- Elevation: 4,665 feet
- Distance: 9.6 miles RT
- NWFP required at Bivouac.
Mary, Jordan, Aaron and I drove to the climbers bivouac for Mt St Helens on Friday after work. It was a lovely, clear evening and a pleasant morning. The northwest had been dry for months now, and warmer than usual so we were expecting relatively good climbing conditions. The hike set out how we expected.
The clouds rolled in shortly after we began the ascent in the scree. And they never let up until we were on our way back down again. This was Aaron and my third time climbing this mountain, and it was by far the worst conditions. I was contemplating turning back, I'm certain Jordan wanted to as well, but Mary and Aaron continued on without hesitation, so I followed in line. Normally, there would be views of Mt Adams and Mt Hood that would be motivating you to continue the ascent. This day, all we saw was white. At times, the visibility was less than 50 feet. The winds increased the higher we got and were relentless. They would howl for minutes without a break. It was very draining physically and mentally. But we climbed on.
When we reached the top, the clouds broke enough to see the lava dome and the rim of the caldera. We hung out there 20-30 minutes maximum and then headed back down.
We got back to camp and decided to spend the night again since it's free and we wanted to enjoy each other's company around the fire again. Despite the poor hiking conditions, it was a great time and challenged us as hikers mentally and physically.
South Sister is similar to Mt St Helens in that it doesn't require any technical climbing to summit. This was a goal for about a year to climb, but we just needed the right weekend. This weekend finally presented itself in the summer of 2015. We had had a really busy spring leading into a busier summer (planning for our wedding on July 25th), but the stars aligned and we had a free weekend in June. I compiled the dream team of a hiking group: PJ, Nate, Aaron, Kate and myself. PJ was in Oregon for a summer internship at the clinic I work for, and, because he is built like a gladiator, I knew he could complete the haul. I had done some hikes with Kate and knew she would be up for the challenge. Nate summited MSH with Aaron and me last summer, and Aaron always gets to come along by default. PJ, Kate, Aaron and myself met up at Aaron's work and drank a beer in the parking lot while waiting for the insanity of Friday-Summer-Portland-Traffic to dissipate. We drove through Detroit Lake, which is really only a pond at this point since Oregon is in a bit of a drought itself this year (thanks Obama). By chance, we happened across the most spectacular sunsets any of us had ever seen.
We arrived at the campground pretty late on Friday night, around 11:00 pm. Karen and Nate had snagged a spot earlier. It was huge that they got there early enough to get a spot since this campground is also the trailhead for the summit climb. The campground is Devil's Lake. It's free and has 10 walk-up sites. We set up camp and pretty much hit the hay. We had a 5:00 am wake-up call. We hit the trail on time for the most part. After crossing the road, the trail dips into the forest and begins to climb.
We emerged from the forest and began to see the magnificent mountain before us. Actually, if you don't have the energy to hike the mountain, a nice option would be to hike up through the forest and get the views from there. You can see Mt Bachelor and Broken Top without putting too much work into it.
After enjoying the views while walking through the relatively flat meadow, the real climbing begins. I don't remember thinking that anything was particularly steep, but it just keeps going up and up. (After I wrote this I reviewed the hike from several forums and everyone is commenting about the steepness which provides no switch-backs to comfort hikers). After several hours of hiking, we made it to Oregon's highest lake: Teardrop Pool.
After Teardrop Pool, the final push to the top commences. At this point, the scree is a beautiful red color and you can see the fellow climbers making their way, slowly, to the top. I would imagine that typically there would be a lot more snow on this mountain. From pictures I have looked up from other hikers, it looks a lot different than our hike; including the view from the summit. In the photo below you can see the last push to the top (where a glacier remains the last hurdle to the summit). From where the photo was taken to the apex of the convex portion of the mountain took us about an hour and a half to climb. I mention this because it always looks like you're almost the top- when it's deceivingly hours away.
The picture above shows the group traversing the glacier on the top. The actual summit is located at 12 o'clock in this picture: the tiny point in the distance. We got to the top at 12:30 pm, making our summit time 6.5 hours. The views are great up there; you can see North and Middle Sisters, Broken Top, Mt Bachelor, Mt Jefferson, and Mt Hood. On a clear day, you can see even more. We enjoyed lunch and beers up there, and, Kate enjoyed a nap!
The thing about hiking up 5,000 feet is you have to hike down 5,000 feet. This is quite the daunting task when you've already expended so much energy- specifically from your quads. We began the decent and the sun rose higher and hotter in the sky. I believe the forecast called for a day of high 80 degree weather. By the time we reached back to the initial meadow, we really began to feel it. I ran out of water, Kate's feet were suffering from her new hiking boots, and I think the whole group was ready to be done with the hike. Unfortunately, we still had several miles left. We shared our resources and encouraged each other all the way to the bottom. It was a great group to hike with and a very fulfilling hike. It was one of the most difficult physical challenges for all of us. We spent that night drinking whisky around the fire and the next day enjoying Bend: beers, ice cream and a soaking pool.
Stuart Lake is an awesome sight to see. It is in the Northern Cascades near Leavenworth, WA. Aaron's parents were in town visiting over Memorial Day weekend, and we decided to check out a new area while they were in town. Leavenworth was mentioned 4 or 5 times by different people (women I met in Costa Rica, my co-worker- Michelle, and several patients). Since it came up so many times in only a week or two, I took it as a sign that I should go explore there soon. Leavenworth is the closest town to the Enchantments. The Enchantments are a spectacular backpacking trip in the Cascades. Just google "the enchantments," and you'll see for yourself. Stuart Lake lies at the edge of the Enchantments and is an easy way to get a taste of them with only a day hike. We started our hike around 9am. Lewis and Cynthia dropped us off and we told them to come back at 3pm. The hike in begins in the forest and it gains elevation the whole way. Before too long, you'll have your first sighting of the river.
The trail gains elevation for about 2 miles the flattens out. There is one junction; left goes into the Enchantments, right goes to Stuart Lake. We hung a right and continued. This is where it gets really awesome. We had no idea what we were in for and were pleasantly surprised with the views. We strolled through several meadows and did a little more climbing. Two more miles after the junction, we arrived at our destination.
There are several campsites around the lake. Surprisingly, there were several still open. This is encouraging since I would figure a spot like this would be full on a holiday weekend. We laid on a large rock in the sun for about an hour and then headed back to the trailhead. Lewis and Cynthia literally drove up within a minute of us finishing, what timing! We drove back into Leavenworth and enjoyed a German meal with beers!
I hiked Coyote Wall after a busy week and decided to do it on my own. It was nice to fly solo because I was able to leave the house by 8am and be on the trail by 9am. I was the first car at the trailhead and had the trail to myself. The hike begins by walking up a road where boulders from the wall have blocked the way. The trail starts off on the left and immediately becomes confusing. Coyote Wall is also a trail system for mountain bikers. So the trails twist and intersect all over the place. As long as you keep heading up, you're going the right way. The trail climbs and you begin to see views of Mt. Hood. The trail cuts west for awhile and then you come up to the wall. Follow the path along the trial. This was the first hike I did that shared the trail with mountain bikers. They always yielded to the hikers and were friendly. There are plenty of spots to sit and eat lunch along the wall. I didn't see a good turning around point, so I just turned back when I felt like it. I ran into some women that had tried to hike Dog Mountain but said the trailhead was already filled at 9am. Coyote Wall is a little further east than Dog Mountain, but much less crowded, offers great views and wildflowers in the spring. It didn't take long so I went to Hood River and had pizza at Double Mountain. Then, hiked Wachlella Falls in the Oregon side of the Gorge.
The trail exits to forest and continues up the old road that is now inaccessible secondary to the landslide. This portion of the trail is about a mile long. The trail re-enters the forest and remains amazing all the way to the summit. The trees are big and tall; there is a lovely creek and fantastic views of rock formations. Most of the trail is through quiet forest with soft ground made up of soft, freshly fallen needles.
The trailhead for this hike is 2 hours from Portland near Molalla. Surprisingly, the mountain road up here is in very good condition, making it quite accessible. You drive down the road until you can go no further. The road stops at a mini parking lot, and from there, the trail starts over a landslide. You walk up this a bit and then the trail takes a turn into an old growth forest. This portion of the trail is short, but magical no less.
You emerge from the forest and get a great view of the volcanic rock field you're about to traverse. From here, you get your first distance views to the north. There was snow on this trail in the end of February. It was helpful to have our poles. Mary did this hike several weeks after us and said that this portion of the trial had become packed down and icy, requiring her to get by via butt sliding at several portions. In the summer, there won't be snow present.
We did this hike after a recent snow fall, but the day we did it, it was really warm out. This resulted in a lot of heavy snow falling from the tree branches, creating a beautiful/magical thing to see and hear. Everything was sparkling in the sun. It was great. We only saw 3 or 4 other groups of people on this trail, another plus.
This hike was fantastic. It head it all: old forest, large trees, a water feature, rock formations, great views. I highly recommend this. It's a new favorite, and I may even be back this summer to do it again sans snow!
Elevation: 1570 feet
Distance: 7.2 miles RT
This hike was recommended to me by my boss, Nick. There are several ways to get to this spot, depending on the length of hike you're looking for and what you want to see. We began our hike from Barlow Pass Sno Park. But before we could begin our hike, we had to help 2 cars that were stuck in the snow off the sides of the road. They were lucky there were 4 Wisconsinites who are accustomed to this sort of thing help them out, because they had no idea what they were doing. We taught them about how flooring it does nothing and the importance of the rocking maneuver to gain momentum. The hike starts out on the PCT and gently climbs and then descends into a valley. We did this hike the end of January, so we were in snow for most of the hike. You meander through a forest and the trees get larger as you go into the valley. At the Twin Lakes/Barlow Pass Junction, follow the trail towards Twin Lakes. You'll go left again at the next junction and follow a spur trail up to the left to get to Palmateer Point. Because we wanted a shorter hike, we reached our destination and then went back the way we came. You can make this a longer hike by going back down the spur trail (off of the peak) and then continue down the Twin Lakes trail which will meet back up with the PCT. Take the PCT the 4 miles back to Barlow Pass Sno Park. You can also start this trail at Frog Lake Sno Park and hike past the lakes first.
This hike was on my list of things to do since we did the Trout Lake Ice Caves earlier this year. I learned of this hike from the Curious Gorge book. However, I don't really consider the location of this hike in the gorge. The book lists the trailhead as 2 hours from Portland, but it's really more like 2.5 hours. The last 10 miles is on a gravel road that is in poor shape so it takes about 35 minutes to do this part alone. It's in the Yakama Nation territory so no other pass will suffice except for paying the $5 day fee. Go past Mirror Lake and park at Bird Lake.
This is a 5.5 mile loop hike and I recommend doing it clockwise. It's less steep this way and keeps the views of Mt Adams a surprise for the end.
The path starts by winding back and forth over a creek with an assortment of flowers. We caught the tail end of the display of wildflowers. Curious Gorge recommends going in mid-August. About a mile in you come to Crooked Creek Falls.
Continue on the trail until you come to a junction. Take a right and continue on the Around the Mountain Trail. This will meander through a few meadows and cross a few creeks with little to no effort on your part. Views of Mt Hood and eastern Washington will improve as you continue. At the next junction, take a left onto the Trail of the Flowers. Although the sign indicates there are signs to educate you on the flowers and geological features, all we found were signs telling us to stay on the path to prevent erosion.
After you turn left onto the Trail of the Flowers, all you have left until Hellroaring Canyon Viewpoint is about a mile and 400 feet of elevation gain. This is the most difficult part of the hike and it is really quite easy. During our hike, clouds obscured the sight of Mt Adams, but by the time we reached our destination, the clouds parted and we were able to see perfectly.
Continue clockwise to complete the loop. The trail descends quickly for about a mile. When you come to a junction, turn R and then turn L onto Bluff Lake/Bird Lake Trail. You'll arrive at Bluff Lake quickly.
After passing Bluff Lake continue the half mile back to Bird Lake where you parked. There is also camping available at this lake in addition to Mirror Lake (the one you pass while driving to Bird Lake). For our drive, we made a loop out of this as well. We got there on the Washington side of the Gorge and then returned by crossing the bridge to Hood River. This makes for a nice spot for lunch or dinner. We like to stop at Double Mountain for pizza. Take 84 all the way home!
With the recent arrival of our dear friend Mary, we decided to explore some new territory. We went to the NE side of the mountain upon the suggestion from a past patient of mine. We left Portland at 6am on Saturday and headed straight to White River Campground on a mission to get one of the walk-up sites. I had checked for reserved sites a few weeks prior and they were all taken. Because a lot of places are at higher elevations (hence snow) the peak times to visit are limited and spots get snatched up well in advanced. If you don't mind the gamble, you can take your chance at getting a walk-up. We arrived at the campground at 10am and we were lucky to find several spots available. We set up camp and headed to the Summerland Trailhead.
The trailhead is about 4 miles from the campground and it was packed. We had to park over a half a mile down and walk up. Despite the amount of cars there, the trail itself didn't feel overly crowded. As we were walking to the trail, Aaron got bloody nose and stepped on a dead squirrel. This, in conjunction with the toothpick-sized splinter stuck under his nail he attained from earlier that morning, resulted in a rough start for Aaron. But he persevered and is now a stronger man having survived these trials and tribulations.
The hike begins with a stroll through an old growth forest. As always in the Pacific Northwest, the forest is magical and inviting. It's layered with old trees that have fallen and with new ones just starting to grow. You can hear the White River flowing alongside the trail the entire time you're in the trees. You get glimpses of the river during your minimally graded ascent.
Three fourths of the hike is in the forest and is really enjoyable. Once you emerge from the trees, you come across a bridge that crosses the river. This is a great place to have lunch. You have a view of Mount Rainier and there are plenty of rocks to sit. The only complaint I have about this spot is that there are a lot of flies. Since we are spoiled in the northwest with an absence of bugs, namely, mosquitoes, it's even more annoying when you do encounter the tiny pests.
After crossing the river, you'll find yourself in a lovely little meadow of purple flowers with the distant mountain in the background. After hiking through this for less than ten minutes, you'll reach the most difficult part of the hike: switchback leading up to Summerland Meadow. That being said, we got through the ascent in less than 20 minutes.
At the top, there is a backpackers campground with a bathroom available. We rested a bit and took in the sights. We decided to continue on the trial a bit further. At which point we realized that this was the real climax of the hike. It was magnificent.
Continue the trail up the stairs, through the meadow of purple flowers, along the babbling brook to a welcomed change of scenery. The ground transitions into rock and you'll continue to climb until passing over another river. A majority of the rocks are a green color that I haven't encountered before. Aaron informed me that these types of mineral are rare and formed deep within the volcano. We also saw a waterfall which is the highest point I have ever seen one. You stroll past glaciers and finally come to a small lake which is turquoise in color and perfect for chilling the beer you brought with. Which is good because Rainier Beer is intolerable if it isn't served cold. After throwing back a few Rainiers, return the way you came.
That night we were treated to an amazing moon over the White River. I still haven't mastered taking night photos so it doesn't quite capture what we experienced. But it looks amazing no less.
The next day, we headed up to Sunrise Visitor Center. It's the highest elevation point you can drive to in the park. We took in the view and shopped for souvenirs. Then, we drove back down and around the south side of the park to Paradise. This place was insanely busy. We had to park a bit past the lodge/visitor center and walk back up the road. There are several trails that leave from this point that are easy considered easy in the spectrum of hiking, thus making it so popular (especially for families/kids). We hiked up Deadhorse Creek Trail with about a hundred other people. It's paved most of the way and winds through fields of wildflowers with Mount Rainier towering over the landscape in the background. Despite signs everywhere asking people to remain on the trail to protect the fragile meadow, people are gallivanting about wherever they please. It's frustrating to watch. We hiked up to Glacier Vista and then turned back around. Glad we did it but I won't hike from Paradise again. It's just too busy and I don't like going in nature to be around herds of people and small children.
DO: Explore the NE portion of the park near the White River. We barely skimmed the surface but this area was fantastic and less crowded.
DON'T: Go just to Paradise and expect to have any sort of a peaceful experience with nature. It is a zoo of people and it's distracting to the beauty. If you're with someone who isn't in good shape, this would be a better option since the trail isn't hard and paved most of the way.
DO: Carry a few cans of Rainier with you on your hike. It's fun!
DON'T: Expect the beer to taste that good, even when it's cold and you're hot.
Summerland to Panhandle:
Distance: 12 miles RT
Deadhorse Creek Trail:
Distance: 2.4 miles RT
National Parks Pass or America the Beautiful Pass
The first time we hiked Mt St Helens (MSH) was for Aaron's birthday last year (July 8th). We hiked it with Aaron's brother, Seth, and his lovely wife, Jennie. This year, we hiked with friends Maria, Jake and Nate. We arrived at the climbers bivouac (I love that word) around 7pm on Friday night after battling traffic. We got our fire going to so that we could cook dinner. It was a clear night and the stars proved to be shinning bright. Maria, Jake and I hit the hay relatively early. Aaron and Nate stayed up drinking beers, and I fell asleep listening to their alcohol influenced conversation about galaxies far away and "weird dark matter that is surrounding the universe and making it expand infinitely." We all got up around 5am on Saturday and quickly got to work cleaning up camp. Maria made us an amazing hot breakfast of potatoes and eggs with the works. We hit the trail at 7:11 and started our trek through the woods. From the trailhead, it's 2.25 miles to the start of the Monitor Ridge trail. Permits are required to hike above 4,800 feet. This is important: if you plan to hike MSH, you need to get your permit ($22) the day they go on sale. If you want to hike on a weekend in the summer, you need to get your permit within the first 10 minutes. They are limited to 100 hikers/day and they sell out fast.
Last year, we were on the trailhead at 6am. I would recommend leaving at this time. It makes for better views at sunrise. And, if you're a slower hiker like me, you will have plenty of time to reach the summit and get back down in time to grab pizza at the Lone-Fir in Cougar. The first portion of the hike is a 2 mile (900 feet) stroll through woods. Upon leaving the forest, you'll immediately happen upon piles of boulders, and remember that you're hiking the most active volcano in the Cascade mountain range. You'll traverse a few switchbacks and then hit the Monitor Ridge Trail. After this, any vegetation will be sparse. Pumice and sharp boulders, however, will be plentiful.
After hiking up an ash ridden ridge, you'll come across the boulder fields. At this point, ditch your poles, put on gloves with a grip and start climbing. Personally, I prefer this over walking up ash that slides under your feet. Views improve of both Mt Adams and Mt Hood during the entire ascent. You're quickly above the clouds so even if the mountains are unseen from Portland, you'll be lucky enough to keep the views.
During the hike, you'll go through several wardrobe changes. Both times, I wore every layer and article of clothing that I brought with. Weather changes quick on mountains. When we hiked it in 2013, it was much sunnier, however, colder. This year, we felt the wrath of the wind gods. I think it took us longer to hike because the wind would come on so strong, we had to hunker down and brace ourselves until it passed. We were also slightly delayed as Nate was enamored with the inside of a glacier. After completing the boulder field, you lie your eyes on the only thing between you and the summit: a steeply graded 1,000 foot gain of sand-like ash. It's a good idea to find a boulder in the distance as a goal to take your next break. Before you know it, you'll be at the top!
Take in the views at top and fuel up for the descent. A fun option is to glissade down the glacier. It is awesome. The best way is to bring up a large trash-bag to don as a diaper (just kick threw two holes out the bottom). You may have some bruises on your bottom (an actual bone bruise if you're Seth), but when are you going to get another chance to sled down a volcano?
After your hike, head to the Lone-Fir in Cougar to sign out that you made it off the mountain. Since Portland is a bit of a drive back, it's wise to eat pizza here as you will be famished. It's not the best but it doesn't have to be when you're that hungry.
After a year of anticipation, we finally hiked Silver Star Mountain! Our first attempt resulted in us getting lost on forest roads before we even reached the northern trailhead. This time, we decided to drive to the southern trailhead. The southern start is a little further of a drive, but the road is in way better shape than the northern route, and the directions are easier to follow. We arrived at the trailhead with minimal difficulty. The final turn is left on L1200, it's just after the Rock Creek Campground entrance. Follow this road 5.5 miles until you reach the parking lot. A Washington Discovery Pass is required to park. Make sure to get one ahead of time because there is no where to purchase one at the trailhead.
The trail is broken into thirds: steep and in the shade for a mile, flat and exposed for a mile, and steep and in and out of the forest. Each part is about a mile. This is a hike where you definitely want trekking poles: the path is made up of loose stone and the grade is very steep for a lot of it. There was a nice variety of flowers throughout the trail. I think that if we did it a few weeks earlier, it would have been even more plentiful.
The hike follows a ridge for another mile or so. The Cascade Mountains remain hidden at this point. Stay left at the first intersection. To the right leads up and over Pyramid Rock, adding a few miles to the trail. Continue on the ridge and it will start to climb steeply again. At the unmarked intersection, take a left. Continue up more steep trail and stay to the right (going up) at the next fork. There will be one more fork that you keep right at and make the final stretch to the summit.
The views are great. You feel like you're right in the middle of mountain medley, a cascade convocation! You're surrounded by Mt St. Helens, Mt Rainier, Mt Adams, Mt Hood and Mt Jefferson. We sat up there and enjoyed the view and our lunch.
You can do this trail either from the south or the north. We did the south trail. This tacks on an extra 1,000 foot elevation gain and the mountains stay hidden until you reach the summit. I've read that from the northern trailhead, you will have views of the mountains during the hike.
On the day we hiked, it was a bit hazy. I suspect the panoramic views are even better on a clear day.
I moved to the Pacific Northwest in August of 2012. I quickly identified myself as a hiker. I want to document my experiences so that I can refer to them for myself and others to provide the best hiking experience. I also hope to learn more about hiking from others comments and recommendations.