Sunday, June 4, 2023

Hike: Hamilton Mountain-Hardy Creek Loop, N Bonneville, WA

Zach Urness / Statesman Journal

Getting There

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.

However, the summer hiking season is in full force with the warm weather and end of school term. The sign at the bottom of the hill said the parking lot is full. I probably could have found a spot but opted to park on Hwy 14 by the Beacon Rock Trailhead and walk the road to the trailhead.

Indeed, there were several cars leaving as I walked up and I could see a few empty spots. It looked like the upper parking lot was open as well but no clue on openings. The Discover Pass seems to help.

Anyway, it was a little extra distance and elevation so I didn't mind where I was parked.

The Hike

Length: 8.13 mi
Elev. gain: 2,346 ft
Moving time: 3:17:24
Avg pace: 24:16
Calories: 1,988
Total time: 3:25:50

I haven't really been hiking lately. Too many other things going on. Besides some low effort hikes at Sandy River and Cooper Mountain, my last rigorous hike was Forest Park when I had some hydration issues.

Before that, I hiked a mostly flat out-n-back at Coldwater and had lower back problem. My last visit to Beacon Rock SP was the big, 2-summit hike to Phlox Point and Hamilton Mountain figure-8 loop, a 14+ miler, 3600+ ft of climb.

This hike was fitness gauge, let's see how well I do and a first hike in my new Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid Hiking Boots.

I also practiced talking to people like I will have to do when I'm a Hiking Steward. Obviously, I didn't introduce myself as volunteer, I did realize that I am not as shy as I imagine. Maybe it would be as difficult at I think it will to do "customer service" on the mountain or in the Visitor Center.

The Boots

I used my REI points to get these for around $20! (My Keens Targhee IIIs went for $20 at their sidewalk sale last summer!).

Last summer, while the price was right, the fit of the Targhees felt wrong. The fit of boot on my right foot just didn't feel the same as my worn in boots. I tried different sole inserts, adjusted the lacing, and even bought a second pair from the store in case there was some kind of manufacturing defect I could see. I also saw a podiatrist but they didn't find anything wrong with my gait or otherwise.

It turns out the issue between old and new boots was uneven were on the tread. I returned the 2nd pair of Keens and the Lone Peaks and just powered through on the $20 Keens. I eventually broken them in enough where they felt right.

I picked up the Lone Peaks while trying some other boots but returned them after walking around the office for a 1/2 day. I noticed Kyle from Kyle Hates Hiking on YouTube wearing some low-top Lone Peaks. This spring, when I saw them on-sale and realized I could get them for almost nothing, I bought 'em. I bit of an impulse buy as there's nothing wrong with my Keens. I wanted to try a lighter-weight "summer" boot.

My Review

They're pretty comfortable. I didn't had any issues on the uneven terrain, even on the rockiest part of the trail where you can feel them through the soles. Even with the Size 11s, it felt like my toes were really close to the end of the boot.

I accidentally kicked a few rocks and didn't stub my toes. The Keens have a distinct advantage over the Lone Peaks, the rubber toe cap, which has saved by feet many, many times over. 

While the Lone Peaks are a great shoe, I prefer my Keens for all-year protection.


Fitness Check

Given my recent hikes, I always worry about my fitness, especially as I anticipate going out on the trail for MSHI. Reaching the Hamilton summit is morale booster and decent gauge on my readiness. I tend to have doubts on my hiking ability but have realized time and again, that it takes a lot more time before I lose my stamina and strength.

As with many previous posts, I've been more conscience about my hydration and electrolytes. I forgot to bring any LMNT packets but I had bit bottle of sugar-free Gatorade. That's pretty much all I drink but I had extra water, ~48 oz.

One Day Later

My legs feel good today, no major soreness. I think I can handle longer hikes around MSH.

Other Thoughts

The foliage was pretty thick, esp. between the summit and the Saddle. I don't recognize poison ivy or oak but I suspected I was walking through some of it. Indeed, because I could feel some itchy parts on my arms. I should have worn a long sleeved shirt.

I used rubbing alcohol when I got home and that seemed to help a little, I still have some spots there I really want to scratch but won't.

While I needed this hike for my mental health, I did have complication. I stopped briefly at far end of the Saddle to rest and sit for a minute. I noticed my Nest camera notification that a person was at my door.

I looked at the video and saw some guy hanging out on my porch. He didn't ring the doorbell but was mumbling like he was talking to himself or maybe he thought someone was watching and listening. He even tried to open the realtor lockbox that was there since I moved in. I removed the key not too long ago and reset the password. Still disturbing to see someone attempting to gain access to my place. 

My adrenaline shot up because I felt helpless. I was at the inflection point on my hike and still had over an hour to go plus a 45min drive back home. I could have called the cops or maybe triggered my alarm to scare him off. I was just glad I'd put the dumpster inside the garage so I didn't look like the place is vacant.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Hike: Cooper Mountain Nature Park, Beaverton, OR


Getting There

This place is just minutes from Beaverton, off SW Farmington Road. Take SW Grabhorn Road to SW Gassner Road. Then turn onto SW 190th and take it until it turns into SW Kemmer. It's not a bad as it sounds. (There's another route from SW 175th.)

The parking lot is pretty limited but they have a dirt lot for overflow.

The Hike

Length: 2.83 mi
Elev. gain: 436 ft
Moving time: 53:09
Total time: 1:02:07
Avg pace: 18:49
Calories: 535



Even though I've been here several times before, I'm amazed by the variety of plants and trees. At times, you get wide views of the adjacent rolling hills and others, surrounded by trees like oaks and other foliage. It's even got a little bit of elevation loss/gain, ~450ft. 

Like previous times, I take the longest loop around the perimeter. During the pandemic, the rangers had setup a counterclockwise loop to maximize social distancing and I've continued this route.

After leaving the parking lot, I followed the Cooper Mountain Loop. I'm not sure I've taken the Overlook Trail but maybe next time. You walk down the lowest elevation in the park. After the Quarry Pond, I took the Larkspur Loop for a bit more distance and elevation, then back on the main trail. The Cooper Mountain Loop cuts through the middle but I continued on the perimeter on Blacktail Way. 

This path includes a short spur trail to a prairie which has some benches. I found one bench partially in the shade and sat down to reflect on my life at this moment and listen to the wind and birds.

The last leg of the hike was up the east side of the Little Prairie Loop back to the parking lot.

I haven't been able to go for hikes further away from town but glad this place is an option for a short getaway. While I love the Sandy River Delta, I realize I'm not a fan of other people's dogs. This place is dog free.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Hike: Sandy River Delta, Troutdale, OR

Bird Blind by Maya Lin (Confluence Project)

Getting There

The parking lot is accessible from Hwy 84 just east of Troutdale. It was warm day. The lot was about 3/4 full. Made sure to pay the $5 day fee. 

"The Sandy River Delta is just north of I-84 off Exit 18. Driving east, exit the freeway and turn right at the T, go under the overpass and enter the park at the sign. If you’re driving west on I-84, take Exit 18 and take an immediate right. At the parking lot, look for the gravel path marked “Confluence.” Follow the path for 1.2 miles to reach the Bird Blind."

The Hike

Length: 3.96 mi
Elev. gain: 75 ft
Moving time: 1:11:31
Avg pace: 18:04
Calories: 720
Total time: 1:12:14

I was wearing my sandals and just out of a light spin. I had my favorite straw hat as well. There were lots of dogs and their people. I basically did a figure-8, taking the most direct route to the bird blind.

The Sandy River Delta is one of six River Sites as part of the Confluence Project.

I remember doing trail maintenance three times when I was with TechTracker. They were weekend, work sponsored outings. I feel a certain affinity to place because of my involvement.

I was a bit surprised to find the river level was so high. Last time I was there on Dec 3, 2022, you could walk out beyond the bird blind. Now, it was well submerged.

East Channel
Bird Blind

Columbia River
Boundary Trail

Sandy River

Meadow Road

Confluence Trail

This is one my go-to spot when I don't have a lot of time and just want some low key exercise and fresh air. Unfortunately, it also a reputation for encounters with off-leash dogs and careless dog owners. 

I hate to focus on the negatives but it must be said. I passed several dog+owners and mostly had no issue. However, when I was on the Boundary Trail, I passed a guy and a dog who took interest in me but trotted by. When the man also passed, the dog turned and nipped at my heels. I didn't look back but he seemed surprised and reprimanded the dog. I wasn't bitten but put my on edge a little. I love dogs!

Then, on the Ranch Dike Trail, two walkers with three off-leash dogs approached. I was apprehensive and even said to myself "please don't maul me". As we got closer to each other, one dog ran ahead, barking aggressively. Immediately, one of the owners called to the dog and started to apologize. I stopped in my tracks and raised my hands to protect them. That person had the other put on a leash. While they were distracted, the other two dogs began barking but quickly retreated when the owners reprimanded them. I tried to be cheerful but was annoyed. Talking to the 1st dog: "What's the matter? why did you do that?". The classic "my dog never does that. He's fine and won't bite." I was prepared to defend myself. Sigh.


In hindsight I've had many odd dog encounters out there over the years. A Rottweiler ran up to me and go uncomfortably close. I didn't see the owner was out of sight for several seconds, then said nothing to me as the dog returned to their side. Another time, a dog with muddy paws actually jumped up on me. I was were rain gear so not a huge deal but still annoying.

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Hike: North End of Forest Park 24, Portland, OR


Getting There

Take NW Skyline Blvd north from NW Germantown Road. The Skyline Blvd Trailhead is 1.6 mi and a parking are available on right (east) side of the road.

The Hike

AllTrails map
Length: 6.90 mi
Elev. gain: 1,407 ft
Moving time: 2:21:22
Avg pace: 20:29
Calories: 1,423
Total time: 2:28:46

I haven't been to my favorite conditioning hike in city limits since Feb which was when my plantar fasciitis started to rear its ugly head.

The PNW is in the middle of some crazy hot weather but I knew most of the hike is in the shade. I was trying out some new electrolyte powder (LMNT) that I saw on Kyle Hates Hiking.

Well... things were pretty rough. I wasn't feeling particularly strong on my hike down to Hwy 30 via the Wildwood Trail. The first sign things weren't right was when I decided to skip my side quests up to the BPA Road and Newton Road Trailheads. 

I reached the bottom of 1mi/900ft climb up BPA Road and checked my watch. All the way to this point I was drinking my LMNT and snacking but on the ascent I kept getting chills.

"Usually, this is a product of dehydration, especially if you are training in a hotter and humid climate like you might be. First off, chills occur when you are running in high temperatures and humid weather."1

I guess I wasn't as hydrated as I thought. It took my 35 mins to get the top vs the usual time of 25 mins.

I was wiped out but glad to be on the return segment. I considered heading on my usual route down Firelane 12 but opted to keep going to Wildwood. The chills continued even though the elevation gain was minor. I decided to hike up to the BPA road trailhead and walk the road back to the car.

Sad face. Something was definitely off. I've hiked in warm weather but this was different. I drink almost the entire 32 oz of the LMNT and had another 32 oz bottle of water which is mostly full.

Guess I need to start drinking more water daily. I had recent blood work and my creatine was in good shape. IDK.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

Hike: Coldwater Lake, Toutle, WA


Getting There

From Portland, take I-5 north to Castle Rock (Exit 49) - 51.2 miles. Then, take the Spirit Lake Hwy (WA-504) for 45.7 miles to Coldwater Lake.

The Hike

AllTrails map

Length: 8.17 mi
Elev. gain: 840 ft
Moving time: 3:05:11
Total time: 3:34:21
Avg pace: 22:40
Calories: 1,864







It was such a nice day out, 2nd or 3rd really sunny & warm day of 2023. I started the hike around 1pm.

This side of the Lakes Trail is mostly flat (I got about 840 ft of gain from small ups & downs). There are a few spots where it's a shear drop to the shoreline and several spots perfect for relaxing and getting down the water.

I finally encountered a creek crossing that required getting in the water. When I first reached the obstacle I wasn't sure what to do. I studied the options and hemmed & hawed. After a couple of minutes, several hikers came through and watched how they fared. They all went through with boots on. I still didn't like the idea of getting my boots soaked so I thought I'd take off my socks and at least have those dry (until I stuck them in the wet boots).

Then, another pair of hikers came through and went barefoot. Again, I watched them cross safely. No sharp rocks and they weren't slippery. I tied my boots together by the shoelaces, stuffed my socks in my front pocket, and rolled my pant legs up. I used my hiking poles for a proper 4-point stance.

On the other side, I sat down to dry my feet and put on my dry socks and boots! Success!

At this point, I was still considering do the loop but I kept eyeing the snow on the ridge on opposite side of lake. I could see a snowy line cutting across, so it was going to be slow going without microspikes or snow shoes. I looked at the time and started to second guess my plan.

I decided to just go to the end of the lake and come back when it's warmer and minus the snow. (Or, return with proper gear).

The end of the lake seemed like a mirage, the closer I got, the more distance there seemed to be. I crossed a few more creeks and kept going. I got to lake access trail and made that my turnaround spot after taking some photos.


On the way back I encountered a few more hikers and could here a couple of people near the shorelines off-trail.

I was ready for that creek crossing again. The conditions had changed. The water was muddy as it flowed into the lake. The water through the creek/falls was noticeably brownish and flowing more vigorously. I took off my boots & socks and stepped carefully through the water. 

On the other side, I sat down and put my dry socks & boots back on. When I stood up, my lower back seized up. Uh oh! Not good. I had pain shooting down my leg.

When hiking at BRSP on Thursday, I had twinge of back pain when I sat briefly on my way back to the Hardy Ridge Trail from Phlox Point.

I was still about 2.1 miles from the trailhead. The good news is that the trail was more or less flat and not too many obstacles. (I imagined being up on the ridge with this problem. Yikes).

I took my time and relied heavily on my hiking poles to stay upright and steady. Despite the discomfort, I stopped to enjoy the views and snap a couple of photos. Such a gorgeous place.

As I got closer to Kim Island, I could see a few kayakers and knew I only had a 1/2 mile to go.

I was so glad to make it back to the car. Whew!

I've been focused on foot, ankle, knee pain - I hadn't thought about dealing with debilitating back pain. Need to improve my core strength.

Mt St Helens

Near the end of the Lakes Trail


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Hike: Phlox Point & Hamilton Mountain, N Bonneville, WA

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

AllTrails map

Length: 14.36 mi
Elev. gain: 3,638 ft
Moving time: 5:57:11
Total time: 6:30:41
Avg pace: 24:52
Calories: 3,595

Big day at Beacon Rock State Park! It was the first really warm day of the year, in the mid 70s F and clear skies. 

The original plan was to finally reach Phlox Point. I'd seen a trail report on PortlandHikers that someone had broken the trail without microspikes or snow shoes. 

This hike had several "firsts" for the year:

  • First hike without long johns or jacket
  • First mosquito bite
  • First hike with my favorite straw hat
  • First two-summit hike


My previous two attempts were back in March: 

  • 3/7: I didn't even make it to the top of the West Hardy Ridge due to deep snow and not having snow snows.
  • 3/26: I returned with my snow shoes and I made it to the top (lost my pack cover) but I didn't feel up to going the rest of the way to Phlox Pt. I did end up going up to the Saddle.

This time

Again I took the West Hardy Ridge Trail. The snow was completely going, except small patches in the trees. What a difference a month makes.

At the top, I continued on to Phlox Point. I started to see patches of snow but it was easy to traverse. In fact, it was a bit soft so I had to tread lightly. Toward the end of the trail, the last scramble, I had to go off trail for a about 10 ft. It was great to finally reach my goal on the third try this year.

I took in the panoramic views for a bit, then got moving again. At Hardy Ridge, I met a hiker that was on his way to Phlox Pt. He said he'd come from Hamilton and the reported snow-free conditions except near the Bridge. I hadn't thought to going all the way to Hamilton but it piqued my interest.

I decided to take a look at the Bridge Trail when I got there. The East Hardy Ridge Trail was 95% snow-free. The Bridge Trail looked good so I took it. The snow was minimal on the east side of the bridge but enough that I put on microspikes. I took them off on when I reached the Upper Hardy Creek Trail.

From there, my new goal was to take Don's Cutoff to the Saddle if it looked good. It did! I ascended up the trail, passing a pair of hikers, and reached the Equestrian Trail and continued to the Saddle. I went all the way to the tree line and considered my options: go back to the car from here or continue on to Hamilton.

"Fuck it" I said. I mustered the energy and headed for the summit. Again, no snow and dry conditions on the trail.

At the Hamilton summit, I met a hiker who was heading in the opposite direction. We chatted for a bit about the area before parting ways.

On my descent, I was feeling good but getting tired and sore. I considered how I would get back to the trailhead if I didn't take Hardy Creek. Not really viable. I'd probably have a tough time hitchhiking from Hwy 14 to the Equestrian Camp Trailhead.

I made a stop at Little Hamilton and continued my trek.

By the time I reached the Hardy Creek trail, I really had to dig deep. It climbs steadily for more than half the trail. I took my time and rested when I needed. I was running out of Gatorade but I knew it was keeping my fueled.

I passed the hiker I'd seen at the top of Hamilton and said hello again.

It was so great to reach the picnic bench and the creek crossing.

While the trail was flat and pretty easy, I was running on reserves. My ankles, knees, and leg muscles were complaining. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I saw a hiker also heading to the trailhead.

Eventually I caught up with this person, a bird watcher. He was trying to ID species that was chirping above us. I got out my phone with the Merlin ID app. Murphy's Law: when I started recording, we didn't hear it anymore. Oh well.

I found a bit more energy and put on a brave face for the final push to the parking lot.

Seeing my car was the best. I made it. Over 14 miles and 3,600 ft of elevation gain!

Looking east

Phlox Point

Bridge Trail

Upper Hardy Creek


Note: I didn't take any photos after the bridge. That part of my hike is well documented.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Hike: Wyeth / Gorton Creek, Cascade Locks, OR

Getting There

The trailhead & parking lot is off Hwy 30. My original plan was to hike Herman Creek but while getting ready, my nose started bleeding, not bad but makes me wary about the rest of the day.

Then, after the car next to me left, I noticed all kinds of glass on the ground. Argh. I know car break-ins is the new norm for outings, I just can't absorb the potential cost right now. Plus, I feel like it would exacerbate my mental state as I'm at an inflection point in my career.

My backup plan was to have lunch at Cascade Locks but thought I'd poke up the road a bit. I saw the Wyeth Parking lot and pulled in.

The actual trail is behind the campground, which is still closed for the season.

The Hike

Length: 2.58 mi
Elev. gain: 338 ft
Moving time: 53:49
Avg pace: 20:54
Calories: 542
Total time: 57:25

When I reached the trailhead inside the campground, I immediately remembered coming here before, and why it wasn't awesome. Emerald Falls is nice but not much of a hike. 

The Wyeth Trail was fenced off last time due to mudslide related to the Eagle Creek fire.

I saw a family heading up the trail and headed up in the same direction. Around the bend, they took a small trail back to the campground but I realized I was on power line access roads. Meh.

The trail dips into the trees but I was stopped short at Harphan Creek. The spring thaw has made this pretty fast flowing and wider than it probably usually is. I couldn't find a dry crossing. It wasn't super deep but I didn't want to try going barefoot.

I hiked back down the access road but found the creek was cutting through the road as well. Kind of a bust. In hindsight, it seems overly cautious to bail a hike due to a small creek crossing.

It just wasn't feeling it. I hike back to the Gorton Creek and up the Emerald Falls. I know the Gorge Trail was just lateral trail with limited views and lots of noise from I-84.

The risk of a car break-in was on my mind as well so I ended the hike and went back to the parking lot.

Some days just aren't meant to be. That's okay. At least I got out of the house for a bit and hiked 2.5 miles.