Saturday, October 22, 2022

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


AllTrails map


After weeks of terrible air in the PacNW, the weather finally shifted to Fall bringing the rain and clearing the wildfire smoke.

At one point, Portland had the 3rd worst air in the world, behind Delhi and Seattle. At 4:30am on Thursday Oct 20, 2022, the AQI was 239 in my neighborhood.

Roughly 24 hrs later (Friday), it was in the low double digits. I was going to hike in the afternoon but the skies were really dark and it rained pretty hard. 

On Saturday, the weather was still rainy but I was determined to get back out there. I considered heading out to Dog Mountain and even a spin up to Wind Mountain. I thought about heading to Silver Star but wanted to be close to Hwy 14 and figured the views would be limited.


Getting There

Take WA-14 from Vancouver, WA east toward N Bonneville. 

After passing Cape Horn and the trailhead parking lot, the skies were so dark past Stevenson. I decided it was a Hamilton day.

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: 7.11 mi
Elevation gain: 2,303 ft
Moving time: 2:41:13
Avg. pace: 22:40
Calories: 1,620
Total time: 3:08:05

Another one for the books. I'm still experimenting with nutrition and electrolytes. I made my way through the sections:

    from October 8, 2021 post
  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



I felt good the whole way. I took my time and wasn't fast but never need to take any breaks. As I neared the top, I considered my options: (a) return on the Hamilton Trail because of fog and encroaching afternoon darkness or (b) take the Saddle / Hardy Creek Loop.

At the top, there was a pair of hikers that were starting their descent plus a guy and his friendly black lab who greeted me and showed me her stick (cute). The guy said his dog was not very cautious so he doesn't take the same route down and does the Saddle/Hardy Creek Loop. I thought, "I'm in.." if someone is behind me, I feel better even though I've been out here a bazillion times.

At a narrow section, I passed a guy in colorful leggings going from the Saddle to the summit.

About 1/2 along the ridge, I ran across another pair of hikers. It was their first time out there and were asking directions. They followed my to the Saddle while I shared unsolicited facts about the geology and history of the park. I was glad to show off my knowledge. 

At the Saddle, it was totally socked in and you couldn't see Phlox, Bonneville or the river/Dog Mountain. But, for a moment a hole formed and we could see Dog & Wind Mountain. I wished the hikers well and went on my way.

I made it to the Hardy Creek cutoff, lost in my thoughts. I passed the guy in the colorful leggings again. Guessing he was heading back to the Equestrian Trail and trailhead, a figure 8 loop.

I encountered a few more folks near Rodney Falls who asked me about the area. I was glad to share more knowledge. 

I needed this hike. It affirmed my physical wellness and determination. Also, it represents achievements that cannot be erased.