Monday, October 5, 2015

Cape Horn Trail With my Son

I was cleaning out cupboards the other day, and came across a cookbook my son's third grade class made for Mother's Day.  Reading the first page nearly melted my heart.  It read: "This book is dedicated to my mom because she is the best.  She teaches me stuff and takes me on hikes." 

My son's 3rd grade class cookbook

My son Cody has been one of my favorite hiking partners.  He's always loved rambling in the woods.  From very early on, he'd follow his mother on the trail.  At the tender age of 10, I led Cody up Dog Mountain, a very steep, strenuous hike - the first of many trips we'd make to see the spring wildflowers.  Cody always loved identifying the trees and flowers, which led him to major in Biology, with a Botanical Emphasis.

My son and I on Dog Mountain - circa 1995-ish

Due to the demands of seminary and some health issues, Cody and I haven't hiked together for several years.  However, in late August Cody was home on break between his summer assignment and fall seminary classes.  I decided it was high time for us get back on the trail.

Beautiful trail sign

For the day's hike, my path of choice was Cape Horn Trail, on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.  A fairly new route, this hidden gem climbed a towering bluff boasting spectacular clifftop viewpoints, before descending to even better riverside vistas, mossy woods, wildflowers, and a wispy waterfall.

That's one big tree!

Our adventure began with a climb through lush bigleaf maple woods, complete with a few huge grandpa trees.  Cody, back in his element, began pointing out the different plants and trees.  Made me realize how much I've missed hiking with him.  I always learn something!

A few wildflowers still hanging on

Due to our hot summer, the usual flower show was gone, shriveled up in the blazing heat.  But eagle-eye Cody managed to spot a few holdouts - bright orange blooms hiding under some shady ferns (and, yes, he told me what the flowers were, but I've long since forgotten their name).

Lush forest

After a hot trek up a steep, switchback-y trail Cody and I arrived at the first of three breathtaking viewpoints perched on the edge of the bluff's precipitous cliffs.

First overlook

Panoramas stretched eastward to Hamilton Mountain.  The Columbia River, far below, looked like a wide blue ribbon.

Second overlook

A quick romp through the forest and we emerged at the second viewpoint.  This one gave glimpses of Gorge scenery to the west.

Highway perched on the cliff

I got a great view of state Highway 14, perched precariously on the cliffs of Cape Horn, a well-known promontory jutting over the Washington side of the Gorge.  That road must have been quite a feat to build!

More wildflowers!

After soaking in the vantages of viewpoint number two, it was off in the forest in search of the third one.  But it appeared the land managers were trying to close the trail to this last viewpoint, as the trail was covered in woody debris.

Old mossy trees

So Cody and I continued on, following an abandoned lane through pasturelands, before crossing a paved road.  Beyond this road, our trail resumed through a wide grassy plain before diving back into the forest again.  The gnarled, mossy maple tree trunks here were especially interesting.

Nancy Russell overlook

After a short walk through these lovely woods led us to the wonderful Nancy Russell overlook.

Not bad views for a cloudy day

Dedicated in August 2011, this overlook was built to commemorate Nancy Russell, a tireless crusader for preservation of the Columbia River Gorge.  She was instrumental in getting the Gorge designated as a National Scenic Area, preventing this special area from being marred by development.

Gorge panorama

The views here are grand indeed - one can follow the mighty Columbia, stretching eastward all the way to Beacon Rock.  One of Nancy Russell's favorite places, her family had an ambulance take her here three weeks before she died.

Good place for a lunch break

The lovely circular rock walls made a nice place for sitting and enjoying our lunch.

Highway 14 hiker undercrossing

After filling our bellies, Cody and continued our trek, climbing downhill towards the highway.  We spiraled down for what seemed like forever through thick forest, before finally spotting our crossing.
When this trail was brand-new, hikers had to scurry across the road.

The light at the end of the tunnel

But the conservancy who manages this area had since constructed a nifty tunnel under the highway, that safely ferried hikers to the other side.

Lower overlook was fantastic

I was delighted to discover a brand spanking-new overlook on the river side of the highway.

Mighty blue Columbia

This placed boasted even more great Gorge panoramas.  And these were much closer to the river level.

Out on a steep cliff

Winding through the forest, we became confused by a maze of unofficial scramble trails.  Some led to dead ends, others to overused areas that appeared officials were trying to close.  Cody noticed a path that he suggested we explore.  Tired of wild goose chases, I almost told him to bypass it.  But I'm glad we didn't.

Views of the railroad track below

The trail came out on a narrow point jutting over the river.  Looking down, you could see railroad tracks directly below.  We were on top of a railway tunnel, and once before I'd witnessed a train come roaring out, and chug down the tracks.  A fascinating sight, I was hoping we'd see again. trains today.  Oh well, the incredible views were more than enough.

Crossing a talus slope

Time to get moving again!  Our path switchbacked up a large talus slope, before meandering back into the woods a final time.

The waterfall is just a trickle

The cherry on top of this fabulous hike was crossing a tiny creek with a tall, wispy waterfall dripping above.  Usually a much larger cascade, the hot summer had taken a toll here too.  But afternoon sun illuminated the water droplets into a sparkling white sheen.

Our day's adventure ended with a hot, dull 1.3 mile uphill walk along a narrow country road.  Not a fun way to end a hike, but we put one foot in front of the other, and got it done.

Great day with my son!

What an awesome way to spend time with my son!  Hiking through the woods with Cody brought back many good memories.  Although he's now a grown man, I think I've instilled the love of hiking firmly into him.  Hopefully, Cody will fondly remember these treks with his mom - and I hope he still thinks I'm the best.  :)

Sharing with:  Through My Lens and Our World Tuesday.


  1. I loved these photos of the gorge from the WA side. I need to go over that side some time. Glad you had good hike with Cody. I'm sure you'll always be his special're the one and only mom he has. Such fun memories when we see writings from the past when our children were young. Hugs!

  2. Wow! Wonderful scenes!
    But the best was the letter from past!

  3. I am sure he wil alwys think you are the 'greatest' Mum in th world. What a wonderful day to spend with him, hiking around this very beautiful place. Love the many views, large tres, mossy trees and that was a gorgeous place to stop for lunch.

  4. What an awesome and totally sweet post! Lovely views, fabulous way to spend a day :)
    Blessings, Aimee

  5. Looks like it was a good hike, in so many ways. You have a beautiful son, who has a beautiful mom... inside and out!

  6. I too hate finishing walks on the road. Better the other way round.

  7. What a special walk. I can't think of a better companion to be on a hike with and what a hike. So many spectacular viewpoints. This will be a walk you won't forget.

  8. That first picture is priceless. And in that last picture, you seem to have shrunk - unless there is another explanation!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  9. Such a beautiful place- thanks for taking me along on the hike!

  10. What a wonderful hike! I love the variety and the views are outstanding! I don't think there are any bad views of the Columbia River Gorge!

  11. Just wonderful, Linda! I also melted when I saw that sweet note, and the pictures of this hike are simply stunning. I love seeing the two of you together today. Sending you some virtual hugs to reciprocate. :-)

  12. It's nice to know that the lessons you shared and the bonds your formed have lasted. Please link up at

  13. Belas fotografias gostei.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

  14. These are the kind of days a Mother holds close to her heart and relives now and then! The smiles say it all, I think he enjoyed the hikes as much as you...maybe more:)

  15. This was so beautiful! A mother and son sharing time revisited in such a wonderful way! Gorgeous photos! A day you both will always remember!

  16. Nice tribute to your son and a great hike. It's really quite pleasing to be able to do things with your kids when they are adults.

  17. Gorgeous views, Linda, and such a lovely place for a great walk! Thank you so much for sharing. Wonderful time spent by mother and son!

  18. What a lovely tribute! And what a fabulous way to spend time together. I love that first photo of the two of you, and the last one, too! As for all the rest...need I say once again how amazing your photos are.

  19. Linda, I love that you two have this bond. Isn't it wonderful finding those sweet memoirs of our children's youth? What a gorgeous hike. I love the moss and the couple of wildflowers! So wonderful that you got to spend the day together doing what you love!

  20. You almost make me want to cry with this post Linda. What a wonderful way to spend the day with your son. Loved the old photo of the 2 of you. You need to frame that one with the last one in this post.

  21. LOVE that photo of you and Cody circa 1995! How wonderful that Cody still likes hiking with you!

  22. Awww what a great Mom/Son day to have!!! Fun scenery and don't you hate those hot uphill returns? LOL

  23. That looks a great hike. A love of the outdoors is a great gift to pass on to the next generation as it's free natural therapy throughout your life in good times and bad and never lets you down.

  24. What a great hike with an awesome hiking companion. Wonderful views and photos!

  25. I love the old mossy trees and the views from the overlooks are spectacular!

  26. What a wonderful area that you live in.

  27. Another great hike with gorgeous vistas. It always makes me feel good that my sons still love to be outdoors, hiking and enjoying Nature. Now, we're all teaching the Grands!

  28. This post made my eyes well up with happy tears. While you look back at a memory of your son from 3rd grade, I think of my third grade son years from now, an adult like Cody, and how wonderful it will be to share quality time like this with him.
    I also have a biology loving son, Johnathan, who I'm reminded of. .he makes the best hiking partner, always looking closer at surroundings with me, while others race ahead. So happy you and Cody shared this great day!


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