Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hike: Auspurger Mountain Trail, Bingen, WA

Getting There

The Augspurger and Dog Mountain Trails share the same trailhead parking lot off Hwy 14. 

I took WA-14 eastbound from Vancouver, WA. It's 54 miles from Vancouver and 6.2 miles from the Carson turnoff/round-about. For a midweek work party, there were more cars in the parking lot at 8:00am than I expected.

I got my gear on and was ready for the safety talk at 8:30am.

The Hike

Distance: 4.57 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,610 feet
Maximum Elevation: 1,712 feet

I'd been wanting to hike this trail for a while. I'd seen the connection point near the Dog Mountain summit and remember meeting some hikers that had made it a loop. I've been up the longer ("Difficult") route up the Dog Mountain trail and had hiked down the shorter ("More Difficult") route but never the Augspurger Trail. Also, I've seen photos from the Augspurger Mountain "summit".

This trip was a work party. It was marked as a "high mileage" outing. Compared to other work sites, this one was still relatively close to the parking lot (2.75 miles), albeit with some decent elevation gain, 1610 feet. Also, we were carrying tools: green grubber, handsaw, loppers.

In the couple of weeks leading up to this work party, I'd been getting a lot of nose bleeds and had received a couple acupuncture treatments. I was a bit on-edge about having another one. 

Just 4 days before on my Hamilton Mountain hike, I had a bad nose bleed on the trail after a strenuous ascent to Rodney Falls. More of an inconvenience but disconcerting. I didn't want to alarm other hikers either.

I was a bit sluggish but still faster than a couple of the older folks. This was not my first rodeo for hiking fatigue, I tried to eat some snacks and hydrate. It seemed to help a bit but it wasn't until I tried some SaltStick tablets from Mike. I loved them. Easier than powder packets and "contaminating" my water bottle. I pushed on and helped on some bigger tasks for widening and benching the trail at spots.

I was overdressed from the cold morning and I was wary of the poison ivy or oak on the trail that we were warned about. A fellow green-hat showed me what to look for. I didn't want to put my bag down in the middle of a patch.

We completed all of the repairs on the list but we didn't do a loop. We turned back about 1.75 miles from the Dog Mountain summit with another 1,000 feet of elevation gain. I want to come back this spring or early summer, probably midweek due to parking permit requirements during the weekend.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Hike: Wahkeena-Larch Mountain Trail, Corbett, OR

Getting There

The weather was amazing, the temp were in the upper 60s and blue skies for miles.

I took I-84 east and parked in the Multnomah Falls parking lot between the eastbound and westbound lanes. Plus, real or imagined, I'm guessing this parking lot is "safer" due to high turnover and cameras.

The lot was about 1/2 way full, plenty of open spots.

The Hike

Length: 8.01 mi
Elev. gain: 2,293 ft
Moving time: 3:23:09
Avg pace: 25:21
Calories: 2,052
Total time: 3:51:28
Type: Out and Back

Now that the time changed to Daylight Savings in March, I can get a late start and not feel rushed to beat the sunset. I decided in the late morning that I wanted to go for a hike. I'm fortunate to have the time and resources for a midweek hike.

Last time I was out (Hamilton) I got a bloody nose early into the hike. I was weary of it happening again so I packed tissue and supplies to deal with it. I also made sure not to strain too much. 

Even though I feel like I'm in pretty good shape, I was feeling a bit sluggish from the beginning. I was hiking faster that most other folks on the trail but it felt like I had weights on my feet. My heart felt good, not beating super fast or hard. I knew that I hadn't properly nourished my body. I pushed through the fatigue and continued past Lemmon's Viewpoint.

The trail damage is still an issue around Fairy Falls and above at one of the switchbacks: the entire hillside collapsed. There is a steep detour but it required care and caution.

I slogged up to the top where the Vista and Devil's Rest trails met. I stopped and had some trail mix and electrolyte water. It didn't work right away but I felt better. I decided to bail on hiking up to Devil's Rest. I was just going to hike to Multnomah Falls, back to the car.

When I reached the junction for the descent, I was feeling pretty good. I went up the Larch Mountain trail for awhile: I wanted to go to the spot I reached last March 2023. I didn't quite reach it but was close enough. I certainly wasn't going to have nearly enough time to reach Sherrard Point (some day).

On the way back to the Multnomah Creek junction, I decided to backtrack to the Wahkeena Falls trail. I had the time and energy and wanted to skip any crowds at Multnomah Falls.

I'd been seeing trail markers for a running race this past weekend. They routed the race past Vista Point so I took that route. The views are amazing, as usual.

Somewhere along my travels, I ran across these gorgeous flowers.

Arctic butterbur
Petasites frigidis (L.) Fr.

I felt strong the rest of way down. I remember seeing a guy at the Wahkeena Falls parking lot. I arrived with my big pack and InReach. I zoomed past him and hopped on the Return Trail. I didn't look back but imagined him being mind blown. LOL.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Hike: Hamilton Mountain + Hardy Creek Loop, 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 late morning, around 11am. When I was getting ready, more cars arrived and filled up the lower lot. The gate to the upper parking lot was open but I don't know how full it was up there: there were a few occupied campground sites.

The Hike

: 8.54 mi
Elev. gain: 2,264 ft
Moving time: 3:43:14
Avg pace: 26:08
Calories: 2,255
Total time: 4:16:15










The weather in Portland was sunny and springlike but as I drove out toward North Bonneville, clouds filled the Gorge. I knew the hike up Hamilton Mtn is mostly in the trees so I figured it'd be okay. Surprisingly, it was pretty nice. There were visible rain showers nearby but very localized.

The 2nd section between the powerlines and Rodney Falls, I got a nose bleed. It's been happening more lately, since January. Worst timing. I didn't even have any napkins or tissue with me. Fortunately, I was wearing a cloth neck gaiter. The blood was flowing pretty good. I didn't want to alarm other hikers so I turned my back on the downside of the trail. I blotted my nose and took my time opening a water bottle to hide the immediate issue. 

The neck gaiter was black, which hide the blood. A white handkerchief would have been so noticeable. It was starting to slow down and clot but it kept going. Fuck! I thought my day was over. My allergies were fine but it was straining a lot on that first section. That probably was enough.

When I could, I hiked further up the trail to a stream where I knew I could rinse my gaiter out. Ew!!! I paused and consider if I could or should continue my hike. Fuck it. If it's gonna happen again, so be it.

I reached the trail to Little Hamilton. I considered whether I'd just summit and come back down or do the loop. If I was doing the loop, I would be back this way to see the 270/360 views. I did this "side quest". It meant the two hikers I'd just passed would pass me.

Hamilton Mtn from Little Hamilton

Cascade Locks, Columbia River

I did monitor how much I was straining and backed off when I needed. As I continued I passed several pairs of hikers, including the two I just mentioned. I jokingly apologized for leap frogging (again).

I was making good progress and feeling strong all the way to the top. A few hikers had been ahead of me but they were nowhere to be seen at the top: they obviously did the Saddle Loop. I lingered for a min or two, and stalled when an older guy and dog came up from the Saddle. Expecting conversation but none happened. I continued the loop.

Table Mtn

Rain on Carson and/or Home Valley

The traverse was in great shape and I think I found the section where I fell in the snow: a soft fall but a bit of a wake up call. Accidents happen. In a way, I'm glad because it keeps me careful and vigilant and also reminds me that stuff is gonna happen and how you respond is important. Like that first 1st-Aid incident at Ape Cave: hopefully next time, I'll be more calm and collected.

When I reached the Saddle I kind of expected to see some of the hikers ahead of me but I had the place to myself. The part of the hike is exhilarating and comforting. It is the furthest from the car but it's virtually all downhill: the hard was over.

The nose bleed made me choose the Equestrian Trail and not take Don's Cutoff. My nerves were up a bit. As I made my way down, I recalled the last time I was there, it was covered with snow. Then I remembered hiking up here after bailing at an attempt to Phlox Point. I took the Equestrian Trail up. I had to make milestones up this trail. It seems so far, even on the descent.

Hardy Creek

Halfway down the (Lower) Hardy Creek Trail, I heard some weird noises. I know my 1/2 filled water bottles can make noises but I was sure a few of them were in the bushes or trees. I've learned to accept some rustling just off the trail as 90% birds or rodents. I have been noticing more signs of felines after taking the class to identify canine, feline, and other mammal tracks in the snow. What I heard more of a growl or snarl, protective warning. It wasn't loud but it was unusual among the other usual sounds.

I tried to be as quiet and deliberate in my movements. I stopped a few times to look behind me. I don't know how I would react if I'd actually seen a cougar or bear. LOL.

Hardy Creek Trail

I finally rejoined the Hamilton trail and down the powerlines. I've been stopping at Little Beacon the last few times here. It was no different this time. I had the top to myself. I ate a sandwich and drank in the views.

Approach to Little Beacon Rock

European slug (Arion rufus)

Beacon Rock from Little Beacon Rock

Looking north from Little Beacon

Looking through the trees from Little Beacon

Trillium flower


Saturday, March 30, 2024

Hike: Trail of Two Forests & Ape Cave Lower Passage, Cougar, WA

Getting There

It's 28 miles from Woodland to the Cougar. There are a couple of gas stations here. Continue east on SR-503 which becomes Rd 90 for 9.5 miles to Ape Cave. Looks for the sign to Ape Caves, June Lake, Climber's Bivouac, Ape Canyon & Lava Canyon which is Rd 83. It's 0.3 miles to Trail of Two Forests and 0.7 miles to Ape Cave.

This was our second field trip with the 2024 Volcano Naturalist Program with Mt St Helens Institute. We had a carpool signup since there was going to limited parking in the Trail of Two Forests parking lot. I added my car to the list and a fellow volunteer signed up. It was nice to have someone to talk with on the drive up and back.

I didn't expect anyone to signup, so I had booked a motel in Woodland for Saturday night. I still wanted to have the company so I took my rider back to their house in Portland after the field trip and drove back to Woodland for my stay.

The Hike

Distance: 3.57 miles
Elevation Gain: 358 feet
Maximum Elevation: 2,110 feet

We met the rest of group at the Trail of Two Forests parking lot. Ape Cave is closed right now until May 18th but we had special permission from the USFS to explore the cave.

After introductions and a preview of what we were going to see and do, we took a walk around the TTF boardwalk, stopping at a few spots along the way. I got some more details that I will be adding to my talks with visitors.

Since I am a volunteer, I was selected to carry a radio and assist with the field trip.

There was no need for snow shoes since the road to the cave was mostly clear of snow. When we reached Ape's Headquarters, another volunteer and I was asked to talk a little about our experiences volunteering at the cave.

We had lunch in the sun and got ready for the adventure.

It was great to have a guide explore the cave with. She had a bunch of details that I didn't know from my own research or from my mentor. I will be adding it to my own storytelling when I volunteer at the cave later this year.

Some highlights:

  • The ledges inside the cave that look like bathtub rings are Cave Levies. The lava flow slowed down and there was cooling & hardening of the lava.
  • Air currents are mostly due to temperature differences between the surface air and cave air. Cold air flows down to lowest points. If air on surface is warmer than the cave air, cold air moves downhill. If air in the cave is warm than the surface air, cold air moves uphill.
  • The holes on the side of the cave are from blowouts. Moisture in the surrounding soil/earth was heated and turned to steam and exploded the rock into the cave. You can see how thick the cave wall is because the rock from the riverbed is brownish.
  • Rock fall inside the cave happened when the cave was cooling. Geologists have checked the debris after recent earthquakes and have not discovered any new rocks. Seems to be stable.
  • The railroad tracks were formed when the volume of lava was diminishing and slowing down, allowing it to cool and harden.
  • Ripples on the walls are rock that was remelted and began sagging due to gravity.
  • 450 years ago, a lahar flowed down over the cave entrance and mud & rock flowed through the cave and was deposited on the floor.
  • The white stuff on the walls is cave slime, a combination of fungus + bacteria that work together in symbiosis.

It was great to take our time and discuss what we found. Several folks were able to find small insects on the cave wall.

At one point, we all turned off our lights and just listened to the sounds and experience the cave in total darkness. The instructor light a single wooden match. We became "Cave Apes", pledging to protect with amazing, natural place.

At the end of the lower passage was a pile of something, fabric, basically trash. We were picking up trash along the way. Even though the cave is "closed to the public", there's not gate to prevent people from going in.

There were several folks in there with us. The instructor just told them they the cave was closed and there are lots of signs saying as much but we weren't there to enforce anything.

Two classmates from Seattle were interested to visit the viewpoint above the cave parking lot. I'd mentioned it in my talk. I couldn't find a good map due to poor cell service but someone else was able to pull up a map. I was glad to have sparked some interest.

Looking for resident insects on the walls

The Meatball

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Hike: Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, Hood River, OR

Getting There

After the WTA trail work party the day before, I stayed in Hood River overnight. I didn't know what I was doing when I woke up. The weekend before I'd done a hike at Wind Mountain on the way home so I wanted to do something else. 

I drove up to the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trailhead just east of Hood River.

From downtown Hood River, I took State Street east toward Hwy 35. The road changes to Old Columbia River Drive. It's another 1.3 miles up a winding road. I instantly recognized that I'd been here before.

I wondered if my Northwest Forest Pass would work for this trailhead/parking lot. I went inside the visitor center to ask the volunteer. We chatted for a long time about her history with the park service and volunteering. I shared that I'd been out in the area with WTA at Lyle Cherry Orchard.

My parking pass wasn't good here since it was a forest pass and not a parks pass. I bought the $5 day fee and got ready to go.

The Hike

Distance: 9.79 miles
Elevation Gain: 842 feet
Highest Elevation: 526 feet

I really didn't know how far I was going to follow this trail. It was paved the entire way but the volunteer I'd talked with gave me the mile markers where stuff was. It was about 4 miles to the east trailhead in Mosier. I'd been there a couple of years ago and checked out the tunnels.

I had my pack with rain gear and snacks. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to refill my water bottle. Oops. It was hardly a remote area but still a bit of a bummer.

I thought I'd go to the view point at mile 71 and turn back. I took my sweet time enjoying the views and explore every side trail. I found an open gate to a small meadow. There was a scramble route to the rocky outcrop but I wasn't sure if it was off-limit and didn't want to get too far off the official trail.

Just beyond the meadow was a small trail through some oak trees but there was also a gate and No Trespassing sign forbidding access for safety and preservation reasons. From there I could see the small pond I'd seen from the meadow. I'd scared a crane when I got there.

From the cliff above, I saw the crane had returned to its pond.

I found the viewpoint at Mile 71. I could see I-84 below and Lyle Cherry Orchard in the far distance. The weather was amazing and slightly chilly. I just had my base layer with was moisture-wicking. I had my soft-shell jacket just in case.

Since the volunteer had told me the tunnel was at Mile 72, I figured I'd just keep going. I didn't see anyone for the most part except a couple of bikers that zipped through.

On the other side of the tunnels was another lookout. It was cool to see the sloped terrain on the WA side of the river. Sedimentary rock that had been tipped at a 30° angle. The clouds were fluffy and gorgeous.

I ended up going all the way to the trailhead parking lot in Mosier. I'd hoped to find a drinking fountain but alas there was none. I used the lew and started the walk back to Hood River.

Near the west side trailhead, the trail splits for bikes and pedestrians.

Nice outing. Not exactly a "hike" because it was 100% paved but I'm marking it as such. I had my hiking boots on (which were pretty comfy TBH) and my backpack. And whew, 9.79 miles! Surprisingly, I had a decent amount of elevation gain (842 ft), comparable to EG at the Lyle Loop Trail (942 ft) even though it was spread over 9.8 miles here vs 1.7 miles one-way to the top of arc.