Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dog Mountain in November

While hiking Hamilton Mountain, I received a text from my friend Young asking "We have a group hiking Dog Mountain tomorrow, want to join us?"  Hmmm......two days of hiking in a row.  Could my foot (and my body) hold up?  It might be pushing things a little.  But I hadn't hiked with Young for weeks and really wanted to reconnect with my friend.

You probably know what I decided!

"Let's go!"

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.

Mossy forest

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.

Talus slope

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 time!

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


  1. Sounded like a bit of a arduous hike with out much to see but leaves. The views there you showed must have been stunning on a sunny day. No snow? looks like we beat you to it.

  2. Wow, the scenery, views and those Autumn colours are fabulous

  3. Que maravilha estes trilhos pela floresta de montanha.
    Belas fotografias de que gostei bastante.
    Continuação de boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  4. ...thanks for sharing this gorgeous part of your world!

  5. Hello, love the beautiful orange and yellow leaves. Gorgeous Autumn colors. The view of the river is pretty too. Great hike and photos. Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

  6. As ever, you are a glutton for punishment!!!! Good thing you have work days to keep you off the trail and let that toe continue healing! ;-)

    It's nice to see a trail in a different season...the bright leaves were a neat surprise!

  7. With all the rain we've had, it's been a pleasant surprise that the PNW's fall colors lasted so long, right into December. Looks like a tough trail with plenty of rewards in good weather: great views, flowers in spring, and fall color.

  8. It seems a lot of trouble to go to to make the beer taste better!

  9. Looks like a fun trail and fun friends!

  10. I'm very surprised they had to go all the way up to Vancouver to shoot The X Files as you seem to have many miles of old growth forests in Oregon. Been watching the first re run of that tonight and the forests look almost identical to me. Maybe too many hikers though? Like the trail shots above the gorge.

  11. It looks beautiful. Dog Mountain - what a perfect name!

  12. On a day that like that a post walk beer is always well earned and enjoyed

  13. Great photos as always! I'm curious: Why was everyone wearing gaiters? To keep the mud off or .....??? I've only used them for snow so I'm curious.

    1. I wear them on wet days to keep my feet and lower legs dry. Although it didn't rain on this hike, it looked like it could at any minute. Gaiters are essential PNW hiking gear!

  14. I did have a giggle at John's comment. Your dedication to hiking is definitely admired.

  15. I love bringing a thermos with a hot drink in the winter. You are fortunate to have snow free hiking!

  16. Even late fall colors are nice to see, dangling about.. and I love low clouds. I guess for me the soggier the better. Weird.
    Great post, Linda!

  17. I hope your foot did okay! You have good friends to hike with and ski with, you should have snow now:)


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