Another quick jaunt to Table Mountain, Jun 28th

When Val and I need some good elevation gain to get our heart pumping, we tend to pick one of a very few hikes close to home. Table Mountain is certainly one of those. The route hasn’t changed although they finally closed the shortcut trail to Carpenters Lake. From the trailhead, instead of taking that shortcut, you have to take the route towards Aldrich Butte and then turn right to connect to Table Mountain. Then was the standard, follow the trail until you reach the sign that marks the start of the torturous uphill following the Heartbreak Trail. Weather was a mix with threatening clouds and pockets of light in the distance so we didn’t know what we were going to get. We reached the ridge and followed to the end towards our preferred lunch spot right at the edge of the cliff overlooking the Gorge. Or our way back, we took the trail towards the back to do the lollipop loop down. As we were coming down, some more menacing weird clouds started filling the Gorge. We didn’t get rained on but we did certainly get some really cool views. So relaxing.


McIntyre Ridge, June 20th

Another hike off my list! I read about this hike probably four or five years ago and put it on my to-do list. The reason was the promise of spectacular views (which the hike did provide). The abstinence if you will, was due to the trailhead. As far as I known, this hike has changed trailhead three ties now. I’m not sure why the first change happened but I think it was a similar case as the most resent one. It was being used for target practice. As you can imagine, it’s not very comforting driving in the middle of the forest to get to the end of the road where you can find graffiti painted over the rocks, hundreds of bullet casings of all calibers and holes in every surface you can see. Yes, it’s not the place where you want to leave your car, unattended, for a full day. Naturally I was resisting. But then I read an article a couple of month ago indicating the Forest Service was closing the access road to the trailhead. I learned afterwards of another trail, the Douglas trail that could be used to access the McIntyre Ridge trail from the south. Promising a more peaceful destination, I decided to plan a hike and finally explore the area. I’ll say that, if this trailhead is much better than the older, I don’t even want to imagine the old one. I’m not sure if there’s still a lot of target practice in the area as the day we went, there was a huge group from the search and rescue team doing some training in the area. Still. The area around the parking area and the approaching road to the Douglas Trail (now decomitioned) was covered in debris and bullet casings. Either way we felt safe having a few dozen rescuers and policemen near the trailhead. The good thing though is that once you get on the Douglas trail, you leave all this behind pretty quickly and the views of the Eagle Creek Canyon become the main attraction. The climb is not too hard and soon you get to the fork with the end of the McIntyre Ridge trail. Form here there are a couple of options, left and right. We went left first towards the famous McIntyre viewpoint on the ridge. Part of the hike is forested but some other parts, along the ridge, are more open. An unexpected sight was finding wildflowers in full bloom and the tallest beargrass I’ve seen so far. As we walked thru the beargrass meadows it was impossible not to come out covered in pollen – certainly not a hike for someone with allergies.
We passed several of those meadows until we reached the viewpoint. Yes, the views are as good as you’d expect. There’s a couple of trees that have gotten pretty tall and will obstruct part of the view but it’s still amazing. We took a small break in that area before we continued on heading downhill towards the lower viewpoint. That one is not as impressive as the first one, but considering that now the hike is done in reverse, it makes sense. We had a light lunch at that spot before retracing our steps back to the junction where we took the second option to go check out Wildcat Mountain (and to get some more mileage and elevation gain). Doing this after covering the McIntyre Ridge didn’t seem as interesting. Still it’s a worthy destination, if for nothing else, for the extra elevation.



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Siouxon Creek Backpack, May 29th to 31st

Mark and Brian had come up with a plan to do a backpack in the siouxon Creek area that included a loop over Siouxon Peak and another over Huffman Peak. Some of this changed as we went along, but that was the idea.

Day 1: Siouxon Creek trailhead to Chinook Creek trail junction

I met Mark early in the morning and we went from there to pick up Brian on the way to the trailhead. According to the plan, we had an easy day ahead as we were only hiking to the fork with the Chinook Creek trail. Brian had mentioned that it was going to be about 8 miles, mostly flat travel. We started from the lower trailhead quickly descending to the creek. The first thing we noticed was that Siouxon was running incredibly low. I couldn’t say how low but could estimate a foot at the vey least. It was scary. The hike went fast with fantastic views of the creek as we went. Some memories came back as we got closer to the bridge over Horseshoe Creek as you see the waterfall to the left of the trail.
I did remember this fall carrying a lot of water. I was still beautiful but again, not a lot of water. Further down the trail, we passed the trail junction with the Wildcat Creek trail that requires fording Siouxon Creek. We didn’t know at that point if we were going to cross there or somewhere else, but if the plan was to do the Huffman Peak loop on the way out, we needed to cross somewhere. I did the Huffman peak loop a long time ago and I remembered crossing on the way there and then on the way back. That time wasn’t terrible, but I couldn’t say it was easy either. This time, the crossing section looked pretty easy with enough rocks to be able to cross without getting our shoes wet. We continued on until we got to the bridge over Siouxon Creek. We’d read that it was closed because it was about to fall off. The Forest Service had parked it and even put ribbons across but somebody took them off. We crossed on the bridge being careful not to jump or do more damage. This was our destination for the day. The puzzling part was that it was still very early. When we checked the map and the GPS, we realized that Brian and Mark had estimated the distance of the first day from the upper trailhead instead of the lower. Once we picked up a campsite, setup camp and had lunch, we went exploring. At first we thought about continuing upstream on the Siouxon Creek trail but with the water level being so low, we decided instead to follow the creek itself. It was a hot day so getting wet was not an issue either. We walked about a mile upstream passing some narrow canyons and small waterfalls. It was a very scenic adventure that would have been very easy to miss.
Later that evening, after dinner we went the other way to check the Chinook Falls. It was going to be the same route we would take the following day for our day hike to Siouxon Peak, but we wanted to check the waterfall. I’m glad we did as it was almost magical in the late afternoon and low light.
After a while, we went back to camp for a good night sleep.

Day 2: Siouxon Peak loop

The plan for the day was to leave camp after breakfast and head up on the Chinook Creek trail up to the Huffman Peak trail. Reach Siouxon Peak from there and then come back down on the Wildcat Creek trail to complete the loop. We started going up again thru Chinook Falls and taking the trail on the other side of the creek. Right after the fork the arduous climb started. Most of the trail was a dense forest and we could hear the creek down below. As we hiked up, several mountain bikers passed us pedaling their way to the top. Most of the hike up went without many views or interesting things to comment other than some gigantic cedars half way up. As soon as we reached the junction with the Huffman peak trail, views changed dramatically. We came out to the end of a dirt road with open views to the north. Some trees were blocking part of it but Mt St Helens was close enough to almost reach out and touch. To our left, we could see the remnants of the road that was converted to a trail and our destination not too far away. This section was completely exposed so the beating sun didn’t help. We found ourselves dragging our feet as we continued up. In the distance we could clearly see Helens and Rainier and, depending on the angle, part of Mt Adams to the back. Finally the trail made a couple of switchbacks as we were getting closer to a point in the map were the trail makes a hairpin turn. We realized we were going to get some good views from there but we were not ready for them. At the hairpin, some tress were blocking the views but a short path went around to a rock outcrop. The views from that point were just incredible. Right in front of us, down below we could see the Swift Reservoir at the foot of Mt St Helens. Farther in the distance Mt Rainier was also clearly visible and a bit to the right, Mt Adams was peaking over the ridge line.
After numerous pictures taken there, we continued on and took a spur trail to the top of Siouxon Peak. Since the trail had made almost a 360 turn at the hairpin, we were now looking south so the views extended over the Columbia Gorge to Mt Hood. We stopped at the summit to eat lunch while enjoying the views. Once we ate and got fried with the sun, we decided to continue knowing it would be mostly downhill, but before that, we needed to reach the Wildcat trail. To get there we hiked on the ridge line between Huffman Peak and Siouxon Peak which continued to offer some really nice vistas. Then we got to the unction, veered left and started… climbing? Well, it so happens that before going down, you have to go up. It wasn’t a long climb but after reaching Siouxon Peak we were a bit tired. Eventually the downhill arrived and we started quickly going down thru mostly drier forests and very little bushes and undercover. Most of the trail didn’t offer much in terms of views until you get farther down and get the first glimpse, from above, of big water fall as it plummets down into the abys. A couple of switchbacks later you make a last turn and there, right in front of you is the very tall and green Wildcat waterfall.
We stopped there for a while to take pictures and rest as our legs were really sore by then. The last part of the loop was reaching the bottom of Wildcat and taking a connector trail that took us back to camp late in the evening just in time to soak in the creek, have dinner and go to bed.

Day 3: Hike out

The original plan was to pack and hike up the Wildcat trail (the same trail we hiked down the day before), go over Huffman peak and come back down the other side. Distance and elevation was comparable to the 10 miles 3000’ of elevation gain we had done already, but our sore legs said it was going to be too much. Besides that, we didn’t want to get back too late so attempting such a long route around was just not feasible. So instead, we packed our gear and went back to the Chinook Creek to play in the water, build cairns and take pictures. We spent most of the morning doing that before going back to camp where we had a quick bite, grab our gear and hiked back to the trailhead.



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Twin Lakes backpack, May 23rd to May 24th

With the warmer weather we had been having, Val and I were itching to go backpacking, so we picked a close to town route that we could easily do as an overnighter. Luck was not in our side as the weather changed and we got a mostly overcast weekend with just a tiny bit of sun when we were already hiking out. We started from the Pansy Lake trailhead meandering thru the woods while we slowly climbed towards Pansy Lake. On the way in, we didn’t stop at Pansy but I did notice the lake looked to be shallower and more like a marsh than a lake from what I remembered. From there we continued on the Mother Lode trail without views until we got to the burnt area further up. I’ve always found burnt areas to be very intriguing. On one side is the sense of desolation as you walk thru black and white tall dead tree trunks, on the other, is the amazement as nature keeps going with new plants and flowers. The views are very contrasting with incredible backgrounds and colorful foregrounds. Along the trail we found both Rhododendrons and Bear Grass in full bloom. Then the trail kind of disappeared below our feet at the same time we got our first view of Upper Twin Lake. We saw several campsites already taken so we walked a bit further and found a nice site next to the lake. Views were a bit limited but with all the fog and clouds, there was not much to see. We took a short walk to the lower Twin Lakes just to check it out and found that half the trail, as you get closer to the lake, is buried under bushes and fallen trees. You pretty much have to make your own way. We did see people heading that way and camping around the lake though so I guess the footpath eventually take you there. That evening we had a small fire to warm up while we had dinner and then hi the sack quite early. The following morning was not much different so we retraced our step back towards the trailhead. We thought for a while taking a detour to climb to the ire lookout to check the scenery but as we were getting closer to the trail junction, we met a couple that was just coming down from there. They told us that the fire lookout was inside the cloud so there was absolutely no views. With that we just decided to continue on towards the trailhead. Towards the end, as we were hiking the last mile or so, the sun finally peeked thru the clouds and illuminate the forest just for a little bit. It was still a relaxing weekend sleeping under the stars.



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Waimea Canyon, May 12th

Aside from the Pihea trail, we were recommended not to miss this hike, at least to the waterfall as it gives a different perspective of the canyon and gets you to the only reachable waterfall in the area. The trail starts from one of the lookout points along Kokee Road and it gets challenging right from the start. From the trailhead, the trail meanders thru the forest for a little bit and then it goes down abruptly. For the most part, there are no views in this section but the tress are quite interesting with their twisted branches (especially to us coming from the Pacific Northwest were pines shoot straight to the sky). On our way, we found a sign for the Cliff trail and a quick check at the map told us it was a short path to a view point so we took the turn and followed it. The trail pretty much travels straight to the edge of the cliff and then turn north following the ridgeline. There’s a fence that prevents you from going further than what would be safe. But still, from that point of view, you can almost get dizzy when looking down towards the bottom of the canyon. We had an overhanging cloud so part of the canyon was grayed out at that point. After retracing our steps and getting back to the Canyon trail, we continued down to a small saddle and then started climbing again thru red dirt and big boulders. Suddenly the trees opened up as we saw the top of the hump.
Before we got there, we knew the views would be outstanding. Strangely enough, this area is as dangerous or more than the cliff trail yet it doesn’t have any protection at all. On one side that’s pretty nice as there’s nothing to interfere with the view but on the other, if you were to slip, there’s not much to grab on to. From that point I noticed a very interesting feature that left me puzzled. Right across the canyon, ay about eye level, there are some rocks that looked piled together forming an arch. I was not able to tell if those are natural or someone, at some point, placed them there. Towards the end of this hump, you get the first indication that you are closer to the waterfall as you can hear it in the background. The trail makes a very tight switchback and numerous signs let you know of the many dangers that include floods, slipping, and rocks falling.
It almost makes you question why you are there. As you get closer to the water, the vegetation changes and you are welcomed with little colored flowers everywhere. There’s a short foot path to the right that takes you to a point right above the edge of the waterfall but if you continue on the trail, you cross the creek and another path on the other side actually takes you to the water. There’s a big rock and a couple of logs to pass that section, but right after that you can see the water as it flows to the edge and quickly disappears into the abyss. Most people turn around at this point and head back but the trail continues and eventually connects with the Kumuwela Trail. We decided to explore a bit more and were pleasantly surprised to find another small ridge at the top edge of the canyon with expansive views all the way to the ocean. One thing I need to say is that pictures don’t do this place justice as there’s nothing you can use for perspective. The canyon is so in immense and deep that is hard to think you are on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.



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