Sunday, January 28, 2024

Hike: Hamilton Mountain, N Bonneville, WA

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 up to the trailhead was closed and had not been plowed since the recent snow storms. There were a few cars next to the Beacon Rock trail, which was also closed.

The Hike

Length: 5.53 mi
Elev. gain: 1,378 ft
Moving time: 3:27:19
Avg pace: 37:30
Calories: 2,093
Total time: 3:41:50

There was snow and ice on the road to the trailhead but I managed to hike quite a ways up the trail before I had to put on my microspikes.

I passed a guy and dog coming down the trail that just had urban spikes (mini spikes). He was struggling on the descent.

It took my about an hour to get to the lookout just past Rodney Falls; slow going!

I kept forging ahead despite the slow progress. The snow drifts were at a 30 deg angle with footholds from previous hikers that required care and checking each step.

The weather was warm, around the mid-50s, which was great for comfort but terrible for the snow. It was a mix of hard-pack, ice, and watery slush. The footholds seems to be getting unstable.

At the first big turn before the switchbacks up to Little Hamilton, there was a long stretch of sketchy terrain. I hesitated but took my time. I remember having troubles here last winter 2023. About halfway across I stopped and decided I didn't want to come back through here when snow was melting.

Rodney Falls

Lower Hardy Creek

Snowy trail

I started back down, enjoying a leisurely pace. I took the Lower Hardy Creek trail for a little bit, just because. I stopped when I could hear the rushing water of the creek. It was really peaceful and I enjoyed the serenity and sounds all around me.

Another of Rodney Falls

Icicles coming out of the cliff face

After Rodney Falls, I encountered some more hikers heading up.

I stopped at Hardy Falls and snapped a couple photos.

The bathroom at the trailhead :D

I continued back to the car on Hwy 14. I kept my microspikes on until there was only bare pavement. My boots and spikes were nearly clean of dirt and debris. While I didn't come close to reaching the top, I was glad to wander around my favorite mountain in the snow, winter.

It seems like overkill for most of the hike but crampons might be useful to get through those tough section and actually reach the summit. Hmm.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Hike: Warrior Rock Lighthouse Trail IV, St Helens, OR

Getting There

From Hwy 30, cross the bridge to Sauvie Island and head north passed the store. Turn right onto NW Reeder Rd and take it all the way to the end. Just before the beaches, the road turns to dirt.

A parking permit is required on the island:

The Hike

Distance: 6.41 miles
Elevation Gain: 84 feet



After the Jan 2024 snow storm and ice storm that came after it, I was itching to get out on the trail again. I knew the Gorge was still in rough shape with trees down, ice, road closures, etc. I figured I would be able to get to the lighthouse without too much trouble.

I also wanted to try out my Osprey 65L pack that had the horrible squeak whenever I got moving. During the sequestration, I applied silicone spray but it made it smell horrible so I washed it, intending to sell it back to Next Adventure. To my relief, the squeaks were gone for the most part. I don't recommend the route I took to get it fixed but in the end it worked!

As soon as I left the parking lot, I encountered really muddy conditions and big puddles. I'd planned accordingly, bringing my older boots but I was still weary about getting all the way to the lighthouse. It was just mucky and slippery.

Muddy trail

I got some confidence when I passed a couple on their way back to the trailhead and noticed another couple with a dog. They ended up stopping at clearing next to the water. I didn't talk to them, but it seemed liked they had gone as far as they wanted in these conditions; the dog looked pretty dirty - LOL.

After a short distance, the muddy mess was buried under a thick layer of leaves and I was able to keep a decent pace without slipping and sliding. This renewed my resolve to get all the way to the end of the trail.

Eventually, those people started back to the parking lot so I had the area to myself. I poked around for a bit, marveling at the quietness, fog, and occasional boat.

It was getting later in the day and since the sky was overcast, I wanted to make it back to the car with daylight to spare.

Somewhere along the way, I noticed some bird was squawking a lot, as if I was getting too close to a nest or something; they were warning other birds about danger, me! I looked up and saw two bald eagles. There was another one on a pylon in the river. After awhile, one of the birds on branches above me flew off. It had darker feathers and the other birds took off after it. It would land on a different tree and just as the other eagle landed next to it, it took off again. Maybe the male was trying to mate with a female and she didn't want any part of it. They continued this behavior in a semi-circle around me. I also saw a large nest in the tree tops.

About half way back, I passed three guys. When I reached the parking lot, there was only one other car remaining besides mine. It began to sprinkle just as I was driving out.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Hike: Dog Mountain, Cook, WA

Getting There

I took Hwy 84 to Cascade Locks, then crossed the river. I suppose it's a little quicker than going all the way to Hood River and taking Hwy 14 back to Cook.

There were a lot of cars but it wasn't at capacity. I found a spot near the trailhead. I made sure there was nothing visible. I'm not sure if car break-ins is as bad as it was but I wasn't taking any chances.

The last time I hiked Dog Mountain was Nov 22, 2022. I was parked next to another Jeep that was broken into while the owner was on the trail. The fact that the parking lot is right on Hwy 14 gives a false sense of security. The difference between vehicles was that mine was empty and other Jeep had stuff in plain sight since they were on a road trip. 

Frustrating. I remember bailing on a hike at Herman Creek because of how much glass there was on the ground in the small parking area. That was during the pandemic. It feels like happens a lot less but still important to take precautions.

The Hike

Length: 6.92 mi
Elev. gain: 2,828 ft
Moving time: 3:27:23
Avg pace: 29:57
Calories: 2,093
Total time: 3:54:55

My streak of not getting an early start is unbroken. Well, that's not entirely true: I got there earlier than for the previous couple of hikes but it was still in the afternoon when I set out on the trail.

I made good progress up the first switchback to the trail split where you have Difficult and More Difficult.

There wasn't any snow until above the trail split at the top. I was able to climb the steep section of trail with just my new Keen boots and new tread, however, when I got to slushy snow I got out the microspikes for some extra traction, esp. for the mud. A pair of hikers I'd passed went by. They were wearing trail runners and not particularly outfitted for colder, snowy conditions. I knew I would have the advantage higher up.

Yep, on the straightaway to Puppy Dog Viewpoint, they were stopped to catch their breath and I cruised by.

At Puppy Dog VP, there was a person taking photos so I didn't stop. The trail to the top had about 8 inches of snow but it was well packed, so I wasn't worried about postholing.

I passed a couple of hikers on their way down and I had the top to myself. 

I ducked into "my" tree. I wanted to get out my mittens and gaiters, then ran over to the other clearing for a pitstop. I lingered for a little while before starting my descent. I passed a big group (about 6 people) on their way up.

A little ways down I stopped to wait for a hiker to finish taking photos. I got my camera out as well as it seemed like a perfect "Kodak" moment. It was momentary break in the clouds, revealing Wind Mountain and the Gorge.

When I got down into the forest again, it warmed up and I took off my microspikes and ate an orange.

The views at lower elevations just got better and better.

I reached the car and was happy to not have any vandalism. Excellent hike, decent mileage and elevation gain. And my foot wasn't too unhappy.


There were so many good photos, although similar in composition, I wanted to include several. Enjoy!

Friday, January 5, 2024

Hike: Eagle Creek, Cascade Locks, OR

Getting There

Take I-84 from Portland towards Cascade Locks. After the exit for Bonneville Dam, take the next exit (41): Eagle Creek Loop. There is a parking lot near the fish pools. I was surprised that there weren't any cars. I cautiously drove toward the trailhead. I stopped and parked near a bridge, still a bit of a road walk. 

I noticed a car continue passed the bridge, so I took a chance and followed. As luck would have it, there was an open spot right next to the trailhead. Wow! This place is usually so packed when the weather is nice!

The Hike

Length: 8.53 mi
Elev. gain: 1,542 ft
Moving time: 3:14:18
Avg pace: 22:47
Calories: 425
Total time: 3:19:42

This is the first time on this trail in many years. The last time was with a coworker that was visiting from San Francisco. We hiked up to Punchbowl Falls. I remember parking at the 1st lot near the exit and it was nearly full. This might have been around 2014-2015.

Before that, I was here with Brian, Holly, and Andy and we had Miles, Jodie's black lab. I also remember hiking by myself once up to the first bridge that crossed the creek.

This was my first hike of 2024. I wanted something close to home since I got a later start. I decided against Wahkeena/Devil's Rest for my first hike of the year. Something familiar but new. It's always crowded in the summer and when the weather is good. I remember driving by this past summer and see cars parked on the shoulder of the freeway exit. Geesh!

This trail is the site of the 2017 Eagle Creek fires that devastated the Gorge. There was so many dead trees. Like Triple Falls in Oneonta Gorge, the forest is sparsely populated with young trees. The views are spectacular with deep ravine and sheer cliffs. The place demands respect and I certainly held onto the cables on the narrow sections.

I gave myself until about 3:30p before I had to hike back down. That gave me about an hour of daylight and about an hour or so for walking. I made it to the car without needing to get out my headlamp but it was close, very dark blue light. I wondered about the people I'd passed, and how they were faring in the darkness.

While it's not necessarily a trail for people afraid of heights, it doesn't offer much of a challenge, elevation wise, though I still got about 1500 feet of EG. I do want to return when I have a lot more time, and hike all the way up to Tunnel Falls, about twice as far as I got this time, just passed Four Mile Falls at the bridge that crosses back over the creek before Tenas Falls.

This trail (a segment of the PCT) and goes all the way to Wahtum Lake and beyond. That would be an overnight trek and chance to check out Chinidere Mountain (again) and Tomlike Mountain before returning to the start point.