Drift Creek Falls, Dec 31st

We couldn’t finish the year without a hike and being down in Newport, we had a handful of choices. At first, we thought about doing the Thumb but with the recent rainy days, we thought it would be muddy and very slippery, so we opted for Drift Creek Falls which is always very rewarding. From Newport, the drive there is longer, or at least seems longer than is should be as it goes thru a vey windy road. I’ve always wondered about those roads asking myself is that is by design or just happens while following a natural feature like a river or canyon. Either way, once we got there, we took the main trail going down where we cross paths we a lot of other people with the same idea as us. The forest was lush and beautiful but cold. I thought I had enough layers but as we were hiking downhill, I quickly learned that I was wrong. I do remember shivering a bit and trying to warm up by walking a bit faster – it didn’t work. Once we got down to the bridge we were welcomed with a bit of sun. It was not enough to feel the temperature difference but at least it made us feel better. WE took some pictures from the bridge and then hiked down to the lower view point where I took a couple of long exposures. On Our return, Marci stayed on the main trail heading up back to the parking area while Cindy and I took the alternate high trail that goes up to the ridge to descend back to the main trail adding about half a mile and some variety to the hike. After that, we drove back towards Newport making a stop in Otter Bay where we said goodbye to 2017 with the most spectacular sunset I’ve seen in a long time

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Barlow Butte, Dec 10th

After a stretch of cold and rainy days, we finally got a couple of clear days. Taking advantage of the window I opted for one of my favorites route to go test the snow. From the start, we noticed that snow was actually pretty low and even nonexistent in parts to the point that, for most of the hike, I used my microspikes instead of the snowshoes. Still the route was rewarding as it always is. Going up the trail proved to be much easier that other times as the trail was clearly visible. It was still a good workout to get up there and with the very cold weather, we couldn’t stop for long. We were constantly battling between not getting to hot and sweaty while hiking and getting cold when we stopped. When we finally made the ridge, we found about a foot-deep snow although pretty firm. The view point was nice but very windy so we just made a quick pass by it and then continued into the forest just for the protection of trees. Fr our vantage point we could see that the city and probably the Gorge was under the cover of low hanging clouds. We had lucked out with clear blue skies. The back-country portion of the hike took us this time thru a meadow and a different approach back to Barlow Road. When we got to Barlow Road, we had to switch to snowshoes as snow not only was deeper and fluffier. Coming down started at a good pace but then we started noticing ice crystals the size of small maple leaves. I’ve seen and taken pictures of this before but this time, the ice crystals were even bigger.


I stopped several times both on Barlow Road and then no Mineral Jane to take some more pictures before tackling the uphill back to the cars.

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Labyrinth and Coyote Wall, Dec 3rd

Since there wasn’t a lot of snow yet up in the mountain and it looked like it was going to rain – again, I decided to once again go east towards dryer lands. Coincidentally (or not) it seems this time of year, when we are transitioning from Summer to fall to winter, hiking on the eastern side of the Gorge is the way to go. So, this is another variation to the old classic loop that includes parts of Catherine Creek and Coyote Wall. Rather than start from the Catherine Creek trailhead though, his loop starts from a trailhead right in the middle. There are a couple of advantages to this particular route as some of it is not used by mountain bikers so finding a parking spot is usually easier. The first part of the hike starts going west on the old Hwy 8 route. If you were to continue all the way around, you’d end up at the Coyote Wall trailhead but instead, less than half way thru, there’s a trail that goes up towards Hidden Canyon. This trail quickly ascends thru rock formations and enters a forest pocket that looks almost like a piece from a fairy tale. Before coming out on the other side, there’s a foot path heading towards a rock outcrop that it’s worth visiting as it opens the views to the eastern Gorge.


The trail continues up passing by a couple junctions before reaching the Atwood Road that connects Catherin Creek with Coyote Wall. At that point it was the normal route heading west towards the wall with magnificent views of the gorge to the side. The only piece of scenery missing was Mt Hood as it was hiding inside a huge cloud. Wind was howling and got stronger as we got closer to the Coyote Wall view point. It was cold but the wind certainly made it feel like it so we bundled up once we got there and before continuing up to the upper view point. I had thought we would be able to stop there for lunch but the wind didn’t let us so we got in the trees until we found a more sheltered spot to grab a bite before heading back down.


To head back, we took the Crybaby Trail that follows the Wal ledge about half way but then veered to one of the trails that connected with the Little Maui trail. Again, this is a trail that is not as busy with mountain bikers and descends a bit further east offering more shelter from the wind. It also makes the return route a bit shorter when it lands back down on the old HWY8 which you take all the way back to the car. All in all, another great day.


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Devil’s Peak, Oct 29th

So, I needed something short but not too short that would still give me a good workout. There are few hikes that meet these criteria so I picked Devil’s Peak from Cool Creek as it pretty much promises that plus wonderful views from the fire lookout. Since I posted the hike later in the week, I didn’t get to many takers but still got a pretty decent group of fast hikers. After the short drive and getting to the hidden trailhead in the forest, we started our slow climb to the ridge. The elevation gain is consistent the entire length so it doesn’t let you take a breather and for some reason, nobody in the group wanted to stop. Aside from that, there’s not that many views to talk about on the way up so we just huffed and puffed at a pretty speedy pace. The forest was dark and mysterious with sunshine rays filtering thru the trees. Then, we finally hit the upper section where you take a short detour to the fire lookout and there we were, in front of the immense view of Mt Hood right in front almost at arm’s length. Sun was bright above us giving us perfect temperature to stop for a byte before heading back down. I took the opportunity to check the southern end of the top which opens view to Mt Jefferson and Three sisters.
There was a bit of haze so colors were a bit strange. After that, we took our gear and retraced our steps back to the car taking advantage of the downhill. Once we got down and check the time, we noticed that it was just after 1PM so the hike did deliver – short but a good workout with the added bonus. Not bad for a Sunday.

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Almost Mt Margaret from Norway Pass, Oct 15th

The Boundary trail AKA Trail #1 in Washington is one of those long trails with multiple access points and destinations in between. It runs for over 50 miles and was originally designed as the limit or border between the Mt Rainier National Forest and the Columbia National Forest. Today it marks the southern border of the Cowlitz Valley District covering, for the most part, the southern side of Mt St Helens. On the western side, the trail starts at Norway Pass going uphill to the pass which opens to some of the most spectacular views of Mt St Helens and Spirit Lake. It then continues around connecting with the Johnson Ridge Observatory that looks straight into the volcano crater. I saw these views once before when I hiked this trail by myself several years ago and then ago when I backpacked the Mt Margaret Backcountry which uses a portion of this trail to close a loop. Thinking of the views and possible fall colors, I organized a hike there not expecting a big surprise. Being early winter I was expecting bright yellows and reds along the trail but what we were not expecting was snow. As we drove to the trailhead, we passed several patches on the road and found a thin layer at the trailhead. That didn’t stop us but made the hike a bit more interesting. Right from the start we were slipping and sliding on the snow making our progress a bit slower than expected. The colors were what I predicted, bright yellows and reds contrasting with deep blue and patches of white. It was almost a magical scenery as we gained elevation looking at Meta Lake and south towards Mt Hood. Then we reached Norway Pass which opened to this view


We had perfect weather with some clouds on the sky but no wind and generally warm. We continued on the trail getting our shoes and socks wet on the melting snow as we gained elevation. We made several short stops at different viewpoints to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. As we gained elevation, the snow got deeper so some of us put on traction devices to help with the sliding. Snow was a bit slushy but it still helped a bit. Towards the northern side of the route, where the trail climbs towards a saddle to the junction with the Whittier trail things got a bit more difficult and eventually we lost the trail. Instead of following the route to the saddle, we hiked up a small knob with great views of Mt Margaret and St Helens to one side and some of the lakes of the Mt Margaret Backcountry area on the other. We looked at the map and compared what we were seeing with the trail ahead and noticed nobody had gone that far so the snow was packed and heady going forwards. Closer to Mt Teragram, just before Mt Margaret, we could see the trail was not only covered in snow but it was also shinny indicating it was probably frozen solid. That area is slanted so falling from there was a risk we didn’t want to take so instead of continuing, we made that our stopping point and started heading back. We made a shot stop at a nearby ridge and walked a bit off-trail to a view point where we found some rocks to sit on and have lunch with a pretty decent view. The route back was the same retracing the same views which had only a minor change. With no wind, Spirit lake became completely calm reflecting the Mt St Helens on it. I don’t recall ever seeing this but clearly an image I wont forget.


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