Saturday, October 30, 2021

Hike: Butte Camp Trail, Cougar, WA

AllTrails maps

Getting There

Take I-5 North to Woodland. Then take WA-503 (Lewis River Road) to Yale Lake. One way to get to the Red Rocks Pass Trailhead, take the left turn for Merrill Lake - NF 81. If you reach Cougar, you've gone passed it. It's a peaceful drive along Merrill Lake (even though you can't really see from the road.) Watch out for a 90-deg right turn just after Goat Mountain because if you go straight, it becomes Forest Road 8123 (dirt) and if you turn right you continue on NF-81 (paved) (Merrill Lake Road).

Another way to get there is pass through Cougar and take the left turn for Ape Caves/Ape & Lava Canyons (NF-83). Then, take that for awhile. After passing through a huge clear cut area, take a left toward Climber's Bivouac (NF-81). Follow that road (partly paved until NF-830, then it's dirt/gravel) until you reach Red Rocks Pass Trailhead.

There is room for about 4-5 cars to perpendicular park near the sign and then, plenty of room for parallel parking on the shoulder. Be sure to show your WA Discover Pass (or equiv).

The Hike

Distance: 8.80 mi
Elevation Gain:
1,873 ft
Moving Time:
Total Time:
Avg Pace: 22:42
Calories: 1,760

As soon as you leave the parking lot, you cross a huge rock field with MSH in the distance.

While the top of the mountain is white with snow, the coverage is still pretty minimal. It looks like most of the summit climb is snow-free, albeit with proper gear like spikes and picks and outerwear.

The rock field isn't too deep and you're soon in the forest. The trail surface is beautiful, not that muddy, soft but not mushy in places and the usual rocky/firm/pumice dust stuff similar to other trails around here (Ape Canyon, June Lake, Ptarmigan).

I passed a trio that were on there way down the trail.

I took a wrong turn pretty early on that added about 0.8mi by mistake. It's not marked in AllTrails but it's definitely more than an animal trail. Probably intersects with the Toutle or Blue Lake Horse Trails. I did see a marker (wooden post) on the way back and added some branches & and small log to "block" the wrong trail.

AllTrails map

The 1800' elevation gain is pretty evenly spread on the 4+ mile ascent. There are some steeper switchbacks at Butte Camp Dome (~400ft elev. gain in 0.6mi) but not bad. There's a cool traverse across some ash (see below). 

On my ascent, I saw a couple of hikers that had hopped on the trail just as I got there. On the switchbacks, I met a hiker that described the trail conditions and wind on a big loop they was on that links the Toutle, Sheep Canyon, and Loowit Trails with the Butte Camp Trail. Definitely coming back to hike this loop.

Just before the timberline, I met another hiker that confirmed the high winds ahead. 

It was zippy. A few gusts stopped me in my tracks for stability. I should have deployed my hiking poles but didn't. I made it to the Loowit junction and took it west for 0.1mi just for a look.

I promptly started back down, mostly to get out of the wind. I saw the pair I'd seen early on just as they emerged from the timberline. I waved and continued my descent.

Eventually, I caught up with the 2nd hiker I'd seen earlier. When I catch up with hiker at a slower pace I try to make noise (step on branch, small cough). Usually that's enough to get their attention, turn around, and see me. This person didn't hear me though so I said "nice to get down the bottom out of the wind." Well, I really see but this exact moment, this person was adjusting their pants like no one was around. They laughed, I laughed and said "the sun was in my eyes and didn't see a thing. I promise." I really didn't. I kept going and waved over my shoulder, we're both still chuckling.

The sun was bright and warm. I took notice of all the beautiful things: a colorful mushroom, some interesting rocks, the birds foraging on the ground and giving them room & time to fly to a nearby branch. "Hi birdies!". I touched the tiny saplings and said "Hi little one!"

Amanita muscaria (fly agaric)



More Photos

MSH from the top of the Butte Camp Trail


Last section of trees

Butte Camp Dome from Loowit Trail

Craggy topography in the forest

Rock field near trailhead

Mt St Helens from the Butte Camp Trail

I was glad to reach the trailhead when I did. It was dark as the sun had long dipped below the horizon, nearby hills, and still somewhat windy.

Going Home:

Instead of going towards Merrill Lake which takes a bit of time, I took NF-81 towards Climber's Bivouac and NF-83 to Lewis River Road (WA-503).


Friday, October 29, 2021

Hike: Forest Park (Firelane 12, 15, Wildwood, Newton Road, BPA) VIII, 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: 8.07 mi
Elevation Gain: 1,831 ft
Moving Time: 2:46:49
Total Time: 2:48:55

Avg Pace: 20:40
Calories: 1,470

This is my 8th hike in this section of Forest Park from the Skyline Trailhead and 12th hike on the north end of the park.

I considered going the clockwise direction but I just enjoy the challenge that the 0.8mi section of BPA Road presents. My climbing time for this is consistently about 25mins.

On today's hike, I got a little bit of a bloody nose just as I was descending Forest Road 15 at the Wildwood junction. Argh. I considered cutting the hike short but forged ahead as I noticed the bleeding had stopped and I was just blotting pink stuff. Still annoying. 

I saw a couple at the "bench". Their little dog wanted to play and nipped at my heels while the owner tried to catch & restrain him/her. So cute!

I passed another couple going in the same direction and a bit later, I saw the same forest crew person that I did last time. He was raking leaving and mud.

I got a little bit later start today so I wasn't sure I wanted to hike all the way to Germantown or whereever I went last time (passed Newton Road parking lot). I split the difference and just took Wildwood (super muddy in spots) to the Newton Road cut off, then doubled back. 

The water was flowing in the creek but the trail was still nice & firm.

As mentioned above, the ascent from Hwy 30 to the top of BPA road took me 25min. This seems to be my max speed at the moment.

I was nice to hear birds and running water after a very dry summer.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

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

AllTrails Map

Getting There:

See previous hikes for directions. If heading from Vancouver, turn left at Beacon Rock :)

The Hike:

Distance: 7.70 mi
Elevation Gain: 2,234 ft
Moving Time: 2:54:03
Total Time: 3:07:18
Avg Pace: 22:36
: 1,534 

I expected the trail to be a bit muddy but it wasn’t too bad. There were a few spots on the ascent but the canopy efficiently captures the rain. The clay & rocky section were wet but not really slippery. I didn’t feel the need to get out my poles. Once I started toward the Saddle, the trail was often completely covered with maple and oak leaves of all hues of Fall. This likely covered otherwise muddy sections, FTW. 

I considered taking Don’s Cutoff Trail but it seemed extra dark. It was starting to rain and I got a “feeling“. I took the Equestrian Trail to Hardy Creek Trail. 

I was the last car to leave the parking lot though I was glad to see a park ranger checking on things. 4:55p. There were several cars when I got there but I only saw the four guys I saw arrive in one car. 

Rodney Falls

The view from Rodney Falls

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.