Hiking Henry Hagg After All These Years

A fisherman in an idyllic spot below the trail.

A fisherman in an idyllic spot below the trail

Henry Hagg Lake sits an hour west of Portland, where the Coast Range starts to announce itself to travelers. I’d known of the lake for years but had never been there. I’d thought of it as a destination for boaters and triathletes, but it is more than that. 

I loved this tree above the lake

I loved this tree above the lake

Seeking a new hiking destination on a day off, the lake popped into mind. The drive took about an hour.  I parked near a boat ramp in a large parking lot.  Boaters were putting in and taking out their craft, variously equipped with flotation toys and coolers. Nearby, families set up in myriad little coves and cute beaches to swim, tan, and eat. Such leisurely pursuits looked enjoyable, but I was here to hike. I headed counter clockwise on the trail that circumnavigates the lake.  In total it is somewhere over 13 miles. I wasn’t up for that. To be honest, I didn’t want to put in that much effort when I thought I might be underwhelmed by the results. 

A little color by the trail

A little color adding to the beauty

The scenery was attractive, if not spectacular.  At any rate, it was already close to noon, so I decided to hike a couple hours and turn around if I wasn’t blown away.  I was not blown away, but I was pleasantly surprised.

One of my favorite views of the lake

One of my favorite views of the lake

The trail is not particularly well marked, but it was easy to follow as it meandered past the coves and promontories with occasional spur trails to a nearby road.  Few people used the trail itself, but I could hear picnickers and boaters and lakeshore splashers much of the time.  Once I left the immediate environs of the boat ramp and campground area, however, I saw more mountain bikers than walkers.

Looking across one of the many fingers of the lake

Looking across one of the many fingers of the lake

I was pleasantly surprised at the environmental variations along the path.  There was typical lush western Oregon forest, a  nice patch of oaks, as well as some open grassy areas that make me think of “amber waves of grain.”   The views were excellent in the open areas. There were also stands of berry trees lining the trail. Currants? I did not recognize them.

Who knows this fruit?

I almost ate some of these, but couldn’t identify them

The views gradually change after meandering around watery fingers of the lake. On a sunny day, Henry Hagg Lake definitely seemed like the Oregon version of a camping and boating paradise. It is not exactly a wilderness retreat for thru hikers, but it’s a great place to get away from the city.  I turned back after hiking a few miles in one direction, and as I left, I felt satisfied with my afternoon.

Looking toward the hills

Looking toward the hills

Gaudy Sunsets and Too Much Work

A view to bring a smile to my face

A view to bring a smile to my face

I have been working way too much, so I try to find the time to savor nature when I can. For example, a couple nights ago I admired an amazing sunset. Last night I took a walk by the light of a huge rising moon. Still, I would rather be in the mountains, perhaps camping with my wife in the trees near a lakeshore, watching the colors on the mountains change as the sun set. Yet as always, it’s good to be thankful for what we have. I thought I might have to work today, but since I don’t, I’m getting out early for a hike today, destination unknown.  To be continued…

Wauna Point: From Mild to Wild

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It’s finally summer, and I am ready to hike. A year ago I looked at hiking to Wauna Point, but it didn’t pan out because I didn’t have a good map or guidebook. This year, that wasn’t a problem. As I am working a new job that only allows me one day off a week right now, I was very focused on getting in a good hike today. It had been far too long. I took my faithful canine hiking companion Jackie Chan with me and headed to the majestic Columbia River Gorge. Unfortunately, I was delayed by a traffic problem. Two lanes of the three lane highway were closed. It was backed up for three miles. Ugh.  Still, I managed to be at the Tooth Rock trailhead by noon.

I opted for a simple route via an access road past a couple junctions.  The road curves about two casual miles uphill to the old Tanner Butte trailhead. I’d climbed Tanner Butte as a teenager. Now it’s a sixteen mile adventure. Not for everyone.  Wauna Point, on the other hand, is a relatively modest ten miles, the last leg of which is very rugged. More on that later. Beyond the old tiny trailhead, a path continued upwards, briefly following a beautiful stream. Multiple wispy cascades drape the drainage within a quarter mile, after which the trail veers away from the small canyon.

The landscape along the trail is typical western Cascades: lush, green, and viewless in the lower elevations. It is also relatively people free.  One guidebook as well as a hiking website refer to the Tanner Butte trail as steep. It certainly forges uphill steadily, but it rarely felt steep. That’s not to say it wasn’t challenging. Whooee, my legs are gonna feel it, I recall thinking. Eventually, after climbing to a landscape of salal and fern undergrowth with stately evergreens overhead, the trail flattens briefly at a junction. To reach Wauna Point, one goes straight ahead on an unmaintained trail. Due to dense damp ferns encroaching on the path, my boots and legs were soaked in a few minutes.

Despite the dampness, this secondary trail seemed easy. It descended the far side of the ridge, dropped beneath a rocky rampart, and then plunged down a very narrow ridge via some very steep, scrabbly and muddy spots.  This is not for the casual hiker.  Good traction and balance are necessary. I used my hands a few times. As always, descending a steep bit is the tricky part. Once I was down into a little saddle, the rest was relatively easy. I eventually sat on an airy perch, the Columbia River undulating like a shiny snake 2500 feet below me. I kept Jackie close by my side. Wauna Point is not a place for a pup to be a squirrel chasing spaz. It is fairly rocky, and only a few feet wide, with some exposure in places plunging hundreds of feet.

Wauna Point is a notch below the best viewpoints of the Gorge, largely because its views are dotted with manmade structures like Bonneville Dam, the Bridge of the Gods, and the buildings of a couple towns. Still, it was pretty great, especially the unique horizontal perspective of the bare, steep flanks of Munra Point, which faithful readers may recall I climbed last July.

The way down was quiet and relatively quick.   In all, I took just over 5 hours for the round trip of 10 miles, with some extended relaxation on top. I might be a touch sore tomorrow. This was a great first serious hike of the year. Hopefully there will be many more great hikes forthcoming. Ah, summer!


Finding Mudflow Evidence in Lost Creek

Cupcake stump remnants amid the cool waters of Lost Creek

Cupcake stump remnants amid the cool waters of Lost Creek

On Sunday, I visited an elderly friend in my former hometown near Mount Hood.  We enjoyed a delectable meal at the Resort at the Mountain, which offers some of the finest restaurant views I’ve ever seen.  Some people sat out on the large patio.  Even inside, there is a view over the golf course towards massive forested ridges which define the green Salmon River valley.  Not bad.  After our meal, we drove to the Lost Creek Campground.  This is often less crowded than other campsites in the region, and it also offers a short nature trail with interpretive signs.   Part of the path is paved, although the massive firs and cedars in the area have buckled some of the pavement.

The so called beaver pond, where, ironically, the view is now towards many alders that would have pleased the beavers.

The so called beaver pond, where, ironically, the view is now towards many alders that would have pleased the beavers.

It was fascinating to once again realize the power of volcanic eruptions and how it shaped the landscape. Volcanic mudflows emanating from Mount Hood in the 18th century changed the floor of the area ecosystem and preserved stumps of old trees right in the creek bed.  What a wild world.  At the end of the path, we sat on a bench in front an old  beaver pond.  The beavers have vanished in recent years, ostensibly to find better trees to eat.  I hadn’t been to Lost Creek in at least four or five years.  It’s a gorgeous, peaceful place to spend an afternoon with an old friend.

Oregon Cascade Streamwalking

cascade stream

Here’s a little view into the gorgeous forest on the west side of Mount Hood where I took a walk with my wife recently along the Zigzag River. We started out on the Pioneer Bridle Trail and then veered off on an unofficial spur that cuts back along the riverbank.  The path is overgrown in spots, but that made it more adventurous.

A Burned Forest Offers Stellar Views

Mt. Wash

Denise and I drove over the Cascades on Sunday to see our nephew, who just graduated from high school in Bend.  It was a quick trip, but we stopped near Santiam Pass and walked around.   I hadn’t visited the area since a fire had come through in a recent summer. The views have opened up of Mount Washington to the south.  Too bad it was just a tease, but the high country is still snowy.  I can’t wait for the trails to open up.  This will be a great area to visit in another few weeks.

Gorgeous Day in the Columbia Gorge

It had been a while since I’d had a real hike, so today I went out the Columbia River Gorge with Jackie Chan.  We started on the crowded parking lot below Wahkeena Falls.  This time we continued past the falls, and soon found a great viewpoint. Continuing uphill, the trail follows a rushing, noisy creek, and eventually passes Fairy Falls on a tributary.  There were plenty of hikers on the trail for a Friday.   Many paused at various cascades and whitewater splashes, and I kept passing them. I continued up into a pretty forest.

The trail flattened out near  a junction where I could have headed west to Angel’s Rest.  I headed the other way toward  the Vista Point trail, where a group of people gathered at the junction.  Just beyond the intersection was the uphill trail to Devil’s Rest.  I debated the climb, but since I knew it was not an earth shattering summit, I opted to descend.  The Vista Point Trail felt steeper, with fewer switchbacks than the Wahkeena Trail.  A quick descent brought me back to Fairy Falls and the gorgeous creek on the Wahkeena Trail, where I started bumping into people regularly.   Many of them commented on how cute my dog is.  Many said nothing to me even though I tried to make eye contact.  That rarely happens  on wilderness trails.  Near the spot where the trail becomes paved again, a side trail leads to Monument Point.  I found it is more of a bushwhack with loose scree, limited tread, and various obstacles.  Of course, that makes the hiking more fun, but I wouldn’t take my mom on it.  The views we discovered at the point were worth the challenge.  It was a great way to wrap up a good hike.

Good Golly, Geese are Everywhere

Good Golly, Geese are Everywhere

In my new neighborhood, I see Canada geese daily. I have to watch where I walk, if you know what I mean. The adults are rather boring up close and personal, but the goslings are cute. It’s worth a trip to the nearby pond to see them, so we often walk in the area. There are also what I believe are wood ducks nearby. I will try to get a photo of them soon.

Powell Butte-ification

It was a good day for a hybrid hike. That meant part paved bike trail, part pretty woods walk, part glorious meadow, part trail detour along a road.  Confused?  That’s okay.  The main trail head at Powell Butte remains closed due to construction of a new underground reservoir.  Yes, you read that right.  After all, the city of Portland recently drained a reservoir because a man urinated in it, although scientists admitted that even if the guy had peed toxins, the parts per million would be so low as to pose no danger to the public.

I started my walkabout on an open grassy part of the paved Springwater Corridor trail, about seven miles east from where I walked a week ago.  I climbed the Hawthorn Trail’s looping curves meant for descending mountain bikes.  I saw no mountain bikes until I emerged on top, once the trail emerged from the forest to a spectacular meadow.  There I had to decide how to return.  I could head via trails I’d already hikes, but I wanted to try something new.  To the east, there were detours due to the construction, but I thought there might be a way to loop back to the Springwater Corridor.  I found lots of fencing instead.  I followed the mouse maze detour all the way down to Powell Boulevard and walked by apartment complexes and mini malls for some real urban hiking.


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