Monday, June 13, 2011

Hikin' Up Hamilton

Last weekend, not only did I manage to hike Dog Mtn, but on Sunday I joined friends Dorene and Chuck on a hike up Hamilton Mountain.  Sunday was forecast to be a nice (but hot) day.  I just couldn't waste such a good day sticking around home doing chores!

My companions at the trailhead

Hamilton Mountain is located on the Washington side of the Gorge, not far from Bonneville Dam.  It's a pleasant three miles and 2000' to the summit.  On the way, one passes a really cool waterfall, a huge rock cliff, and many nice Gorge views.

Balancing on rocks at the Rodney Falls overlook

Chuck and Dorene were trying to get back their "hiking legs" from a winter layoff.  I was still a little tired from Friday's hike, so Hamilton was just the right amount of challenge for us all.

Dorene and Chuck admire Rodney Falls from the bridge

After the first mile, the trail leads you to Rodney Falls, a very interesting cascade that is trapped inside a rock-walled cliff.  There is a railed overlook that allows visitors to peer inside the "bowl of winds" as the cliff entrapment is nicknamed.  From the bowl, the falls flows down the side of a steep rocky dropoff into the creek below.  At the bottom of the falls, a nice wood footbridge allows hikers to cross the creek and continue their climb up the mountain.

Another trail with "steep" choices

After the falls, the trail begins its climb.  At a junction your choices of trails are "difficult" and "more difficult" (just like on Dog Mtn).  The "more difficult" path to the top is packed with wonderful Gorge views,and is the route I usually take.  The panoramic sights help keep my mind off my raspy breath and aching quads. 

Dorene finds a couple of chocolate tiger lilies

The surprise this time was the abundance of flowers!  Every time I rounded a switchback, I spotted another variety blooming along the trail.  There were larkspur, paintbrush, desert parsley, wild strawberry, and one entire hillside covered in chocolate tiger lilies.  I've hiked this mountain many times, and never seen so many flowers blooming.

Girls by the cliffs
We reached the cliffs, which is a spot where the trail passes by a massive rock formation that creates a huge ridge along the side of Hamilton Mtn.  The vegetation opens up to frame a grand view of the Columbia River below.  And, best of all, there were tons of purple larkspur flowers blooming at the cliff's base.

View of Bonneville Dam

Way far below we could see Bonneville Dam.  Due to lots of spring rain, and recent snowmelt, the Columbia River was very high.  Water was shooting through the gates of the dam.  Even from far above, it was an impressive sight.

Hiking against the blue sky

Chuck and Dorene took off, bound for the summit.  I lagged behind, snapping photos of all the cool flowers lining the trail.  From the cliffs on up, it was one big flower show.

I reach the summit!

But I finally caught up to my companions just before the summit.  There were already lots of people on the top, so we took a couple of summit shots, and decided to hike a little further before taking our lunch break.

Chuck, Dorene and the grand summit view

But the view from the summit is glorious!  You can look east down the Gorge and follow the Columbia River past Bonneville Dam.  Table Mountain dominates the northeastern view.  And a tiny Mt. Adams appears to the north of Table Mtns summit.  To take in these wonderful views - this is the reason I hike up to high places.

Our reward for climbing to the top

Not far down the trail Chuck found a little ridge that was the perfect lunch spot.  We rested our legs and dug into our lunch bags.  Chuck packed up a tube of potato chips and being the nice guy he is, shared with Dorene and I.  After all that uphill climbing, we burned enough calories to warrant some chips!

Chuck and Dorene model their winter-white legs

The day was getting hot.  Sitting up on the exposed ridge in the sun warmed us up quite a bit.  So off came the legs of our hiking pants.  Dorene and Chuck joked about who had the whitest legs, but I think I was the winner (that's why you don't see me in this picture!).

Hiking along the saddle

You can make the Hamilton Mtn hike into a loop, which is always much more interesting than an out-and-back hike.  Chuck led us along an exposed saddle, which offered great views of neighboring Table Mtn.  Sometimes the saddle can be really windy, but on this day it wasn't too bad.  With the day's heat, we would've welcomed a little breeze.

Trail sign funny

At the end of the ridge, hikers have the choice of either continuing one mile down an old road, or taking "Don's Cutoff" which is a trail that meanders through the woods, eventually connecting back up with the road.  My companions and I chose the cutoff trail, which is much more interesting than hiking down a road.  But before we started down the cutoff, Chuck had a little bit of fun with the sign. He covered up some of the words so it read "Don's Cutoff Foot".  (The sign really says:  "Don's Cutoff  Foot Traffic Only." )

Rodney Falls

From the cutoff trail, another trail led us through a meadow by a creek crossing.  Then we hiked through a trail beside some beautiful alder woods that took us back to the bridge below Rodney Falls.  By now it was mid-afternoon and the area was full of people.  We lingered long enough for a couple of quick photos. 

A happy hiker on the bridge

At lunch, Dorene had mentioned stopping for ice cream on the way home.  By the time I reached the bridge, I was feeling hot and sweaty and ice cream was sounding mighty nice.  We all agreed it was time to hightail it back to the car.  With the promise of cool treats, we covered the final mile in record time.

Another wonderful hike with great companions.  It was good to get out and enjoy a warm, rain-free spring day (finally!)  Chuck and Dorene, thanks for the company.  I'm ready to hike with you guys again anytime!


1 comment:

  1. Pringles!!!! Awesome! What a gorgeous place to hike!


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