Sunday, July 29, 2012

Unexpected Soggy Hike

It's time again for another edition of New Hike Friday!  And today's winner . . . the Upper Salmon River Trail.  Earlier in the summer I'd hiked the lower portion of this same trail.  Now it was time to explore the upper reaches.

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

Trailhead sign swallowed by the rhodies

The Salmon River Trail stretches a total of 14.5 miles from the lower portion, just south of the town of Zigzag, to it's termination, near Trillium Lake on Mt. Hood.  With a car shuttle, it's possible to hike the entire thing one-way (which I'd really like to do someday).  But today it was just Bear and I, so we headed toward the upper section, accessed from a maze of Forest Service Roads near Trillium Lake.

Waterlogged tiger lily

My old Sullivan hiking book (circa 1994) described a 6-mile loop.  Starting on the Salmon River Trail, after 0.6 of a mile I would detour onto the Dry Lake and then the Fir Tree Trails.  After 2.5 miles on these paths I'd intersect again with the Salmon River Trail, and follow it the rest of way back to my car.

Log bridge crossing

The weather report predicted sunny weather for Friday, so I went ahead and took the day off.  Imagine my surprise when I woke Friday morning to wet, cloudy skies.  Foiled by the weatherman again!  But I'd made my plans, and wasn't going change them now.  After making sure my raingear was in the car, I loaded up Bear and headed to the mountain.

This trail was anything but dry!

Driving through alternating mist and heavy rain, I began to doubt my decision.  But by the time I reached the trailhead, moisture had quit falling from the sky.  A good omen!  Or so I thought anyway...

Midway creek crossing

The first portion of the Salmon River Trail was an absolute delight.  There were flowers blooming, including some lovely tiger lilies.  We crossed a clear, bubbling stream on a nice log bridge.  The trail was wide and nicely graded.  And the rain held off.

Yep we were definitely in the wilderness!

Then my dog and I came upon the first junction with the Dry Lake Trail.  It looked a little bit overgrown, but the directions in the book said to take it, so away we went.  I didn't go very far when I ran into the first obstacle.  Rhodie bushes had grown over the entire trail.  The only way to continue was to push through them.  So that's what I did.  And as I crashed through the bushes, the leaves, still wet from the morning's rain gave me a nice shower.

Soggy doggy

I kept running into more and more bushes covering my path.  The trail was totally overgrown.  And every vegetative obstacle I encountered gave me a nice dousing as I tunneled through.  My shirt and pants began to get soaked.  Luckily, I'd thought to put my gaiters on, so my boots and socks stayed dry (the smartest thing I'd done that day).  After a half mile of busting through wet shrubbery, I finally got smart and donned my rain jacket.

Can you find the trail?

With so much vegetation blocking the path, navigation was tough.  I totally lost the trail twice.  And both times, I backtracked and Bear ended up finding the way.  My doggy saved the day!  He's better than a gps.  In one area, unsure if I was on the right track, I looked up and saw a "wilderness boundary" sign up in the tree.  I had to laugh - yep it was indeed wilderness!  But the sign confirmed that I was still on the trail (faint as it may be).

Washington Lily

After a mile of tunneling through the wet forest, I was relieved to come upon a trail sign.  It was the junction of the Dry Lake and Fir Tree trails.  Now it was a mile and a half downhill to the Salmon River Trail.  I looked ahead to the Fir Tree Trail, hopeful that it wasn't as bad as the one I'd just come from.

Happy to be back on a real trail

But the Fir Tree trail was worse!  Much worse.  The tread was fainter, the bushes more dense.  I got lost again and again, only to be helped by Bear (good dog!).  Not only busting through wet leaves, I hit every spiderweb stretched across my path (most of them in my face - ewwwww!!)  Finally, I ended up in a boggy area, where someone had tied pink survey tape into the trees.  I realized this tape marked the trail (or where it was supposed to be).  I started to follow the tape, but it took me through such dense woods, I began to fear getting lost.

Vine maple leaves already turning

What to do?  By my estimation, I'd traveled about a mile and a half.  I was probably less than a mile from the Salmon River Trail.  But the trail had vanished, replaced by pink ribbons in the trees.  The chances of getting lost were high.  But I didn't really want to turn around and hike all the way back through the wet bushes again. 

But I also didn't want to end up on the news.  So I made the difficult decision to turn around and head back the way I came, down a known path (faint though it was). 

Finally hiking on a real trail

My return trip wasn't any better than the initial trek.  The bushes were still wet (I think they saved the last bit of moisture for me).  The spiders must've worked fast, 'cause I hit a bunch more icky webs.  I again lost the trail a few more times, and was saved by Bear (good doggie!).  But we finally made it back to our first junction.  I was never so happy to see that Salmon River Trail sign! 

Bear and I were totally soaked.  My rain jacket and gaiters had kept parts of me dry, but my pants were sopping wet.  Water was starting to soak through my backpack too.  But the sun was trying to come out, and I knew things would dry.  I'd come to hike the Salmon River Trail, and now that's what I was gonna do.

Huge log across the trail made us turn around

After fighting through the underbrush, it was so nice to hike on a good trail!  The upper trail was absolutely wonderful.  It led me down a gentle grade.  After a mile, I could hear rushing water.  The trail began to follow the Salmon River, far below.  The woods thickened, and I began to see larger old-growth Douglas fir and red cedar trees.  Bear and crossed a couple of pretty burbling creeks.  I even saw a few of the beautiful but rare Washington Lilies.

Interesting plant

 Bear and I continued down this wonderful trail.  Then we came across a huge blowdown tree totally blocking our path.  I could've scrambled over top of it, but I didn't think Bear would be able to jump over (he's getting to be an old dog).  I took it as a sign that we'd gone far enough for the day.  Time to head back!

Roadside tiger lily

The only bad thing about starting out downhill was you have to climb back out on your return trip.  But the trail was so nice I didn't mind.  Before I knew it, we were back at my car.  And my pants had almost completely dried. 

On my drive back to the highway, I discovered a huge patch of tiger lilies growing along the side of the road.  You know me, I just had to stop and photograph them.  So I'll end this story with one of my tiger lily photos.

The lesson for today - never trust trail directions from a book published in 1994.  That is, unless you like adventure (and getting wet). 

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Time for the weekly 52 Photos Project challenge!  This week's prompt is white.

Yep, white.  The color white.  You know, that's an easy topic for me.  The avid skier that I am, I've got oodles of photos featuring lovely white snow.  The only hard part - which one to choose?

I finally settled on this shot, taken last February during my ski photography class.  I caught this snowboarder mid-spray as he was charging through the powder.  This was one of my instructor's favorite photographs.  He said I did a great job capturing the action.

So for all of you suffering in the summer heat, here's a cool snowy scene.  Close your eyes and imagine yourself on an icy ski slope.  Aaahhhhh..... this makes me wish for winter. 

Check out the 52 Photos Project Gallery 14 for more creative images.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Racing in the Nike Kingdom

I live within walking distance of the Nike World Headquarters.  It's a huge, impressive campus.  All the buildings, gleaming white with sparkling blue windows, look like castles.  The grounds are surrounded by a tall man-made berm that is impeccably landscaped.  We locals refer to it as the "Nike Kingdom."

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

Just Do It

A couple of weeks ago, Nike sponsored a 5K race on their campus.  It was called the "Bowerman AC 5K" in honor of Bill Bowerman, the legendary U of O track coach, who along with Phil Knight, co-founded this shoe giant.  Not a speedy runner, I usually avoid short distance races.  But this race attracted my attention because  1. it was close to home,  2. the price was right, and  3. they had a good t-shirt (Nike dri-fit of course!).  But also $5 of every race entry went to a good cause - the Achon Uganda Children's Fund.

The Tiger Woods Center

Julius Achon grew up desperately poor in Uganda.  As a teenager, he began running.  He entered a race in a nearby town, but unable to find transportation, ran the entire 42 miles to the town, then competed in, and won all three races he entered.  His talents caught the eye of college recruiters in the US.  He attended college and ran in the states, but also represented his native country twice in the Olympics.  He now works for Nike, saving every extra penny to send home to Uganda.  His foundation is raising money to build a hospital in his home village.  The January 2012 issue of Runner's World ran an excellent article on Achon which you can read here.

Goofy starting line photo

This race was unusual as it was held in the evening.  The day of the race was a typical hot summer day, but by evening the sky clouded up and the air became super-humid.  My marathon training schedule that week had me down for a 13 mile long run.  In order to get my miles in, I ran 10 that morning on the trails in nearby Forest Park, but saved the final 3.1 for the race.  I hoped the combination of the morning's long run and the night's muggy weather wouldn't totally do me in.

Pre-race pep talk by Julius Achon (in red next to the start sign)

About an hour before race time, my hubby and I walked over to Nike HQ.  Although I regularly run on a 2-mile trail that circles the campus, this was the first time I'd ever set foot inside the berm.  The place was as beautiful and perfect as I'd expected.  We stopped by the Tiger Woods Center (all the buildings are named after famous sports heroes) just to go inside and check it out (oh - and also to use the restroom!)

I shoved my big DSLR camera in my poor hubby's hands and gave him quick directions on how to use it.  Then I ran a couple of warm-up laps around the parking lot, trying to coax my legs, stiff from this morning's run, into carrying me a couple more miles.  After that I ambled over to the starting line. Time to get this thing going! 

Annndddd.... they're off!

Julius Achon himself was there to give us runners a pre-race pep talk.  He had a great sense of humor.  Julius said "when I was young I had to run 42 miles to my first race.  All you have to run is 3.1"  He then fired the starting gun, and the runners were off!

Runners head down the campus road

Our race course followed the road circling the Nike campus.  We were to travel 1 3/4 times around this road, then turn off towards the finish line, located in a mid-campus plaza.  From the very start, the muggy weather enveloped me, sucking what little energy I had.  The first mile was a struggle.  I felt as if I was running through quicksand.  But as I sped by the mile marker, a man reading our splits called out 8:18.  Really?  That's pretty fast for little ol' me.

Halfway point

The second mile, I struggled to keep that fast (for me anyway) pace.  But judging by the number of times I got passed, I must've slowed down.  I amused myself by taking in the sights along the ring road.  Instead of the usual pedestrian crosswalk sign of a stick figure walking, Nike had signs showing stick men running.  The speed limit signs dictated a "14.5 mph" max speed.  Huh?  And, most interesting of all, on the guide signs pointing the way to the different campus buildings, one name was covered with black tape.  I later figured out it was the soon-to-be-renamed Joe Paterno Child Development Center.

A strong finish

I hit my second mile still averaging an 8:30 pace.  So in the final mile, I tried my best to hold on and finish under 30 minutes.  I put out a good kick, and crossed the line in 26:13.  I found out later this time was a PR for me (at least a post-age-40 PR).  Not too bad for a muggy July night!

Roger caught my finish and got one good photo of me motoring in.  After drinking tons of water and walking around a bit, we headed over to the large courtyard between the campus buildings to enjoy a live band and watch the awards.

At the time, I was too busy enjoying all the festivities, but later I realized I should've taken a bunch more photos of the Nike Campus.  It's not everyday we commoners are allowed into the Nike Kingdom.  Since I've no more photos to share with you here, I guess it just means I'll either have to sneak back onto the campus during one of my runs, or sign up to run this race again next year!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sometimes Getting Lost Can be a Good Thing...

I'd heard the flowers were blooming up on Silver Star Mountain.  Having missed the show last year, I was determined not to let it pass me by again.  I recruited my friends, Young and John to join me for this latest adventure.

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

The hike started out on an old road

Silver Star Mountain is a nondescript bare ridge east of Vancouver, WA.  In 1902, a huge forest fire (the largest in Washington history) swept over its slopes.  After the fire, trees failed to reseed on the mountain's barren slopes.  The sunny, open ridges provided a perfect environment for wildflowers to flourish.  Every July Silver Star and its surrounding hills burst with color.  There isn't a better place to see so many different floral varieties.  Check out a blog post from my last Silver Star Mtn visit here.

Beargrass and Mt. St. Helens

As expected, Silver Star Mountain is a popular hiking destination.  Visitors have many trail choices. There's the Grouse Vista trailhead, on the mountain's south side, by far the quickest and easiest route.  There's the Bluff Mountain trail, north of the mountain, accessible by an extremely long, nasty gravel road.  And there's Ed's Trail, a path closer in that takes one straight through the best of the wildflower meadows.  Although a popular trail, the price of admission is high.  One must travel an ugly pothole-ridden gravel road to reach the trailhead.

The paintbrush was going strong

But Ed's Trail is without doubt my favorite place on Silver Star Mountain.  I convinced John and Young this was where we should go.  Only one problem - I wasn't 100 percent sure how to get there.  Two years had passed since I'd been to Ed's trail, and on that trip someone else did the driving.  Last time John and Young had tried to reach Ed's Trail, they'd gotten lost.  We had the directions in our Sullivan hiking book - surely we couldn't go wrong with that.  With book in hand, and John driving, we entered the maze of gravel forest service roads.

Snack break on a talus slope

John's truck bounced along on the awful pothole-filled dirt road.  We drove for what seemed like eons.  Hardly any of the roads were marked, making navigation extremely difficult.  Young directed John down one gravel lane, and after traveling for 10 minutes with no trailhead in sight, we were forced to backtrack.  Jolting along another unnamed road, my friends and I kept thinking our destination was "just around the next bend."  But after rounding nearly 15 bends, it became apparent we'd missed a turn somewhere.

The wonderful view

Both Young and I needed a bathroom break badly, and bumping along on this terrible road wasn't helping matters.  Finally, John pulled over and we ladies both ducked into the bushes.  I then pulled out my Forest Service map, which was tucked away in my backpack in the pickup bed (heaven forbid I keep it up in the cab with me so we could navigate!)

Technicolor hillside

About this time a car came creeping by.  We flagged it down and asked the guys inside how to get to Ed's Trail.  They chuckled and said "Ed's Trail?  It's back down that road about nine miles.  You're about a mile away from the Bluff Mountain trail."  Consulting my map, I quickly located our current position.  Sure enough - Bluff Mtn trailhead wasn't far.  Where did we go wrong?

Path through the flowers

After traveling such a long distance down this crappy road, and wasting almost two hours, John was not ready to do any more driving (not that I blame him!).  He suggested we follow the men in the car and hike the Bluff Mountain Trail instead.  I grudgingly agreed, though secretly disappointed.  I'd had my heart set on a trip through Ed's Trail.

Lots of Mt. Hood views

I'd hiked the Bluff Mountain trail once before several years ago.  Although I remembered it was a beautiful flower-filled path, I also recalled a long trek to Silver Star.  I think the round-trip distance was something like 14 or 15 miles.  That's a long distance for a day hike (for me anyway).  But John and Young had never been here, and were excited to try out a new trail.  Besides John told me, it wasn't like we had to go all the way to Silver Star Mountain.  Our group could turn around whenever we wanted.

Path through another talus slope

From the trailhead, the first two miles of the Bluff Mtn Trail follow an old road that hugs the top of a ridge. The lack of trees meant there were views from the very start. My companions quickly spotted Mt. Adams snowy summit, and a short time later, Mt. Hood started to make its appearance. Right before the road transitioned into trail, it dived down a steep, steep hill. Young and I both groaned knowing this wasn't gonna be fun to climb on our return.

Looking ahead to Silver Star Mtn

The flowers began to show themselves in open meadows along the road. Bright orange paintbrush flourished in large patches. Young spotted a nice patch of beargrass further on, with a bonus view of Mt. St. Helens. But the floral parade really got going once we left the road and started down the trail proper. The hillsides were a kaleidoscope of color. Paintbrush, lupine, beargrass, penstemon, and a ton of yellow flowers I couldn't identify decorated the open slopes.

Weather beaten trail sign

 Because trees were scarce this hike afforded continuous views of the surrounding hills and mountains. From the road, the trail traverses the side of Bluff Mountain, winds across pointy-topped Little Baldy, finally following the crest of a rocky ridgeline until it intersects with Silver Star's steep slopes. The panorama of bare peaks and forested valleys was impressive.  Little Baldy's pyramid top acted like a beacon, providing a landmark. Once we crossed Little Baldy, Silver Star Mountain's twin summits guided us on. The horizon was always dotted with one or more white-capped Cascade peaks - Hood, Adams, St. Helens, and even a fuzzy Mt. Rainer. John amazed us all by spotting the Columbia River from one vantage point.

I found a few tiger lilies

The only bad thing about hiking on an open ridge line was the lack of shade. Summer finally arrived in the PNW, and it came with a vengeance. Temps were climbing into the high 80s by afternoon. Now to the rest of the country that's been stuck in a heat wave, high 80's probably doesn't seem very hot. But to us Northwesterners who've endured a cool, wet spring, it might as well have been 100 degrees. Not used to hiking in the blazing sun, a little more shade would've been helpful. But we sucked down more water and soldiered on.

Marching through the wildflowers

I enjoy hiking with Young. She loves to take pictures as much as I do. With so much wonderful photographic material available, forward progress slowed to a crawl. Poor John. He did a lot of standing around waiting for us. But he was super-patient!

Paintbrush lines the trail

The trail wound around the side of Bluff Mountain, through a short forested area (with heavenly shade!) and then back out in the bright sun onto Little Baldy's open talus slopes. The rocks seemed to only help intensify the temperature. But the wonderful scenery made it all bearable.

Beargrass close up

Another great thing about the Bluff Mountain trail, we didn't encounter many other people. The long bumpy drive to its trailhead naturally weeds away all but the most determined hikers (well, and those of us who get lost on the way to another place!) We leapfrogged with a group of three men (the same people in the car we'd earlier asked directions from) and met a couple of very unprepared groups on our way back, but that was it. In comparison, when the flowers are out, Ed's Trail is usually crawling with people. It was nice to enjoy the flower fields and views without hordes of hikers.

Hood was always over our shoulder

The heat and frequent photo stops dug into our hiking time, and before I knew it my watch read three o'clock and we were still over a mile from Silver Star's summit. John's gps said we'd traveled almost six miles. Knowing we'd have to cover this same distance to get back, we made a group decision to turn around before it got too late. Silver Star would have to wait for another day.

My hiking companions

So back we trudged in the heat, through the talus, the wildflower fields, the wonderful shady woods, until we reached that long rocky old road. And the hill. As Young and I predicted, climbing that hill in the hot sun at the end of a long hike was not fun. The road seemed to go on forever. All I could think about was the promise of a cold microbrew when we finally reached civilization.

Incredible view for an incredible day

But as we headed back to John's truck, the group deemed this a wildly successful hike.  My friends were really impressed with the trail. They liked the wide open views and the thick concentration of wildflowers. And due to Bluff Mtn's remote location, we nearly had the place to ourselves.  All the amenities of Ed's Trail without the crowds. Sometimes getting lost can be a good thing!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


It's time again for the 52 Photos Project weekly prompt. This week's topic is growth.  What's growing in your neck of the woods?

In my backyard, there's a circular raised flower bed.  When my son was in high school, he put a greenhouse on this spot.  This structure lasted until he went off to college.  Upon taking it down, my husband discovered the footprint had left a bare circular area in the middle of our lawn.  We jokingly referred to it as our "UFO landing site."

But my hubby, the green thumb that he is, turned this barren area into a wonderful raised flower bed.  Every year he puts in tomato plants and a wide array of different flowers. 

When my son was home in mid-May, he bought a large packet of wildflower seeds and planted them all in this circular planter.  Later in the summer, I noticed a ton of thick, green plants emerging from the soil.  At first I thought they were all weeds, and asked my husband if we should take them out.  He refused to pull the plants, believing the "weeds" were mostly flowers.

The hubby was so right.  Last week the entire flower bed erupted in a blaze of colorful bachelor buttons.  My son is due back in town next week.  His timing couldn't be more perfect - the flowers should be at the height of their bloom.  Now he'll get to enjoy the fruits of his labor. 

To see more photos of new growth, check out the 52 Photos Project here.

And thank you everyone for stopping by and leaving a comment.  It's great to hear from so many nice people!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Old Trail, New Friends

Being a blogger, I've "met" many people, through comments on my blog and others.  But rarely do I get the opportunity to meet any of my online friends in person.

Back in May, a woman named Sue left a comment on one of my posts about the Barlow Trail.  I hiked this trail almost two years ago and blogged about my experience.  You can read the full story here

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

At the trailhead

In her comment, Sue mentioned she'd be visiting Oregon in July and asked for the directions to this trail. She wanted to hike a portion of the Barlow trail, and my blog post was one of the few sources of information she could find on the web. We ended up exchanging emails, and I sent her a copy of the hike description from my Sullivan book. Knowing how difficult it can be to find your way in a new town, I offered to accompany Sue on the hike. She responded back with an enthusiastic "yes" and said she'd be in touch closer to her trip date.

Manny and Sue enjoying the trail

Some background info: The Barlow Trail was established as an overland route of the Oregon Trail. This road, traveling up and over Mt. Hood, gave pioneers an alternative to braving the Columbia River's rapids in order to reach Oregon City. Parts of the Barlow Trail are still visible today, and have been turned into a hiking path. (Refer to my earlier blog post for more facts about this historic route).

Three happy hikers

About a week before Sue's arrival, we nailed down a hike date via email.  Sue also mentioned she'd be meeting a friend in Portland who would like to join us.  I started to think "hmmm I don't know these people, maybe I shouldn't go off in the woods with them by myself."  So I recruited my friend Debbie to come along by asking her "How would you like to go hiking with me and someone I met on the internet?"  Like the good friend that she is, Debbie agreed to accompany me on my latest adventure.

Fallen rhodie petals

The agreed-upon hiking day arrived.  Debbie and I met Sue and her friend Manny on the outskirts of Portland.  Sue and Manny had their own vehicle, so we took separate cars to the trailhead.

There were still a few rhodies blooming

Since my inaugural hike two years ago, I haven't been back to this trail.  But I still remembered how to get there.  It's very easy to find - the trailhead is located on a large gravel shoulder of US Hwy 26 as it begins its climb up to Mt. Hood.  We piled out of our vehicles, and got acquainted heading down the forested path.

Group photo at the old highway tunnel

Sue makes her home in Chicago, and Manny hails from LA.  Both of them are volunteers with the Habitat for Humanity, and met during a build in Thailand.  Sue and Manny have traveled to many countries and the US, building homes with this organization.  Habitat for Humanity was the reason for Sue's visit to Portland.  The following week she was scheduled to assist with a home building project in nearby Corvallis.

Manny was a very intelligent and handy person (and a very good photographer with his iphone!).  From our conversations, I could tell he was very good at fixing up or building anything.  Habitat for Humanity had sent him all over the world to participate in numerous home building projects.  He'd been to the Gulf Coast alone a total of three times after Hurricane Katrina.

Manny checks out the creek

Sue and Manny were fascinating people.  They had so many stories of places they'd visited building homes.  Such amazing experiences!  Sue said the desire to do something meaningful for her 50th birthday was how she came to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

Group photo No. 2 at Little Zig Zag Falls

Our hiking companions absolutely loved this forested trail.  Although the day was sunny (yes we finally got summer in Portland!) the thick tree canopy made for a nice shady, cool hike.  Sue and Manny loved the large Douglas fir trees, the forest floor carpeted with huge ferns, and the old rotting "nurse logs" with plants sprouting out their tops.  Debbie and I realized that we hike here so much, we take the beauty of the northwestern forest for granted.  Seeing it through the eyes of visitors makes me appreciate living in Oregon even more.

Sue and Debbie in the woods

I was delighted to discover that, like myself, my companions also loved to take pictures.  Our progress was slow, due to many photo stops, but I didn't mind in the least.  It's nice to have hiking buddies that don't mind taking "Kodak moments."

Manny strikes a hiker's pose

We climbed up the Barlow Trail, which is the very same road the pioneers used to travel over Mt. Hood to the "promised land."  The rocky, rutted trail is rough in places, and it's hard to imagine a car driving over it, let alone a Conestoga wagon.  It does however appear to be a perfect trail for mountain bikes.  We encountered a couple groups of bikers.  Luckily all of them were able to slow down before encountering us, except for one young kid who stopped inches short of taking out poor Debbie.

Roadside sign to the wagon chute

A portion of the old Barlow Trail was converted into a highway back in the 1920s.  Some of this old road has become part of the hiking trail.  My group came upon an old highway tunnel, preserved for hikers to pass through.  Above the tunnel, some of the original pavement still in existence, leads hikers to picturesque Little Zig Zag River, and Little Zig Zag Falls.

Pioneer wagon chute at Laurel Hill

Manny and Sue loved the river and waterfall.  It is a very lovely place, and Little Zig Zag Falls rivals any of the Gorge waterfalls.  Although the temperatures were getting warm, sitting beside the gushing cascade was quite refreshing.  Gazing at the base of these beautiful falls, I wondered to myself why I didn't come here more often.

Photo ops at the top of the chute

After visiting the falls, my group turned around and headed back down the trail, returning to our cars.  But our adventure wasn't over yet.  I still had one more short trail to show Manny and Sue - the wagon chute at Laurel Hill.

My hiking party at an Oregon Trail sign

Laurel Hill is a large, steep dropoff.  The grade is so extreme that some pioneers actually winched their wagons down the slope on ropes.  Others tied enormous fir trees to the back of their wagons, the weight of which to act as brakes as they slid down.  The scoured, rocky wagon chute is still visible today, and an interpretive trail leads people to the very top of this abyss to see it for themselves.  It is very chilling to stand at the top of this chute and realize that people in wagons somehow made it down alive. 

Sue becomes a tree hugger!

We closed our wonderful day with dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant.  The conversation was so good, we sat and chatted for a long time, almost closing down the place.  I could've talked with Manny and Sue for hours, they were such interesting and selfless people.  And to think I was worried about meeting these guys!

As I'd hoped, Manny and Sue loved the hike. Sue was very happy to be able to set foot on the actual Oregon Trail.   Debbie and I enjoyed the great company and the opportunity to show off our beautiful state.  

What a great experience!  Who would've thought that a blog post about an old trail would bring me together with two amazing people, who I now call my friends.

Happy travels, Manny and Sue!