Enchanted Valley, Aug 4th to 6th

Enchanted Valley is one of those magical places I’ve been waiting for a while to do. Part of it is because the frequent encounters with black bears and then because this area is known for its beauty and gigantic trees so when Pete posted this trip for the group I jumped right in. My idea had always been to camp at the chalet but since this wasn’t my trip, I followed Pete’s plan that ended up being setting up a vase camp somewhere along the route and then explore for the day. That worked pretty well to get to know the area and even gave us the opportunity to explore of trail for a bit. The only unfortunate thing was the smoke. With all the firs in the region, the sky remained orange for the whole three days. Not sure if that was the reason or because the temperatures were pretty warm that we didn’t see bears. Still, it was an amazing trip and an area I’ll probably visit again.


Day 1: Trailhead to Pyrites Camp

After several hours on the car, we got to the trailhead at around noon and quickly grabbed our gear and started on the trail. I knew it wasn’t going to be a long hike and looking at the destination elevation it didn’t seem it was going to be that hard either.
Most of the trail follows the Quinault River pretty close crossing it a couple of times. As you get into the forest, you’re quickly welcomed by gigantic trees, the sound of rushing water and some limited views of river valleys. Not far from the trailhead though you start getting tired and suddenly you realize there’s lots of ups and downs so even though the destination is not too high, the hike to it was going to be a workout. As we hiked up, I lost count of how many creeks we crossed, some dry and some running very low, before we got to camp. Finally, we got to an opening with a lot of campsites on both sides of the trail. Looking at a map we realized we were at Pyrites which was Pete’s plan. We scouted the sites and set up camp for the night. From our sites, we had direct access to the river so we spent a lot of time next to the water while we had dinner, build some cairns and looked at the surrounding scenery

Day 2: Exploring from Pyrites Camp to Oldest Hemlock Site


We woke up to a very smoky day. From our camp, and later from the trail, it was hard to see anything in the distance. We also saw the sun come from the ridge as a bright orange ball. I can’t say that breathing the smoke was nice as you could certainly tell. That also made the day get warm pretty quick. Even with that, we headed upstream passing even more creeks and getting more magnificent forest views that looked a bit different than what they would normally look given the orange glow. We only saw a couple of openings that, on clear days must offer nice views of the ridge line above. Then we got to high bridge. As the name implies, it’s a high bridge hat has a single handrail. Crossing is not for the faint of heart or those who don’t feel at ease with a high drop off on the side. Further from there we could see the valley opening towards were he chalet is. We meandered thru the forest until we finally saw our first stop. The historic chalet sits on the river bank but not where it used to be. About a year or two ago, the river was eating out the flank and was threatening to take the chalet with it. On a huge effort by the Forest Service, he entire structure was moved a couple hundred feet inland to preserve it. Looking at the structure, we imagined it might have been an incredible task. We stopped there for snacks and to admire some waterfalls on the faces of the mountain on our side. It was a pretty sight even though it was very smoky. We spread out afterwards so I went further up until I found a side trail to a site where he oldest registered hemlock is. I can’t say I was impressed. Yes, it was a very big tree but nothing more. On the way, there though I did notice across the river some snow caves that were almost calling my name. On the way down, I made a point to find a route and see if I could cross the river to explore those a bit. I found an animal path from the trail that got rough quickly but eventually took me to the river only to find Pete, Steve and Cynthia already there. They had found another path on a trail to the river so they didn’t have to bushwhack. We looked for places where we could hop on rocks and cross the river but found none. Not wanting to take our shoes of we opted for crossing like that and then letting our shoes dry. The crossing was easier than what I expected and from there was just a scramble up to the mouth of the first cave. That cave was not very long and had three tunnels inside. We walked in and took some pictures despite all the water coming from the ceiling.


After that, Pete, Steve and Cynthia left heading back to camp and I went uphill trying to take some extra pictures. I was recalling a second set of caves not too far from where I was so I bushwhacked my way to those as well. After some pictures, I headed back to the river and the trail. On my way, back to camp I made several detours to small waterfalls to take some more pictures. I remained in the lookout for bears but never saw any.


Day 3: Pyrites Camp to trailhead

Since we had a long drive back home Pete asked everyone to be ready to hike out early in the morning. By 8 AM we were already on the trail for the hike out. The orange continued but his time, since we were heading out, we just marched our way back to the trailhead. It certainly was a nice outing that needs to be repeated in better conditions.

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A note about the Eagle Creek Fire

If you leave in Oregon, although I think the news have already traveled far, you know about the Eagle Creek Fire. It started this past Saturday when, allegedly, some kids where throwing smoke bombs down the canyon. I was backpacking at the moment but learned about it on my way home and had to drive by it. This is what I saw


Needless to say, it was scary. At that moment, I couldn’t even realize the magnitude and the implication of the fire. It just looked like an inferno. Later, while listening to the news, I learned about the teenager that seems to have started this. In my process, I went thru anger. I wanted to know who he was and why he did it. Most importantly, I wanted something to happen to him, something really bad; something make him pay for what he did. To make him understand the implications. After hundreds of notes and articles and comments on-line, I finally realized that yes, we do have the right to be mad at the kid, we have the right to be mad at the parents that didn’t teach him that every action has consequences. I’m not going to lie, I still feel a bit that way, but the fire could have been caused by lighting as well. The result is the same. When I understood or realized that, pain settled in and I cried. I cried because I realized that I have hiked most, if not all the trails in that area. That I know the turns, switchbacks, markers and some forgotten trails that are no longer used. That I have countless memories and friendships that stared there. Now, all that forest with its tall trees and trails is something we will never get to see again in our lifetimes. Certainly, the mountain will recover and flowers will show and new views will appear, but who knows how long that will take. With that uncertainty, I felt my call, a call to do something. So, I started contacting people and becoming a member of Trail Keepers of Oregon. My plan is to find ways to help rebuild, however I can, so future generations can enjoy the Gorge as I have. I feel is the least I can do for all that I’ve gotten from it.

Mt Adams climb, Jul 22nd and 23rd

Hard to imagine that last time I climbed Mt Adams was 6 years ago! It was certainly time to head back up there again. Part of the reason I hadn’t done is because last couple of years, conditions have not been right and a big fire that went thru the cold springs campground where the trailhead is located at. This year, after a winter with above average snow levels, was looking like perfect conditions so I pasted in the calendar and of we went.



Day 1: Cold Springs to Lunch Counter

On our way to the trailhead we had to do the usual stop at the ranger station to get climbing permits. There we learned about the hordes of people going up the mountain. Apparently, they had about 300 self-issued permits overnight plus about 100 they had filled out that morning. That got me a bit worried about being able to find campsite at lunch counter. There are a lot of sites but they are still limited. We that in mind I wanted to get up there quickly, not rushed but quick. With permits in hand we drove to the trailhead which was, as I was recalling, rough ride. The campground is completely changed. I do remember some shade and sites where people would camp the night and just climb for the day. No is all exposed and dusty and barely a place to set up a tent. Even if you did, you would be covered in dust in about 10 minutes. Aside from that, there were cars parked down the road for quite a while. Lots of people on the mountain! So, we started the trail and right from the beginning, since there’s no tree cover now, it got hot. Luckily we were heading up so we knew we would be hitting snow patches that would provide some level of coolness. We got lots of beautiful flowers on the way and soon were hiking on snow. Rather than taking the winter route, we did a slight variation of the summer route which goes over the Crescent Glacier. The route was easy to follow as you had always people in front or behind you. Some puffy clouds started passing by but weather was pretty good. We finally made it to Lunch Counter in the early afternoon and were able to secure the three sites we needed. Interestingly enough, there were a lot of empty sites so I’m not sure how that worked. Either way, we set up camp and rested for the rest of the afternoon. I can’t say that all of us felt stellar. Either the altitude or just being plain tired got to us. Pete commented that he didn’t recall this being so hard while I was a bit dizzy and recovering. We didn’t find running water so part of the afternoon was spent melting snow for cooking and drinking. Later that day we enjoyed a magnificent sunset and then an incredible starry night. Temperature wasn’t that low that night and wind kept very calm so I was able to get out in the middle of the night for some night photos of the milky way. I was able to stay out for about half an hour until my toes started to freeze.



Day 2: Lunch Counter to summit and back to Cold Springs

We woke up early on Sunday with the plan of starting to climb at around 7AM. As we were getting ready, packing and having breakfast, we enjoyed a nice sunrise with light hitting the side of the mountain and casting a shadow all the way to the horizon.



I still find it incredible how the shadow projects all the way into the sky. It’s a pretty amazing sight. Right before starting I turned and looked towards the climbing route and could see a line of people going uphill like a line of ants. There was a lot of people on the mountain. Our march was slow and steady and like that, we reached Pikers Peak, the false summit, at bit after 9AM. Wind was blowing a bit harder at that point so we ate a bar, put on some new layers and then continued up on our last push towards the summit. About 40 minutes later, we finally made it to the top with a bright sunny and spectacular day. There was a considerable number of people to the point that there was a line to get on top of the chalet to take the famous victory photo.
Then it was time for the fun part, glissading down the mountain. The first chute we took brought us down from the summit to the saddle towards Pikers Peak. The snow was soft but still slippery enough to slide with no effort. It was going to be a fun slide. At Pikers, we had three chutes to choose from. I waited for a bit as I wanted space in front of me to go fast. Once I saw I had a clear line, I literally thru myself down the mountain. In the past, when I’ve done this I had to stop several times and restart because I would get out of the chute or loose control. With softer snow, I was well in the chute with no need to stop. I reached Lunch Counter in about 20 minutes after a single run where my GPS told me I had come at about 15 miles an hour. It was a blast and I almost wanted to go up to it again! Since we all got down relatively quick, we took our time to repack, eat and rest a bit. I took my rain pants off and notices I had trashed them so if there was more glissading, I needed an alternative solution. I remembered that I always carry a heavy plastic bag in my pack so I took it out and put it in my pocket just in case. On the way down we found more chutes that we used. They were not as fast as the upper chutes but good enough to glissade with your pack and save you from walking down the mountain. We did that for quite a while until our packs, pants and boots were completely drenched. Finally, we reached the trail were more glissading was just not possible so we hiked from there. Since we had saved quite some distance we reached the trailhead at a very reasonable hour with plenty of time to stop for lunch and head back home. I believe this marks my fifth climb and only the second with perfect views but I must say that mountain is getting harder to climb.

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Bluegrass Ridge, Jul 9th

Another route from my long to-do list, and this one had been there for quite a while. The Blue Grass ridge is one of those trails that is slowly disappearing and being forgotten. I’m not sure if it’s because a big portion of it was burned in 2006 or lack of funding yet, due to the fire, you now get some pretty amazing views from that trail. The other challenge about this route is distance. Even though it could be combined to make a loop using the Elk Meadows trail, it’s better to do a car shuttle between the trailhead and the Tamanawas trailhead. So, when I saw Zach’s post to lead this hike I jumped right in. AS things go, everyone bailed so in the end it was just him and me for this hike – no car shuttle, but we decided to test our luck and try to catch a ride back to the trailhead from Tamanawas Falls. So off we went. There are several places when you can get on this trail but the most convenient perhaps is the Elk Meadows trailhead just before Hood River Meadows. The first portion is a very well know area where you can cross with lots of other hikes and families heading to or coming back from Newton Creek (also a great winter route). After crossing the creek people thin out as the trail quickly gains elevation thru several switchbacks that take you up to Elk Meadows. Once there, you find yourself at a four-way junction where any choice good if you had to pick one. You could head to Gnarl Ridge, continue exploring Elk Meadows or the lesser known trail to Elk Mountain which is the one we took. The top of Elk doesn’t offer much of a view but a short trail continues down a ridge to a much better viewpoint where Mt Jefferson appears to the South. The views east are a bit harder to identify as you look at Robin hood Creek drainage. After a short stop for pictures and food, we retraced our steps back to Elk Mountain and got on the Bluegrass Ridge trail. The trail thins out and disappears quickly under your feet so you need to find your way. It’s not that hard as you are following the ridge line, still, there’s plenty of logs and rocks to go around. Aside from the magnificent view of Mt Hood to the left, we had a compete wildflower covered ground. It made a great contrast with the white, dead wood all around. We hiked for miles enjoying both until we reached a rocky outcrop that opened views to the north with Mt Adams and Rainier almost aligned. Right in that area, we crossed a small creek completely covered with Columbines.
 I’ve never seen so many in just one spot, the whole hillside was painted red. From there we negotiated our way down on an even more faint trail until we reached the Elk Meadows trail where we turned right. This trail took us to the junction with the Tamanawas Falls trail which is not part of the route but a side trip. I’ve seen this waterfall in the winter but never in the summer so it was time for a side trip. WE headed up and found a big rock slide that fell on the trail making a bit hard to go thru. Several people got to that point and turned around as they couldn’t figure a way around the huge boulders. We climbed around and got back on the trail to the waterfall where we found a family taking pictures behind the waterfall. We didn’t go there but took a break at the base enjoying the views.


Several pictures after, we resumed our hike retracing our steps to the junction and continuing the Tamanawas trail to the trailhead. Along the way we met a couple that was also hiking out and asked them for a ride which they gave us to the trailhead. To celebrate our accomplishment, we made a stop at Solstice for a well-deserved pizza and beer. What a day.

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The Thumb, Jul 4th

After the wonderful Oregon Coast Backpack, we still had an extra day. With the choice of either coming back home early or doing another hike we all voted for the later. At first we thought about doing Cascade Head but quickly found that there was no access to the trailhead. Then I recalled a hike I did earlier this year to the Thumb so I proposed that to the rest of the group. None of the had done it so I quickly downloaded my tracks and took them there. The hike itself and the views were fantastic as with the first time I did with the bonus of wild flowers. Right from the start we got to several displays that almost hurt the eye. The other encounter was with a deer that, same as last time, followed us for a bit before taking of and disappearing into the forest. It was a very rewarding short hike to finish a long weekend with good friends… and with plenty of time to get back home a relax before the work week started.


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