After hiking south from Crest Horse Camp to Big Huckleberry Mt. I was now ready to return there and head north. I’d been to Indian Heaven several years ago, and remembered clusters of mountain lakes and open meadows, but coming up from the south was still through thick forest.
The huckleberries were long gone, but their foliage had turned to bright shades of red and orange. The white Bear Grass flowers had withered to brown, and were now dropping thousands of new seeds.
Despite seeing Mt. Hood every day, I’m probably closer to Mt. Adams, but can’t see her unless I’m out on the trail. Today, as usual, I’m straining to catch a glimpse of her. Like an elusive lover, she hides herself from me, giving me just enough to keep trying. I feel her there. Maybe around the next corner, or over the next ridge… At last I spy her through thick trees, but it would make a pathetic picture… I finally give in…
Climbing over a small ridge to the west, I braved the cool wind long enough to snap a few pictures of Mt. St. Helens, another ‘local’ mountain. On May 18th, 1980, she blew her top, dropping ash in a warm, dark, rain. For many years we dealt with the fine, heavy powder working its way into every crevasse…
At last I was rewarded by an almost uninterrupted view of my beautiful Mt. Adams.
It may seem silly to personify geological formations, but the Native Americans who lived here spun intricate legends around these peaks, telling stories of braves wooing a beautiful maiden, fighting over her, being turned into mountains, and ultimately continuing to fight….
I was getting close to my turn-around time, and had yet to reach a satisfying ‘end-point’ to my hike. I had maps and apps with me, and could’ve tracked my every turn, but I rarely take them out unless necessary. Turning a corner, I knew I’d arrived…
There’s a cluster of lakes here, and many more off the trail. There are probably over 300 lakes and ponds in Indian Heaven Wilderness area.
There was a little bit of a bite to the wind now, and instead of taking a break on the lakes, I headed back the way I’d come, stopping only after it was more sheltered. As usual, I took a few more breaks on the way back, mostly to rest my sore ankle, but returned to the trailhead within moments of sundown.
I’d only gotten about a quarter of the way into the Wilderness Area this time, and in a few months there’ll be snow on it. I hear that the wildflowers are great in the springtime…
Having made it to the top of Big Huck once, I still had to climb it again in my ongoing quest of the PCT, but this time from the other side. To accomplish this, I drove to Crest Horse Camp and headed south… This time it would be 7 miles each way. I forgot to mention last time that at 4202′ high it had a net elevation gain of about 3200′; (a half mile!) from Panther Creek. By driving to Crest, It would only be about 200′ this time.
After dropping off of the flow, the trail enters a lovely forest, skirting the flow for several miles.
Reaching the intersection of the trail to the top of Big Huck, (also the intersection of Grassy Knoll Trail #149), I chose not to go up it again, returning the way I’d come. No sweeping mountain vistas this time, but that was okay. Next time, I’d take the trail north to Indian Heaven Wilderness area. I hope you’ll join me!
In my previous post, I described hiking from the Bridge of the Gods to Bunker Hill. This time, I’ll pick up from there.
June 29th 2015
Driving to Panther Creek Campground again, I headed north. The next accessible place would be Crest Horse Camp, 16 miles up the trail. I was just out for the day, and had a late start, so I set my turn-around time for 4:30, to be back by dark, and headed out.
Deciding to ignore my turn-around time, I set my sights on making the top of Big Huckleberry Mountain. It’s hard enough to have to turn around once I hit the trail, but “getting there” makes it a little easier….
The top of Big Huck is quite open and sunny, and while the colors were probably a little faded, there were plenty of flowers.
After dawdling on the top longer than I should’ve, I headed back, only to realize that in my quest for the peak, I’d passed right by several patches of ripe huckleberries for which the mountain is named.
Squandering even more daylight, I greedily ate as many as I could before forcing myself back on the trail. In the process, I lost my sunglasses, not even attempting to seriously look for them. At this point, I’d be needing my headlamp a lot more than the glasses!
I paid dearly for my few handfuls of deliciousness though; the last few hours on the trail were a slow, dark grind…
I’m not a through-hiker; I live on the west end of Columbia River Gorge, and have hiked all through it, out on the Coast, and a few places beyond, and enjoy sharing my treks with others. I started hiking the PCT in sections just to give a little order to my ramblings, and Cascade Locks was a logical place to begin. Pictures might be from various times.
Bridge of the Gods
A few miles past the bridge, I entered into familiar territory. I’d hiked from the Bonneville trailhead a few times before.
I’d hiked up Table Mt. last fall from the Bonneville trailhead. The PCT goes past it, but another trail goes up to the top. While impressive from below, standing on the top is incredible. Those pics are from the day-hike.
Three Corner Rock
The previous section took me to the junction of the Three Corner Rock trail, and I picked it up there by driving up a forest road for a day hike to the top.
For the next leg, I picked up the PCT at the same place and headed to the Bunker Hill trail near Wind River, making it an overnighter. Then I picked it up for a day-hike at Panther Creek Horse Camp, on the other side of Bunker Hill, and backtracked a few miles to climb Bunker Hill.
I’ve since continued on, over Big Huckleberry Mountain and through Big Lava Bed to Crest Horse Camp, but I’ll save that for next time. Hope you’ve enjoyed my rambles!
With my brother, (and employer), Roger, headed to the Cayman Islands for a new job, we decided to end things with a three-night backpacking trip to Goat Rocks Wilderness Area. Situated almost exactly halfway between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams, it’s a popular, but truly wild area. With up to 25 feet of snowfall annually, there’s usually still snow on the ground through August, but with the light snowpack this year, it was bare except for a few small glaciers. Our nominal destination would be Goat Lake, with day-hikes around the area.
Thursday morning was spent packing, shopping, and driving the three hours to the trailhead near Packwood, Washington. We, Roger, our nephew Jon and I, got there in plenty of time to set up camp at the Chambers Lake campground. After an evening enjoying the “luxuries” of car-camping, we slept under the stars. Morning brought no sign of a friend, Nick, that was planning to meet us, so we went through our gear, deciding what to bring or not to bring, packed up, and headed up the Snowgrass Flats trail.
The first several miles were through subalpine forest, eventually opening in to alpine meadows. While resting at a creek, our friend Nick showed up! With no cell service since the previous afternoon, it wasn’t a given that we’d see him if he was indeed there. Shortly after that, we found a nice campsite a ways off the trail. We chose to camp early, as there are no fires allowed within a quarter-mile of the lake. After I happily dropped my 46 pound backpack, we hiked the remaining 20 minutes up to the lake.
Roger and Jon had been up here several times before, but the one time I’d been here previously, there was three feet of ice and snow on the lake. It’s become a mandatory rite to go for a swim, regardless of the weather, and that time was no exception. Fortunately, there was a hole already broken through near the shore. It was cold…. This time, with temps in the 80s, and hardly any glacial ice-water running into it, we happily shed our clothes and bailed in. I’d neglected to bring a swimsuit, and wasn’t willing to hike in wet shorts, so I went in my underwear. (The next day, I decided even that was wearing too much… 😉
Much of the area is made up of rock and gravel, but some places, especially along the multitude of little streams trickling from the glaciers, wildflowers carpet every surface. My companions were patient, if a little amused, as I stopped to take pictures of every flower I saw, but I often let them go on ahead without me.
We headed back to our camp early, getting settled in and having a leisurely dinner. I was the only one to bring a tent, and I’ll tell you why…. The previous time I’d been up here, the sunny afternoon had turned into a freezing, gale-force wind as it got dark! None of us had brought tents, and I spent the entire night gripping my sleeping bag tightly closed, only to have it ripped out of my hands by the wind if I managed to doze off! It appeared that it might stay nice this time, but with a wary eye to the weather, I spread my sleeping bag on the ground with the others. The fierce winds never came, and I slept pretty well, in part because I’d added several layers of clothing!
Today would be spent day-hiking, and the plan was to follow the trail up around the left side of the lake to Hawkeye Point, then scramble the rest of the way around on goat trails. The area is named for the mountain goats that live there, not technically goats at all actually, but their own special breed, and only found in the Pacific Northwest. (wdfw.wa.gov) According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, there are about 300 mountain goats in the Goat Rocks Wilderness area. We only saw a few herds, of about 20-30 in each, but at 108,096 acres (43,745 ha), there’s a lot of area!
Hawkeye Point, (7431′ / 2264 m) is the site of an old fire-watch tower, and sits almost 1000 feet above the lake, (6475′). The trail swings wide to the west, overlooking Jordan Basin, and provides the first view of Mt. St Helens to the west, Mt. Rainier to the north, and Mt. Adams is visible from virtually everywhere, but I never get sick of it. 🙂
You all know that I really like big rocks, so I was having a great time. But even up in that rugged terrain, wildflowers sprouted from the smallest crevasses.
The rest of the way down was pretty uneventful; some small glaciers and a lot of halfways sliding down slopes of loose rock and gravel. We all took another dip in the lake, and Nick met us there with lunch. On the way back to our camp, I found a few flowers I missed the first few times through. 😉
After returning from our scramble, and resting up, Roger, Nick and I took a short hike up towards Old Snowy Mountain via the PCT, but turned back when it looked like we wouldn’t make it up and back by dark. Amazingly, I don’t think I took any pictures….. Sunday morning we headed back to the trailhead, but by the Jordan Basin trail. Basically, it continues past the lake, then over the ridge and into the Jordan Basin, eventually making a loop that returns us to where we started. Some day I’ll figure out how to use my Topo app so I can show my tracks, but every time I have the opportunity to, there’s hiking to be done! ;-).
The hike back was beautiful, but there were areas of steep, rough downhill, that gave my bad ankle a real workout. I took to going ahead of the others so I could travel at a slower pace, and also take pictures.
And so ended our hike… Our adventure wasn’t quite over though! Driving into Packwood, we stopped at a local bar and grill for something to eat, In addition to the service being remarkably slow, it was the first time that I’d been served by a middle-aged man wearing an honest to goodness wife-beater. (white, ribbed tank-top) Both he and his associate also regularly stopped by the bar counter to slurp on mugs of beer. We surmised that perhaps they had a deal with their wives to work for them on Sunday afternoons while it was slow… 😉 The burgers were not the best, and they charged us for two extra drinks! All part of the experience I guess….
Should you like to visit Goat Rocks in Infinite Flight, I’m including some screenshots:
I hope you enjoyed sharing in my adventure! I know there are a lot of pictures, but I pared it down from almost 200. 😉 Feel free to use any for personal use. If you want high-res copies of any of them, let me know.
It was a pale day, and low clouds shrouded many of the familiar peaks as we drove up the Gorge. Friday morning was spent in packing everything I’d need for two nights and most of three days. On the expedition with me would be my brother Roger, and our nephew Jon. Roger had his own 16′ kayak and we’d borrowed two 14-footers from a friend. We were driving east to the Hamilton Island boat launch just below Bonneville Dam, where we’d leave Roger’s van to be picked up later by his wonderful wife and son. I would’ve preferred to start further up the Gorge, but that would entail having to portage around Bonneville Dam, a six mile drive, and that would be asking a little much of his family…
At the boat launch, we pulled out all of our gear and supplies, and then proceeded to attempt to fit it all in dry-bags and then into the small hatches, with the excess strapped on top of the decks. With Roger’s longer kayak, he ended up hauling more than his share, but with him being a bit of a masochist, I didn’t feel very bad! Once loaded, we rolled each kayak one-by-one, down to the water with the help of a kayak dolly. Without so much as a backward glance, we pushed off and headed downstream. You might think that since we were going downstream, that it would just be a matter of floating merrily along, dipping the paddles in the water occasionally to steer, but with a current that is only about 1.5 mph, you’d be a very long time! Of more concern was the 5-10 mph headwind.
980′ Beacon Rock, visible from miles up the river, became the measure of our progress, the same as it was for the Native Americans and the early explorers Lewis and Clark. Below Bonneville Dam, the river is largely the same as it was back then. Geologists believe that it was originally the core of an active volcano. After the lava stopped flowing and cooled, the softer earth surrounding it was eroded away by Ice-Age floods, leaving the hard volcanic basalt.
The first place we stopped was a bit of beach on the Oregon side of the river, (south bank), with plenty of nice sand and trees. Under Oregon state law, all waterways are public access up to the high-water mark, while in Washington, only the water itself is public access unless it’s designated as a public area. This might have been a nice place to camp, but listening to the roar of Highway 84 nearby was not what I’d come out on the water for!
Continuing on, we passed through familiar territory, but being on the river now, we had a new perspective.
So far, the weather had held, without excessive rain, sun, or wind, but soon a bit of a squall came up, bringing wind, a little rain, and waves that grew to two feet at times. As long as I was able to meet them head-on, I still felt pretty safe, but several broke over my bow, and would have soaked me if not for the dry-bag I had strapped to my front deck. Pictures would have been nice, but it was hardly the time! As soon as you stop steering, any vessel will automatically start turning itself sideways to the waves, inviting a capsize. I was wearing a life vest, but really didn’t feel like putting my dry-bags to the test!
Soon the weather improved, and we could make out our next goal, Cape Horn, in the distance. We were planning on camping on the imaginatively named Sand Island, just opposite the Cape, and it still looked a long ways away.
With the squall passed, we decided to stop by Phoca Rock, which I’d seen hundreds of times from Cape Horn. Only about 30′ high, and not much wider, I’d often wondered what it would be like to visit. Naturally, it was quite a bit larger than it looked from the cape. It had a relatively low area on two sides, and we didn’t have any trouble pulling close and climbing out of our kayaks.
Highway 14 goes along the top layer of basalt that you can see here, and a train tunnel goes right through the entire lower layer of basalt!
The Cape Horn trail follows the ridge above the highway, then drops down, crosses it,and follows the lower layer back to make a loop.
We could have climbed to the top of Phoca Rock, but didn’t want to take the time. We still had to make camp, and run out of daylight. From here, we angled for the Oregon side, and Sand Island. Nearing it, we saw with some dismay that there were several signs that read; “NO CAMPING” as well as others that said; “CLOTHING OPTIONAL”. I was pretty sure that I’d read that camping was permitted here, but for some reason the online map I’d used was virtually impossible to navigate from a smart phone, and my notes weren’t explicit. Following the island down, we saw only more signs prohibiting camping, but decided to camp anyway.
Pulling our kayaks well above the high-water line, we disgorged their contents onto the beach and tried to make some order of things. I was dismayed to find that my “dry-bags” were no more watertight than the hatches on my kayak were, and my sleeping bag was more than a little damp. Soon Jon had gathered wood and started a nice campfire, and Roger had started his barbecue. I set up my tent, but Roger and Jon opted to just roll their sleeping bags out on a tarp, despite having tents…. For dinner tonight I’d brought chicken mole, with lettuce, cheese, salsa, and sour cream, and soft corn tortillas to wrap it all in. Roger provided some Spanish Rice, and soon we were stuffed. After paddling over 12.5 miles, I slept soundly, even with a soggy sleeping bag. By morning however, the muscles from my neck to my shoulders were protesting their sudden abuse, and I was happy to get up and about. The only other person we saw on the island was a solitary man wearing nothing but a beanie and a wristwatch… For breakfast, I’d brought espresso and oatmeal, and we decided to pack up and paddle around the other side of the island, where a quiet channel ran between there and the Oregon riverbank, and see if Jon could catch us a few steelhead or salmon for lunch. With no luck, we headed back downriver. (I found out after returning home that apparently, the “no camping” signs only prohibited camping on the interior of the island.)
The next point of interest was the Vista House at Crown Point. This is the rocky promontory that you can see on IF when traveling east up the Gorge. While it’s not nearly as pointy as it appears in IF, it’s still very impressive. Completed in 1918, the Vista House sits on top of a 693′ high cliff, and affords impressive views both up and down the Gorge.
Shortly after Crown Point is Rooster Rock. A state park, I’ve always associated it with the “clothing optional” section of beach it offers; adjacent to the one on Sand Island. We saw another solitary guy enjoying the beach au natural, but the cool weather was probably not really conducive for nude sunbathing…
I’ve often driven by Rooster Rock and noticed that it had a number of small docks and a quiet channel, so we decided to check it out. It entailed paddling past the rock itself, then back-tracking up the channel, and it was a little longer than I’d expected.
Once there, we found a nice picnic table on which to eat our lunch. After a delicious meal of veggie patties made by Jon’s wife, with tomatoes, avocado, and an awesome spicy sauce, sandwiched in soft hoagie rolls, we headed out again.
We were reaching more familiar waters now, and would literally pass a few blocks from my house in Washougal. We took the opportunity to paddle through the narrow channel that runs between Lady Island and the Washington shore. The highway actually travels across the island, and the large Georgia-Pacific paper mill sits right on the shore. Again, it was a chance to see familiar territory from a new perspective. Unfortunately, I got lazy about taking pictures once we left the Gorge area…
Our plan for the night was to camp on Government Island, a huge island, and one which we’d camped on before, and were all familiar with. For no particular reason, we stopped on a smaller nearby island imaginatively named Sand Island, (yes, another one…), and decided to camp there. After a 14 mile day, we were ready to relax. For dinner, Roger put rice, black beans, and some other stuff together in his Dutch oven, and of course it went down well. I tented while they slept on the tarp again. While we were kicking back and relaxing, some movement caught our eyes, and we saw a beaver swimming along the shore nearby.
I was awaken in the middle of the night some time with excruciating pain in my neck/shoulders. After futilely waiting for it to abate, I forced myself to get up and and go find some ibuprofen. While waiting for the pain to subside so I could go back to bed, I noticed Mr. Beaver was still hard at work, swimming back and forth.
In addition to the beaver, we saw either a sea lion or a seal on our first day out. A novelty for us, but they’ve become a major nuisance to the salmon fishermen, leading to the killing of particularly aggressive ones by the Game Department, and proposed executions of many more.
We saw numerous hawks and falcons, and spotted a few bald eagles, too, but weren’t able to get any good pictures of them. Didn’t catch any fish, either….
The last day of paddling was to Vancouver Marine Park, just 9 miles, where Roger’s wife would be there about 2:00 to pick us up. After a leisurely breakfast of Roger’s hash brown, sausage, and egg scramble, we hit the water again. It seemed a little weird to come back when we still had another day off from work, but Roger figured we’d need a day to get everything cleaned up, and rest up, so I guess it was okay. But after unpacking and taking a nap and a shower, I was almost ready to go again….