I wanted to expand my knowledge of the Hardy Creek area which includes Hamilton Mountain and Phlox Point. It's part of the trail system I've already been exploring. Now that the allure of conquering Hamilton is fading a bit (been there, done that :), I'm happy to look for other challenges nearby.
(I'm still overcompensating for that encounter with those hikers and not knowing the loop options from the Saddle.)
I'd been to scout the parking lot last fall (which I'd forgotten until I saw it). I parked right next to pit toilets and trail signage.
It was a Friday afternoon on the weekend before record setting temperatures in the Western US. I was the only car in the Equestrian Parking lot. I'm still getting used to being the first (or only hiker) in an area. A park ranger drove by and I waved, at least they knew I was here.
Length: 8.62 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,231 feet
This is the first time in this part of the Beacon Rock hike area. I had Phlox Point on the brain. I do the health benefits but I am somewhat driven by a goal, destination like a viewpoint. This mostly applies to Up-and-Back treks but if a Loop has a high point that's ideal.
(I've considered parking at Forest Park right at BPA and making that the last challenge. Perhaps, I'm modeling my 'practice' runs on the Summit Hike at MSH.)
I geared up and set out.
I noticed the forest road but saw a smaller trail next to it. I took it and moments later emerged on the forest road. LOL. Durr.
The first part of the hike is up this road; mixed use (hikers, bikes, horses).
When you reach the junction for the West Hardy Ridge Trail you've climbed about 1,100 ft and walked 1.3 miles.
Take the left and continue the ascent. The climb through the canopy is gradual. It's another 1.3 miles along the ridge (600 ft gain), then you hit the switch back and some views of the Gorge and Columbia River.
It's 0.7 miles to the junction for Phlox Point. You climb another 700 ft.
It's about 0.8 miles to the top of the mountain! There is a lot of traveling through overgrowth at the beginning but you climb up on the rocks and you can see the point ahead. There are a bunch of epic place for views and photos and soaking in the scenery.
Phlox Point is just slightly higher than the area around it but I made sure to go .. all.. the.. way!
One of my favorite views is my beloved Hamilton Mountain and The Saddle to the east. Plus, you can see Mt Adams peaking behind Table Mountain and Mt Hood in the other direction peaking over the gorge cliffs/mountains.
|L-to-R: Saddle/Hamilton, Mt Hood, Hardy Ridge from Phlox Point|
|Phlox Point (and Mt Hood)|
|Phlox Point (and Mt Hood)|
|Hamilton Mtn/Saddle and Mt Hood|
|Hardy Ridge from Phlox Point|
|Table Mountain, Sacagawea + Papoose Rocks, and Columbia Gorge|
|Columbia River Gorge (west of Beacon Rock) from Phlox Point|
+ Archer Mountain on the right
I was getting wary of the time. It was around 5:30p and while I had plenty of sunshine up here, I knew my descent was going to be down in the valley below under the trees.
I made it to the junction and started down East Hardy Ridge.
(Hindsight: The return trip was less picturesque. It feels like a straight road, like the central artery for the trail systems on either side. It's meant to be wide for horses. Next time I got to Phlox, I'll return the way I came, West Hardy Ridge; better views, more interesting terrain.).
I walked by a pretty big pile of bear poop. No clue how recent but I made sure my bell was clanking regularly.
It occurred to me later that large predators tend to hunt in the evening. I was hiking through cougar area and I'd just seen signs of bears. I should have a dog or not hike alone. It's a real dilemma. I crave the solitude and it's difficult to find someone that's simpatico for this stuff. I don't want to be antisocial but I'd want someone that could keep up and understands how to be safe in the wilderness. I could stand to learn some new skills.
My immediate remedies for this is:
- Don't hike alone in the late afternoon.
- Try to find trails with at least a few people.
- Bring the bear spray and my knife.
- Make noise, bring bear bell, talk out loud.
- Trust instincts (turn around if it doesn't feel right).
I still had my offline Alltrails map so I could gauge my progress and see when I was getting close to the trail intersections thus my proximity to the trailhead.
The canopy began to getting thinner and I was relieved to see have plenty of sunlight.
I passed a couple of women and three dogs. One of them gave me the business. I thought, "okay" maybe my caution is well-founded but at least others were out there and felt safe (at least with their dogs).
When I got the trailhead, I saw two cars. Not sure if they each drove cars or there was another hiker somewhere in the valley.