This past Veterans Day we celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary with a hike. Heather had spent the first part of the week in Las Vegas attending a convention for her work so we were looking to spend some quality time together and what better way than out on the trail away from distractions.
Our hike on the schedule for this month was to be a lollipop loop starting at Wyeth Campground in the Columbia Gorge and passing North, Rainy, and Black Lakes before returning via Green Point Ridge. I had originally estimated this hike to be a little over 16 miles with around 4000′ of elevation gain. Both of these figures turned out to be low. The total elevation gain was closer to 5000′ and the GPS read 21.5 miles when all was said and done.
The Wyeth Trail begins at Wyeth Campground which was gated closed for the season so we parked near the gate on the side of the Wyeth Road (Exit 51 off of I-84) and walked through the empty campground.
The campground is the eastern terminus for the Gorge Trail #400 which we followed briefly to a signed junction near a footbridge over Gorton Creek.
We turned left following the pointer for the Wyeth Trail passing under a set of power lines before the bridge-less crossing of Harphan Creek.
Not long after crossing Harphan Creek the Wyeth Trail began its climb. The trail gained approximately 3500 over the next 4.8 miles. This mostly forested section used numerous switchbacks to keep from ever being too steep.
There were a couple of open areas which offered small views across the Columbia River toward Mt. St. Helens. Although the mountain was free of clouds the gray skies above and behind it provided a good camouflage from the camera.
The trail leveled off at a saddle where it began following the ridge south to the Green Point Ridge Trail junction.
The Green Point Ridge Trail was our return route so we stayed left and continued 1.4 miles to North Lake. Along the way there was a nice view of Mt. Defiance from a rock field.
To see North Lake we followed an unsigned trail to the right at a junction where signs pointed back to the Wyeth Campground and ahead to the Mt. Defiance Trail.
After sitting for a bit on some rocks along North Lake we continued along it’s shore back to the the Wyeth Trail at a junction with the North Lake Trail.
We took the North Lake Trail following it for a mile past a small pond to another trail junction.
We headed to the left onto the Rainy Lake Trail.
A quick .4 miles brought us to Rainy Lake with a view of Green Point Mountain on the far side.
A tenth of a mile beyond the lake the trail left the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and ended at the Rainy Lake Campground, which can be driven to. Directions
We walked through the campground passing the unique outhouse to the Rainy-Wahtum Trail.
The Rainy-Wahtum Trail would lead us up to a junction with the Gorton Creek Trail where we would begin our return to the Wyeth Campground but before we did that we had wanted to visit nearby Black Lake. Both the North Lake Trail map available on the Mt. Hood Forest Service website and Google showed a trail descending to Black Lake from the Rainy-Wahtum Trail. We were keeping our eyes out for this trail and just when we began to think we had missed it we spotted a path near a small cairn.
We turned left onto this faint path passing the remnants of an old sign that could no longer be read. All traces of the path soon disappeared and we looked around for old blazes or any other sign of the correct route. With nothing to be seen we pulled out the Forest Service map and compared it the map shown on the Garmin. The GPS didn’t show the trail but we could compare the topography of the two maps to get a good idea of where the trail should be. We bushwacked downhill using the topographic maps in an attempt to pick up some sort of trail but weren’t having any luck so we finally decided to follow a decommissioned logging road down to its junction with Dead Point Road which went by Black Lake after passing the Rainy Lake Campground.
We found a few flowers along the road before arriving at the Black Lake Campground.
We took a break at one of the picnic tables which we shared with a caterpillar.
We followed the road back to the Rainy Lake Campground and set off once again on the Rainy-Wahtum Trail. We watched again for any signs of a different trail to Black Lake both before and after the one we’d turned down but never saw anything.
The Rainy-Wahtum Trail followed what was once Wahtum Road up to a 4-way trail junction.
The junction is the meeting point of the Rainy-Wahtum, Gorton Creek, and Herman Creek Cutoff Trails.
Our route was to follow the Gorton Creek Trail but first we took a very short detour on the Herman Creek Cutoff Trail to check out a WWII signal hut which seemed fitting on Veterans Day.
We started down the Gorton Creek Trail reentering the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness and gradually climbing Green Point Ridge.
As we approached Green Point Mountain, which is really just the highest point on the ridge, the first view to open up was of Rainy Lake and Mt. Defiance beyond.
The Oregon Hikers Field Guide entry for Green Point Mountain mentions views of Mt. Defiance, Rainy Lake, and Mt. Adams but we quickly found that there were more views than that. Before we were able to see Mt. Adams to the north a glance behind us to the south revealed Mt. Hood rising above the tress.
A viewpoint near the summit offered the Mt. Adams, Mt. Defiance, and Rainy Lake view.
The view of Mt. Hood was especially nice with a layer of clouds in the valley below it and an opening of blue sky in the clouds above.
When we reached the summit we were a bit surprised to see Mt. Rainier join the view to the north and Mt. Jefferson to the south.
Mt. Jefferson and Olallie Butte
Mt. Hood & Mt. Jefferson
In addition the Goat Rocks were also visible between Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams.
After enjoying the surprisingly good view we began our descent. It was nearly 2pm and we’d been hiking for almost 7 hours already. I was beginning to suspect that the hike was going to be longer than what I had estimated. We tend to average right around 2mph so a 16 mile hike should take us 8 hours. We hadn’t taken any extended breaks and it didn’t feel like we’d been going particularly slowly on the climb up so extra distance was the only explanation for the time. We picked up the pace on the way down not wanting to have to rely on using lights to finish the hike in the dark.
A quarter mile from the summit we left the Gorton Creek Trail at a three-way junction. The Gorton Creek Trail headed downhill to the left and on the right the North Lake Trail came up from the lake. We stayed straight on the Green Point Ridge Trail.
We followed the wooded ridge another 2.5 miles ignoring the Plateau Cutoff Trail to the left after 1.5 miles.
The steepest section of trail we’d been on all day was the final descent down to the Wyeth Trail.
Once we were back on the Wyeth Trail we retraced our steps down to the power lines. Mt. St. Helens was a little more visible on our way down in the afternoon light.
That morning we had noticed a trail coming up from the Wyeth Campground at the power lines which appeared to be a shorter route than what we had done so when we spotted it on the way down we followed it into the campground arriving back at our car ten minutes before 5pm.
We had hiked from dawn to dusk (nearly 10 hours) without seeing anyone else on the trails. The views had been much better than expected and the lakes were all nice. One of the things that held our interest was the amazing variety of mushrooms along the way. The various colors, shapes, and sizes were impressive. Here is a small sample of that variety.
Despite the hike turning out to be a lot longer than planned it was a great way to spend our anniversary. Happy Trails!