Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hiking Hardy Ridge in - Gasp! - January

Winters in the Pacific NW are so unpredictable.  Last year we endured an endless series of snow, ice storms, and unseasonably cold weather.  However, this year I think winter forgot to show up.

Sunlight filters through the forest

Precipitation has been miserly, showering the mountains with token amounts of snow - only to be washed away by rain a day later.  December temperatures hovered well above normal, assuring that whatever snow survived wouldn't stick around long.  So far this un-winter has wreaked havoc on the local snowpack.  With minimal amounts of the white stuff, skiing hasn't been great.

That's why when the forecast one mid-January Saturday predicted warm temps and more dry skies, I opted to skip the slopes for a hike in the Gorge.

A slight sign alteration...

I sent out email invites to both Catherine and Young, thinking one of the two would accept.  But - surprise, surprise - both of them replied yes.  Not only my two girlfriend hiking buddies, by the time Catherine and I met Young at the trailhead, we found she'd also invited her hubby John, and friends Steve and Joel.  Yahoo - the Dog Mountain Group was back together again!  And, to round out our merry band, Steve and Joel brought along their long-time friend and neighbor Don.

Modeling my new backpack

Santa had left a fat REI gift card in my stocking.  I cashed it in for a brand-new backpack, and today would be it's maiden voyage (or hike).  My companions oohed and aahed in admiration - except for John who jokingly said my pristine backpack needed some dirt rubbed onto it (and offered to do the honors).

A quick break

With the Oregon Gorge hiking trails still closed, I again looked to our northern neighboring state.  Hardy Ridge, on the Washington side, became the day's destination.   A wonderful scenic ridge run, I'd hiked it plenty of times in the spring and fall.  But today would be my first wintertime visit.

Made it to the sign!

Our group started out on an old abandoned road, climbing a gradual uphill.  Lovely bright sunlight filtered through the trees, warming the air.  Thinking we'd encounter cold temperatures, I'd dressed in my warm ski clothes (this was January after all).  It didn't take long before our entire crew took it's first "clothing break" to strip off a layer.

The views begin....

We continued to the first trail junction, where a snack and second clothing break were in order.  I always take photos of the trail signs and while focusing on the one marking our junction, noticed a slight alteration.  Someone had painted over part of the "w" in "lower loop" so it now read "lover loop."  (Tee-hee!)

Admiring the fabulous sights

Up another road our happy hiker group climbed, through more beautiful forest.  Although the deciduous trees were stark and leafless, numerous conifers provided plenty of green.  Plus the forest floor was full of ferns, and bright green moss covered adjacent rocks and branches.

Wind-blown trees

Finally leaving the road for good, we hit the steep uphill portion of our hike.  This trail rocketed upward, through multiple switchbacks.  If we weren't hot already, this climb did the trick.  I stripped down to my long sleeve base layer, chiding myself for not slipping a short sleeve t-shirt underneath.  And wearing my insulated hiking pants was also not the best decision.  (Who would've thought we'd get such warm temperatures on a hike - in January?)

The men walking through a bare, mossy patch

After quite a bit of elevation gain (and lots of sweat) my friends and I reached the beginning of the ridgetop, and our first viewpoint.  And it was a grand one!  The Columbia River, shining like a blue ribbon was far below, nestled in the green cliffs of the Gorge.  The day's relatively clear skies meant views stretched far east and west.  It was Catherine's first time on Hardy Ridge, and by the huge smile on her face, I could tell she was enjoying herself.

The Columbia River far below

But we weren't done yet.  My group followed a unofficial scramble trail that roller-coastered across Hardy Ridge, dipping down and clambering back up a few small forested knolls. 

One last ridge to climb

Breaking out of the forest for the final time, the last half mile of our hike was across a wide open ridge, showcasing the adjacent scenery.  More grand Gorge views, plus Table Mountain and the tip of Mt Adams.  But the best was yet to come.....

Up we go!

Our final climb was a steep slog up a talus slope, with a few remaining snow patches to navigate.  So weird to see this area nearly snow-free - in January!

More views to admire

But once we reached the top, it was an easy trek across the ridge to Phlox Point, our lunch spot.

Lunch spot

Sunny skies, warm temps, no wind, and fantastic views of the Gorge and Columbia River.  And no rain!  (Or snow)  Phlox Point remains one of my favorite places for an outdoor picnic.

Enjoying clear skies and warm temps

Can you believe this is January?  It felt more like a day in late spring.

The Gorge and river

While the gang was refueling, I prowled along the ridge, snapping a few images of the fantastic panorama below.

View to the west

Still lots of green out there for winter - even the moss was vibrant!

Walking the ridge

After a relaxing break, it was time for my favorite part of the hike - the return trip.  White-capped Mt Hood stood front and center, framing our view as we marched back across the ridge.

Wonderful Mt Hood views

Some of my favorite photos of the day came from this portion of the hike.

Heading back down

Slowly we wound back down, lingering at some of the more impressive viewpoints.  It's a rare day to get clear skies and no wind on Hardy Ridge - especially in winter.

One last glimpse of Hood

For the return trip, my group opted to take a different trail that zig-zagged down through a dense forest.   Not much to take photos of, so my camera remained stashed in its bag.  That is, until we passed by the famous "boot rock."  I pointed out this local hiking landmark to Catherine, who eagerly agreed to be my photo model.

Catherine found "Boot Rock"

The only downside to this hike is the final road walk seems endless (I swear it's the work of the "trail stretchers").  By now everyone was hot, tired, and more than ready for our traditional post-hike beer.

Hiking through sunshine

But the sunshine and warm weather were a welcome surprise on this winter's day.  How often does one get to hike in their shirt sleeves - in January?


  1. That was a nice hike but sounds like you were a tad overdressed for it so goo job you had the new back pack to lump it all in

  2. Gosto muito destas caminhadas pela montanha em grupo.
    Um abraço e continuação de boa semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  3. Hello, what a great hike with fabulous views. I love seeing the Gorge, river and views of Mt Hood. The weather looks great too, I love having a warm winter day. Wonderful series of photos. Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

  4. These are wonderful pictures of a great day for a hike! I wish our weather was a little bit more dry. Oyster Dome is on the schedule for today, with plenty of rain to go along with it. No views, either. Your trip was just perfect! Thanks for sharing these great pictures, Linda. :-)

  5. Nothing. Nothing, beats gorgeous surroundings and good company.

  6. Nice ridge walk with terrific views. I don't think I'd like the muddy trails.

  7. Wow, so lovely! I envy you that beautiful weather. Winter forgot to show up over there because it's hanging around over here! LOL

  8. Sounds similar to the weather we get here most years in winter now. Eight inches of snow one day and minus 10 below then three days later 12 above and bare green mountains.
    Always nice to be out with friends though on a hike.

  9. ...a beautiful place to share with friends.

  10. What a fabulous day to be out hiking above the gorge. Breathtaking beauty and my favourite peak!

  11. It looks lovely. Winter forgot to show up here too.

  12. OMG how wonderful. I've not seen your posts for quite sometime, now i am renewing my contract to always visit, hahaha! I am so envious of your hikes, i know it is lovely to hike in places with lower temps as you don't get tired fast. Here, it is the opposite, and biodiversity in the tropics is so different than the vegetation you encounter there.

  13. If that's winter in Oregon, I'd be all for it!

  14. This winter is such a stark contrast to last year! It's always nice to see a well known trail in a different season though...

  15. Lovely hike day and photos so nice, Linda! Must have been the same day I went shopping in Wilsonville where it was 62 degrees. Yes it's been an interesting winter. So different than 2017 for sure!

  16. Wow what great photos, That one of the mossy rocks and the river must be a favorite shot! I am impressed! What is all in in your pack besides camera gear and the clothing you took off...oh snacks:)

  17. What a gorgeous area... I love how the light turned the Columbia into a river of silver. Wonderful photographs, as always.

  18. Hi Linda

    Your new backpack looks both pretty and functional! I enjoyed hiking along with your and your group through your photos. What gorgeous views of Mt Hood on the way down. I remember seeing that boot rock in a past post--fun!
    The weather has been odd here in Colorado too, this winter. Much warmer and drier than normal. It must be the La Nina effect? Happily our ski resorts have been getting some good snowfall the past few months, but that happened much later in the season than usual.

  19. People keep loving this warm winter but aren't thinking ahead to fire season. I really don't want another summer like last year! Nice pack. It looks pretty full!

  20. Certainly doesn't look like winter 0 we are having the same ups and downs - yesterday minus 2 when I got up and today it is in the 30's and raining

  21. Summertime in Oregon...beware of payback :)

  22. There's plenty of winter over here in Montana. You can have some. I want to hike!

  23. Great fun to be had with good friends on a great hike. Love those hazy views across the river

  24. These pictures are excellent! All of them. Loved the group family used to call it a “forced march”. LOL, at least we got them out, love the boot rock!

  25. You always have the best snow shots! What great scenery!


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