Saturday, April 25, 2009

dog mountain

Today I went for my first real hike of the year. I walked 2.1 miles to a friends house, and then we went into the Columbia river gorge to hike to the summit of Dog Mountain and back. We started the hike at river level in southern Washington, and immediately began the steep ascent. There were a fair number of people on the trail, but as we climbed to higher elevations, the crowd began to taper off. At the trail head, cold winds were whipping off the Columbia, and although once we got into the trees, the conditions improved, they quickly deteriorated again as we gained some elevation. Over the last mile of the hike before reaching the summit, the trail breaks out of the trees, and without their protection, we experienced some pretty extreme winds, and at times were steadily pelted with hail. The visibility was poor at best. At times, it was difficult to see more than 30 yards or so due to heavy fog/cloud cover. Still, despite not being able to see the far off views of the gorge and the distant mountain peaks, the conditions provided a unique and enjoyable atmosphere to the trail. After reaching the summit, we chose to take a more steep descending trail than the one we took up; which completed a loop to the trail head. The first mile of the descent was similar to the last mile of the climb, in that we weren't sheltered from the elements; leaving us to deal with considerable winds and precipitation. Once we hit the tree line, things improved again, and we had a pretty easy time returning to river level. On the way back, we alternated between walking on flatter or more technical parts of the trail, and running down the steeper portions. My mr790's really got to shine on the trail running portions. It was hard to call the second half of the trip "hiking", as it felt more like controlled falling, but the constant battle against gravity and momentum proved to be quite a strain none the less. After we returned to the car, we stopped at the walking man brewery in Stevenson for lunch and beer before returning home.

this is from the first clearing. we started at river level, and by the time we reached the summit, had climbed about twice as high as we were at this vantage point.

the forest was really moist from precipitation, snow melt, and fog. there were a lot of neat mosses and lichens on the trail from start to finish.

these plants all pointed towards the sun and could have been mistaken for dead if it were not for the dense buds that tipped each.

this is just as we climbed out of the trees. the fog immediately enveloped us, and got thicker as we climbed higher.

this is the "view" from the summit. Despite the top mile of the trail being exposed, the summit is protected by a small grouping of trees. It was a nice reward to get out the high winds and hail for a few minutes. If the fog hadn't been so thick, this would have been a great view of the Columbia river gorge, with Oregon and Mt. Hood towering over it in the background. Still, the fog was neat to climb in. Every step was a surprise because you could never see far enough to know what laid ahead.

here is a photo of me at the summit. The trail appears to continue climbing from this vantage point, but the end of the trail was a few yards further from this grouping of trees.

taken just below the summit.

on the decent, a break in the fog allowed a brief view of the gorge.