Hardy Ridge wasn't my first choice for a hike.
|The tiger lilies were out!
After a group excursion to Ramona Falls was cancelled at the last minute, I was hankering to go there. My friend Katie and I made plans to visit this trail the following Saturday. But then my car ended up in the shop with transmission problems (don't even get me started on how much that cost...)
So Katie became the default driver. All was well until we met that morning, and Katie complained of back pain. It made her uncomfortable to sit in the driver's seat for long periods of time. Ramona Falls was a good hour and a half drive, and she really didn't want to hike someplace that was so far away.
She suggested we try Hardy Ridge. Located on the Washington side of the Gorge at Beacon Rock State Park, it was a fairly quick jaunt from east Portland. Although disappointed my visit to Ramona Falls had been thwarted yet again, I smiled and told Katie Hardy Ridge would be fine.
|These water drops looked like diamonds
My friend John had hiked this trail the previous week, and gave a glowing report about the number of wildflowers blooming. Oh well, if I couldn't see a waterfall, at least there'd be flowers to photograph.
|The tiger lilies were abundant
At the trailhead parking lot, my friend and I observed a large group of people (it appeared to be an extended family) with many young kids pull up in multiple cars. Katie and I hustled to get ready and beat this group on the trail. Unfortunately, they began their hike at the exact same time we did.
|Tunnel of green
Not wanting to follow a large, slow group of people, Katie put on the afterburner, setting a quick pace down the trail. I struggled to keep up. Luckily the first mile was on an abandoned road, and although slightly uphill, it had a nice even walking surface.
|Loved these yellow "Oregon sunshine"
I spied some lovely orange tiger lilies blooming in the underbrush. Making a quick photo break, I managed to capture a few images before the group began to catch up.
And so it went for the first two miles, Katie zipping ahead, and me stopping to catch a photo or two, and then practically running to catch up. We followed the old road for a mile, and then turned onto another long-abandoned road turned trail. This one was totally overgrown necessitating a small bushwhack through the tall grasses and desert parsley.
The previous night had been a rainy one, as evidenced by the amount of water droplets covering the foliage. I initially wasn't planning to wear my gaiters until Katie commented that things might get wet. Now, charging through the waterlogged vegetation, I was thankful for my friend's advice. Despite the dampness, my feet and lower legs were staying dry.
|Interesting color of paintbrush
The flowers were nice along this second trail. Besides tiger lilies, paintbrush, lupine, foxglove, and some cheerful yellow flowers called "Oregon sunshine" decorated our path. It was very hard not to stop and photograph each and every one.
|Topping out on the ridge trail
At the next trail junction, Katie, who'd hiked this trail many times, warned me this was the place where things got steep. And, boy was she right! Our path took off nearly straight up. Katie charged uphill like a mountain goat. Panting and sweating, I struggled to keep up.
Although a tough climb, the amount of flowers blooming along this stretch helped lessen the pain. We came across huge fields of yellow Oregon sunshine, Indian paintbrush, lupine and larkspur. Katie spied some vibrant orange honeysuckle on a nearby bush. Everytime I turned a corner, there was something new and beautiful to admire.
|Foggy views from Hardy Ridge
Finally, my friend and I came to a small trail sign announcing Hardy Ridge. From this point, trails branched out in different directions, some heading back downhill, while others followed the ridgeline. Katie opted to continue across Hardy Ridge, promising me we'd get some nice views.
However, today was a typical cloudy and damp PNW day. Even though the weather was less than ideal, I could still catch glimpses of the Columbia River through the clouds and fog. Nearby forested hills and the Oregon side of the Gorge drifted in and out of view. The vistas along Hardy Ridge were indeed nice.
|Happy to be on top!
But parts of the ridgeline trail were thickly overgrown. That meant more bushwhacking through dripping wet vegetation. Both Katie and I began to get wet. Our shirt sleeves and upper pant legs (what wasn't covered by gaiters) became soaked. The higher we climbed on the ridge, the stronger the wind became. Although Katie had hoped to reach the other end of Hardy Ridge, we were fast becoming cold, wet and miserable.
So Katie and I decided to stop at an overlook about halfway along the ridgeline. It was past noon, and we were both starving. We huddled behind a small amount of vegetation. I changed out of my wet shirt (so thankful I always carry a spare!) and donned a warm jacket. PB & J, hot tea, and fresh cherries made for an excellent lunch.
|Katie pauses in a field of wildflowers
As we ate, I admired the view below. Not only the Columbia River, stretched out like a shining ribbon, but our panorama also overlooked Bonneville Dam.
Katie, who'd just celebrated a BIG birthday a few days before, commented that last week she'd taken the last hike of the 60s, and today was her first hike of the 70s. She is one amazing lady! I was honored to be the person to accompany her for this milestone hike. When I'm her age, I hope I can charge up steep hills like Katie does (with a sore back, no less!).
|Daises, specked with raindrops
Food really does work wonders on tired bodies. After filling our bellies, Katie and I were ready to tackle the return trip. This time, I got smart and donned my rain jacket. No more wet arms for me!
|Katie admires a tiger lily
The overgrown trail sections were much drier for our return trip (we'd already knocked most of the moisture off the leaves). We headed downhill at more leisurely pace, perfect to capture more of these incredible wildflower gardens.
|Droplet-studded tiger lily
Hands down, my favorite flower of the was the tiger lily. I took so many great photos of these lively orange blooms, it was hard to narrow down which ones to include on this post (hopefully I'm not overloading you too much!).
I'm so very glad Katie took me up Hardy Ridge. I came with no expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this wonderful trail.
Sharing with: Weekly Top Shot and Today's Flowers. and Our World Tuesday.