|Salmon River near the trailhead|
Could I find a hiking companion crazy enough to join me? My buddy Young was game. She's the perfect partner in crime - tough as nails, and never complains (even when her loony friend suggests climbing a steep trail on a hot summer day)
|Fern-filled green wonderland|
We had a genuine challenge ahead of us - 11 miles round trip and 3100 feet elevation gain. With afternoon temps predicted in the high 80s.
The trailhead was located at the Wildwood Recreation area, a lovely park managed by the BLM, right off US Hwy 26. After using their wonderfully clean restroom, complete with hot water, soap, and flushing toilets, we decided that alone was worth the $5 entrance fee. (Best trailhead bathroom ever!)
Our early arrival meant we had the park almost to ourselves. The only other people were a group of women, all armed with expensive photography equipment. Striking up a conversation, Young and I learned they were from eastern Oregon, touring around Mt Hood taking photos of the scenery. One lady lamented that they'd arrived too late for the rhododendron bloom. I mentioned that I'd heard the rhodies were still blooming at higher elevations, but the group didn't seem interested in doing any climbing (I know.....not everyone is as crazy as Young and I!)
After crossing over the Salmon River on an impressive wooden footbridge, we bid the photo ladies goodbye. Winding through a lovely, green, fern-filled forest for half a mile, Young and I located the Boulder Ridge trailhead sign. Things were about to get real!
The climb started immediately. Steeply switchbacking up the the side of Boulder Ridge, Young and I slowly sweated and gasped our way higher.
At first we didn't see many flowers. Only thick woods of Douglas fir lined our trail. Then I glimpsed a few orange honeysuckle blooms and some salal. Then a scattering of lovely wild iris flowers. They were lovely, but I really hoped we hadn't missed the rhodies.
|Young admires the green forest|
After about a mile of climbing, Young noticed a scattering of pink petals on the ground. Looking up, we saw a few bedraggled rhododendron blooms still clinging to the bushes. At least we hadn't totally missed out!
|The forest changes as we climb higher|
Lucky for us, things just kept getting better. The higher we climbed, the more frilly pink rhodie flowers we saw in bloom. Young and I wished there was a way to tell those photography ladies what they were missing.
|More rhodie bushes|
Our path led through dense woods, with no views whatsoever. But about 2 1/2 miles up, the forest cleared to provide a rare viewpoint. Although the adjacent green foothills and ridges were visible, morning clouds kept Mt Hood hidden from sight.
|Detour around a slide area|
Time to move on! We had many more miles to cover and elevation to climb. As Young and I ascended, the forest changed. We wandered through one thickly wooded area with virtually no plants growing on the forest floor.
|Unusual colored leaves|
A landslide caused by a fallen tree forced us to detour around the unstable slope. But that was the only obstacle encountered the entire day.
|Finally a viewpoint|
About halfway, a second viewpoint atop a rocky ridge made for a good break spot. Not only were there great views of the adjacent forested hills, the trailside was also full of lovely wildflowers.
Purple penstemon carpeted one area.
|Nice rhodie bush|
While an adjacent bush sported some huge pink rhodie blooms (if only the camera ladies could see us now!)
Good excuse for some photo ops!
|The forest floor was bright green|
Then our trail dived back into another thick, mysterious forest, carpeted with bright green leafy vegetation.
My guidebook said when we reached a junction with the Plaza Trail, there was only one mile to go. I was never so happy to see this weathered sign - slowly being consumed by an old, mossy tree.
|Enjoying our reward atop Huckleberry Mountain|
After struggling up one last steep, rocky slope, Young and finally emerged on top of a bare ridge. We'd made it! Time for lunch and some relaxation.
|Avalanche lilies on top|
Although Young made herself comfortable and was content taking in the tremendous views, I spotted a huge patch of avalanche lilies, and couldn't resist a few photos.
|Our gourmet lunch - all that was missing was wine!|
Then I settled down beside my friend to enjoy lunch. Between the two of us, we had quite a spread! Young brought a thermos of hot tea and gourmet trail mix. I contributed fresh raspberries, salami, cheese and crackers, and for dessert a few of my favorite Trader Joe's gingerbread men. We joked all that was missing was a bottle of wine. Next hike!
|Mt Hood is trying to show herself|
The panorama of peaks and valleys one could see from Huckleberry Mountain was impressive. A fitting reward for such a strenuous climb.
Although clouds still hid Mt Hood from view, the bank started to lift during our lunch break. By the time Young and I were ready to leave, we began to make out the mountain's base slowly emerging.
|Path through the green|
Although it would've been nice to stick around and watch the mountain show herself, we had nearly 6 miles and lots of elevation to descend. Not wanting to get home too late, it was time to head back (besides, a cold beer was calling our names!)
|Finally we see Mt Hood!|
Although climbing is much harder work, descending is tough on my knees and feet. After a couple of miles of brutal downhill, my calves and toes were starting to complain. But another stop at the morning's first viewpoint momentarily made me forget my achy body. After being skunked on the way up, our return trip rewarded us with the view we were after - Mt Hood finally making an appearance.
|One last rhodie (just because)|
Then it was an endless trek downhill, through the last of the rhodie bushes. Although Young and I had seen only a handful of hikers all day, suddenly the woods were full of people. Who starts out on a hike at 3:30 in the afternoon?
|Beautifully carved benches|
The trailhead and it's lovely bathroom were a sight for sore eyes. Not only a good place to clean up after a long sweaty hike, there was even a drinking fountain with ice cold water (so appreciated since our bottles left in the car were as warm as bathwater). And tired hikers could rest their aching bodies on some beautifully carved benches.
I survived my second steep hike in as many weeks. Beautiful forests, amazing views and rhodies galore, the Boulder Ridge Trail delivered. Now.....time for that beer!