You probably know what I decided!
So I spent that night hastily drying my boots, pack, and hiking clothes. The next morning I re-loaded backpack and camera bag while waiting for Steve and Joel, part of the day's hiking group, to pick me up. We met up with Young and her husband John at the Dog Mountain Trailhead, on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge.
|Carpet of fallen leaves|
Dog Mountain is an extremely steep trail, best known for it's amazing wildflower displays in the spring. (Check out photos of the bloom here) Without fail I hike it nearly every May, but have never even thought to visit any other time of the year. Certainly not on a cloudy, gray, mid-November day.
The trail began with a bang, shooting nearly straight up from the very beginning. After slogging up it's relentless switchbacks for a long half mile, the trail comes to a junction where hikers have the choice of either taking the "difficult" or "more difficult" path. From many trips up the mountain, we all knew that the "difficult" route was also much more scenic.
|Snack break below the summit|
Young along with the men - John, Steve and Joel - kept up a strong pace. Not wanting to fall behind my photo breaks became few and far between. But we all stopped for a snack break about a mile below Dog Mountain's summit and I snapped a couple quick shots of the surrounding forest. Dense, moss-covered trees seemed to lean in, closing off any views of the sky.
|Coming down the Augsberger Trail|
Not that views mattered much on this gloomy day. As my group climbed the last few hundred feet to the first viewpoint, we discovered the river below cloaked in dense clouds. Not much to see here. I marveled at how different the famous flower meadows looked in late fall, the balsamroot stalks shriveled and brown.
Our group continued the steep climb to Dog Mountain's summit proper. Although the initial plan was to eat lunch on top, strong cold winds made us reconsider. Steve suggested we retrace our steps and take advantage of calmer winds at a lower elevation. So the decision was made to follow the Augspurger Mtn Trail until we came upon a wind-sheltered area.
|Wonderful golden leaves|
We found lunch spots to be few and far between. Hungry and ready for a break, my group finally ended up sitting right on the trail. Although on a busy spring day, this wouldn't have worked very well, today's hiker traffic was light enough that we only had to move out of the way twice. Everyone pulled out their thermoses of hot tea - except for Joel who enjoyed a very delicious-smelling chicken tortilla soup (made my mouth water!)
|The photo ops were many!|
Then it was down, down, down the not-as-steep Augspurger path. The men surged ahead, while Young and I took our time, occasionally stopping to admire the fall leaves (and take a few photos). They were quite colorful! I wasn't prepared to see such nice autumn foliage. What an unexpected surprise.
|One more leaf image|
When we caught up to the men taking a break, I whipped out my camera and took as many photos of the bright orange and yellow hues as I could manage.
|The guys take a break|
Returning my camera to it's bag, Young and I continued to chase the guys downhill. I marveled at the beauty of this nearly bare forest. I'd only ever seen it in the spring, green with new growth and wildflowers popping out everywhere. But this fall version was just as wonderful.
|Colorful oak leaves|
I passed a huge patch of golden oak leaves.
|Looking down towards the Gorge|
At one overlook, the clouds parted just enough to give me decent views of the Columbia River and steep cliffs of the Gorge.
|Lone backlit leaf|
This last little leaf appeared to be hanging on for dear life.
|Young admires the colors|
I caught Young admiring a brilliant yellow tree whose color appeared to light up the entire forest.
|The Columbia River is in view|
The last mile is always the toughest, and Young reminded me of our mantra - "Think of the beer!" The promise of our customary post-hike brewpub stop got me through the final downhill shuffle. By now my sore toe was beginning to ache (two days of hiking in a row was a bit much I guess).
Beer tastes best after a long tough hike! And it's even better when shared with good hiking buddies. Thanks everyone for a great day in the woods.
Stats: 7 miles, 2900 feet elevation gain