After beating the weather odds at Cape Horn the week before, I was optimistic we'd get lucky again. I chose the next trail east on the Washington side of the Gorge, Hamilton Mountain.
However, driving to the trailhead in a monstrous downpour brought out the doubts for both of us. To delay our start, we stopped in Cascade Locks for coffee and cookies. Finally arriving at the trailhead, we sat in the car, sipped our drinks, and watched fat raindrops hammer the windshield. I joked to Catherine she wouldn't want to hike with me anymore after this.
|This way to Hamilton Mtn!|
We got lucky again - our coffee break killed just enough time to allow the shower to pass. Things cleared up just as we were readying to hit the trail.
Hamilton Mountain is another classic Gorge hike. Climbing 2000 feet in an 8-mile round trip, it passes by a unique waterfall, ascends a cliff edge with some amazing Gorge panoramas, crosses an open saddle boasting mountain views, and finally winds back through a lovely alder forest.
|The rain catches up to us|
Catherine and I began our hike in thick, foggy woods. Although dark and spooky, the atmosphere made for some great photo ops.
|Pool of Winds overlook|
After about a mile, we came upon Rodney Falls and the unique "Pool of Winds." As Hardy Creek drops over a tall basalt cliff, it's flow becomes momentarily trapped in rocky cavern. The swirling water creates it's own wind, roaring out of the confined space. It's quite a sight! See the video below to experience it for yourself. (Although not as good as being there in person)
After several days of rain, the water was absolutely gushing down the rock walls. Not wanting to drench my camera, I opted to use my waterproof GoPro to capture the action. But even that camera got soaked in the process.
|Woods below the falls|
After taking in the wet, but mighty sight of this unique water feature, Catherine and I retraced our steps to the bottom of Rodney Falls, crossing it's base on a large log footbridge.
|Footbridge below Rodney Falls|
We also stopped to admire the falls from this lower vantage point.
|A very nice sturdy bridge!|
About this time, the "liquid sunshine" decided it wasn't done with us yet, prompting Catherine and I to pull up our jacket hoods. Perfect opportunity for a "hiking in the rain" lesson for my friend - wear gaiters, waterproof boots, and invest in a rainproof cover for your backpack (I also place my gear inside a dry bag that goes into my backpack - just in case the rain cover fails).
|Nothing to see but clouds|
From the falls, our trail climbed steeply up the side of Hamilton Mountain, following a ridge that usually provides stunning views of the Columbia River and Oregon side of the Gorge. Well, not today.
|Thick fog envelops the forest|
Thick fog and low clouds obscured most of the scenery. We were left to imagine what things looked like down below the white muck.
|One fleeting view of the Oregon side|
At one point, a rare clearing gave us quick glimpses of the scenery we were missing.
|Lots of golden leaves|
Although just shy of two miles, the steep trek up to Hamilton Mountain's summit seems to take forever. The switchbacks were endless. Hungry and wet, Catherine and I were more than ready for a break.
Another lucky break - by the time we reached the summit the rain had stopped. My friend and I enjoyed a dry lunch, sipping hot tea and munching on tasty treats.
That lunch break was just what we needed! Batteries recharged, Catherine and I were ready to tackle the rest of the trail. From Hamilton's summit, we elected to do the loop, winding down through a lovely, mossy forest, full of colorful yellow leaves yet to drop.
|The saddle almost completely socked in|
Then we crossed an open saddle. Usually the views from here can't be beat - nearby Table Mountain and Mt Adams fill the skyline. But not today. We could barely see our hands in front of our faces. Oh well, at least it wasn't windy.
|Leaf hanging on for dear life|
From the saddle, I directed Catherine down "Don's Cutoff Trail" that zig-zagged steeply through a thick, mossy forest until we reached an old road.
Along this road is the best surprise - an outhouse! Out in the middle of nowhere! How often does one find a potty in the woods? Of course, I had to take advantage of these luxurious facilities. This privy was fully stocked with tp - even the hand sanitizer dispenser was full. (A gal could get spoiled real quickly....)
|Picnic area by Hardy Creek|
The ancient road led us to a crossing of Hardy Creek and a lovely picnic spot on it's banks, complete with a table.
|Wonderful fall forest|
Then it was back into the woods again via another trail. The forests here are my most favorite of the entire hike. Thick alder trees line both sides of the footpath. Although many leaves had fallen, there were plenty still clinging to partially bare branches.
|A bit of red-orange|
Lots of photo breaks may have happened.......
|This was the best fall colors of them all|
Finally our path intersected back with the main Hamilton Mountain trail. From this point, it was a quick hop, skip and jump back down to Rodney Falls and the lovely log footbridge.
|Enjoying the splendor|
Of course the rain wasn't done with us, and returned with a vengeance. Our jackets and backpacks, partially dried from the weather break, were instantly soaked once again.
|Back to the bridge|
Oh well, it was only a mile or so back to the parking lot where dry clothes and a warm car awaited. And the wet, foggy forest was really lovely. Not only that, the crummy weather kept the crowds at bay. We only saw a handful of people all day, on what is normally an extremely popular Gorge trail (even more so now, since the Oregon trails are still closed from September's big fire).
|A fine day!|
Catherine and I survived our wet outing (and I think she's still willing to hike with me.) Best of all, my injured toe did wonderfully - no pain whatsoever! Yahoo!
Another great day to be out in nature. A little rain never hurt anyone, right?