would have made things much easier. I'll replay this awkward moment in my head for awhile. Ugh.

I made a good time going up despite my decreased activity in Oct. I did this section of the BPA Road in ~25 mins, about the same as previous times. Also, my Total Time is the same as my Moving Time so I really didn't stop anywhere to rest. Nice calorie burn.

My 2021 Totals

I'm at 58 hikes, 370.9 mi hiked, and 87,724 ft of elevation gain.

I'm 17 hikes short of my goal of 75. I'm 129.1 mi short of 500 miles and just 12,276 ft short of 100,000 feet of elevation gain.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Hike: Cape Horn Loop Trail, Washougal, WA

AllTrails app

Getting There

The Trailhead parking lot is 18min (14.1mi) from the Camas Chevron off Hwy 14. It's about 1.5mi to the Salmon Falls Park & Ride from the Cape Horn Lookout.

The Hike

Distance: 6.43 mi
Elevation Gain: 1,378 ft
Moving Time: 2:23:23
Avg Pace: 22:19
Calories: 1,263
Total Time: 2:36:15

I did the full loop on Aug 15th, when I took the clockwise directions. This time I opted for the counterclockwise direction.

Basically you are front-loading the elevation gain right at the start of the hike. The end of the hike is a gradual 1.5mi incline so it's not really challenging from the cardio pov.

The trail was a bit muddy and slippery but managed to keep it all on the bottom of my feet!

The climb up through the scree section was pretty cool, nice lighting. 

Near the end of the trail is a large fallen tree. It's a little tricky climbing over. The tip crossed the trail as well.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Hike: Forest Park (Firelane 12, 15, Wildwood, BPA) VI, Portland, OR

AllTrails map

Getting There

There is room for a few cars on the side of the road at the Skyline Blvd trailhead (Firelane 15). It's about 1.6mi north of NW Germantown Road on NW Skyline Blvd. 

The Hike

Distance: 7.03 mi
Elevation Gain:
1,427 ft
Calories: 1,185
Avg Pace:
Moving Time: 2:14:31
Total Time:

This is my 6th hike in this section of Forest Park.

Actually I was surprised by the lack of flowing water at the Firelane 12-15 junction considering the recent change of weather. There are definitely some puddling on the trail and a few slippery spots, including exposed roots & rocks. 

I wanted to change things up for this hike. I usually go counterclockwise (Firelane 15, Wildwood, Newton Rd/Creek, BPA Rd). This time I thought I’d take the side road (Firelane 13) instead of BPA Rd. I confidently descended down this new route without looking at the map! I presumed it would pop out about 1/2 way down BPA Rd. Unfortunately I found myself at a dead end. I looked at the map. Nope. I was close to Hwy 30 but it was pure bushwhacking. The other road also dead ends before the bottom. 

So I walked back up to the BPA Rd. I scrapped the plan to go down to Newton Creek and the clockwise route. I got a good workout. I walked back towards Wildwood. 

For a little extra exercise I hiked up to the BPA trailhead on NW Skyline then backtracked to Wildwood. Then returned via Firelane 15. 

Good stuff. Lots of birds out.


Friday, October 8, 2021

Hike: Hamilton Mountain, N Bonneville, WA


AllTrails map

Getting There

See previous posts for directions. Spring for the annual Discover Pass for $30/yr instead of paying $10/day at the trailhead.

Take WA-14 from Vancouver, WA east toward N Bonneville. Just after Doetsch Ranch you'll see the Ranger Station on the north side of the road just before the Beacon Rock parking lot, then another road across from the bathrooms. The road winds up the hill for a bit.

The Hike

Distance: 5.43 miles 
Elevation Gain: 2,064 ft
Type: Up-n-back

This is only my 2nd hike since the MSH three weeks ago. I'm definitely feeling the effects of my inactivity. I was laboring on this hike a bit, my heart rate was pretty high so I really slowed down my pace. It made me a bit worried actually. I felt the same way about 13 days ago when I hiked Phlox Point.

While I was aware of any immediate air quality issues in the Gorge, it seems a bit hazy. I attributed my shortness of breath on that. There really isn't any AQI reporting nodes east of Gresham.

I have this mountain down pat. From a previous post, it is 8 sections to the top:

  8. Green: Top of bare rock to Summit
    - 14 turns (7 rights, 7 lefts)
  7. Indigo: Bare Rock 
  6. Aqua: To bottom of bare rock
  5. Pink: Little Ham. switchbacks
  4. Green: To bottom of Little Ham.
     - 3 sections
  3. Yellow: To Lookout
  2. Blue: To Rodney Falls
  1. Purple: To Power lines


As I continued this very familiar hike, I caught myself thinking "well, I need to hike more often 'cuz I'm winded and it's okay if I don't reach the top." I had this thought midway through the ash field at MSH; I thought "it's an accomplishment to just reach this far" for a few beats before pushing forward (up and on).

It's an interesting way to measure my fitness and state of my joints & muscles. But it's also weird to not being able to tackle it with same energy as earlier in the summer. It's the weather, it could be air quality, I went from 2-3 hike a week in June, July, August to one every couple of weeks and in between I'm home-bound.

I can see the correlation between my activity and my fitness. It should alarm me more but it's a reality, at least at the moment. Working from home removes the separation between office hours and personal time.

I realize that all the momentum from this summer is difficult to sustain. I see accounts I follow on IG and they are bagging peaks nonstop. It's hard to know if they are just trickling photos from past trips or are really just hiking every single week. I know a local friend really is hiking a lot and he's bagged some amazing peaks. 

Same with Roberto Moiola (a distant cousin with whom I share a name). He is an amazing landscape photographer with penchant for remote, snowy places. None of that is possible without a certain level of fitness but also drive & passion.

The tagline on my RTAH website is "I travel & hike to find awesome places to photograph and write about." I hope I can continue to make this statement truthfully, whether financially, physically, psychologically.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Hike: Phlox Point + Hardy Ridge, N Bonneville, WA

AllTrails maps

Getting There

The trailhead is accessible from the Equestrian Camp Parking Lot, a bit west of Beacon Rock & Hamilton Mountain.

Take WA-14 from Vancouver, WA east toward N Bonneville. Just after Doetsch Ranch you'll see the Ranger Station on the north side of the road just before the Beacon Rock parking lot. The road winds up the hill for a bit. Keep a lookout for the the Equestrian Camp turn off.

The Hike

Distance: 8.41 miles 
Elevation Gain: 2,221 ft  

I did this hike back on June 25, 2021. (https://rtah.xyz/HnJKT/) - I remember that I got a later start and was on my descent through the valley at dusk. 

This time I got there just after noon. I knew I had plenty of time. This was my first hike after summitting MSH. 

I passed a couple of riders / horses on the way up, on the Equestrian Trail. I got to the Hardy Ridge trail and the terrain got steeper and more narrow.

When I reached the junction to keep heading to Phlox Point, there were a few people enjoying the views. A pair of hikers passed me and our paces were equally matched.

At Phlox Point, they had already started their return trip but paused to sit and take it in.

I had the "top" to myself. The air seemed a bit hazy and I felt slightly short of breath on the ascent. It cleared up after I had some water & a snack.

View from the trail junction

Phlox Point

View of Bonneville Dam and Columbia River Gorge
(Table Mountain on left)

When I was within 100 yrds the couple got up and continued their descent. This allowed me to enjoy the view they had for a few mins. It was a good spot but I was ready to get going.

Back at the junction, I crawled out to a small outcrop to enjoy the solitude.

Instead of making the hike a sort of loop like last time, I returned the way I'd come.

It's interesting. The journey back always seems longer. Even though it's "familiar" terrain, you're viewing from the reverse angle. Plus, that feeling inside that drives you to the top is gone. Then, it becomes a game of 'get down safely with no injuries'.

However, on this hike I started having troubles with my IT band on the right side. It happened on the MSH descent. I thought I'd "licked" that problem but it has reared its head.

Not sure if it went away because I was hiking so much and now I'm not on the trail as much and rarely stretch sufficiently.

Anyway, I need a new "goal" to give me the drive I had over the summer as I was preparing for the MSH summit trek.

I do have Mt Adams in my sights for next year, just maintaining the good shape I've gotten myself to should be enough but I need something else.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Hike: Mt St Helens Summit, WA


AllTrails map
Requisite selfie from the summit

Getting There

I left Portland around 12:30p and stopped New Seasons to get some supplies. The drive to Climber's Bivouac takes about 2 hrs if you go through Cougar.

This time I took the extra time to go passed Merrill Lake. I stopped at the campground to take some photos.

Merrill Lake

I was there early enough at the campground to have my pick of campsites. I parked at one and started to get settled but a couple was leaving across from me and said "this one is a good spot". They all were but I moved over there anyway. I didn't even set up a tent. I just made a cocoon in the back of my truck.

I passed the time by snacking, listening to Alan Watts, and observing the birds that were everywhere. I even feed them some almonds.

About 6pm it was getting darkish and I have a horrible thought that I'd left my garage open. I tried and tired to connect to my cameras or garage app. The cell signal was poor but not out but my efforts were in vain.

I threw what I had in the back and started driving down the hill. I'd was planning to drive to Cougar to check the camera or app. Fortunately, just a few hundred yards down the hill the cell coverage really improved. I was able to confirm my place was locked and secure.




On the way back to my campsite, I stopped to snap this photo:

View from 830 Rd to campground

The Hike

Distance: 8.20 miles 
Elevation Gain: 4,583 ft  
Highest Point: 8,278 ft

I really didn't sleep well. The slight incline was enough that I keep sliding down in my sleeping bag. Argh! :) 

Around 3:30am I saw the high school kids across from me were stirring (headlamps). (Turns out they were going for a sunrise summit). I waited for another couple hours. Around 5:45-6a some cars arrived and I could see some lights at nearby camps.

I finally just got going around 6am. By 6:30a I was ready to go and walking to the trailhead to sign in.

I filled out my information (permit number, # in party, etc) in the trail register.  Holy shit. This was really happening!

The short version:

The first 2 miles is easy through the forest, a good warm up. I saw two groups but passed them.

When I emerged from the forest and onto the rocks in the Restricted Zone, I didn't see anyone for awhile.

It was challenging but I finally saw one guy a couple hundred yards ahead of me. I kind of followed his path between the trail markers (lodge poles).

Making progress up the Ptarmigan Trail

View of Mt Hood

In the middle of the rock field, I saw more people. By the time I reached the ash section, there were about 10 of us on the trail. The ash field was the great equalizer.

I was the last in the group but matched the rests the guy closest to was taking.

Fellow travelers

It was mentally taxing but soon I was seeing the others reach the rim and spread out. The people got bigger and bigger (my only way to judge the distance). 

My last few steps were incredible. All the preparation and effort to get there was about to pay off.

View of MSH crater, Spirit Lake, Mt Rainier

View of 'true' summit from top of the trail

It took me 4 hours to get up there. I spent about an hour at the top. I was exhilarating to continue to the 'true' summit. I saw a person way off in the distance at the cairn. The three older guys I saw were heading there so I did too. 

It wasn't without some hesitation. I began to rationalize NOT going but I was so early, around 11am. I said to myself "I'm going for the Deluxe Tour". I'm not coming all this way to not explore EVERYTHING I could.

It took me 3 hrs to get down.

I was slow going through the rocks. I knew beforehand but climbing down is a bit more sketchy than climbing up.

I sorta lost the trail for a bit but found some alternate routes. Those three guys I'd met were cruising down straight path while I wormed by way down between the lodge poles. I traversed over there and knew instantly why it's a downhill only route: deep sand/ash. 

I was so stoke to reach the forest. I was mentally fatigued from climbing over the rocks.

I reached the trailhead around 2:30p. Total Time: 8 hrs (almost to the minute).

Monday, September 6, 2021

Hike: Hamilton Mountain / Hardy Creek Loop, N. Bonneville, WA

AllTrails map

Getting There

The usual. See previous posts. Take WA Hwy 14 from Washougal to Beacon Rock, then to the trailhead on the road to the campground. 

The Hike

Distance: 7.30 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,221 ft
Highest Point: 2,363 ft

This was my last hike before the "big" one. I was just interested in getting some more practice, conditioning, etc.

Additionally, it'd been awhile since I last did the loop through the Saddle. In fact, for future reference, I found the trail to the top of the mountain, I think.

On the descent, I took the Equestrian trail to the Hardy Creek trail; last time I took Don's Cutoff.

This time I skipped Little Beacon. Maybe next time.