Monday, July 31, 2023

Hike: Ape Canyon Trail to Pumice Butte, MSH, Cougar, WA

Getting There

Take I-5 from Portland to Woodland. It's 23mi from N Portland to the exit 21.

Note: Because I had to pick up my radio from the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Headquarters in Amboy, WA, I took a slightly different route through Battleground and across the Yale Bridge before connecting with the Lewis River Road (SR 503).

It's 28 miles from Woodland to the Cougar. There are a couple of gas stations here. Continue east on SR-503 which becomes Rd 90 for 9.5 miles to Ape Cave. Looks for the sign to Ape Caves, June Lake, Climber's Bivouac, Ape Canyon & Lava Canyon which is Rd 83. It's 0.3 miles to Trail of Two Forests and 0.7 miles to Ape Cave.

It's 9.7 miles from the Trail of Two Forests to Ape Canyon on Rd 83.


This hike was part of my first official day as a Hiking Steward with the Mt St Helens Institute. I started my day at 9:20am just after the Hwy 90/83 intersection where I checked in via radio to the dispatch. Another volunteer was working at Ape Cape so I wanted to spend most of my time at Ape Canyon and Lava Canyon.

I heard about a viewpoint above Ape Cave that you can either walk to or drive up to. I figured I'd start there. I drove right past and continued on this narrow road for almost two miles, 1/2 on gravel before I realized I'd missed it. Sure enough, it was just a 1/4 mile from the Ape Cave Parking lot. I parked at the sign and found the clearing in the trees to see the mountain.

I doubted anyone else would be up here at a quarter to 10am so I drove back down the hill and stopped at the Trail of Two Forests parking lot.

The only car there was leaving as I arrived but it wasn't long before another one showed up. They were traveling from Northern California. They'd stopped because they thought they could get a parking pass for the area there, not just the $5 pass. I chatted a bit about the TTF and they were happy to take a spin. I also recommended June Lake for a shorter hike since they were heading to Seattle in the afternoon. One of them was intrepid enough to crawl through the tunnel. (I just climbed down the ladder and looked.)

Hole left where a tree once stood

As I completed the boardwalk loop, I talked to a mother and daughter. The daughter had gone on a guided climb to the summit the day before. It was recommended to stop at the TTF on their way out. When I got back to the parking lot another couple had just arrived and were looking at the signage. We talked for awhile about history of Ape Cave and TTF. I asked if they had plans to head up 83 further; they'd camped in their van the night before somewhere between June Lake and Ape Canyon. They'd wanted to check out Ape Cave and the husband displeased about the timed ticket requirement. The wife tried to get him off the subject and accepted that it's just how things are at popular spots. They said Subway Cave in Lassen NF is another excellent lava tube. I said it was nice chatting and they headed to the boardwalk.

The Hike

Length: 10.00 mi
Elev. gain: 2,021 ft
Moving time: 3:27:32
Avg pace: 20:45
Calories: 2,091
Total time: 4:09:49

My third stop was Ape Canyon. I was ready for a bit of hiking and seeing the place through the lens of being a hiking steward. I carried some materials, the radio, and a notepad to record observations and visitor interactions. There were only a few parking spaces left so I knew I'd get to talk to some folks. As I was getting my pack and gear ready, two cars arrived nearby (a pair of hikers and a solo hiker). I took the opportunity to introduce myself. They didn't have any questions but thanked me for volunteering. The solo hiker said he'd heard about MSHI.

On the trail about 2 miles from trailhead, I encountered a large group; 13 members of a multigenerational family (4 under 10, 3 teens, 5 adults, 1 senior). They were spread out a bit and I said hello and introduced myself as I moved through them. One person asked about length of the trail and I showed the map on my phone with marker where we were at the moment. There were in good spirits, happy that there were making progress up the trail. They teens seemed annoyed by the flies that pestered them when they stopped. One person at the front of the group was carrying a medium sized cube-shaped cooler.

Mt Rainier

Mt Adams

Note: I never felt the need for bug spray. The flies were a bit annoying but never seemed to bite. No mosquitoes. I think I saw some hover flies (look like bees but aren't). The most unusual plants that I saw were the Indian Pipe and Pinesap.

About 45 mins later, a couple of mountain bikers came down the trail. I alerted them that a large group was below somewhere; they thanked me and continued their descent.

When I reached Pumice Butte, I encountered a woman and two 6 year olds just after the monitoring equipment. They didn't feel comfortable negotiating the narrow part of the trail and were turning back to find a place for a snack. I gave the kids stickers that they were happy to get. They showed me their camera watches. I talked to the mom for a bit and she asked me to tell two guys that might be waiting for them around the corner that they'd retreated. When I rounded the corner, I didn't see them and headed up the Loowit trail toward the Plains of Abraham to look for them but didn't. Two more mountain bikers were heading back down and greeted them. 

I double-backed and headed south on the Loowit trail into the trees to find some shade. I noted in my report that a couple of trees were fallen across the trail but easy to get around. I didn't see anyone on this part of the trail so I returned to the junction.

I walked back down past the monitor station and had lunch and admired the view of Mt Adams. The person with the cooler and two youngster from that group of 13 showed up. The little ones asked where the car was. LOL. I gave them both stickers which they seemed happy to get. They headed back down, apparently to regroup with the other 10 people.

The two guys the woman with two kids was looking for came by. I told them where they'd gone: looking for a place to rest and have a snack. The solo hiker that had parked next to me came by. He'd gone to the (dry) creek a bit north on the Loowit Trail for lunch.

At 2pm, I started my descent. I encountered the group of 13 about a 1/4 mile from Pumice Butte. One of the teens asked if there was a lake and looked slightly disappointed when I said there wasn't one up here.

I passed the woman with the two kids a third time while they were on their way down. The kids seemed tired but the mom had snacks and water to keep them motivated. I didn't see anyone else until close to the trailhead; a mountain biker starting the ascent. In general, I didn't have much time to introduce myself to the bikers except where I noted earlier. I made sure my MSHI shirt was well visible and they just cruised by.

One last look at the mountain and lahar

I reached the parking lot at 3:30p.

After The Hike

My next stop was Lava Canyon. There were a couple cars in the parking lot but I didn't see anyone. I only made it to upper bridge. I stayed there for about 30 mins. I did pass a solo visitor on my way back to the parking lot who wasn't too chatty. I just introduced myself and said I was just saying hello and could answer any questions but none came. I wished him a nice afternoon. I did the same with another pair of visitors.

My last stop for the day was the Lahar Viewpoint. I interacted with one person that was enjoying the views from a shaded rock. I talked with her for awhile about the 1980 eruption and Shoestring Glacier that melted during the eruption and become the lahar that scoured the east side of the mountain and Lava Canyon. She asked about the climbing routes as well. She and her family (in the car) were planning to visit the northside via 503. I detailed a few sites along the way: Silver Lake Visitor Center, Castle Lake Viewpoint, SLC, Coldwater Lake and the Hummocks.

Another couple just wanted to know where they could get a better view of the lahar. I recommended going a little further on 83 to Ape Canyon and maybe stop at Lava Canyon. In between interactions, I took the opportunity to collect some trash. My last interaction of my first rove was a mother and daughter. I talked about what changed in 1980 on this side of the mountain, the '80-84 and '04-08 domes, "In the Blast Zone" collections of essays, and Le Guin's, Pander's, & Cronin's visit to the blast zone in Oct 81.

I drove back to place I'd make my morning radio call near 83/90. and did my "out of service for the day" call to Columbia at 5pm.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

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

Getting There

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 sign at the bottom of the hill said "Lot full" bit there's usually a spot open. When I got the parking lot, a Forest Service employee said that two spots were available. The hike from Hwy 14 is a good addition but not today!

The Hike

Distance: 7.04 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,198 feet
Steps: 20,345 (FitBit)
Calories Burned: 2,322 (FitBit)
Floors: 247 (FitBit)
Zone Minutes: 69 (47 fat burn, 22 cardio/peak)

Yet another Hamilton hike! Today was probably my fastest ascent. I think around 1 hr 30 mins for 2.7 miles and 2000 ft of climb. Additionally, I felt strong, my feet and legs weren't tired and I had plenty of energy to continue to the Saddle and take Don's Cutoff to the Upper Hardy Creek Trail and back to the trailhead.

My recent hikes and urban long-distance walks have paid off! I'm ready for my roving shift on Monday!

Unfortunately, the charger in the car was not plugged in all the way so my phone was woefully close to being out of juice. Therefore, I only took a couple of photos and to be honest after so many hikes here, the opportunities for something unique are getting less and less, at least for the vistas of the Gorge and such.

This place has really become my go-to conditioning hike spot. I feel much more confident to head out to MSH and other places where I need to be in good shape. 

I'd like to get back to the west side of Mt Hood and try some trails on the north side. Since Hike-a-Thon is coming up, I'd like to get back to Mt Adams and maybe up around northwest, north and northeast corners of Mt Rainier. Of course I'd love to head up to Snoqualmie Pass and try something besides Kendall Katwalk.

 Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Hike: Cape Horn Loop Trail, Washougal, WA

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.

I noticed a woman and her two young kids and a small dog were excited to head out on the trail.

The Hike

: 7.31 mi
Elev. gain: 1,463 ft
Moving time: 2:48:26
Avg pace: 23:03
Calories: 1,697
Total time: 3:17:27







When I left the parking lot, I hadn't thought if I could the full loop. Part of the trail is closed for peregrine nesting but I couldn't remember the exact dates. I thought about doing the clockwise loop and get the road walk out of the way at the beginning but decided it was a good workout at the end of the hike, a steady incline but easy walking surface.

I took the counterclockwise direction. The trail was pretty well manicured but there were a few spots where the bushes were encroaching a bit. No worries, I pushed them out of the way. I really need to learn to identify the poison oak and ivy. 

I passed a trio, parents and teenage kid. Not long after met another older couple and we chatted briefly about the dry weather and shade.

From Pioneer Point looking south

Near the top of the first ascent, I stopped to take a requisite look at the view from Pioneer Point. Just as I was leaving a pair of hikers and a dog showed up. They asked me to take a couple photos for them which I happily obliged. It took a little bit to get the dog to comply as it was busy sniffing around and staying in the shade. It was black German Shepherd so with the contrast it was hard to see in the shade but I could see its smiling face. I took a few shots and showed them the results. Then, they requested a shot or two of them on the gnarled tree root. I got on my knees so I wouldn't back off the ledge and took a few more pictures. I was using one of the hikers iPhone 14. Man, that takes some nice photos! As I was leaving, I asked if they knew when the nesting period was. The one hiker wasn't sure but guessed it was until the end of July. Oh well, I thought. I would go as far as I could, then double back.

From Pioneer Point looking east

I continued on my way. Another couple were ahead of me on the trail. I slowed my pace so they could get way ahead. It was nice to meander and enjoy the sights and smells. By the time I reached Strunk Road, they were way ahead of me.

Good news. I saw a sign that said the nesting period is Feb 15 to July 15! I could do the loop!

Meadows near Strunk Road

Meadows near Strunk Road

Gravel road just before rejoining the trail

At the first lookout, I discovered that couple were sitting on the wall, facing out towards the river. I only stopped for a few seconds and quietly retreated back to the trail to continue down.

It was a nice hike down the tunnel under Hwy 14. I remember being here in Dec 2022, it was really muddy and slippery. Today, it was dry and a tad dusty. Somewhere before the tunnel I ran across a guy that was pruning the bushes. It was pretty overgrown in the part of the route. After I was well past, I thought I should have asked what species he was targeting, if any, and maybe get some education on spotting the poisonous plants.

The lower section of the trail gets steeper as you descend closer to the water, sort of. There's a long section that heads west. I know there are road pullouts and access trails to this part of the loop.

Looking east from Windblown Fir Viewpoint

I stopped at the Windblown Fir Viewpoint for a min. When I rejoined the trail, I noticed that couple again. I decided to stay ahead of them and adopted a brisk pace. Along the way, I passed the woman and her two young kids. They'd taken the clockwise loop. I was quietly impressed by the young ones. I thought about the experiences and memories they were forming from outings like this. For a second, I wished I'd started hiking much sooner in life.

Cigar Rock Viewpoint

At the Cigar Rock Viewpoint, I stopped, took off my pack and ate some apple slices. It was good take break and really see where I was. That couple passed me, I waved and we exchanged hellos.

This was the lowest elevation on the loop. From here the trail zigzags through a talus field. It was a little rougher than I remember and took my time. It's times like this I wished I had the rubber feet for my hiking poles. 

At the top of this section is the Cape Horn Falls. Last time I poked around up there, I nearly slipped on some wet rocks. I did not want that to happen so I was very slow and cautious. It paid off, every step was deliberate and stable. I went behind the waterfall and snapped some photos and took a couple videos.

I was nearly at the end of the trail. I passed a guy and his tired look dog on my final descent through the trees.

End of the trail on Cape Horn Road


Back on Cape Horn Road, I adopted a slow steady pace. My feet and legs felt good and I enjoyed the farmland views on either side of the road. A couple residents passed in their cars. I noticed the asphalt was bubbled quite a bit. I mistook the shiny blobs for glass or rocks but when I poked one, it popped. In fact, I could hear a few pop under my feet.

I finally reached the trail again just below the Hwy 14 tunnel back to the parking lot.

The truck that I'd seen the woman and her kids was still there. I was casually hoping to see them again just to comment on our opposing loop directions and pace. 


To get home, I decided to take the back route via Canyon Creek Road. I deliberately passed the turn to get to Belle Center Road and continued all the way to Washougal River Road. As I passed it, I noted where I'd met the tow truck to put on my spare that day I got a flat.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Hike: Forest Park, Linnton, Portland, OR


Selfie from NW Leif Erikson Road

Getting There

This was a first, taking the bus to get to Forest Park to hike. My car needs to go to the shop so I don't want to risk making the problem worse by driving it.

From Kenton, I took the #4 bus from the park to St Johns. The Trip Planner showed a short waiting time for my connecting bus but when I got there it was updated to almost 50 mins. I went to Safeway and got a sandwich.

I hopped on the #16 bus to Sauvie Island and got off at NW Marina Drive on Hwy 30 (NW St Helens Road).

It was short walk to the bottom of the BPA Road.

The Hike

Length: 11.56 mi
Elev. gain: 1,998 ft
Moving time: 4:08:34
Avg pace: 21:30
Calories: 2,504
Total time: 4:26:08

This was a variation on my usual conditioning loop from the Skyline Trailhead. Instead, I was starting with the steep climb up BPA Road, approx. 850 ft of climb in less than a mile. I continued onward on my route to just past the Kielhorn Meadow.

I turned around and retraced my route to the Wildwood Trail junction and gave my regards to Benjamin George Collins' bench.

When I got the the Newton Road junction, I continued to the trailhead parking lot as I usually do but decided to keep heading south to Germantown Road instead of going down Newton Road to the trailhead where I started. I wasn't ready to end my hike just yet.

This was unknown territory but a welcome change to my usual loop.

I crossed Germantown Road and took the Cannon Trail connector to NW Leif Erikson Road. There was no way I was walking on the road and it was pretty nice.

When I got to Leif Erikson, I found it was flat gravel road that wound through the trees. I wasn't sure how long with its twists and turns but I forged ahead. I stopped to check the map several times to make sure I hadn't missed my turn.

I noted a side trail (Hardesty Trail) for future exploration.

Eventually, I made it to the Ridge Trail that ran east to west and took it down to the St Johns Bridge.

I was stoked to not have to find a stop for the #16 bus and wait for an unknown period of time. My feet were sore and the vehicle noise was pretty loud but I knew I just had to get across to St Johns and I could get the #4 bus back home.

View of the Willamette, Mt Rainier, Mt St Helens, and Mt Adams

View from the bridge