|This way to the summit!|
My friends Young and John had invited me to a post-hike beer fest in the gorge town of Stevenson, WA. They planned to hike Table Mountain, a very strenuous climb with over 3000 feet of elevation gain. My foot wasn't quite up for that, so I decided to visit nearby Hamilton Mountain instead.
|Looking down from Rodney Falls|
I had to do a little convincing to get Roger to come along, but the promise of cold beer afterwards sealed the deal.
|Crossing the bridge|
Hamilton Mountain is one of my go-to Gorge hikes. Located on the Gorge's Washington side, once across the Bridge of the Gods, it's just a short jaunt down Hwy 14. An eight mile loop climbs 2000 feet to tremendous views. A perfect trek for this lovely spring day.
|Oregon Grape (in Washington)|
The Hamilton Trail has a little bit of everything. Lovely mossy forests, waterfalls, birds-eye Gorge views, wildflowers, and a charming creek. From the trailhead, it's a quick 1-mile jaunt to Rodney Falls, a unique 50-foot cascade that emerges from an enormous rock cavern. A long, sturdy bridge crosses the waterfall's base, getting visitors close enough to feel it's spray.
|First grand Gorge view|
Once past Rodney Falls, the climbing began.. Roger and I switchbacked through thick forest, occasionally rewarded with a glimpse of the mighty Columbia River, getting farther below every time.
|Peek-a-boo through rock crack|
Since January, my hubby has been hitting the gym in earnest. By early April, he'd lost a total of 21 pounds. The payoff from these tough workouts was very evident as Roger quickly left me in the dust. I swear someone strapped a jet pack on him!
|Tall cliffs at midpoint|
About halfway up the mountain, the forest opens up and our trail passed by an amazing viewpoint. Steep cliffs dropped nearly vertically. The panorama of forest and river below was truly jaw-dropping.
|Expansive view from the cliffs|
Here's what our viewed looked like. Not bad, eh? A little reward for all that tough climbing!
Unfortunately, our climb wasn't finished yet. Nearly a mile of switchbacks still awaited us. Ugh! I puffed along, watching my hubby practically gallop up the trail. Luckily, there were lots of pretty flowers to distract me (and give me an excuse to take a photo **ahem*** rest breaks).
|At the summit proper|
But all that uphill trudging finally paid off as I puffed the final yards to the summit proper. Although the trail provides many great vistas, Hamilton's summit is sort of overgrown. You have to look over the tall bushes to get your views. No matter, we'd made it. Roger and I found a bare spot to sit and enjoy our lunch.
Instead of returning on the same trail, I always turn a hike up Hamilton Mountain into a loop. Some of the best views are along a high saddle directly north of the summit. After finishing our lunch, that's where Roger and I headed.
|Roger tries to photograph some flowers|
Prior to reaching the saddle, we passed through some second-growth woods teeming with wildflowers. The colorful displays even enticed my hubby enough to stop and take pictures!
|Red Currant (I think!)|
There were lots of these red, flowery bushes, that I think are currant.....you readers can correct me, if I'm wrong.
|Columbia River and Gorge from the saddle|
And then we popped out onto the wide-open ridgeline of the saddle. It's here you'll find the best views of the entire hike.
|Looking back across the saddle|
We could see across the Columbia to the Oregon side of the Gorge. I spotted mighty Bonneville Dam, spanning the entire river. And Table Mountain dominated the eastern skyline. We waved to Young and John somewhere on it's slopes.
|Trail sign fun|
Then, from the saddle, a mix of trail and old roads took us downhill to charming Hardy Creek.
|Wandering through the woods|
One final trail led us along this creek, through gorgeous woods.
Filled with more lovely spring wildflowers.
Finally, we ended up re-joining our original trail near Rodney Falls. Crossing under it's mighty cascade, I took advantage of good afternoon light to get a decent photo.
|Rodney Falls in better light|
By the last mile, my foot was beginning to ache, and I was quite ready for a cold brew. The trail roller-coastered a bit until finally settling on a constant downhill grade. A clearing for huge powerlines offered a final glimpse of the mountain we'd just conquered. Fabulous late afternoon light filled the sky, and it was too tempting not to get some final shots.
|Last expansive view before the trailhead|
Although my uber-fit hubby spent most of his time way ahead of me, I still enjoyed having him along on a hike. And now it was time to reap the rewards of our day's exertions.
Bring on the beer!
Sharing with: Wednesday Around the World and Our World Tuesday.