Observation Peak

Unexpected is as fitting a description as I can think of for our visit to the Trapper Creek Wilderness in Washington. The first unexpected event happened before we even arrived at the trail head. I have mentioned before that we seem to see more large wildlife from our car than we do on the trail. As we were turning off the highway I noticed a large brown animal just a bit further up along the shoulder. I quickly turned around and got out the camera. It was an Elk just grazing on the side of the road. This was the closest we’ve been to seeing an elk on one of our hikes.
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We created the next unexpected event when we parked near Bubbling Mike Spring at an empty sign board. This turned out to be the wrong parking area, but the road ahead was gated closed and we failed to notice the small sign around the corner to our left that pointed toward the campground. We set off on a clear trail toward Trapper Creek which we knew we needed to cross at some point. That path quickly ended at the creek with no dry way to cross so we backtracked and headed up the gated road. We spotted one footbridge that had a do not use, danger sign posted on it as we passed several cabins that sat along the creek. The road veered away from the creek and just after crossing a small stream we decided to head back and work our way up the creek bank to see if we could find a crossing that way. No sooner had I recrossed the stream when I heard quite a commotion behind me. I expected to see Dominique on the ground since he is the most prone to losing his balance but instead it was Heather sitting in the middle of the stream. She banged her hand up pretty good but was fortunate not to have hit her head or hurt her legs. Her pinky though was already swelling and slightly discolored. We hadn’t even found the official trail yet and we had a “man down”. She decided she wanted to try and continue the hike so back we went to searching for a dry way across.

After wandering up and down we settled on trying a downed tree that appeared to be flattened on top for crossing. It led to the back of a couple of cabins on the far side of the creek so we quickly ducked past them onto the access road that led to them. Our map showed that this road would lead to the trail we had been seeking so we headed left and soon had found it.

We entered the Trapper Creek Wilderness and paralleled Trapper Creek through a dense forest. If you love old forests and the sound of flowing water this would be a great hike for you. If you are after views and wildflower meadows skip this trail and take the Observation Peak Trail from road 5800 as described in Sullivan’s 100 Hikes book. The trail went up and down occasionally offering glimpses of the creek below. After 2.5 miles the path crossed Hidden Creek and shortly after a pair of signs pointed to Hidden Falls. We decided we needed to check this out so we struck off on the faint trail up a ridge to a nice camping spot. Hidden Falls was below down a steep hillside which Heather and I picked our way down. We were able to make our way to the base of the secluded falls and then had to climb back out of the canyon.
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From Hidden Falls the Trapper Creek trail began to climb a long series of fairly steep switchbacks. We crossed the creek again after the first set of switchbacks and then launched upward again. A nice viewpoint along the way overlooked Trapper Creek Falls across the valley backed by Observation Peak. The trail eventually leveled out, recrossed Trapper Creek, and then came to a junction with a trail labeled “Shortcut Tr. 129B”. Dominique was all for taking any trail that had the word shortcut in it’s name so we turned up it. I don’t know how much of a shortcut it was, but we were soon at another junction, this time with the Observation Peak Trail.

We headed up toward the summit through a forest with large bear grass plumes and many other smaller white flowers. After about a half mile of climbing we reached the lower viewpoint. This first viewpoint was on a rocky outcropping dotted with white cats ear blossoms. It had been a nice day, with blue sunny skies and a occassional breeze that kept it from being too warm but we found that clouds were hanging around the Washington peaks covering each of them to some degree. Never the less the view was impressive and the view from the actual summit promised to be even better. We returned to the trail and continued up another .2 miles to the summit passing bear grass blooms and other various wild flowers. As we approached the summit, Mt. Hood appeared over the right shoulder of Observation Peak with a faint Mt. Jefferson nearly hidden by haze further to the south.

Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak
Mt. Adams and the Trapper Creek Wilderness from Observation Peak

After a short rest we headed back down from the summit and turned right at the trail junction to begin our descent down Howe Ridge. We had a little over 5 miles down this pleasant trailย to get back to the car. It gradually descended through the forest crossing numerous small streams and we were able to make good time. We spotted a small snake and later I came around a corner to find myself staring straight at an owl about 10 yards away. When I reached for my camera it flew to a nearby tree but I was able to get
a couple of decent pictures.
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Our feet were sore and legs tired when we finally reached Trapper Creek and we didn’t care about finding a dry crossing. Our car was almost directly across from us so we just walked into the water and crossed. What was supposed to have been a 13.3 mile hike turned into a 15.8 adventure. Despite a few mosquitoes (much less than our last hike) and Heather’s bruised hand it had been a pretty good day. There was only one way to end a day like this – with pizza ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy Trails.

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Salt Creek Falls

It’s July and that means mosquito season in the Cascades. We had our first real run in with the pests on our 4th of July hike at Salt Creek Falls. Through June I had seen only one mosquito which managed to get me on top of Salmon Butte. For the next month or so we will be faced with a dilemma, brave the hoards of bloodsuckers in order to see some of the best wildflower displays of the year, or play it safe and wait them out missing the best of the flowers.

We chose to brave the danger (annoyance at the very least) for this waterfall hike. At 286′ Salt Creek Falls is Oregon’s second tallest and is conviniently close to Hwy 58 making it easy to make a quick stop. We tend to avoid quick and easy but trails leading past Salt Creek Falls head up into the Diamond Peak Wilderness passing a couple of lakes and two additional waterfalls giving us a good excuse for a visit.

We were the first car in the parking lot and apparently the mosquitoes were waiting because I had one land on me almost immediately after I got out of the car. Luckily we had come prepared. We were all wearing long pants/sleeves and sported less than fashionable bug net hats. After a good dousing in DEET (a necessary evil) we headed down the short path to the Salt Creek Falls viewpoint.
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After viewing the falls we headed for the Vivian Lake which was 4 3/4mi away and our turnaround point. Shortly after crossing Salt Creek the trail split making a loop to Diamond Creek Falls possible. We headed right and soon came to Too Much Bear Lake. Despite the name we saw no sign of bears but the pretty lake was lined with blooming rhododendrons and reflecting the surrounding trees.
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As we continued toward Diamond Creek Falls several signs announced viewpoints. Perhaps we had been spoiled by the views on our last few hikes, but the view from these viewpoints was a bit of a let down. Diamond Creek Falls on the other hand was lovely. A short side path led down into a narrow canyon and across Diamond Creek on a footbridge. Not long after the crossing Diamond Creek Falls came into view through the trees. It was an impressively sized 100′ cascade that fanned out over the rocks as it fell into a cozy grotto.
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We returned to the main trail and continued past an upper viewpoint of Diamond Creek Falls to a second fork in the trail. The left fork would take us back to the parking area while the right continued on toward the wilderness and Vivian Lake. Before we made it to the wilderness we crossed Diamond Creek on a road bridge and passed over the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. When we reached the sign board announcing the start of the Diamond Peak Wilderness we found that there were no self-serve entry permits left in the box, but there were plenty of mosquitoes buzzing around. The forest was full of white flowers, bunchberry, anemone, and queens-cup with an occasional beargrass thrown in. Many of the rhododendron were in bloom as well. The trail followed Fall Creek up to a viewpoint of Fall Creek Falls, a smaller 40′ cascade lined at the top with pink rhododendron blooms. The viewpoint proved a good place for a brief rest as it was an exposed rocky outcrop and almost devoid of mosquitoes.

Another mile of climbing brought us to Vivian Lake but before we would reach the lake shore we had to cross a “meadow”. The meadow was still quite damp from recent snow melt but we did our best to stay on the driest part of the trail. Shooting star and heather blooms dotted the green meadow while frogs hopped toward the water where they joined tadpoles that had not yet emerged. Unfortunately it was also a perfect spot for mosquitoes and a large number of them swarmed the air just waiting for us to stop so we quickly made our way across to drier ground and followed the trail to the shore of Vivian Lake. We worked our way around the shore until we got a good view of the top of Mt. Yoran which reflected in the water. This would have been a wonderful spot for lunch if we hadn’t been on the menu. We stayed long enough to snap a couple pictures then headed back to the viewpoint above Fall Creek Falls where we had a better chance of a mosquito free lunch.
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We made great time on the way back to the car as we tried to stave off the skeeters but we did stop when we spotted a golden mantled squirrel and later a cascade frog. We saw only one other hiker on the trail but the parking area was full of people and cars when we got back. Heather got the worst of the bites but still only about a half dozen, Dominique had a couple and I miraculously escaped with only one. Hopefully our next few hikes will have less mosquito activity, but we’ll be ready for the little buggers if need be. Happy Trails

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Silver Star Mountain

HOT! That certainly describes our recent visit to Silver Star Mountain, but that would be doing this hike a great disservice. Despite the 90 degree temperatures better descriptions would be amazing flowers, great views, and beautiful scenery. Silver Star Mountain is located in Washington State’s Gifford-Pinchot National Forest between Mt. St. Helens and Portland, OR.

I’d been wanting to visit Silver Star for a long time, but the timing hadn’t been right until now. I had seen a number of trip reports which indicated now was a good time to catch many of the wildflowers that fill the meadows and the weather called for clear skies, the perfect combo. There are a number of possible approaches to the 4390′ summit but for our hike we chose to approach from the north via Ed’s Trail.

The drive to the trail head was tedious with the last 9 miles taking a good 45 minutes due to poor road conditions. Our plan was to hike a big loop sampling as much of the area as we could so we knew we had a long day ahead of us. It was already over 60 when we arrived at the parking area at 7:15. The sky was clear and the birds were out in force as we headed up the north flank towards the junction with Ed’s Trail. Mt. St. Helens loomed behind us and as we climbed Mt. Rainier and later Mt. Adams joined the horizon. As we approached the junction with Ed’s Trail Mt. Hood appeared through a gap ahead surrounding us in Cascade peaks.

Mt. St. Helens & Mt. Rainier from the jct with Ed's Trail
Mt. St. Helens & Mt. Rainier from the jct with Ed’s Trail

Already the flower display had been amazing. The variety of flowers was one of the best we’d seen. There was red paintbrush and columbine, pink nootka rose, purple lupine and iris, orange tiger lilies, white beargrass and thimbleberry, and (new to us) yellow lupine. The meadows here are due in large part to the 1902 Yacolt fire which swept over Silver Star Mountain removing the trees and clearing the way for the flowers. I could easily fill this whole trip report attempting to describe the flowers we saw on this day but the hike had other things to offer as well so I will have to let our photos do much of the flower reporting.
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Ed’s trail was truly scenic as it traversed the NE side of the ridge through wildflower meadows with views of the 4 snowy Cascade peaks. Soon the path passed some rocky areas and passed through a natural rock doorway. Not long after passing through the doorway we scrambled up a short, steep section of the trail as it passed through a rocky slot up to a great viewpoint. A small patch of snow remained surrounded by avalanche lilies.

When Ed’s trail met an old road we took it up to the twin summits of Silver Star mountain. The view from the north summit was a true 360 degree panorama. Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams were joined by snow covered Goat Rocks to the north while Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and the faint Three Sisters rose to the south. The Columbia River and Portland, OR lay to the SW while the ridges and meadows of Silver Star Mountain surrounded us in every direction.

Washington Cascades form the summit
Washington Cascades form the summit

After leaving the summit we continued on to the Indian Pits trail to visit a series of rock pits used as vision quest sights at one time. More wildflower meadows awaited on this trail which ended at a rocky ridge endge with yet another set of wonderful views. As an added bonus we were serenaded by a resident swallow who appeared to be enjoying the view from the top of the rocks as much as we were. It was really starting to warm up as we left the pits and continued on our loop down an abandoned road past sturgeon rock. The old road was actually lined with trees but it was wide enough to remain in the sunlight.

We made our way down the road to the Tarbell Trail which we then turned right (north) on and momentarily entered the forest. The trees didn’t extend far to our left and we could see that much of the hillside below had been clearcut. It is a sight that I don’t particularly enjoy seeing. The stark contrast of the stumps and piles of slash next to the still standing forest always leaves me imagining what it must have once looked like. We were on a collision course with the cut though and soon emerged to the treeless hillside. One of the first things we noticed were the butterflies. They were everywhere and flitting above a vast array of wildflowers. Even the clearcut couldn’t spoil the areas scenery ๐Ÿ™‚
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The lack of trees did mean we were once again exposed to the sun and for about 2 miles we switchbacked down and across the hillside before again reaching the forest on the other side. We were greeted by the first sound of water on the hike. The source was Coyote Creek and that was where we would find our next destination, Hidden Falls. What a welcome change to the heat Hidden Falls was. A bench near the 92′ cascade gave us a place to rest while we cooled off courtesy of the breeze created by the falls.
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After another mile and a half on the Tarbell Trail we arrived at the Chinook Trail which would take us up Kloochman Ridge and back to the road we had been on early in the morning. The Chinook trail spent a short time climbing in the forest before emerging in some of the hikes best wildflower meadows. The number and variety of flowers on this ridge trumped all the others we had been through on this day.
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This was also the steepest trail we’d been on and with the temperatures hitting the 90s we needed all the distraction the flowers could provide.

We eventually made it up Kloochman Ridge and then headed back down the road to our car and the extra water that was stashed in our cooler. This was one of the rare occasion when I actually finished off all the water in my Camelbak (1/4mi from the car). Silver Star Mountain had lived up to all the hype I’d seen in the trip reports. With a little something for everyone it’s an amazing area and I highly recommend exploring any of the areas trails. If you’re a fan of beargrass skip next year since it only blooms every 2nd or 3rd year and this year it was on, or better yet go both years and see the difference. Happy Trails and have a safe 4th of July.

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Wildcat Mountain

Greetings, I’m back again with another trip report from the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. We were making a second attempt at Wildcat Mountain; which we had tried to do in May but had run into fresh snow on the road to the trail head. I’d seen a trip report on portlandhikers.org from 6/09/13 saying that the trail head was open and that in a couple of weeks the flower show should be going strong.

We were aware that there have been issues in this area with illegal shooting & off highway vehicle operation but the forest service and volunteers have been attempting to limit access and discourage the bad behavior. Evidence of this battle was everywhere on the drive to the trail head. Numerous “No Shooting” signs lined the road and almost every spur road was barricaded to block access. Unfortunately litter (mostly beer cans and empty shell casings) was visible in many areas as well. When we reached the new McIntyer Ridge trail head the parking area was covered in more of the same. It was a shame because the surrounding forest was beautiful.

We had a little difficulty finding the correct path due to our not noticing the small temporary trail sign at first. The OHV use was obvious given the width and condition of the trail. We followed this wide path for a mile to an opening which provided the first view of Mt. Hood. Shortly after the opening the tail narrowed leaving the OHV damage behind.

Rhododendrons bloomed in mass along the trail and we spotted several patches of avalanche lilies proving that snow had melted not too long before.

Avalanche lilies
Avalanche lilies

Next the trail entered a meadow of beargrass which was still, for the most part, not in bloom. I hoped that this would not be the case when we reached the next viewpoint in a meadow with a memorial bench.

The bench meadow did not disappoint. A good number of beargrass plumes rose up while paintbrush and penstemon added red and purple to the ground. The view of Mt. Hood was great and a pair of hummingbirds zoomed about visiting the flowers. One of them even landed long enough for me to get a couple of pictures.

Mt. Hood from the bench meadow
Mt. Hood from the bench meadow

Continuing along the path we reached a junction with the Douglas Trail and turned SE along it toward Wildcat Mountain. A short side trail led up to the summit where an old lookout tower once stood. In order to get a decent view we had to follow a very faint trail through rhododendrons toward Mt. Hood. When we reached an opening not only did we have a view of Mt. Hood but Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier now appeared to the NW. After returning to the Douglas trail we continued SE to another viewpoint on a rocky section of the ridge. More wildflowers covered this area and Mt. St. Helens and the top of Mt. Jefferson now joined the views.

Mt. Jefferson from the rock garden
Mt. Jefferson from the rock garden

We continued on the Douglas trail to it’s end at the Plaza trail and turned around. Clouds had begun forming around the mountains changing the views on the way back. We stopped again at the bench (I don’t think you could not stop here) where I took a few more pictures.
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We heard a few gunshots on the way back which sounded like they may have been coming from the Douglas trail head, and learned from a couple of hikers that they had run into a pair of OHVs (illegally) on the trail. We hadn’t heard them, but the presence was easy to see. The trail had been torn up and fresh damage done to several trees and plants along the path.

It’s hard to understand why some people just can’t follow the rules or how they could possibly leave such a mess without regard to anyone or anything else. If you were able to bring it in you can certainly pack it back out. That’s enough of a rant from me ๐Ÿ™‚ Despite the depressing state of the trail head and OHV damage it was a great hike with wonderful views. The best thing that could happen to this area is to have more responsible/legal users. Maybe that would discourage the bad seeds and give the area a chance to recover from their damage. Happy (clean) Trails

Salmon Butte

It’s raining mice! We’ve all heard the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs” but on our last hike it rained mice (well a mouse anyway). I’ll explain that later, but for now let me tell you where we were. For Father’s Day we headed toward Mt. Hood and the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. Our plan was to head to the top of 4877′ Salmon Butte where we hoped to have a view of about a half dozen Cascade peaks.

The trail head is located next to the Salmon River, a fork of which it quickly crosses on a old bridge. The river is left for good here as the path follows an abandoned road up toward a former trail head. The road was closed down due to repeated washouts which we could see evidence of as we passed over numerous small creeks. The roadbed was fairly overgrown with green grasses and many small flowers. After travelling on the road for a little over a mile we reached the former trail head and turned into the forest. Not long after entering the forest a we came to a sign announcing the boundary of the wilderness. This was our first visit to the 62,455 acre Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness which is part of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

The trail offered no real views for the first 2.5 miles as it steadily climbed up through the forest. Rhododendrons lined the trail, many of which were in bloom adding a splash of pink amid the green. Although the total elevation gain for the trail is almost 3200′ it was rarely steep and never for very long which was a welcome change to last week’s trudge up Heartbreak Ridge. At the 2.6 mile mark a viewpoint at a rocky ridge end opens across the Mack Hall Creek Valley and to Salmon Butte itself. The ridge end was home to a small but diverse number of flowers. There were a couple red paintbrush, a single lupine, a lone cats ear, a couple of yellow flowers, and a blue filed gilia which was a first for us.
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Leaving the viewpoint the trail reentered the forest and climbed along the west side of a ridge for 2 miles before we would reach the next viewpoint. Still there was plenty to keep us entertained which is where the mouse rain incident occurred. As we were walking along I saw something out of the corner of my eye and heard a “thump” on the hillside just to the left of us. My first thought was pine cone, but the thump was too loud and the color wrong for a cone so my next thought was that someone had thrown a rock at us. It nearly rolled into Heather. As she attempted to avoid it we realized it was an animal. The poor mouse got its bearings and scurried off the side of the trail and disappeared into the brush. We have no idea where it came from, if it just slipped or possibly escaped from a bird in the trees above, but we certainly won’t forget our first encounter with mouse rain.

At a switchback near the 3.9 mile mark a short side path extended out to a small but amazing hillside meadow. There was no view to speak of but the hill side was carpeted with plectritis, larkspur, and little yellow monkeyflowers.
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The trail eventually moved from the west side of the ridge to the east and shortly after reached a viewpoint with the first view of Mt. Hood. Here beargrass and rhododendrons lined the trail in various states of bloom. For the next half mile the trail climbedd gently along the top of the ridge before a couple of steep switchbacks reached a second abandoned road. This was the road to the former lookout tower that no longer exists on Salmon Butte. As the road curved up around the summit Mt. Jefferson came into view to the south followed by Mt. Hood to the north. After .3 miles we reached the summit and sweeping across the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness to the north, south, and east.

Although there were a few clouds in the sky we had an excellent views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Jefferson.

Mt. Hood
Mt. Hood

Mt. Adams and Mt. St. Helens were clearly visible in Washington and the North Sister was peaking over the shoulder of Mt. Jefferson to the south. With an assist from the binoculars we were finally able to identify Mt. Rainier as well. We enjoyed a peaceful lunch as the only people on the summit. We were not alone though. A couple of swallowtail butterflies flitted around the summit and a gray jay flew up to check us out. There was also a chipmunk busy eating seed on a tree trunk, obviously knowing this was a perfect spot for lunch.

We passed several hikers on our way back down but no more falling mice. When we rejoined the old road near for the final 1.2 miles the scenery had changed. Scores of white candy flowers had opened to the sun and now dotted the green grass along the path. This was a really nice hike and in the end didn’t feel like we’d gone 3170′ in 11.2 miles. Until next time – Happy Trails (and watch out for falling mice :))

Table Mountain

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. After our recent string of cloud obscured views I was determined to break the streak. I had been watching the weather forecast all week and decided everything was lining up perfectly for a return to the Columbia Gorge and another attempt at a view of the Cascades. The nasty weather and the poncho attack on Hamilton Mountain needed to be avenged so for this hike I picked Table Mountain.

Table Mountain is located less than 5 miles east of Hamilton Mountain. It should have been what I was looking at from the saddle when I was sucker punched by the poncho during that hike. Much of Table Mountain collapsed into the Columbia River centuries ago leaving dramatic cliffs on the south face. With an elevation of 3417′ it is nearly 1000′ taller than Hamilton Mountain so the potential for views is great.

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning but as we approached Portland an ominous cloud hung to the east of the city. The skies all around were blue and we hoped that Table Mountain was far enough to the east to be clear of the cloud. We formulated a plan b just in case when we reached Hamilton Mountain which was once again covered in clouds, but when we arrived at the trail head behind Bonneville Hot Springs the summit of Table Mountain was cloud free. With blue skies to the north and east we decided to give it a try.

The first 2.2 miles of the trail pass through a pretty forest, first on a volunteer created trail, then following an old road up to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This first section was nice but unremarkable although we did come across some ripe salmonberries to sample. After a short walk on the PCT we reached the sign for the loop trail to the summit of Table Mountain. The aptly named Heartbreak Ridge Trail gains 1770′ in 1.5 miles. In order to do this the trail heads up with a vengeance. After 0.6 miles (and 800′ of elevation) the trail arrived at a saddle viewpoint. To my dismay the clouds that had been to the west were now heading east obscuring much of the view and had now covered Table Mountains summit. The trail then dipped down to the base of a 500 yard long rock slide where we spotted our first beargrass bloom of the year (on a hike not from the car).

The trail appears to end at the rock slide but the rocks are the trail. Following poles we scrambled up the rocks to the continuation of the trail. This part proved to be quite fun. Just a few tenths of a mile after reaching the trails continuation we reached the meadows on the summit. An all to familiar view greeted us here. We had come all this way and couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet due to clouds. The meadows were filled with various wildflowers creating a colorful display and many plumes of beargrass stood at attention along the meadows edges.

As we headed south along the summit trail toward the viewpoint at that end a faint window opened in the clouds and there stood Mt. Hood. The clouds had begun to slowly break up and by the time we reached the viewpoint better and better views were opening up.
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We could now see Mt. Hood and the tip of Mt. Jefferson at times. Below we could see the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River and the Heartbreak Ridge trail as it crossed the viewpoint saddle. We spent awhile here waiting for the openings and then headed back down the trail to find a spot for lunch.

We chose a spot that offered a view to the north and east in addition to Mt. Hood to the south. As we ate glimpses of Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier began to appear. We eventually traveled further north on the summit loop to a second viewpoint at that end. There we discovered a beargrass meadow and ever improving views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, and also the rim of Mt. St. Helens.

Mt. Adams
Mt. Adams

We never quite got a clear view of any of the Washington peaks due to a pesky line of little clouds but after getting our fill of the view we headed down the west ridge. This trail was almost as steep as it made its way down and contained a lot of loose rocks. In addition it traveled close enough to the edge of the ridge that anyone with a fear of heights might really have a hard time. That being said the views from this trail were great. Mt. Hood lay ahead while behind was Table Mountain and the rock slide we had scrambled up.
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The going was slow but we eventually made it down to the PCT. I had no takers when I asked if anyone wanted to go around again when we reached the Heartbreak ridge junction so we returned to our car satisfied with the days views and ready to plan our next adventure. Happy Trail.

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Mount June

Ah the elusive view. One of my favorite rewards on a hike is reaching that spot where the view simply takes your breath away. It could be the sudden appearance of a giant snow covered mountain that looks so close that you could reach out and touch it or a wildflower meadow that seems to have been painted by the Creator himself or a panoramic view that is so immense that you can barely take it all in. We’re lucky enough to live in an area where there are plenty of places to hike where these types of views are possible. Possible but not guaranteed. We were reminded of that once again on our recent hike up Mount June.

There are a number of things that can end your chances to have the view you had hoped for. Hazy skies, forest fires, fog and clouds can all conspire against you. Unfortunately it was fog and clouds that proved our nemesis on Mount June. We had heard that the area is known for it’s fog but had also heard that often the rocky summit of Mount June rises above it to offer a view of a string of Cascade peaks. The forecast had called for a partly cloudy/mostly sunny morning with clear skies starting around 1:00pm.

We were the first to arrive at the trail head on this morning and were immediately struck by the darkness of the forest as soon as we stepped on the trail. Within a short distance we entered the fog which we had heard about.
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We noticed a number of the same Spring flowers we had seen over a month earlier at lower elevations blooming here now. Trillium, sourgrass, and wood violets add color to the forest along with a good number of fawn lilies. Once again we were too early for the rhododendron & beargrass displays even though these were in bloom along the road at the trail head.

It appeared to be raining most of the time we were in the forest but upon reaching a series of meadows near Sawtooth rock we realized it was not in fact raining. The fog was so damp that the condensation was falling from the trees creating the rainy affect. The meadows here were filled with wildflowers glistening with water droplets. The foggy conditions meant no views and even made it hard to make out large Sawtooth rock at the far end of the meadows. We skipped a short side trail to it’s base hoping that on our way back the skies might be clearer.

We continued on the Sawtooth trail toward Hardesty Mountain. Our plan was to make a short loop on it’s summit and visit the sight of a former lookout tower. As we reached our furthest point a hint of blue sky seemed to be just a little further to the North just out of our reach. We had a snack at the former lookout site and then completed the loop and headed back hoping that blue sky might be waiting for us on Mount June.

This time we took the trail to the base of Sawtooth rock where the conditions were slightly improved. Many birds were now flying around the meadows and we spotted one with some bright yellow coloring. It turned out to be a yellow-rumped warbler.
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The fog had lifted some and there was even a short lived opening giving us a view of the forest below, but Mount June was still hidden in the clouds.

We took the .5 mile climb to Mount June’s rocky summit which was for some reason particularly tough on this day. I don’t know if it was due to it being toward the end of the hike or the cumulative effect of a week of hiking but it was a trudge. Much to our disappointment the we found the same clouds and fog on the summit as we had been in all day. We decided to have some lunch and hope that the sunny skies that had been forecast would materialize since it was just now 1:00pm. The clouds kept rolling past us and all we managed were a couple of very short glimpses of Mt. Bailey and the ghostly outline of Mt. Thielsen to the SE.
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The view had eluded us once again, simply teasing us with a small brief sample of what could have been.

It was a good example of just why the elusive view is one of the most rewarding things for me on a hike. The mountains and forests don’t move but there is never a guarantee that they will be there to be seen. The view must be pursued and caught to be enjoyed.

After lunch we returned to the car where fluffy white clouds floated by in the blue sky. As we drove away there was no missing Mount June, it was the only peak with a cloud draped over it’s summit. We have many more hikes planned where we will have a chance to capture the elusive view, and after Mount June it will be even sweeter when we finally do. Happy Trails

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