Well, I am just trying out this blog thing, and my first reaction is "Wow, every possible blog address in the world is already taken.". Good to know. And I want to meet the guy who was forced to use "FLEM AND OTHER HIKING STICKS".
That said, I am using this blog for 2 purposes, initially.
1) Review and comment on various hiking destinations in the Pacific Northwest.
2) Review hiking and camping gear as I try to get ready for an upcoming solo hiking adventure.
3) And try some writing (3 purposes !!).
I have been putting off trying Dog Mountain for several seasons now. Mainly because the trail is listed as very difficult in most of the books I have.
It is listed correctly.
However, if you are 55 years old, have just lost 25 pounds, and have been doing something like an 8 mile steep hike every weekend for a year, then you can do it with only a minimal use of swear words.
The very first one you get to use the first 50 feet of the hike. I used "Holy Shit there is Poison Oak EVERYWHERE". God I hate that stuff. I had a bad experience once with Poison Oak and a girl friend. Anyway, at this time of year, the stuff is just starting to leaf in. So it isn't covering the trail too much and with a little bit of attention and knowledge you can avoid it. Of course you must know what it looks like and you must wear long pants. Don't know what it looks like? Might as well wear shorts, that is how most of the people I saw were dressed.
I need an ethicist. What is my personal obligation, as a nice guy but total stranger, to a person that either doesn't read or ignores the copious signs warning of Poison Oak and starts up this trail wearing shorts, walking 2 abreast and bringing along a Dog? Should I say, "Pardon me for pointing out that you are an idiot, but do you realize that all of that green stuff is poison oak? That at least one of you must be trailing his hand through it? That your Dog is now covered in it and will soon want a good petting and to lick your face?" Oh, but how I digress.
The trail starts very steep. This is good because we have 3000 feet to climb and only 3 miles to climb it in. Gotta put that UP in there someplace. After about a half mile you hit a junction with this really great sign.
You can go the hard way, or the harder way. I chose the hard way (on the right) this time. This way is more scenic and also has more Poison Oak. As you huff your way up this trail, you will have occasional teaser views of the Gorge with the Columbia River spilling out below you. Don't take too many pictures. Get your ass up the hill for the real views.
At last you will spill out onto a nice little open meadow. Look to your right first. Ah, a bench !! This must be the place. Go have a sit. Enjoy the view. See the barges at work on the river and the train headed down the Oregon side on the way to Portland. Enjoy the cool volcano shape of Wind Mountain and think about the Indian spirits that dwell there.
Now look behind you.
Holy Frak, I still gotta climb that Monster ??
Now you can see that you have a saddle mountain sort of experience ahead of you. However, the good news is that you are now out of the Poison Oak and into the scrub pines and more alpine vegetation.
As I started back up I had a lucky strike, I found a 5 dollar bill in the middle of the path. Woo Hoo! At this point you are hiking up a sort of ridge and you will probably fool yourself into thinking that the worst is over, Ha !!
Next I ran into a couple of young women hiking with their dog. They had stopped for a snack (ha !) and they offered me some pistachios. Not wanting to be tricked into carrying the extra weight for them I declined and continued on up the trail. Shortly I came to the intersection of the Hard way and the Harder way. Now it is all "harder". I sat down for a "snack" of my own, I realized that one of those women must surely be the owner of the 5 dollars. I would wait for them, an excuse to be virtuous while preparing for the last of the ascent.
They finally caught up to where I was waiting on another convenient log bench.
One said "So, if we had hiked just 5 more minutes we could have had a bench", and the other said "Now do you want some pistachios?". She was really trying to get rid of those things.
"It hit me after I passed you that one of you is probably the person I have been following that has been leaking personal possessions". They got a strange look on their faces, the kind that says 'oh, he is one of those...'.
"What kind of possessions?" they asked.
"Well, a pencil and a 5 dollar bill." (And lets face it, they were right in front of me, they wouldn't have missed the 5 dollar bill on the trail).
The one with the dog looked sheepish and said, "Well, I did have a 5 dollar bill in my pocket". She starts to go through her pockets. Her shorts pockets.
I pull out the 5 bucks. She takes it from me. "Yes this is it!! I recognize it because it went through the wash."
I cracked up laughing and was going to make a comment about her recognizing Lincoln's picture, but my loud laugh freaked out the dog, which scared both of us. So that was that. Oh, later I caught up to them yet again and I did get some pistachios.
So, now one more very steep uphill slug. I paused often to listen to the "hooom hooom hooom" of a ruffed grouse (perhaps a blue grouse) off in the woods. And to breath must a little.
Now the forest opens up on a real alpine meadow. I was a little early for the real flower show, but there were lots of little things and some of the Balsam root. From up here there are really great views. You easily see Hood River to the East, and perhaps the blur of Portland to the West. As you go up, Mount Hood will peak over the south wall of the gorge and now you can see two major volcanos; Hood and Adams.
At this point I will let my pictures do the talking. I presume I can post some somehow.
There were lots of very nice people at the top. Plenty of young people in shorts and sneakers carrying just a water bottle. Perhaps the difficulty of this hike is more in my mind than in reality.
On the way back down I took the "harder" loop. It is all forest, with no poison Oak. Very shady and nice. And just teaming with one of my favorite flowers, the Calypso Orchid. These little guys only stand about 5 inches off the ground, so you sort of have to be looking for them, but if you find one, you are going to find lots. They are real orchids and really striking, but you have to get down close to the ground to see them. Be careful of that sore back you got while going up the hill !!.