Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: My Year in Review

What a great way to wrap up the year! I surpassed all my hiking goals: 

75 hikes, 500 miles, 120,000 feet

Note: These figures are my baseline for next year. I didn't regularly start recording my hikes on the AllTrails mobile app until April, instead using the mileage + elevation gain from curated AllTrails maps.

Why 75 hikes?

Originally the goal was 100 hikes but I soon realized it was a bit out of reach at the time, starting in earnest mid-summer. Over a calendar year, it's one hike every 3.65 days, twice a week, rain, shine or otherwise. I've seen other hiking challenges online like the 52-Hike Challenge that is based on 1 hike per week. 75 hikes is still basically once per week, plus a couple of midweek hikes per month (total 6). It definitely takes some commitment to the cause but it's also been a good motivator for maintaining proper fitness and nutrition.

After my road trip in 2019 where I spent virtually all my time in the car, I vowed to "travel less and hike more". Easier said than done. It was a challenge to find suitable hikes that offered decent mileage and elevation that are under an hour's drive. I found a section of Forest Park that fit the bill. I also became a regular on the Hamilton Mountain Trail. 

To prepare for my Mt St Helens summit hike, I created a great loop in Forest Park that's about 8 miles and up to 2,000 ft of elevation gain. It's close to home and good for an afternoon escape. This year I've hiked Forest Park 18 times and Hamilton Mountain 15 times.

Another way I got to 75+ hikes was by completing multiple ascents on the same day on different trails. I purposefully did not count walks and other types of exercise. Required: Hiking boots, poles, dirt (or snow) under foot! I thought about only counting new hikes/trails but thought that would really limit my options and I wanted credit for the practice hikes. It might be an interesting metric to track next year.

Why 500 miles?

No, I wasn't inspired by the lyrics of that catchy but annoying song by The Proclaimers. This is just a somewhat arbitrary, round number. At 75 hikes, this works out to the spooky decimal of 6.66 miles (average) per hike. Totally doable because I'm usually clocking in 7-8 miles per hike and could take some shorter hikes without falling behind on miles.

When I was coming up with the goal mid-year. I looked at the remaining months and how feasible it would be to reach. Plus, I just liked the look of 500. I may move the bar to 600 miles for 2022.

What destinations are 500 miles from Portland?

San Francisco, CA is 500 miles from Portland, and so is Banff & Bubblegum in British Columbia. It's about the same as a round trip to Bellingham, WA (at least by highway).

Elsewhere in the US, for example, it's roughly 500 miles from New Orleans to Dallas.

And in Europe, according to MatadorNetwork, "If you walk 500 miles from Vienna, you could visit 30 different countries."

Why 120,000 ft?

Well, until the end of November, this goal was set a 100,000 ft because it was feasible and it was another nice looking number with lots of zeros. When I realized I was going to safely surpass 100k feet, I revised the goal to 120k feet as it would give me the most accurate baseline for next year.

At 75 hikes, this works about to 1,600 feet of elevation gain per hike. Again, totally doable as my Forest Hike practice loop is between 1700-2000 ft. I could take some hikes with less elevation gain and not fall behind.

What is it like at 120,000 feet high (23 mi/37 km)?

The photo of Felix Baumgartner in the doorway of the Red Bull Stratos pod getting ready for his jump really puts it into perspective. Also, the photo from World View's balloon is a striking way to illustrate the height.

Credit: Red Bull Stratos
Credit: World View

Fitbit uses some interesting comparisons/achievements.

These stats are incomplete because I didn't always hike with my Fitbit and the mileage is calculated from Steps times Average Stride Length rather than the Actual Distance moved via GPS. When hiking up inclines and technical section you tend to take smaller steps so the mileage is often inflated. 

Also, the way the Floors is calculated makes it an inaccurate analog to elevation gain. According to SteveH on the Fitbit blog, Floor are based on 10 ft (3m) of continuous rise. "So, if you rise 9 feet, level off for a few steps, then rise another 9 feet then you rise 18 feet but get zero floors."

Yearly Totals:
1,808,672 steps ● 13817 floors ● 825.33 miles ● 781,454 calories

This includes more than just hikes, like pushing my shopping cart back to the corral or going up the stairs in my house for the 7th time because I forgot why I went up there last time.

And, one caveat about the following information is that all lesser levels are incremented when a Trail Badge is earned, e.g. when you hike 16k daily steps, you earn the Urban Boot, Sneakers, Boat Shoe badges.

Daily Steps

- Hiking Boot: 35,000 steps in a day (1x)
- Trail Shoe: 30,000 (8x)
- Classics: 25,000 (11x)
- High Tops: 20,000 (30x)
- Urban Boot: 15,000 (59x)
- Sneakers: 10,000 (89x)
- Boat Shoe: 5,000 (156x)

Daily Climbs

- Canyon: 400 floors in a day (1x)
- Waterfall: 300 (8x)
- Castle: 200 (38x)
- Bridge: 175 (45x)
- Stadium: 150 (47x)
- Roller coaster: 125 (54x)
- Skyscraper: 100 (60x)
- Ferris Wheel: 75 (67x)
- Lighthouse: 50 (76x)
- Redwood Forest: 25 (106x)
- Happy Hill: 10 (167x)

Lifetime Distance

- New Zealand: 990 lifetime miles (1x)
- Italy: 736 (1x)
- Serengeti: 500 (1x)
- London Underground: 250 (1x)
- Penguin March: 70 (1x)
- Marathon: 26 (1x)

Lifetime Climb

- Spaceship: 14,000 lifetime floors (1x)
- Cloud: 8,000 (1x)
- 747: 4,000 (1x)
- Hot Air Balloon: 2,000 (1x)
- Skydiver: 1,000 (1x)
- Helicoper: 500 (1x)


It's mind-boggling what I accomplished with my own two feet (and legs), motivation, perseverance, determination.

Before I started my arthritis diagnosis & treatment in 2019, I was having all kinds of problems with my knees. After 2 or 3 months of 1-on-1s with a trainer, I started the treatment. I spent the first couple of months binging GOT and other shows because it took this long to get the symptoms under control. I was resigned to having limited mobility and losing my independence. It was real low point but thankfully the pain subsided when the meds began to work, and I'd changed my diet, quit smoking & drinking, cold turkey, and started my regiment of supplements like fish oil, turmeric, and bromelain. I did zero hikes in 2019 but I completed to a programming bootcamp and started building my web development portfolio.

When I hiked the Hummocks Trail in March 2020, I didn't realize it would be the start of the pandemic but also my renewed love of hiking. Not quite. I didn't hit the trail again until July after a lot of scouting on Lolo Pass Road and a hike up Vista Ridge. A couple weeks later I tackled Kendall Katwalk at 12 miles round trip and Crater Lakes at 8.6 miles. After than, I began to pick up steam.

My first hike to the bottom of Little Hamilton was just 10 1/2 month ago! I had no idea at the time, it would become one of my favorite hikes. When I finally reached the summit in April, I was unfamiliar with the rest of the park and the Saddle and gave some fellow hikers bad info. I was determined to learn as much as I could and be an expert about the place, a steward. I never want that to happen again. 

This accomplishment is a bit of a middle finger at RA and my diagnosis. Hiking has been a much needed way to do more than just cope with the pandemic, my health issues, my job issues, to actually improve my physical and & mental health and focus on externals and see the beauty around me. And, take some amazing photos.

I participated in a couple of challenges this year:  


"46Climbs was built off of our passion for the outdoors, and the therapeutic benefits received from the physical challenges that only climbing, hiking and running can bring."

and WTA's Hike-A-Thon.

"Get Out. Give Back. Hike-a-Thon gives you the opportunity to support the trails you love while you hike. Each August, participants spend the month hiking and sharing their outdoor adventures to promote the power of trails and raise funds for WTA! We look forward to celebrating the 19th Annual Hike-a-Thon with you in 2022."

This achievement is very personal but it has a quality of indelibility that some of my other pursuits do not. If the RA disables me in the future, at least I will have the memories from this time. The same goes for my financial situation; better to have memories than save for a tomorrow that never comes, or one where I'm not physically able to hike. 

Alan Watts:

"Look at the people who live to retire; to put those savings away. And then when they’re 65 they don’t have any energy left. They’re more or less impotent. And they go and rot in some, old peoples, senior citizens community. Because we simply cheated ourselves the whole way down the line."

I've spent a lot of time thinking "I'll have time later". On the trip in 2019, I was imaging coming back with friends, family at some date in the future; a scouting trip. Rather than actually having the experiences, I was kind of viewing them through my car's windows and in 3D for the occasional photo op or potty break.

Robert Pirsig:

"In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming."

Fred "Dirtbag" Beckey is someone that exemplifies doing what you love until the very end. It is sad to realize you no longer have the energy to complete the task, the trek but you shouldn't give up before your time. 

Checkout the documentary "Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey".

"Fred Beckey is the original American "Dirtbag" mountaineer. The groundbreaking life story of this rebel athlete, who inspired generations of climbers with his monumental first ascents and eloquent books, is told for the first time in this exclusive documentary film."

Evolution of my Road Tripping

2019 Road Trip

After finishing my programming class in the summer of 2019, I needed to get away for some R & R. I took a road trip out east, OR, WA, ID, MT. I didn't have a set itinerary but keep going east with my inflection point being Whitefish, MT. I spent 7 days driving almost 2000 miles. This didn't give me much time to get out and smell the wildflowers or get some dirt under foot.

Logan Pass, Glacier NP, MT

I spent a day driving to Glacier National Park and barely go out to stretch my legs before hopping in the car to drive back to Whitefish. I have no real regrets from this trip but I can't always treat trips as scouting trips. Carpe Diem!

2020 Road Trip

When I was planning my 2020 summer trip, I decided to stay much closer to home and routed a trip up the middle of WA, routing through Mt Rainier, Snoqualmie Pass, Lake Chelan, and the North Cascades Scenic Byway, Mountain Loop Highway. 

Liberty Bell Mountain (far right) and Kangaroo Ridge, North Cascades, WA
Ross Lake, North Cascades, WA

I built several days of hiking into my itinerary including two nights in Snoqualmie Pass to hike Kendall Katwalk and two nights at Lake Chelan to hike Crater Lakes/Methow. On my drive on the byway toward Concrete, I stopped at Diablo Lake to hike. 

Nevertheless, I still spent four days in the car.

2021 Road Trip

So, for my 2021 summer trip, I planned an even shorter road trip and hiking every day. I camped near MSH and did a hike from Windy Ridge. Then, I stayed two nights in Packwood and hiked Mt Rainier, and two nights in Snoqualmie Pass and hiked Kendall Katwalk, Kachess Lake and, Gold Creek. 

Because I hadn't made reservations for my southbound trip, I ended up sleeping in my car on the forest road near High Rock Lookout. The last day of the trip, I took an amazing 2nd hike up around Panorama Point and reached nearly 7500' on the Muir Camp Trail.

Besides the Sunday drive to Iron Creek campground, I hiked every day thereafter.

What an adventure; this trip included 7 different hikes:

- Total Distance: 52.17 miles
- Total Elevation Gain: 11,770 feet
- Highest Elevation: 7,441 feet (Mt Rainer)
- Most Elevation: 2,943 feet (Kendall Katwalk)
- Longest Distance: 13.1 miles (Kendall Katwalk)
- Avg. Distance: 7.45 miles
- Avg. Elevation Gain: 1,681 feet

Mt St Helens Summit

I reached several peaks this year but MSH topped the list. I hiked Hamilton Mountain (2060'), Silver Star Mountain (2096'), Archer Mountain (2444'), Phlox Point (2231'), Coldwater Peak (3980'), Plummer Peak (6370') but my crowning achievement was summiting ... 

Mt St Helens (8278')

Summit selfie, MSH


In 2020, when I was out exploring the four lakes (Merrill, Swift, Yale, Merwin), I ended up at the Climber's Bivouac trailhead in the mid-afternoon. I went for a scouting hike and realized it was the trail to the top! I didn't have a permit and wasn't physically prepared and was under-dressed.

I got a permit for mid Oct but ended up forfeiting it due to weather or something else, I can't recall. I knew the 100/day limit only ran until Oct 31st. The weather was looking good for Nov 1st so I planned my attempt for that day instead. I left Portland around 5:30am and got to the forest road 1800 around 7:30am. There were cars parked on the shoulder like a 1/4 mile from the parking lot I'd been a few weeks earlier. Holy cow! I was not ready for that and since it was still the pandemic, I didn't want to be amongst so many people. I ended up having an amazing hike on Ape Canyon trail to Pumice Butte.

I filed the idea in the back of my mind. "I will conquer this beautiful mountain in 2021!"

The way the permits were distributed changed in 2021. The permits for each month were released the month before; to hike in Sept, I had to get my permit on Aug 1st. I figured there would be less snow to contend with but I was kind of intrigued by the trail reports about glissading from the summit. I even bought a climbing pick and watched a couple of videos on how to carry and self-arrest from various body orientations (headfirst, feet-first, on back, on stomach).

By Labor Day, I was getting pretty psyched. I'd had a great summer of hiking and felt physically ready. I also gave myself an 'out' by saying just showing up on 1/2 the battle, and even if I don't reach the top, my hike was already a success.

Sept 15, 2021 - Hike to the Summit

AllTrails map, MSH Summit vs Ptarmigan Trail

It was largely a mental game. I was fit for the challenge but each steps seemed to result in another ridge to get over, it seemed endless. (I passed a guy climbing through the boulders that seemed a bit defeated already. "How much more of the 'rocks'?" he asked, somewhat exasperated. I said something like "Not too much more (trying to sound encouraging)." I really had no idea.) I remember seeing another hiker that that had broken down in tears. I knew how it felt to slog through the rock section then encounter this long ash field. Traction was pretty good, esp. with poles, but you lose one step for every 5 taken. I'm sure the terrain is constantly changing. 

The final stretch of the Ptarmigan Trail, MSH

I remember Bear Grylls talking about breaking difficult tasks into smaller pieces. When he was climbing across a deep ravine on a rope, he was counting to "20" and taking a rest. By the ash section about a dozen hikers had queued up. I ended up at the back of the group. I was someone motivating to try to keep pace with those in front of me. I also noticed the two brother (who I met later), that took a lot of breaks. I matched mine to theirs. 

View from the rim: Spirit Lake & Mt Rainier in distance

That feeling taking those last few steps and seeing Spirit Lake and crater was just incredible. I really had done it! I wasn't finished yet. The "true" summit was calling to me. The guys I'd met lower down and a solo hiker lead the way. It was pretty challenging to climb down the rocks and up the other side. I'd just hiked for 4 hrs straight and I was running on adrenaline.

I spent an hour up there and 3 hours on my descent. Pretty much 8 hrs round trip. While I was just one of dozens that reached the top, I was joining a select few. I only know one other person that's made it.

What's next?

AllTrails :: Mt Adams South Climb Trail

I've got my eye on Mt Adams for 2022! I recently joined the PNW Peakbaggers Facebook group in order to connect with others for information and collaboration. During a chat with a fellow hiker, the South Route is mostly a long walk uphill, no crossing glaciers or crevices. 

Mt Baker is considered another good "beginner" peak but it has some additional technical elements like rocks and glaciers that Mt Adams does not. Both climbs are considered good "stepping stones" before climbing Mt Rainier.

Mt Rainier: Elevation 7,441 feet

When I hiked above Panorama Point from Paradise Lodge this summer, I knew I want to come back and climb to the Muir Camp. I'm not sure I'm seasoned enough yet to attempt the summit but getting to the 10,000 ft point would be a great achievement.

For now, I'm looking forward to observing Mt St Helens, Mt Hood, and Mt Rainier from the top of Mt Adams!

Overall Stats for the Year

- Number of Hikes: 77
- Total Distance: 516 miles
- Total Elevation Gain:
122,121 feet
- Average Distance per Hike: 6.70 miles
- Average Elevation Gain per Hike: 1,586 feet
- Longest Hike: 15.40 miles (Ape Canyon/Windy Pass, 7/10/2021)
- Highest Elevation in a Hike: 8,278 feet (Mt St Helens, 9/15/2021)
- Most Elevation in a Hike: 4,583 feet (Mt St Helens, 9/15/2021)

Check out these platforms for updates and photos

Photo Credits

1. Larry Moiola, screenshot from:
2. Red Bull Stratos,
3. World View,
"This image released by World View on June 23, 2014, offers a glimpse of the view the company's 'Voyagers' will be treated to during flights to 120,000 feet. On June 18, Arizona-based World View launched a scaled-down version of its balloon system to an altitude of nearly 23 miles (37 kilometers) during a test flight that originated in New Mexico. The new World View balloon video of that unmanned flight, which the company shared with today (July 15), reveals some spectacular views of Earth from the stratosphere."
4. Larry Moiola, Logan Pass, Glacier NP, 2019
5. Larry Moiola, WA Pass, N Cascades Byway, 2020
6. Larry Moiola, Ross Lake, WA, 2021
7. Larry Moiola, Mt Rainier, 2021
8. Larry Moiola, selfie, 2021
9. AllTrails 3D Maps,
10. Larry Moiola, final stretch, 2021
11. Larry Moiola, view from the rim, 2021
12. AllTrails 3D Maps,
13. Larry Moiola, selfie
, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Hike: Hamilton Mountain, N Bonneville, WA

AllTrails map

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. 


The Hike

Length: 5.41 mi
Elevation gain: 2,054 ft
Moving time: 2:41:39
Total time: 2:58:25
Avg. pace: 29:53
Calories: 1,424

Probably my last Hamilton Mtn Hike in 2021! I love this place. And... today, I didn't even reach the top.

Pretty normal hike until the bottom of the Little Hamilton switchbacks. This is where I started to see some snow on the trail itself. The switchback were muddy and a bit slushy but still normal(ish).

When I reached the bottom of Little Hamilton (the lookout), the snow was on! it was pretty thin and slushy. I passed a couple of women than had packs but were wearing sneakers. I was glad to have my waterproof boots because the rocky switchbacks had ankle deep snow. 

The final section (the "14 turns") the snow was a little deeper but the real challenge became the trees branches that were blocking the trail because they were weighted down with wet snow. I crawled under, over, and pushed through a dozen times. Turn #13 and #14 were really blocked. I struggled to get passed, ignoring the steep bypass someone had made. I noted it for my descent. The long straightaway to the top was in bad shape. I was really close but came to a 10ft section branches that looked impermeable without a big hassle. I knew I wasn't doing the loop so I turned around.

On the way down, I stopped to take some photos from the viewpoint (example above), a family of 5 (at least 1 adolescent) were on their ascent. They didn't look too prepared, sneakers, light clothing. I didn't say anything but I probably should. They were talking and meandering up the trail. I knew it was going to get dark quickly, especially in the trees below.

And sure enough. I had enough light to see the rocks and mud puddles on the ground but it was getting dark. I had memories of my last hike in the twilight. A guy and his dog were heading up to Rodney Falls.

I was just 4:30p when I reached the car and there were two other cars still in the parking lot. I think this park is safe enough and the trail is wide and there really aren't places to get lost but it's easy to get caught unprepared weather and daylight. 


Next time I'll say something because even if they ignore the advice, it's better to have given it. 

I remember my hike to Preikestolen. On our hike back to the lodge, Erlend kept warning people that weren't properly dressed that the weather could change quickly on their hike. Every single one of them shrugged it off.


Friday, December 17, 2021

Hike: North End of Forest Park 14, Portland, OR

AllTrails map

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

Length: 9.53 mi
Elevation gain: 2,083 ft
Moving time: 3:11:54
Total time: 3:15:48
Avg. pace: 20:08
Calories: 1,691

Well, this was not exactly the hike I expected would be my 75th, where I crossed the 500th mile and 600ft shy of 120,000 ft!

I made a late decision to hike because the December weather has be dodgy. While it was overcast, it seemed like the rain was holding off. I started on the trail at around 2pm. Even then it seemed darker than usual because of the fog.

I made good time to the various waypoints and even took the extra segments up to the BPA Road and Newton Road trailheads. I reached the bottom of the BPA road @ Hwy 30. It was 4:17pm. My previous times to get up the 900 ft over 0.8mi has been around 25mins. I reached the top at 4:43pm. I was getting pretty dark and I still have to go down in the gully at Firelane 12/15. I could no longer see the trail.

In places where I would have been cruising on a normal hikes, I was speed-walking, using my poles to probe into the darkness, hoping I didn't slip on a rock or muddy spot. I was on high alert. My dumb flashlight was completely useless.

I listened intently for any noises, like in the bushes, and strained my eyes to adjust to the dark. I know this trail so well so I wasn't the least bit worried about get lost but this was crazy.

My Fitbit was not tracking my heart rate for some reason but I'm sure I would have recorded some great numbers!

I reached the car at about 5:15pm. It was satisfying to reach my hiking goals but damn....

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Gear: My favorite clothes, accessories, gear, footwear for hiking in the PNW

I recently saw a YouTube video by Kyle Hates Hiking about gear and not falling into the trap of buying a lot of unnecessary stuff, esp. when first starting. It's cliche but "you get what you pay for" and "spending a little now, goes a long way". I'm just listing an inventory of the stuff I currently use and these aren't necessarily the best in class. A little repair (glue) and sewing can really extend the life of your gear. In one of Joey Coconato's gear run downs, you don't need the latest gizmos and what-nots advertised by influencers on social media or at your favorite sports store to enjoy the outdoors. A good pair of your own boots is crucial but you can borrow most other equipment. Or, checkout garage sales, community message boards, or resale places (REI, Next Adventure - in Portland).

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Hike: Dog Mountain, Carson, WA

AllTrails map (mobile)

Getting There

Tuesday, Dec 14 was my birthday and I knew I wanted to hike somewhere. I got a bit later start than I wanted but then again, what’s the rush? (More on that later).

I had my snow shoes so I thought I’d hit Trillium Lake, White River, or even Mirror Lake. I knew when I passed Exit 16 that I wasn’t going via Hwy 26. I thought I’d take the long way through Hood River.

On my way, I reconsidered and thought “the weather is good down here, how about staying in the Gorge?”. I took the Ainsworth exit and followed the frontage road to the trailhead. Welp, all but one trail was closed due to fire damage, erosion control.

The pulled back on the highway and kept on trucking’. It was cool to see Cape Horn, Archer, Hardy Ridge, Hamilton, Table from across the river. 

I drove passed Cascade Locks and pulled into another trailhead. The ____ just follows the freeway unfortunately, too much noise!. I snapped a couple photos and bailed.

As a got close to Hood River, Wind And Dog Mountains caught my eye. I drove to HR and crossed over to WA. I made my way back west to the Dog Mountain trailhead parking lot. Only a few cars were there so I parked and geared up. (I’d only ever seen the place packed with cars and signs about needing a ticket during peak summer months.)

The Hike

Length: 5.57 mi
Elevation gain: 2,438 ft
Moving time: 2:21:16
Total time: 2:30:26
Avg. pace: 25:22
Calories: 1,245

The trail was great, a lot like Hamilton, wide and well groomed. It’s definitely a leg burner (2500’ in 3mi) but there are some nice breaks in the upper forest.

The first viewpoint was worth it. I took a couple selfies and sent them to my mom and two aunts.

When I got to the trail split (more difficult vs difficult), I chose the easier of the two.

At 2000’ where the two trails rejoin the trail was steeper and icy. I thought about the difficulty coming back down without micro spikes. I continued despite.

Eventually the ice was replaced by nice hard pack snow. This ended at Puppy Dog Viewpoint. Obviously most folks were turning around here.

Beyond were ankle deep foot holes. I didn’t have gaiters or micro spikes. And since I’d gotten a later start it was 3p, the time I’d decided to head down lest I run out of daylight.

Going to the top would likely have added 45min-1hr.

I vowed to return soon, with the proper gear. Soon!!!!!

Looking at the last 1/2 mile (but turned around)

The final straight-away to Puppy Dog Viewpoint

Pano from above Puppy Dog Viewpoint

Looking west at Columbia River Gorge + Wind Mountain

Sunday, December 12, 2021

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

AllTrails map

Getting There

I started my day heading to a completely different destination: Mt St Helens/Johnston Ridge.

My detour to the store cost me a precious 1hr and missing the on-ramp to 205N didn't help.

The skies were overcast and I knew from the forecast & weather updates that it was snowing around Cougar and Toutle.

There was a high probability that:

  1. The mountain was obscured by clouds so not a great day for photography
  2. The road to Johnston Ridge was closed at the Hummocks/Cold Water. (I was prepared to hike the Ridge Trail, Hummocks Trail, or Coldwater Lake anyway.)
  3. The road beyond the Coldwater Visitor Center was closed. 

I really wanted a hike, not a road trip so this was not a great choice.

The drive up wasn't bad, weather-wise, until just passed Kalama. The rain really started coming down and continued all the way Castle Rock.

I pulled into the gas station/McD's and used the facilities. Once back in my car, I stared at the weather report again and considered alternate hikes around the area. Still not convinced, I headed toward MSH anyway. After I mile or so, I pulled over. Nope.

I was burning daylight but I could still salvage the day if I head back south.

I drove back to the freeway and returned to Vancouver.

I took 205S to WA-14. I still didn't know where I was going. I considered Cape Horn but decided Hamilton Mtn was "the one". I was pleasantly surprised to find so many cars in the lot. It was dark and foggy but I was ready.

A hiker stopped by as I was gearing up and said it was amazing at the top. "Huge snow flakes." She said she'd been up there many times but never it seen it so beautiful.

The Hike

I saw an older couple just below Rodney Falls but the trail was mine until the switchbacks. (Actually I passed lower down a guy that didn't reply when I said hello. I find that so bizarre.)

On the Little Hamilton section there was a group of 5: two teens, a younger kid that was fussing with a root in the middle of trail (his older brothers scolded him for not getting out of the way), and a couple (college age?). They were uncomfortably closed to the edge of the cliff. When they saw me, they tried to make room by inching even closer to the edge. JFC! I stopped and beckoned them to move to a safer spot. I didn't need that much space to get by. Yikes!

It wasn't clear if they were continuing up or on there way down.

I had the rest of the ascent to myself and made quick work of it. There were some great views from here:

I could tell from the surrounding mountains that the top was likely be dusted with snow.

I had no idea what I would find.. Snow!!!!:

The Hamilton Summit

Columbia Gorge & Columbia River

The last section of trail was snow covered. I didn't get any falling snow like the hiker mentioned but it was spectacular. After having hiking this trail so many times in the last year, it was great to see it like this. I stood in spot where I'd cooled off with my straw hat, only this time I was bundled in damp but warm clothes.

I wanted the extra distance that the loop provides but I'd lost a couple of hours of daylight driving up to Castle Rock. I said "if I reach the top by 3pm, I'll do the loop". In fact, I made it by 2:55p. I paused for a min or two then continued along the ridge toward the Saddle.

Trail selfie

When I emerged to the clearing, there was a couple and a dog having lunch. I walked to the edge and snapped a couple of photos. They asked about the trail to summit. I wished them well and continued on my descent.

View of Table Mountain in the clouds

Hamilton Saddle

Hamilton Saddle panorama

Stylized pic that I posted to IG

The descent is a great time to mediate. After the climb and knowing it's all downhill, I find my mind wanders sometimes, but more often I'm just in-tune with the sounds around me. My hearing was muffled behind a headband, wool hat, and hood of my jacket. I heard a few rustles in the bushes that were definitely not birds. More like falling branches but it could have been a deer or other larger animal. I'm not sure if there are cougars or bears in the park.

Since I've been on the trail so many times, it's become a bit routine and I don't pause enough to enjoy where I am. Well, today I did stop to look back at the trail. There was some night light filtering through the clouds, and canopy. It's incredible that this route is carved into the forest. What a gift. And to experience it through all the seasons this year.

Hardy Creek Trail

Friday, December 10, 2021

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

AllTrails map

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

Distance: 7.46 mi
Elevation Gain: 1,739 ft
Moving Time: 2:31:00
Avg Pace: 20:15
Calories: 1,330
Total Time: 2:33:57

View of NoPo and the Willamette River from BPA Road

This is the thirteenth time I've hiked this loop. This time I took the clockwise route to change things up. It's amazing that simply changing directions makes a familiar trail seem new.

To my surprise, the Descent took 22 minutes matching my best Ascent time and just 5 mins faster than my average.

This marks Hike #72 for 2021. I'm getting close to meeting my hiking goals and it feels good as I approach my 50th birthday.

It's great to see so many birds on the trail and hearing & seeing the creeks swollen with water. The trails are pretty muddy though but whatever.... waterproof boots FTW!

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Hike: PCT via Bonneville Trailhead, Cascade Locks, WA

AllTrails map

Getting There 

Trailhead is off WA Hwy 14, across from the east side of the dam.

There are only about 5-6 spots for cars and a bunch of pull-through/XL spots for horse trailers.


The Hike

Distance: 10.39 mi
Elevation Gain: 1,572 ft
Moving Time: 3:25:04
Total Time: 3:33:39
Avg Pace: 19:45
Calories: 1,807

This was my first time on this trail so I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew from the trail map that there is much elevation change for the first few miles. The PCT junction is at 0.7 miles. The trail is in rough shape and there were a lot of mud puddles that a crew of two were clearing in a few spots. When you get into the forest, it gets better, less mud and more pine needs and firm ground.

It's pretty rocky when you get out of the forest. You come across a massive road to the quarry and one of small lakes with turquoise colored water, Gillette Lake. Surprisingly it's "a natural body of water filling a depression in the the landslide"(1). I honestly thought it was similar to Gold Creek which was a gravel pit from the construction of I-90 in Washington (Snoqualmie).

Gillette Lake, WA

From the aerial photos of the building of the dam shows the area was huge construction site on the both sides of the Columbia River (WA, OR).

Once you get through that area, you cross a couple more roads but the rest of hike is similar to Cape Horn and Hamilton.

I took Two Chiefs Trail at the junction of the PCT and trail to Table Mountain. (Note: I didn't see any signage about "private" trails so presumably it's permitted to enter.) I wanted some elevation gain so I hiked up to a gooseneck in the trail but unfortunately, it's thick in the trees so no views. It would be a nice long loop back to Gillette, though you'd be hiking through the quarry, destruction of nature. Table Mountain, Aldrich Butte, and Sacagawea and Papoose Rocks are just another 3-4 miles (extra 6-8 miles r/t) but that makes a long hike from the Bonneville Trailhead.

Definitely would need to get a much earlier start. Distance and elevation gain is huge.. about 4,500 ft and about 15 miles. It's potentially hikeable through winter but who knows -- it's >1000 ft higher than Hamilton.