Friday, June 7, 2024

Hike: Silver Star Mountain via Grouse Vista Trail, Yacolt, WA

Getting There

I took L-1200 out of Washougal to get there. It's 7 miles up a gravel road from the end of the pavement on Skamania Mines Road and it's 18 miles from Washougal. You can also reach the trailhead from the north via Yacolt.

The road was in great shape, very few potholes or washboards. Looks like it was recently re-graveled, probably for logging. I saw some new access roads and big pile of gravel along the way. No snow on the road at all, accessible to all vehicles.

Last time I tried to get to the trailhead from the north (Yacolt), the day after the Volcano Naturalist field trip to Ape Cave, I only made it part of the way. The road was closed due to active logging operations. 

There was several cars park down the hill but I found 2-3 open spots next to the pit toilet for parallel parking. Guess those cars belonged to morning hikers.

The Hike

Length: 6.80 mi
Elev. gain: 2,149 ft
Moving time: 3:09:26
Avg pace: 27:52
Calories: 1,915
Total time: 3:33:19

I still remember my first time up this trail in late August 2020, and how haggard I looked when I reached the top. I was still ramping up my hiking in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. I had also purchased my first pair of Keen Targhee IIIs.

This most recent hike was number 6. It's challenging and very rewarding. Two days before Christmas 2023, I hiked up and encountered a lot of snow. I also shot a bunch of amazing pictures including this one

I was glad to be out there again. Another post-cracked-ribs hike. Things are getting easier and I'm able to hike without too much discomfort.

It was definitely a tough hike, esp. the first climb through the rocky tread and the second one past Pyramid Rock. I took my time, drank my electrolytes, and didn't pressure myself to be in any hurry.

I remember seeing a guy with a large pitbull that had labored breathing. I felt bad for the dog but didn't say anything. I encountered them not far up the trail; the owner was giving the dog some water.

When I reached the top of the first ascent, I was crisscrossing the trail, picking a path through the large rocks. A swelling of buzzing emanated from the bush on the southeast side of the trail. Yikes. They sounded agitated. Not something I wanted to deal with today (or ever!). I thought about telling folks coming down about it and to stay clear but as I got further away, I judged that I really didn't have a precise location and the intel wasn't valuable.

I passed a few people coming down. I noticed the places we'd stopped for a break and for lunch when I was hear last summer for my first WTA trail work party

Once I was past the long, rocky section, I knew I was in good shape and could finish strong. After the turn, past the campsite on the left, I met two hikers coming down that told me all 5 mountains were out. There was still a pad of snow on the trail but I followed the edge of the trail until I couldn't, then got onto the snow. I was slushy but I didn't punch through. At the top, there wasn't any snow.

I made the left turn and went up to the highest point, where the old fire lookout pad was located. There was a group of folks that looked like trail runners and another two hikers. I made my way to the edge and soaked in the view of the nearby Cascade Mountains: Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, and Mt Adams. I also inspected Sturgeon Rock and remembered reading a trail report of a SAR helicopter dropping off and picking up crew (for practice).

I like to give folks some space and decided to take my lunch on the other side of the mountain. I had that side to myself and enjoyed the views of the southern Cascade peaks: Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson. I took off my pack and ate my sandwich. I need to try to slow down on these and really absorb the scenery.

Eventually, I started my descent. I noticed the group of trailrunners was packing up to go down. I was just ahead of them and hoped to give them space going back to the trailhead. I stopped a few times but never heard them.

Near Pyramid Rock, I encountered the guy and his wheezing pit bull :(. Poor doggo. I knew they still had a challenging hike ahead... and long descent. I don't know if the dog was miserable or what. I didn't say anything to the guy and he didn't meet my eyes when I was going to say hi. In hindsight, I wondered if this guy was pushing his dog unnecessarily. Or maybe, the dog had some kind of terminal issue and he was just trying to give it a few more outings. Maybe the group behind me would noticing something I didn't and talk to the guy.

I kept my pace and felt good. I remember hiking a few years ago and regularly having IT band issues on the descents. It's been awhile since I had issues; guess I'm in relatively good shape. Maybe a summit attempt of Mt Adams is doable.

I finally reached the parking lot and most of the cars were gone. A good day!

Heading up the trail, Pyramid Rock in the middle

Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier, Mt Adams

Mt Hood & Mt Jefferson (far distance)

Mt Jefferson

Mt Hood

Looking back at the highest point (trail to lookout slab)

Pyramid Rock