27 Cape Horn Loop, Columbia River Gorge, Washington

Cape Horn Loop     October 14, 2017    (#50 – hikes in 2017)

On a beautiful fall day, after several days of rain, we went with friends to the Cape Horn trail just east of Washougal, WA.  This view shows the massive cliffs of Cape Horn from Angel’s Rest on the Oregon side of the river. Our trail will follow the road down to the lower green fields, then traverse west along the lower cliffs before heading back up hill to the top of the mountain.


October 2014  Cape Horn viewed from Angel’s Rest

Fog draped the summit when we arrived, so we chose to hike clockwise around the loop, our first views being the highway 14 viaduct above us as we completed the road walk.


From the road, the trail then enters the forest, and emerges onto the open mossy scree slopes above the cliffs adjacent to the waterfall (which was at very low flow).


We reached the lowest part of the trail above the Columbia River, and could look east to see Cigar Rock.



Eastward view toward Beacon Rock, Phoca Rock; fog topped cliffs

We continued across the cliffs, and opted for the westernmost loop that leads onto a promontory above the western entrance to the train tunnel that cuts through the cliff beneath us.


From here, the trail heads upward through various switchback sections, with spurs to the Oak and Waterfall viewpoints, then through the trail tunnel under highway 14, and finally up to the Nancy Russell Overlook, where plenty of other hikers were resting.


We saw two giant baguettes being transported by barge (or was it sawdust)?



There is a distinct sandbar in the river channel below glinting in the sun.


Next, the traverse along property boundaries to the actual highest point – Pioneer viewpoint. By this time the fog had evaporated.


View to the east upriver from Pioneer Point


View to west from Pioneer Point, including Hwy 14 viaduct

From there it is all downhill, down the steep switchbacks to the trailhead.  We were a bit early for the fall color display, and saw only one flower, a penstemon, whereas in the spring the trail is lined by hanging gardens of wildflowers.

It was a lovely day for a hike. On a side note, the turftoe plate I was using in my right boot seemed to delay the onset of pain in my arthritic big toe for a couple of miles, and I hope this tool will allow me to continue with longer hikes.

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Total for the day: 7.5 miles, 1350 feet.

Look back:

We have hiked this trail several times – though we have only completed the full loop a couple of times because the lower cliff area is closed from February to July for peregrine falcon nesting. In 2014, when we hiked the lower loop, we saw a train exit the tunnel beneath us.



The most striking comparison is the new view of burned up Angel’s Rest, almost directly across from Cape Horn on the Oregon side of the river.  Green in the past, it is now brown.


Angel’s Rest 2014


Angel’s Rest 2017


I have knit two more tortillas and a square purple wash cloth, as well as mended four pairs of hand knit socks in time for winter.

I have been planning my giant clam shell quilt, but have not yet made a satisfactory template.  More on that later.



26. The Perfect Fall Hike on Mt Hood

Mirror Lake and Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain, Mt. Hood     October 6, 2017    (#49)

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Sunny skies, shady forest, bright red huckleberry and vine maple on the scree slopes, reflections of Mt Hood in Mirror Lake, five cascade volcanoes in view at the top. Total distance 6.6 miles, 1500 feet.



Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier and Mt Adams to the north


Mt Jefferson to the south



We have hiked here in every season, including with micro spikes on on New Years Day 2014, a low snow year; and a failed snowshoe attempt in January of 2016, when the snow above the lake was too deep to find a safe trail.  Spring and summer flowers, brilliant fall color, fabulous views when not cloudy.  The trail is overly popular for good reason.

Comparison photos: 

Views from Mirror Lake to Mt. Hood:


September 27, 2010


January 1, 2014


January 8, 2016


November 4, 2016


October 6, 2017

Views to Mt Hood from the top of Tom Dick and Harry Mtn:


September 27, 2010


June 1, 2013


January 1, 2014


November 4, 2016


October 6, 2017

25. Early Fall in the Gifford Pinchot

September 30, 2017    Rainy weekend predicted; possible dry window Saturday to the east of Portland;  Indian Heaven still closed from the Crater Fire; windy along the Columbia River. We decided to try some short hikes in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest between Mt Adams and Indian Heaven, near Trout Lake, WA.


Our first drive through the Columbia River Gorge since the fire: Good photos are posted in official feeds elsewhere.  I was pleased to see how much is not burned. That said, it was sobering to see the extent of the burn: blackened trees on the skyline, blackened forest floors down to the highway in some places, blackened trunks on still green trees.  I felt great appreciation for the fire fighting, for the massive cleanup that has already occurred, and for the challenge ahead. We will be back someday but not soon.


Through the passenger window of a moving car:  Blackened trees on the skyline; slash piles below.

We got a glimpse of Mt Adams and an intense, wide rainbow just as we entered Trout Lake.


Steamboat Mountain  (#48)

This short hike (1.5 miles, 400′) is touted by Scott Cook in his Curious Gorge book to have some of the best views of the Cascades and a relatively easy trail. The weather was not in our favor, though.  When we parked at the trailhead/quarry, we could just see the top of Steamboat Mountain from the base.


As we hiked up the well graded trail through red huckleberry the clouds closed in.


From the rocky top, I could just make out our Suburu parked at the base, but no mountains, no views.


Looking down at our Suburu (center of photo) from the top


We ate our lunch, hiked down.  We were reminded that we are now in hunting season, as people were firing guns just on the other side of the quarry.

Langfield  Falls

Driving back south toward Trout Lake, we visited Langfield Falls, just east of Tire Junction.  There is a short trail down to the waterfall viewpoint, and another user trail along the creek above the falls. A spatter of rain, a lovely waterfall.


Natural Bridge

Back to Trout Lake, then west about 5 miles, is the Natural Bridge area- a collapsed lava tube with bridges in places of incomplete collapse.  A friend from the Portland Hikers Facebook group had tipped us off to brilliant fall color here, and we found this to be true – even if we were early for the full show.  The inner collapsed tube is overgrown with vine maples that blazed in gradation through the spectrum from bright green, to yellow green, yellow, yellow orange, orange, red orange and red: the analogous colors from half the color wheel on view.  We wandered around for a while, and Dan set up his tripod as we waited for sunbreaks to illuminate the scene.


One of the Natural Bridges



Dan with tripod

24. Frog Lake Buttes, Mt Hood

Frog Lake Butte, Mt Hood, Oregon      9/24/2017     (#47) 

A beautiful sunny day with only a few people fishing at Frog Lake when we began our hike.


Views of Mt. Jefferson and red huckleberry bushes on the way up.


A bit of snow from last week at our view point of Mt Hood atop the butte.


A few asters and a million frogs in the meadow and around the lake shore on our return.  The frogs must have been sleeping this morning, but they were hopping all around my feet in a few areas.


2 cm frog on the rock




Looking back on the Frog Lake Buttes from the west side of the lake.


About 6 miles, 1500 feet.

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23. Visiting the Midwest

As I write this I get an Eagle Creek Fire update:  Rain has finally slowed the fire, and operations are turning to cleanup and recovery.

We flew to Ohio, passing over the south side of Mt Hood – smoke not impeding our view today to Mt Adams and Rainier beyond.


Mt Hood, Mt Rainier and Mt Adams


Oberlin College

We visited our daughter at Oberlin College in Ohio. I had previously only had a brief peak at the campus the day we moved her into her dorm two years ago.  She and her roommate are now in a two bedroom apartment and enjoying the non-dorm lifestyle. We walked all around campus, seeing the various buildings and rooms where she spends her time. She introduced us to friends that seemed to appear around every corner.  I enjoyed the quiet, but intensely busy vibe on this early-term late summer weekend.  We got coffee from The Local, ate delicious dinners at The Feve and Indian Garden, and joined her for a student prepared lunch at her dining coop.

Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio   Sept. 17, 2017  (#46)

She also wanted to go for a hike.  We chose a 4 mile hike about an hour from campus, the Stanford/Brandywine Falls trail. It was a beautiful sunny day though the humidity was much greater than we are used to in the Pacific Northwest. There was enough shade in the woodlands to stay comfortable, a few summer flowers struggled along, and fall colors were beginning to pop.



We then flew to Chicago to visit to our son. Beautiful weather continued on Monday as we enjoyed the Architectural Boat Tour.

Windows and reflections:

After lunch we rented Divvy bikes and rode four miles along Lakeshore Drive trail from Millenium Park back to Lakeview where we were joined by long time friends for dinner.


The Bean, i.e. Cloud Gate, in Millenium Park

The next day we visited the Chicago Art Institute.


We spent most of our time in the Impressionism and Modern American galleries. My favorite piece was by Georgia O’Keefe, a 24 foot long painting that filled a stairwell:


This also caught my eye:


We walked around some of the parks near the Art Institute.

After dinner we went to see Hamilton!

This was my first visit to Chicago, and only lasted two days, but I enjoyed my time, and can see why my son likes living there.

Knitting update:


11 dishcloths

22. Mt St Helens Boundary Trail

Eagle Creek fire update as of  9/11/17:  34000 acres, 7% contained.


USFS Incident Map

Boundary Trail toward Harry’s Ridge     9/10/2017    (#45)

The skies are alternating blue and cloudy today. Unsure of any firesafe place east of us, we opted to drive north to Johnston Ridge, Mt St Helens National Monument.  Clouds that were floating at mountain level when we arrived late morning evaporated during the day.



Mt St Helens

We hiked the Boundary Trail toward Harry’s Ridge.


Coldwater Peak, north of the Boundary Trail

The trail that used to go along a steep, cliffy slope to the grand viewpoint at Devil’s Elbow is now closed.  The new alternate route cuts over the ridge, and has a view to Spirit Lake from the pass at the top of the cutoff. We stopped there for lunch.


Lunch stop at the top of the new cut off trail, with view to Spirit Lake

I decided it was too hot to continue, so hiked slowly back to the observatory.  Dan went on to Harry’s Ridge then met me back at the observatory later.  I had the chance to watch the excellent 16 minute film that simulates the eruption and illustrates the forces of nature during the 1980 eruption.


View while hiking back toward Johnston Observatory


Looking east from the observatory toward Mt Adams


Mt Adams

There are straggling summer flowers in bloom – lupine of both large and dwarf varieties, penstemon, paintbrush, yarrow, an abundant yellow composite, and equally abundant white pearly everlasting gilding the slopes, and standing out strongly in contrast to the early reds of fall.

We stopped at Coldwater Lake to walk the boardwalk trail that illustrates the Birth of the Lake. It was peaceful and beautiful there, with excellent views of Minnie Peak and Mt St. Helens. It is pleasant to walk through shady foliage after spending time in the blast zone. My total mileage for the day was about 5 miles/800 feet.


Boundary Trail to Harry’s Ridge – we have hiked this trail in several seasons, with different views of the mountain:


June 2016


September 2017


Inner crater dome close up    June 2016


September 2017

Coldwater Lake:

In March of 2015, a low snow year, we walked the 12 mile loop around Coldwater Lake.  The foliage was mostly dormant and brown.  We had views of the mountain, walked by the abandoned logging machinery destroyed by the blast, got some closer views of Minnie Peak.


March 2015   Minnie Peak and old logging machinery on Coldwater Ridge


March 2015    Minnie Peak



March 2015


September 2017 Mt St Helens and Coldwater Lake

In Spring of 2017 we were in the area hiking the Hummocks trail, and we visited the Science and Learning Center, which gave us a snowy view of the boardwalk that we walked on today.


February 2017   Looking down on Coldwater Lake


21. It’s cool at the beach! plus a pod of pelicans!

My post 20 about the Columbia Gorge fire, (still out of control as I write this) delayed finishing this post.

Neahkahnie Mountain      9/1/2017      (#44)

The heat and wildfire smoke have settled into the Portland area for the long weekend and beyond.  We drove out to the coast this morning, for a repeat of the day trip I took with my sister and son in August.  No fog bank this time – the sky was clear blue and it was actually a little hotter than I would have liked for the hike.

Neakanie Mtn juts 1680 feet up from the ocean.  The  south trailhead is at about 700 feet, so we only had to climb about a thousand feet over one and a half miles to reach the top. The first mile is steep switchbacks through coastal forest with a few straggling flowers, and shady much of the way.  The last half mile is just below the ridgeline, over rocky outcrops, with a final slight scramble to the summit – a rocky spine with not much space for the two or three families who were there with us.  We perched where we could long enough to eat sandwiches, while admiring the incredible view over Nehalem Bay, and watching the wave trains swash along the beach below.


Nehalem Bay/Manzanita from Neahkahnie Mtn


A fellow hiker took this photo of us while we were eating, and kindly emailed it to us.  It is one of my favorite photos of us on a hike.  Meanwhile, it was actually rather roasting up there, so we started down and fairly quickly returned to the trailhead.


With most of the day still ahead of us before the low tide at about 5 pm, we next went to the famous Neahkanie Point overlook on the highway, and paused to say Thank You! to Oswald West, Oregon governor about 100 years ago who was foresighted enough to reserve much of the Oregon coast as public land.


South view, Neahkahnie Viewpoint

Next we walked about a half mile down to a viewpoint over Devil’s Cauldron, a coastal cliff chasm that creates a lot of splash.  There was a lovely bench in the shade which we had  to ourselves for a while. We sat and admired the view, which includes Cape Falcon in the distance – the very Cape that Helen, Brian and I hiked out to about a month ago – interesting to see from this angle.

Next stop – Hug Point.  We have spent a lot of time on this stretch of beach, from Arch Cape to Cannon Beach, during the last 28 years. We rented a house for a week here with our kids nearly every summer, and if they remember any one place as a favorite family vacation spot, this is it. First we walked south toward Arch Cape, passing The Cave and Big Barnacle Rock.  I am impressed with how deep the sand is!  Ten or more years ago heavy winter storms washed away so much sand and deflated the beach such that the sections of cobbled beach were persistent all summer. It is more fun to walk on the sandy beach!  Tide was going out, but not very low today – we could not walk around the west side of Big Barnacle Rock, but it was nice to say Hi and have a good peek into The Cave.


The Cave


Big Barnacle Rock


Neahkahnie Mountain, which we climbed this morning

We walked back north to Hug Point, now the cool wind in our face!  All the way onto Hug Point, (once the actual road, cut by people out of the sandstone headland), and around to the other side, looking north to Arcadia and Cannon Beaches.  On the walk back we got a close look at the waterfall, then drove north along the coast to Arcadia Beach.

Dan wanted to see if there were any sea stars at Big Starfish Rock (Silver Point) at low tide.  We walked north from Arcadia Beach as the tide ebbed, splashing in the tidal pools that sparkle in the sun. The water was so blue today, and the air so fresh!  We spotted a sea star in the sand, but none at the rock. We arrived just as the tide was beginning to rise, so couldn’t get close to the small arch which we were hoping was covered in sea stars.  Again, not a low tide day, so we couldn’t really tell if they were there.

I had seen a couple of lines of pelicans from a distance flying along the swell line.  We were treated to watching a pod of about a dozen of the elegant birds land on a tidal sand bar just as the rising tide isolated the bar from the beach.  They were standing on the sand bar, facing north, and seemingly grooming.  We watched for a long time, taking pictures, though the sun angle was not great for our purposes.  Another couple of pods also flew near so that I could see over thirty pelicans at once.  Pretty cool! We have named the sea stack behind them Big Pelican Rock, to honor a family tradition of naming important viewpoints.






We walked back to Arcadia beach, noticing the promontory we now call the Sphinx of Arcadia, because that is what it looks like.



the Sphinx of Arcadia

We finished the day with a delicious dinner at the Pelican Brewery in Cannon Beach, followed by an uneventful ride home, over the coast range, into the hazy Willamette Valley.


I could go crazy here!  We have so many pictures of this locale. I will just show these two comparisons, which I find interesting because they show how much sand has returned to the beach between photos. The first is The Cave, 2008 and 2017.  The second is an alcove near Hug Point 2011 and 2017.

20. The Columbia River Gorge is on fire!!!

September 5, 2017

In northeast Portland the sun is cloaked in an orange shroud, the air tastes bitter, smells like smoke, and is dripping ash, ash from the burning trees in our beloved Columbia River Gorge!  The heat has pushed the human caused (allegedly a teenager with firecracker) conflagration west along the famous waterfall corridor.  Residents have evacuated and their homes are intact so far. Firefighters are working hard, may they stay safe!  But the weather is so hot and dry and the winds relentless – we all fear for the next stage of this tragedy.  It is a waiting game now as I reflect on all the lovely hikes we have taken in the area – waiting to know which of these amazing places are intact, and which will begin a new phase of regrowth and regeneration.  I am no stranger to hiking in burn zones, but this particular area was so lush and green.  It is very sad.

From east to west, some of our favorite places that are threatened or burned:

Herman Creek

 Dry Creek Falls


Dry Creek Falls April 2017

Eagle Creek

Note that steep trail area is likely where the fireworks were used.

Wahclella Falls


Wahclella Falls April 2016

McCord Creek / Elowah Falls

Oneonta / Horsetail area

Wahkeena / Multnomah Falls Loop

Multnomah Falls


June 2014

MultnomahFalls (2)

December 2015

MultnomahFalls (3)

November 2014

Angel’s Rest

Latourell Falls

Views from Washington toward Oregon where the fire is burning


Hamilton Mountain, looking toward Bonneville Dam May 2016


Cape Horn looking upriver April 2016



19. Vista Ridge again, Fireweed this time

Vista Ridge, Mt. Hood, Oregon   8/25/2017   (#43)

Looking for another trip to subalpine elevations, we walked up the Vista Ridge trail on the north side of Mt. Hood, as we had in late June.  This time, instead of millions of avalanche lilies, we were treated to the late summer swath of pink fireweed through the burn zone, with readily picked huckleberries along the way.  We could see the dried seedheads of the earlier lilies.  Other blooming plants in the burn zone were pearly everlasting and goldenrod, and plenty of Sitka Mountain Ash with ripening clusters of red berries provided additional color.


Fireweed and pearly everlasting understory in the burn zone


Mt Hood from the switchback viewpoint


Dried avalanche lily seedheads


Golden rod and fireweed

We reached the timberline trail, and rested in a shaded pocket at the edge of Wy’East basin, as lovely an alpine meadow as one could hope for – though the flowers are fading in the open areas. We continued walking east toward Elk Cove, hopping over the small strands of Clear Branch Creek that trickle down through Wy’east basin. Pink monkey flower, yellow groundsel, purple aster and lupine, and magenta paintbrush were the main riparian blooms.

We admired the view of the three Washington peaks from various angles, and turned the corner toward Elk Cove, with the rocky cliff of Barrett Spur to our right, and the looming peak of Mt Hood and its glistening Coe Glacier to the south.


Mts St Helens, Rainier and Adams


Turning the corner of Barrett Spur toward Elk Cove, with Mt Hood looming above


Close ups of the Coe Glacier


We continued about half way down to Elk Cove, far enough to see the hanging meadow of pasque flowers, and the long drawn out ridge of Barrett Spur. That was our turn around point for the day.


Mt Hood and Barrett Spur


Pasque flower seed heads

Heading back toward Wy’East basin, we located the trail that leads up to Dollar Lake.  It is really more of a puddle.


Dollar Lake


Barret Spur and Mt Hood from the ridge above Dollar Lake

Back on the Timberline Trail, we meandered up the side trail to the upper part of WyEast basin to take in the slightly wider view of the horizon to the north.

From there, we retraced our steps back down the Vista Ridge trail, admiring the intense coral/red violet color of the fireweed, and greeting my favorite ghost trees on the way down.

Our total for the day was 9 miles/ 1500 feet.

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GPS track


I perused my photos from our previous hikes up Vista Ridge.  Our trip in August of  2014 had more blooming flowers in the upper meadows.


August 5, 2014


March 29, 2015


August 25, 2017

The photo from August of 2013, taken only two years after the 2011 Dollar Creek Fire, shows a mostly blackened environment.  The contrast with the with the avalanche lily / fireweed lined trail of this year is striking, and shows how fast the vegetation is restarting. I didn’t get a picture of the abundant low huckleberry bushes along some parts of the trail – I was too busy eating the ripe berries.

Knitting and other home front activity:

18. Late Summer on Mt Adams, Stagman Ridge Trail

Stagman Ridge, Mt. Adams, Washington      8/20/2017     (#42)


Looking for a hike that avoided wildfire smoke and eclipse traffic, we headed to the west side of Mt. Adams, north of Trout Lake, WA.  This was our first time hiking this trail. We like to hike in Bird Creek Meadows this time of year, but that area is closed due to the massive Cougar Creek Fire of 2015. The area around Stagman Ridge was also recently burned, by the Cascade Creek Fire of 2012. The trail traverses through burned forest, with occasional forays into unburned terrain. The silver lining is mountain views through the ghost trees.


In many burned places the underlayer is green, topped by a pink swath of fireweed. Pearly everlasting and golden rod are abundant at lower elevations.

Higher up, the last of the asters, lupine and licorice root were hanging on in shady areas.

The open meadow at about mile 3 was green but past bloom – most likely thanks to the intense two week heat wave of early August.  I would like to return when this meadow is in full bloom – with the open view of Mt Adams to the east – it is a lovely spot.



Glacier close up

We continued on past the meadow to the Graveyard trail junction, then crossed the small creek and headed west toward Lookingglass Lake. Riparian flowers lined the creek crossings.

We decided the crossing of Cascade Creek looked difficult so we turned back after a rest at the water with great views of the mountain.


On the way down, we noticed the distance views of Mt St Helens, Mt Hood and west toward Indian Heaven.



Mt St Helens



Mt Hood


There were plenty of huckleberries for the picking.  Berries, flower seedheads and tints of red foliage in the huckleberry and vine maple foreshadow the coming of fall.

A few other items of interest along the way:


lichen and roots


ghost tree


My first time seeing pine drops

Our hike was approximately 9 miles with 1500 feet elevation gain, and the flower count was 34, with 5 berries.

Mementos from my Peruvian travelers:




two more tortillas for the collection

And of course, the Eclipse, which I watched at 99% in my front yard: