Friday, May 18, 2012

Nick Eaton Ridge

Spring weekends are meant for hiking.  And in the spring, there's no better place to go than the Columbia River Gorge.  Winter rains fuel brilliant green vegetation.  Flowers abound, in many hues, shapes and sizes.  Swollen creeks feed a multitude of waterfalls.  What's not to like?

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

Bear provides the entertainment

My friend John is still in mountain climbing conditioning mode.  Last Saturday, he rallied the gang to hike up Nick Eaton Ridge.  John planned a route that traversed 14 miles, and 4000 feet of elevation gain.  Since I'm attempting to actually train for the Helvetia Half Marathon in June, and planned to run 9 miles the following day, I bailed out halfway and "only" hiked 8 miles and 3000 feet.

It's time for an uphill climb

But I joined John's group for the first part of the hike - a trudge up the extremely steep Nick Eaton Trail.  This killer path gains 1800 elevation in a mere two miles. 

But first John has to mess with his GPS

It didn't take long and everyone was puffing and sweating.  There's nothing like a steep climb with a heavy pack on your back to get that ol' heart rate going.

A chocolate tiger lily

The trail scrambled and switchbacked through viewless woods.  It wasn't without some rewards, though.  Terri spotted some rare chocolate tiger lilies hiding amongst the forest floor. 

Rest break with a view

After climbing endlessly our path came out in a clearing.  A rocky outcrop provided the perfect break spot. 

Incredible Gorge overlook

The views were worth that monstrous climb.  The western end of the Gorge spread out before us, with the Columbia River shining far below.

The Columbia River is way down there!

My hiking partners and I spent a pleasant 20 minutes taking in the views.   There was also some time spent eating and photographing flowers.

Mt. Adams makes an appearance

Then we shouldered our packs for the final climb to the top of Nick Eaton Ridge. 

Lots of trilliums

At the Deadwood Trail turnoff, I bid my friends goodbye.  John and company continued further up the ridge, and I took the downhill path to Deadwood Camp.

And bunches of these "unidentified purple flowers"

The path to Deadwood camp meandered through a dense forest full of blooming flowers.  I spotted trilliums, and tons of cute little purple flowers I couldn't identify.  They became known as "UPF" short for "unidentified purple flowers."

A trillium past its prime

One clearing provided a nice panorama of the northern Gorge, with Mt. Adams rising front and center.  Otherwise, the thick forest canopy prevented any views.

Alternative view of some fairy slippers

Bear and I reached the junction with the Gorton Creek Trail.  This well-graded path provides an easier descent than the Nick Eaton Trail. 

Lots of big trees lining the trail

It winds through a wonderful forest of large Douglas firs.

My pup is pooping out

Of course the flowers were out along this trail too.  I spotted a big patch of fairy slippers (also known as calypso orchids) and attempted to photograph them with my little point-n-shoot camera.  It wasn't the best attempt.  I need to start dragging out my "big girl" camera on these hikes!

Springtime green covers the Gorge cliffs

Bear and I ended our trek with a nice view of these cliffs as we headed towards the car.  The hillsides are covered with bright new vegetation.  Everything is so green, it seems to glow.  Spring has sprung, and it is all so beautiful.

Another great day in the Gorge!


  1. Just look at those views and the flowers. Love them!
    Strenuous hikes are great conditioning for running, I believe, or maybe they are a good excuses for me when I don't feel like running. ;-)

  2. The wildflowers...the's all so beautiful! Looks like such an awesome hike!

  3. SO pretty! It's really a treat to read your blog and see photos of places I'll probably never get to see.


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