After my epic failure to locate the Old Baldy trail, I'd harbored a burning desire to launch a second attempt. I was pretty sure the faint path discovered at the end of my Squaw Mountain hike was the trail. I'd been pondering a return trip to check it out. Last Friday I had the day off of work. It was the perfect chance for another try.
|Mt. St. Helens peeps over the hills|
Although the day began cool and cloudy at my house, clear blue skies greeted me when I arrived at the trailhead. Perfect weather for a ramble in the woods! I located the path in question, and began to follow it.
|Yup, more rhodies|
I hadn't traveled very far when I came upon a small clearing with nice views of the forested valley and ridge. The top of Mt. St. Helens peeped over the hills and its snowy top contrasted nicely with the blue sky.
|It's not a hike without some rhodie pics|
And of course there were lots of rhodies! It's been a good year for them (or maybe I've just been hitting all the places where they're in bloom). I do love the way their pale pink blossoms brighten up the forest. You know me, a hiking trip report is not complete without at least a couple of rhodie shots.
|Is this sign really correct???|
After about a mile and a half of walking, I came upon a junction with an "Old Baldy" trail sign. The sign had the name of my desired destination - a good indication I was on the right trail. Well, that is, if the sign was correct. I haven't had a lot of luck with signs in this area!
But I also had a map and gps, and these both showed me heading towards my goal. So I felt confident I was on the right track.
|Bee visiting a beargrass poof|
Not only were there tons of rhodies blooming in the forest, the beargrass was out in great abundance. By midday I saw lots of bees buzzing around the flowers in search of pollen. I had fun trying to photograph the little insects as they landed on the beargrass tufts. The photo above is for my friend John, who loves to take images of insects on flowers.
|Mt. Hood view from my lunch spot|
My hiking guidebook said I would come upon a clifftop viewpoint about two miles in. I began to see rocky outcroppings that indicated a cliff. A few faint side trails led to small clearings, but nothing with great views. Then I stumbled upon an innocent looking trail that led to the most wonderful vista. Mt. Hood filled the northern horizon, and I could see faint white images of Mt. St. Helens and Rainer to the west. Wildcat Mountain rose like a large green ridge in the middle of it all. Rhodies encircled the sides of the clearing, and soft moss covered the forest floor. A perfect lunch spot!
|Promising trail sign|
After discovering such a nice place for a lunch break, I should have just turned around right there and headed back. But instead I pressed, on hell-bent on getting to the top of Old Baldy. After a mile of climbing through the woods, the trail ended in the middle of a heavily forested hilltop. This was my sought-after destination. Not a viewpoint to be found. Old Baldy had been woefully misnamed. This mountain was anything but bald!
|Butterfly on Old Baldy summit|
There's nothing more disappointing than reaching your goal only to find out it's not what you expected. Such was the case with Old Baldy. I almost turned right around and headed back downhill. But decided I to take a quick break and have a snack. While rummaging around in my backpack, I glimpsed a beautiful butterfly soaring among the small rhodie patch wedged into the thick forest. I grabbed my camera. The butterfly cooperated, landing on a nearby bunch of flowers, and striking a pose. So even though I didn't see any views, I did get a few good butterfly shots.
|Beargrass - and Bear!|
My return trip was quick. I'd taken a bunch of photos on the way up, so there wasn't a lot of Kodak moment stops. However, I was about a mile from the trailhead, when something caught my foot. It happened so fast, the next thing I knew I was falling face-down into the trail. My chin, glasses, and right wrist caught the brunt of the impact and I rolled into the bushes.
After my body came to rest, I slowly picked myself up, shaking my arms and legs to make sure everything still worked. My chin hurt like hell. My glasses were bent and dirty, but miraculously did not break. My wrist throbbed, but I could still move it. I looked around the trail, trying to determine the cause of my face plant in the forest, but saw nothing. (Roger later joked that I'd encountered a "trail snake" - the summer equivalent of a snow snake!)
I made my way back to the car, shaken, bruised, and grouchy. After two tries hiking in this area, with less-than-stellar results, I decided the hiking gods were trying to tell me something. Now that I've checked this hike off in my book, I don't think I'll be back!