|Fall colors in the creek|
Hamilton Mountain is located on the Washington side of the Gorge, adjacent to Beacon Rock. It's scenic 8 mile loop trail is a good workout. But ever since Washington State Parks Dept began charging $10 a day to park at the trailhead, I've passed up coming here.
|Rodney Falls overlook|
But Young, who lives in Washington, had an annual parking pass. Even so, neither of us had hiked Hamilton in awhile. And we both wanted to go there. So Hamilton Mtn it was!
|Large yellow maple leaf|
When I met up with Young that morning, the wind was gusting mightily. As we drove east through the Gorge towards our destination, it didn't let up. In fact, I think it got stronger. Hmmm....this didn't bode well. Our trail climbed up to the top of a very exposed ridge. A ridge that was breezy on a calm day. What would it be like today?
|Approaching the bottom of Rodney Falls|
Buy Young and I aren't ones to bag out on a hike just 'cause it's a little windy. We shouldered our packs and headed for our first destination - Rodney Falls.
|The "Bowl of Winds"|
A mere mile from the trailhead brings you to this amazing stair-stepped cascade. The upper portion of Rodney Falls is trapped inside a rock-walled bowl. A railed overlook allows visitors to peep inside this "bowl of winds." Churning water creates its own breeze as it roars through the rocky chute.
|Footbridge across the falls|
Then the water stream drops 50 feet and spreads out across a tiered basalt shelf. The trail crosses at the bottom via a sturdy log footbridge, giving hikers an up close look at this massive cascade.
|Lots of yellow still in the forest|
Beyond Rodney Falls, the path climbs out of a canyon and leads hikers through a delightful forest. Young and I were happy to discover a few splashes of fall color, still hanging on.
|And some sunny orange leaves|
Some pretty orange vine maple leaves caught the attention of our cameras.
|No easy way up|
And this trail sign with its "difficult" and "more difficult" choices, always makes me chuckle.
|Cliffs below Hamilton Mtn summit|
Soon Young and I were climbing up Hamilton mountain's steep switchbacks. From Rodney Falls, the trail gains nearly 1500 feet in elevation in a mere two miles. Even with a chilly wind blowing, my friend and I stayed plenty warm.
|Gorge panorama (click to enlarge)|
But - oh - the views! In many places the trail opens up to offer panoramic glimpses of the Columbia River below. In one place the vistas are framed by tall basalt cliffs. Click on the photo above to view it in a larger scale. You won't be sorry you did.
Reaching Hamilton mountain's summit, the wind was so strong and cold, Young and I didn't hang around. We immediately retreated to a protected bushy area below and had a quick lunch.
From Hamilton's summit, the trail meanders through a thick forest, before finally coming out on the high, exposed ridge. Young and I took our time wandering through the woods, not really looking forward to the wind blast that we knew was coming. On our way, we discovered a bunch of really unique mushrooms, and an enormous slug.
|Young getting blown away|
But you can only kill time in the woods for so long, and eventually my friend and I came upon the clearing. Donning an extra layer, we bravely stepped out into the wind tunnel along the ridgeline.
|Following the ridgeline|
Other hikers had warned us the wind was strong here. And they weren't kidding! The gusts caught our bodies, flapping loose clothing, and threatening to push us over. Our hands and faces began to chill. But the views from on top of the ridge was so incredible, Young and I had to stop for a few photo ops. We just held onto our cameras very tight.
Then, staggering against the gales, we gingerly made our way across the ridgeline. There were a couple gusts I though for sure would blow us over (especially Young - she's much smaller than I). But we managed to make it all the way across without turning into human kites. When we finally reached a more sheltered area, my friend and I staged a couple of victory self-portraits atop a beefed-up trail sign.
|More trailsign fun|
From the ridge, hikers have two choices - follow a winding abandoned old road, or take Don's Cutoff Trail, a delightful ramble through a wonderfully scenic forest. You can probably guess which route we chose. But before leaving, Young had a little fun with the trail sign.
|Happiness is.....a restroom on the trail!|
Don's Cutoff eventually connected back to the old abandoned road. And.....I was delighted to discover the state parks people had installed a deluxe porta potty here. What luxury! No hiding in the bushes for us! It was even fully stocked with hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
|Lovely Hardy Creek|
After our "little break" Young and I followed the road until we came upon a crossing of Hardy Creek. A pretty little streamlet, lined with alder trees and yellow underbrush, it made a for some nice Kodak moments.
|Explosion of yellow|
Finally, a connector trail led us back towards Rodney Falls. In past I'd remembered a boring trek through viewless woods. Imagine my surprise when Young and I encountered a massive display of brilliant yellow leaves brightening up the understory. It was a golden explosion in the forest. This late in the year, I certainly didn't expect to see so much fall color. But there it was, ready for our cameras.
|Heading back home|
Sooo......our return was sort of delayed by another photo session. But I think it was totally worth it. This was probably the last of the fall colors, and I wanted to be sure and capture it. Finally, packing up our cameras we rejoined the main trail, and wound back down to Rodney Falls.
|Evening shadows in the forest|
Passing by the falls, and heading back towards the parking lot, our friend the wind decided it wasn't done with us yet. It blasted at our backs all the rest of way, whipping our hair and clothing, and threatening to steal our hats. Ugh! We were quite done with the wind by the time Young and I arrived at her truck. Although cold and tired, we both agreed it had been a successful hike.
|Our reward - cheers!|
Of course there's only one way to end a perfect day of hiking - enjoying a cold beer. Young thinks of everything. She packed a cooler full of microbrews and a huge bag of kettle chips. And boy did they hit the spot!
Despite the strong winds that plagued us most of the time, it was great to get outside and explore Hamilton Mountain once again. I can't think of a better way to spend a day off.
Sharing with: Weekly Top Shot.