Friday, June 7, 2024

Hike: Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Trail, Yacolt, WA

Getting There

I took L-1200 out of Washougal to get there. It's 7 miles up a gravel road from the end of the pavement on Skamania Mines Road and it's 18 miles from Washougal. You can also reach the trailhead from the north via Yacolt.

The road was in great shape, very few potholes or washboards. Looks like it was recently re-graveled, probably for logging. I saw some new access roads and big pile of gravel along the way. No snow on the road at all, accessible to all vehicles.

Last time I tried to get to the trailhead from the north (Yacolt), the day after the Volcano Naturalist field trip to Ape Cave, I only made it part of the way. The road was closed due to active logging operations. 

There was several cars park down the hill but I found 2-3 open spots next to the pit toilet for parallel parking. Guess those cars belonged to morning hikers.

The Hike

Length: 6.80 mi
Elev. gain: 2,149 ft
Moving time: 3:09:26
Avg pace: 27:52
Calories: 1,915
Total time: 3:33:19

I still remember my first time up this trail in late August 2020, and how haggard I looked when I reached the top. I was still ramping up my hiking in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. I had also purchased my first pair of Keen Targhee IIIs.

This most recent hike was number 6. It's challenging and very rewarding. Two days before Christmas 2023, I hiked up and encountered a lot of snow. I also shot a bunch of amazing pictures including this one

I was glad to be out there again. Another post-cracked-ribs hike. Things are getting easier and I'm able to hike without too much discomfort.

It was definitely a tough hike, esp. the first climb through the rocky tread and the second one past Pyramid Rock. I took my time, drank my electrolytes, and didn't pressure myself to be in any hurry.

I remember seeing a guy with a large pitbull that had labored breathing. I felt bad for the dog but didn't say anything. I encountered them not far up the trail; the owner was giving the dog some water.

When I reached the top of the first ascent, I was crisscrossing the trail, picking a path through the large rocks. A swelling of buzzing emanated from the bush on the southeast side of the trail. Yikes. They sounded agitated. Not something I wanted to deal with today (or ever!). I thought about telling folks coming down about it and to stay clear but as I got further away, I judged that I really didn't have a precise location and the intel wasn't valuable.

I passed a few people coming down. I noticed the places we'd stopped for a break and for lunch when I was hear last summer for my first WTA trail work party

Once I was past the long, rocky section, I knew I was in good shape and could finish strong. After the turn, past the campsite on the left, I met two hikers coming down that told me all 5 mountains were out. There was still a pad of snow on the trail but I followed the edge of the trail until I couldn't, then got onto the snow. I was slushy but I didn't punch through. At the top, there wasn't any snow.

I made the left turn and went up to the highest point, where the old fire lookout pad was located. There was a group of folks that looked like trail runners and another two hikers. I made my way to the edge and soaked in the view of the nearby Cascade Mountains: Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, and Mt Adams. I also inspected Sturgeon Rock and remembered reading a trail report of a SAR helicopter dropping off and picking up crew (for practice).

I like to give folks some space and decided to take my lunch on the other side of the mountain. I had that side to myself and enjoyed the views of the southern Cascade peaks: Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson. I took off my pack and ate my sandwich. I need to try to slow down on these and really absorb the scenery.

Eventually, I started my descent. I noticed the group of trailrunners was packing up to go down. I was just ahead of them and hoped to give them space going back to the trailhead. I stopped a few times but never heard them.

Near Pyramid Rock, I encountered the guy and his wheezing pit bull :(. Poor doggo. I knew they still had a challenging hike ahead... and long descent. I don't know if the dog was miserable or what. I didn't say anything to the guy and he didn't meet my eyes when I was going to say hi. In hindsight, I wondered if this guy was pushing his dog unnecessarily. Or maybe, the dog had some kind of terminal issue and he was just trying to give it a few more outings. Maybe the group behind me would noticing something I didn't and talk to the guy.

I kept my pace and felt good. I remember hiking a few years ago and regularly having IT band issues on the descents. It's been awhile since I had issues; guess I'm in relatively good shape. Maybe a summit attempt of Mt Adams is doable.

I finally reached the parking lot and most of the cars were gone. A good day!

Heading up the trail, Pyramid Rock in the middle

Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, Mt Adams

Mt Hood & Mt Jefferson (far distance)

Mt Jefferson

Mt Hood

Looking back at the highest point (trail to lookout slab)

Pyramid Rock

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Hike: Hamilton Mountain, N Bonneville, WA

Getting There

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.
For a beautiful day, I was happy to find a few open spots by the bathroom. 

It was early afternoon and the weather was a bit crappy: overcast skies and drizzly rain. When I was getting ready, there was a heavy downpour. I noticed a few hikers returning from the trail and a few hikers going up. I considered bailing on this hike but decided to play it by ear and go as far as I could.

The Hike

Length: 6.54 mi
Elev. gain: 2,172 ft
Moving time: 3:07:52
Avg pace: 28:43
Calories: 1,899
Total time: 3:50:05

I'm so glad I decided to do the hike after all. The rain slowed to almost nothing and the views from Little Hamilton and above were spectacular. 

This was my second hike in the last week while still nursing my bruised or cracked ribs. As with the other hike, the pack weight was carried on the my hips so I didn't feel too much strain on my chest/ribs. This difference this time was I had a lot more elevation again so I was breathing more heavily, however I really didn't notice too much pain. I tried to inhale slowly and it worked. I didn't feel winded.

When I got up to the side trail for Little Hamilton, I went up to enjoy the views. Wowzers. I wasn't sure if I was going to do the Saddle/Hardy Creek section so I didn't want to pass the chance for the 270° views.

My right foot was hurting a bit but not the same pain with the metarsalgia, it was a kind of burning sensation on my outer two toes. I wiggled them around in my boot and they hurt but not like I'd injured them. I remember the pain from the previous hike's descent. Argh.

I kept going up through the ridge and in the the bare rock. In the last section I counted off the turns at the switchbacks. As I've mentioned before, sometimes when I leave the trailhead, I wonder if I'm going to make it to the top, even after summitting this small mountain dozens of times.

When I got there, the views were great and I could see all the way to Dog Mountain. I looked at the time and the clouds overhead. I decided I didn't want to do the loop and started my descent.

I passed a hiker about 1/3rd of the way down the top section. I made the comment about hoping the rain stayed up there and pointed at the clouds. I didn't get much of a response. Guessed they were tired or just cautious around other hikers.

When I got back down the Little Hamilton, I made my way out to the lower viewpoint to eat some of my sandwich and take a break to appreciate how lucky I am to have the time to hike, the physical ability, and means to get there. The view of Beacon Rock and the Columbia River Gorge hasn't gotten old yet and I hope it never does. I know there are so many beautiful locations to hike to but I just love this place.

I was so happy the rain hadn't gotten worse and that the downpour at the parking lot was just an afternoon anomaly.

At the Hardy Falls viewpoint side trail, someone had moved the trail sign to mislead other hikers; the arrow pointed down the trail instead of to the falls. I moved it back to where it was supposed to be. I remember seeing where some cretin had craved something in the clay past the falls, I rubbed it out with my shoe. Probably the same knuckleheads that moved the sign.

I was were my wool gloves and took them off to take a picture of some plants. I passed a woman heading for Rodney Falls. Not long after that, I looked down and realized one of my gloves was missing. Crap.

I started walking back up the trail but was aware it might look like I was following that woman. I rehearsed what I would say "I'm just looking for my other glove." Fortunately, I found the glove and never saw the woman.

I skipped going to Little Beacon this time. I was happy to have hiked, my ribs didn't hurt too much, and I made it back safely.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Hike: Gillette Lake and Greenleaf Pond, PCT, N Bonneville, WA

Getting There

I prefer to take Hwy 14 on my hikes on the Washington side of the Columbia River to bypass the toll at Bridge of the Gods, even though it's a nominal charge of $3.00. I took Columbia Blvd from NE 33rd all the way to I-205. I crossed over the Glenn Jackson Bridge, then hopped on Hwy 14 eastbound.

I had my sights set on Hamilton Mtn but when I reached Beacon Rock, I noticed the "parking lot full" sign. I know from previous experience that I can usually wangle a spot even during peak periods. The sign is not removed when one or two cars leave.

It was a good opportunity to try somewhere different. I knew I didn't have the time or energy to make it all the way up to Table Mountain (it's long, 15+ miles, and has a ton of elevation gain, 4,200 feet). I'd bruised or cracked some ribs a couple weeks earlier so I just wanted to see how much hiking I could endure while still nursing this injury. I planned to reach Gillette Lake and decide if I wanted to go a bit further.

The parking lot for the North Bonneville Trailhead was full and there were cars parked on the grass. I circle around to the small lot and found one non-handicap spot. Woohoo! I geared up and set out. I said hello to one hiker that was relaxing at their car after a hike.

The Hike

Distance: 8.42 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,537 feet
Maximum Elevation: 551 feet

I expected to pass hikers since the parking lot had so many cars and I did. I noticed several people just had t-shirts so I judged that the insect problem wasn't bad at all. I carried bug repellent wipes but didn't use them. 

I continued through the lowland forest towards my first destination. 

About a mile from the lake, I came upon a couple of groups that were stopped to chat. One person asked "where are you coming from? where does that trail lead to?". I was perplexed and laughed. They were serious so I said "for real?". A couple of the others chuckled a bit when I explained it lead to the Bonneville Trailhead. The person immediately realized that a small animal trail was not the direction the group was headed. "Can I claim old age for my mistake?". I replied "it's easy to get turned around out here. The trees look the same." "I wasn't wondering if I was indeed on the right path." We all laughed some more. I wished them well and continued onward.

Near the lake, the trail emerges out from the tree canopy and gets rocky. Not sure if it man-made from the rock quarry or volcanic. I reached the road near the lake and noticed several cars on the side of the road. I didn't realize you could park here. (I made a mental note for a future attempt at Table Mountain.) It would certain cutoff a chunk of the approach to Table Mountain or even just Aldrich Butte.

Gillette Lake

There were people hanging out on the shore of the lake so I decided to keep going westbound. I rechecked my map and realized Aldrich Butte was too far for the amount of time I had and energy level. I reset my sights on Greenleaf Pond and the bridge that crossed Greenleaf Creek. It seemed like a good spot to have lunch and inflection point.

Just west of the lake, there are some campsites? I noticed fire rings. I also crossed a small bridge over Gillette Creek. 

Gillette Creek bridge
Gillette Creek bridge

Further up, the trail intersects a couple of gravel roads along the way and noticed a group of tents. I wondered if they belonged to thru-hikers on the PCT (either going north or south). There were any people that I could see or hear. I continued onward.

I saw a few people near the bridge including a trail runner. It was nice to take off my pack and eat part of my sandwich. I decided to put on my hooded sun-shirt to prevent bugs or other stuff going down the back of my shirt. (In hindsight, I got a touch of poison oak/ivy but no bug bites).

Greenleaf Creek
Greenleaf Creek bridge
Greenleaf Creek bridge from above

On the way back, I wanted to stop at Greenleaf Pond. I'd heard voices when I was passing through before, so I'd hoped to have some privacy on the way back. I still heard voices but went down the trail anyway. A couple was leaving and graciously stepped aside to let me pass. 10 yards later I reached the dead end/campfire pit. I was expecting a shoreline like at Gillette Lake but it was all overgrown and swampy.

I paused for a bit so I wouldn't immediately catch up to the couple I'd just seen. I rehearsed what I would say if I did see them. Something like "I didn't realize that was such a short trail" or "guess there wasn't much access to the pond." I never saw them again.

Gillette Lake

When I got back to Gillette Lake, I figured I'd stop for a photo op even though there were still people on the shoreline. I only went as far as the edge of the water so give them space and privacy. I snapped a couple of photos and skeedaddled. I still had a bit of a hike ahead of me through the forest.

I saw few hikers going toward the lake, including two groups of hikers that seemed like over-nighters: two groups of three people. In both cases, only one of the three people seemed to have gear like a tent and sleeping bag. One group was comprised of three 20-something women and the other group was a dad and two teenage boys.

When I got back to the car, I realized my right foot hurt. I think the laces were too tight because I was wearing a thinner sock, the alpaca ones.

Fortunately, the bruised ribs didn't give me too much trouble. The pack weighed around 15 lbs but virtually all the weight was carried on the hips. It was a successful hike and I was glad to be back on the trail after the injury.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Hikes: Covel Creek Falls & Burley Mountain, Randle, WA

The "Mayor" of Cispus Learning Center

Getting There

From Randle, WA, take WA-131 south toward Lewis Street. At about 1 mile, take the left onto Cispus Road and continue for about 8 miles. Continue NF-23 until the fork and turn right to stay on Cispus Road. There's a sign that says the road to Trout Lake is closed for snow. After crossing over the bridge for Yellowjacket Creek turn right to stay on Cispus Road (and Tower Rock Campgrounds). Don't continue onto NF-28. Follow the signs for Cispus Learning Center.

I'd stopped at Fischer's Market to get some groceries but in true fashion, I didn't get everything I needed. I forgot to get sandwich fixings. It was late in the day and I was hungry, so I popped into the Blue Stone Cafe for a burger and skimpy side of coleslaw. I knew the plan for dinner was to come back to Randle, so I figured I'd stock up then.

Since my last visit to Cispus, I'd wanted to check out Layser Cave so I took the opportunity for a detour. It was further up than I'd expected but I was on a mission. There's a short trail to a viewpoint and then to the cave entrance. Most of the cave was filled in to prevent vandals and ne'er-do-wells.

View of Mt Adams and Dark Divide peaks

"Layser Cave is one of the most significant archaeological sites in western Washington. Animal bones and stone tools found on the floor of the cave and buried in the soil layers enabled experts to piece together a history of more than 7,000 years."

I ended up getting to the Alder bunkhouse at Cispus just as folks were rallying to go to dinner. I made a poor decision to stay and get settled, knowing I didn't have enough supplies. (For lunch on Friday, I made a sandwich with only condiments and spinach.)

The Hikes

Saturday Crew

May 10, 2024

Covel Creek Falls

Distance: 1.73 miles
Elevation Gain: 277 feet
Maximum Elevation: 1,499 feet






In the morning, we were split into small teams to tackle different parts of the Covel Creek trail. Since I'm not certified to run the chainsaw, my duties were safety, cleanup, brushing, and tread work. I was with two other guys that still included me in the OHLEC plan (OHLEC – Objective-Hazzards-Leans-Escape Route-Cut).

We completed all of our objectives in our section of the trail. It was hot, humid, and there were lots of mosquitoes.




May 11, 2024

Burley Mountain

Distance: 3.27 miles
Elevation Gain: 75 feet
Maximum Elevation: 3,908 feet


The Saturday group included four new people that were just working one day. I helped carpool folks to the top of the trail on the road to Burley Mountain Lookout. The teams leapfrogged each other as we cleared obstacles (trees) from the trail. 

It was also meant to be a learning process for "A" sawyers on trickier obstacles: multiple logs, hazards, etc. The biggest challenge was the "jackstraw", a jumbled heap of logs with the difficulty of trying to remove them one at a time without moving any of the others. The "B" and "C" sawyers were assigned to this one.

When this one was cleared, we started our descent back to Cispus. We passed through steep switchbacks and under Curtain Falls. We followed Covel Creek down and there were several more waterfalls.

One of the crew wasn't feeling well. When we reached them, they were dehydrated and a bit woozy. When someone asked me to carry their chainsaw, I didn't hesitate for a second: I was happy to help.

Back at camp, we still had to retrieve our vehicles from Burley Mountain. I got a ride with one person. When we got to the top, I knew it was a narrow forest road and that another vehicle was on the way up, so I waited. I considered driving up to the lookout but I also didn't want to miss going to dinner. I waited for James and Karin, then followed them down.

May 12, 2024

Covel Creek Falls, Part II

Distance: 1.53 miles
Elevation Gain: 255 feet
Maximum Elevation: 1,507 feet


The last day of the 3-day work party was short. We'd completed most of the tasks. A couple new people were there but there wasn't much to do. A small crew left early to go back up to Burley Mountain while the rest of us walked back over to the Covel Creek Trail to complete tread work and brushing.

Northern Lights / Aurora Borealis

As we were sitting outside on Friday night, I looked up and noticed what looked like clouds but they were streaked. With the naked eye we could see some faint colors but the camera (with 3-second exposure). 

Holy shit! It was epic. We hesitated whether to wake up the rest of the crew but opted not to. James set up a shot with the four of us.

James, Matt, Oliver, me