Columbia Gorge Exploratory Hikes

June 7-10, 2007

The lullaby of freight trains hauling their loads 20 yards from our campsite didn’t seem to stop us sleeping like logs. This was probably due to the great exercise experienced on our variety of hikes in the Columbia Gorge.

Sam Miller conceived the idea of a car camping trip to the Gorge so that we could explore several hikes without the long drive from Eugene. Although the weather could have been better, the wonderful scenery and fantastic wild flower displays made up for any damp discomfort.

After arriving at Ainsworth State Park Campground on the Old Columbia Gorge Highway and staking out our sites, Sam, Sue Wolling, Nola Nelson and Chris Stockdale headed off to hike Larch Mountain, touted as a great “view” hike. No doubt the view is usually wonderful, but we encountered low clouds at the summit. The trail is a loop and offers pleasant forest hiking.

On Friday we arranged a car shuttle so that we could hike one way down the Eagle Creek trail. Although the drive to Wahtum Lake trailhead took over an hour, we all agreed the experience was worthwhile. Sue, Sam and Chris set off in cloudy weather from the lake, hiking a fairly long stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail before heading downhill to the Eagle Creek Gorge. In many parts of the forest the trail was bordered by brilliant pink rhododendrons. Once we got to the Eagle Creek we started meeting other hikers. The sun came out and we were treated to incredible water falls and rapids for the rest of the hike down to the trailhead. Nola had decided not to do the long hike and met us with her car at the trail head.

That evening Laurie Funkhouser joined us for our scheduled Dog Mountain hike on Saturday. That hike, although strenuous (just under 3,000' in three miles) was worth every painful footstep once we broke out of the forest into the alpine meadows. The golden balsamroot was at its peak, along with purple lupines, red and orange Indian Paint brush and other gloriously colored flowers. The wind was picking up by this time, and when we finally arrived at the summit, we were beginning to feel really cold. A quick lunch stop and then we headed back down just as the really bad weather began to roll in.

The group decided a second lunch was in order and we found a diner in Stevenson (on the Washington side of the Gorge) where small orders of fries covered the whole plate! Luckily none of us had ordered a large portion. We also found to our surprise that potato salad has a season (according to the menu it was “available in season”). To Sue’s disappointment, apparently June is not potato salad season.

Nola and Sue then left us to head home. Laurie and Sam braved the continuing rain and spent the remainder of the afternoon visiting five spectacular waterfalls (Horsetail, Multnomah, Wahkeena, Bridal Veil and Latourell) along the Columbia River Gorge Trail. Chris decided a nap was more to her liking.

The rain continued all night and into Sunday morning, when the remaining hikers decided to make a fairly early start for home, hiking the Oneonta Gorge trail (round trip of two miles) before heading south. That, of course, is when the weather cleared and the sun came out.

The weather rolls in

Nola, Sam and Sue on Larch Mountain

On Eagle Creek

Rhodies line part of the PCT

Sam in the trees

Sue at Eagle Creek

—photos by Chris Stockdale

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