Friday, September 30, 2016

Blogger Meet up on Eagle Creek

2016 has been the year for blogger meet-ups.  In June and early July I had the pleasure of getting to know three blogger buddies, live and in person.  Then in late August, another duo I follow rolled into Portland for a visit.

 Meet Hans and Lisa from Metamorphosis Road.

Bloggers united!

Hans and Lisa live full time in their RV and travel the US, hiking and sampling the local brews (they're living the dream!).  I've followed their blog for some time now, so it was fun to finally connect.

Of course I took them on a hike!

Narrow ledge trail

When in Portland, there's one iconic place that everyone needs to experience - the Columbia River Gorge's Eagle Creek Trail.  It's so wildly popular the parking lot routinely fills up before noon.  To beat the crowds, I got Hans and Lisa up early one morning.

Dense woods

The early bird gets - empty trails!  The first two miles of our journey we had the place nearly to ourselves.

Rocky shore below Punch Bowl Falls

We followed the well-graded trail as it slowly climbed above lovely Eagle Creek, and passed by several tall basalt cliffs.  Moss and fern-draped trees lined our path, with sunlight struggling to break through the dense forest canopy.

Lovely Punchbowl Falls

The Eagle Creek Trail is known for its lovely waterfalls.  First, I showed my new friends the overlook to view Metlako Falls, shooting out the side of a far-away cliff.  Then I led them down a steep side trail to the rocky beach below picturesque Punchbowl Falls.

My "official" group photo

This is a gorgeous setting.  A large rocky beach leads hikers to a mossy grotto, where tall basalt cliffs frame this lovely little cascade. 

Colorful water reflections

Much photography ensued!  I even unfurled my tripod for some long exposure shots of the water.

More lovely green reflections

I really liked how the adjacent greenery reflected in Eagle Creek's waters.

These kids floated a log towards the falls

We met a group of young people hanging out on shore.  Despite the chilly morning temps, these kids stripped down to their swimsuits and waded into the water.  They found a log bobbing nearby and floated it towards the falls.  It was fun to watch their antics (oh, to be young again!)

Lisa enjoying the views

I could've hung out all morning at the beach below Punchbowl Falls.  But there was more good stuff to show my friends, so we climbed back out of the canyon and rejoined the main trail.

Bridge damage

Last December a strong winter storm damaged one of the bridges beyond Punchbowl Falls.  Rendered impassible by a fallen tree, the Forest Service closed the trail.  (You can see the intact bridge about a month before the damage in this post from last fall.)

Trail detour through the creek

But late summer meant low flow in the creek below, and an unofficial scramble trail had formed.  This rough path guided hikers around the closure.

Lovely light on the forest

So we continued on, past the broken bridge, through more thick forest.

More steep cliffy trail sections

Passing by more steep cliffs, the trail a narrow ledge blasted into the rock.

Lisa checking out the scenery below
Although the Eagle Creek Trail continues for six miles, reaching the amazing Tunnel Falls, we chose the High Bridge at 3.3 miles as our turnaround point.

Looking down from High Bridge

The High Bridge is named because it spans a deep slot-like canyon.  Eagle Creek burbles away far below, its banks hemmed in by high basalt cliffs.  We all enjoyed viewing the creek's waters from above.  Dappled sunlight made interesting patterns on the water's surface.

Interesting water patterns in Eagle Creek

Although I usually avoid the Gorge during summer months, I was surprised by the beauty, even though the vegetation looked a little dry (Yes, I'm spoiled - I'm used to seeing this trail during the wet seasons when everything is either in bloom or sporting fall colors)

Heading back across a talus slope

On our return trip, the closer my friends and I got to the trailhead, the more people we encountered traveling the opposite direction.  Past Punchbowl Falls, it turned into a regular conga line of hikers.  We arrived to an overflowing parking lot, with vehicles beginning to line the entrance road.  Time to get outta here - and find some liquid refreshment!

More steep drop-offs

We ended up at Thunder Island Brewery in nearby Cascade Locks.  Hans and Lisa are my kinda people - they like to hike and drink beer!

Time for liquid refreshment!

After attempting to capture a group photo by propping my camera on the adjacent table's napkin holder, we drafted our server into action.  He got this nice shot of us overlooking the Columbia River.  Great views and great brews - here's to a wonderful day with my new blogging friends.  Cheers!

Beers with a river view

I continue to be amazed how many wonderful people I've met through this awesome community of bloggers.  Safe travels, Hans and Lisa!  Hope we get to hike (and drink beer) again soon!

Follow Hans and Lisa's adventures on their blog, Metamorphosis Road.

Sharing with:  Through My Lens

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Huckleberry Hunting

Ugh, August.  Blazing hot temperatures......wildflowers beginning to wilt.......fall colors still over a month away.  What's the incentive to hike?

One word.


The prey!

These wonderfully sweet bits of goodness start ripening by mid-August, and by month's end are prolific in forests around the Pacific NW.  And the very best place to find huckleberries is SW Washington's Indian Heaven Wilderness.

Eagle-eye Young spots the first berries

No one loves picking huckleberries more than my good friend Young.  She's got a nose for finding them.  So when planning a mid-August hike into Indian Heaven, naturally I invited her along.

Busy bee

After a long drive down a dusty, gravel road, and navigation over a hairy washed-out area (super glad for my high-clearance Subaru), we arrived at the East Crater Trailhead.

Last of the asters

We hadn't traveled more than a few hundred yards from the trailhead when eagle-eye Young spotted the first ripe berries.  A harvesting session ensued - we'd both brought along containers for this very purpose.  I used an old Nalgene bottle, while Young packed a large plastic jar.

Scanning the bushes for berries

After a good ten minutes of combing the bushes, my friend and I continued our hike.  Young, jar in hand, continually scanned the forest for more berries, while I looked for wildflower photo ops. Plentiful ripe berries kept enticing us from the trail, and we succumbed to many "picking breaks."

Junction Lake

Despite the persistent huckleberry temptations, we did finally cover the two miles to Junction Lake.  The Indian Heaven Wilderness is also known for it's many sparkling water bodies, and this lovely lake is a favorite of my camera lens.

Trail junction

At the junction with the East Crater and Pacific Crest Trails (PCT) my friend happened upon the next huge huckleberry field.  Time for another picking frenzy!

Berry picking time!

Huckleberries resemble very small blueberries.  Their tiny size mean you have to gather a lot to fill up a container (in my case, a water bottle).  Despite the morning's frequent berry stops, Young and I's jars were barely half full.

Old PCT sign

Hanging out along the PCT, we happened to meet a group of northbound thru-hikers.  Young told them about the ripe berries, but those hikers seemed determined to cover miles, and weren't interested.

Follow the trail to Lemei Lake

I decided scenic little Lemei Lake would be our day's lunch stop, and persuaded Young to abandon her latest berry patch so we could arrive close to the noon hour.

Relaxin' at Lemei Lake

From Junction Lake, my friend and I traveled up and over a wooded ridge.  Winding down the other side, I was happy to see Lemei Lake's marshy shoreline peeping through the trees.  Aaahhhh......Time for a rest and lunch break!

Almost half full!

As we ate our lunch, Young and I discussed what we'd do with our huckleberry haul.  My full Nalgene bottle is usually just the right amount for a cobbler.  Young however, with the larger container, had plans to make jam.

Queen of the rock

Lemei Lake is such a scenic location, I couldn't resist a few photos posed on a large shoreline rock.

Now it's Young's turn

Young and I took turns being "Queen of the rock."

Looking for huckleberries

Lunch and photo session over, my friend and I continued on the trail, heading for more lakes and huckleberry fields.  We remembered gathering berries in past years from a large field just beyond Lemei Lake.  Hopes high, we eagerly crossed the lake's outlet creek and ascended the other side.

Scenic creek

But this year, there were no berries to be found......

No berries, but lotsa lupine

However, we did discover a huge field of lupine in peak bloom.

Another busy bee

Oh, it was gorgeous!  Berry picking momentarily forgotten, Young and I grabbed our cameras.

Young has a "Sound of Music" moment

It's not often we see large fields of wildflowers this late in August.  Young was so happy, she had a "Sound of Music" moment amidst the blooms.

Ultra-blue Clear Lake

Then we continued on our loop, past another ultra-blue lake until meeting up once again with the PCT.  A mere mile and a half would take us back to Junction Lake, completing the loop. 

Young's jar is almost full

But Young and I weren't going anywhere until we filled our jars.  This section of the PCT had the most ripe berries we'd seen all day.  A few stops along the way, and my bottle was full.  I pitched in and helped Young gather enough huckleberries for her jam making plans.

Huckleberry cobbler - yum!

Normally all I have to show from my hikes is a camera full of images.  But this time I also brought home enough huckleberries to make a delicious cobbler.  Not too shabby for a 10-mile ramble!

Maybe August hiking isn't so bad after all.... 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Paradise Park

After tackling McNeil Point on Friday, recovering Saturday, Sunday I was ready for more.  So back up to Mt Hood I drove, this time destination Timberline Lodge.

Mt Hood peek-a-boo

Another fave summer hike was on the agenda - a trek to the lovely wildflower meadows of Paradise Park.

PCT sign

The hot summer temps had given way to a cloudy, cool morning.  Weather in transition, rain was forecast the following day.  Not a fan of heat, I was more than happy for this fall-like weather.

Lupine everywhere!

Parking in Timberline's "climbers lot" gave me immediate access to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  Following it across the bare ski slopes above the lodge, I wandered past a huge field of luscious purple lupine.

Illumination rock emerges from the clouds

Mt. Hood, partially cloaked in low-hanging clouds, peeped out for a quick cameo.  I also got a few quick glimpses towards Illumination Rock, looking awfully barren for early August.  Quite a difference from last December's ski trip!

Lupine and Timberline Lodge

Looking downslope on the famous Timberline Lodge, I couldn't resist a photo of this brilliant lupine patch.

Nice rock-lined path

The PCT was well-defined here.  Not only nicely graded, someone had lined the path with rocks.  Timberline's chairlifts were still running too.  This ski area is well known for it's summer ski season high on Mt Hood's glaciers.  I saw a few ski camp kids heading that way, toting their boards.

Quick view of the entire mountain

Even at my early start time (unlike Friday's hike, I'd arrived by 8:30 am) the trail was busy.  I was joined by quite a few daytrippers - guests of Timberline Lodge.  And several backpackers passed me going the opposite direction.  Some were wrapping up a weekend trip, and others were hiking around the entire mountain on the Timberline Trail.

Newer PCT sign

But a few folks I met were hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).  I met several southbounders who told me they'd begun their hike at the Canadian border.  These people have my total admiration for attempting such a grand adventure.  Rock stars of the hiking world!

Little Zigzag Canyon

Leaving the ski area, I crossed into the Mt Hood wilderness.  The path dipped down across Little Zigzag Canyon's deep gully.  In past year's trips the running creek created a small crossing issue, but today it was bone dry.

Zigzag Canyon

Climbing out of Little Zigzag, I continued my hike across a series of forested switchbacks.  Then, the trees cleared, and I found myself staring into Zigzag Canyon's huge abyss.

Stream crossing Zigzag Canyon

Over time, the Zigzag River has cut a 700-foot deep chasm into the side of Mt Hood.  Hikers must descend down a steep trail to it's very bottom, and ford a gushing glacial stream.  Although I'm always nervous about water crossings, a series of strategically-placed boards made passage a snap.

Climbing up Zigzag Canyon's other side

Now I had to climb up the canyon's other side.  A long, tiring trek I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and before I knew it I'd arrived at the junction with the Paradise Loop Trail.

Beginning of the loop

Not much further to Paradise Park's famous flower fields!  I eagerly started up yet another steep, twisty trail. 

Best lupine display!

The back to back climbs were starting to do me in.  Luckily, there were huge fields of lupine providing distraction from my misery.

Paradise park flower field

Finally, the lupine parted and I found myself in the midst of the often-photographed flower field of Paradise Park.  Sadly, the prolific blooms I'd seen in past year's trips seemed to have taken this season off.  And Mt Hood also decided to hide behind the clouds.

Orange paintbrush

Still it was lovely.  I took a short break and chatted with a nice French couple who'd been backpacking nearby.

More lovely meadows

Bidding my trail friends goodbye, I continued my journey following the loop trail.  Another meadow had a bit more wildflower variety, and the low-hanging fog added some drama to my photos.

Scenic stream crossing

Passing by a small creeklet, a nice patch of pink monkeyflowers grabbed my camera's attention.  I stopped at a nearby campsite and took a quick lunch break.  As I ate, the clouds dipped lower, and the wind began to pick up.  Chilled, I opened my backpack and put on every bit of clothing I was carrying.

Wild-haired "hippy on a stick"

I needed to warm up.  Time to get moving again!  Continuing past the campsite, the forest opened up into a spectacular alpine meadow. 

Huge patch of magenta paintbrush

I passed by a huge patch of pink heather and magenta paintbrush.  Oh it was stunning!

Clouds parted for a few views

Although this high meadow boasts wonderful views on sunny days, I wasn't disappointed to be missing out.  The low clouds were fascinating to watch.  Every once and awhile they'd part, offering teaser glimpses of the foothills below.

Technicolor meadow

I crossed one fabulous flower meadow after another.  Although most of the wildflowers appeared to be past their prime, it was still a great display.

Trail through this alpine meadow

Finally, the Paradise Loop reconnected with the Timberline (and PCT) trails.  I had a long 2.5 mile trek across this dull portion before retracing my steps down Zigzag Canyon. 


However, this section turned out to be anything but dull.  I spotted more wildflowers, crossed under a shimmering waterfall, and chatted with another group of PCT southbounders, eagerly anticipating the legendary hikers buffet at Timberline Lodge.

Resting at the bottom of Zigzag Canyon

Climbing down Zigzag Canyon, my right foot began to hurt.  Although I usually hike in my trusty Lowa boots, today I'd tried out some lightweight trail shoes.  The shoes did great until I began heading downhill.  It was then I discovered my right shoe was apparently a tiny bit too small, as my outer toes were rubbing against the end. 

No mountain views on the return trip

But...after reaching the bottom of Zigzag Canyon, most of the final 2.5 miles of this trail were uphill.  Other times I might have complained about ending my hike with a climb, but today it was totally okay.  Uphill steps would keep my toes away from the rubbing end of the shoe.

Glad to see Timberline Lodge again!

The final miles of any hike are always the longest, and today's trek was no exception!  I was never so happy to see Timberline Lodge come into view.  Although I had a bad case of "horse in the barn" syndrome by then, I still couldn't resist one last photo of this amazing patch of lupine near trail's end.

Two hikes in one weekend!  That's my idea of time well spent. :)

Stats:  12.5 miles round-trip, 2300 feet elevation gain.