Finding the Rock of Ages
To heck with waiting for sunny skies. It was time to climb. So it was that I headed out the gorge last weekend, rain gear in tow. I headed for a trail that is slightly off the radar for most hikers. The Rock of Ages trail is unofficial. It veers off of the Horsetail Falls trail just before Ponytail Falls, a nice hike I’ve documented in this cyberspace before. What I couldn’t decide was how far to hike. The views would come relatively early, but the trail continues for miles. Because it is unmaintained, some of the route is a bit rough. It felt steep and slick, with poor footing on occasion. Of course, the ground and foliage were wet. Under dry conditions, footing would have been much better. As it was, I slipped a few times, falling on my backside at least once. Keeping it interesting.
The route splits a couple times after rising above the top of Ponytail falls. I took the first unmarked junction and headed for the ridge to the left. Through the Douglas firs, there were a few nice views, but this was not what I came for. Onward, upward to the Rock. I didn’t know what to expect. I was briefly concerned about my route, but it all worked out.
Rock of Ages is an arch of volcanic rock perched on the rim of a steep forested ridge in the middle of the one of the prettiest areas of the Northwest. Emerging from the forest, one first sees a sort of steep amphitheater, decked in various hues of green and flecks of gold from the stands of alder and maple far below. Then there is the arch, large enough to walk through to the cliff’s edge, where hikers can look out over the gorge and the massive Columbia River. My eyes were drawn along the line of cliffs extending to the east, including St. Peter’s Dome, and across the river, the massive plug of Beacon Rock. Even on a gray day, the views were amazing.
After photographs and some philosophical contemplation, I continued upwards. Shortly I found a rockpile to scramble which gave a new perspective on the area. More fantastic vistas of rock and river. From there, I headed into the woods, unsure how far I would get. The way was not clear at multiple points, and I had to be careful, steep as it was. One of my trekking poles broke after an especially firm use. It appeared I would then have to traverse a steep slope below a spiny ridge. I knew the best part of the hike had probably already passed. It was misting steadily, and although I was not uncomfortable, I worried about my footing. When hiking solo, especially off the beaten path, I try to minimize risks. I decided to turn back, happy with what I’d already seen, but already planning a return on a drier day.
Posted on November 21, 2015, in Adventure, Bad weather, General Hiking, Geology, Mountains, Outdoors, Solo Hiking, Waterfalls and tagged Columbia River Gorge, Hikes near Portland, Northwest Oregon hikes. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.