Cape Horn is perched near the western end of the Columbia Gorge on the Washington side, of which I am becoming more enamored. Trail pup Jackie Chan and I drove out there this morning hoping it wouldn’t be too cold. The temp seemed okay, but after I passed Washougal, I could see branches swaying in a strong wind. I knew it would be a factor.
There is well-signed and appointed trailhead just off SR 14. (decent porta-potty on one side and an informative kiosk including a map on the other). The wind was fairly screaming so I Jackie’s sweater on him (very preppy, I know) on and added a layer myself. I knew up higher the wind chill would be worse.
The trail starts casually in a hardwood forest reminiscent of the Appalachians. Strangely, there were no Doug Firs or Western Red Cedars in sight. After crossing a tiny creek, the frozen trail began switchbacking gradually up the slope. It was not yet eleven, and the sun created shadows and interesting light effects behind the trees.
I saw only one other hiker on the way up. I wondered if I’d be by myself. I did not push the pace but enjoyed the intermittent views through the trees. I tried to spy Hamilton Mountain or Larch Mountain, but that would have to wait.
Half an hour up, the trail came close to a powerline road, and I ducked into the open for a photo looking toward Silver Star and Baldy, where I’d been last August. Snow started to appear on the ground in patches, but nothing like my Wind Mountain adventure a few weeks ago.
Finally I clambered up to the first couple of viewpoints. The wind was in fine form, probably gusting between twenty five and forty miles per hour and there were a few icy spots. The views from the first clifftop bluff were great, but the windchill was not inviting, so I moved on to a more secluded spot and took a few more photos, worried about Jackie the whole time. He’s very bright, but he doesn’t exactly know what it means to fall down a cliff (Note to self: teach Jackie physics). As I had other tasks to accomplish at home, I opted to head back to the car rather than push on to another viewpoint a mile ahead. That could wait for spring.
On the shady side of the ridge, there was more snow, and Jackie loved to romp in it. He had been staying by my heels or just in front of me most of the time, but in the snow he got goofy. I wish I could have captured his exuberance, but any time I pulled out the camera, he struck a serious pose.
I descended partway by the powerline road, which made a nice shortcut, and there I admired the crystallized snow and frost on plants.
As it neared noon on my descent, I started passing people regularly, bundled up and smiling. Everyone was having a good time. Well, we were smiling, because we’d left the worse of the wind behind. Jackie was tuckered. He napped most of the way home, then tried to lick my face off while we waited for the Interstate Bridge to lower its deck.
The Cape Horn Trail has a loop, part of which is closed part of the year for peregrine falcon nesting. That is the section below SR 14. This is the closest significant trail to the Portland area on the Washington side of the Gorge, and it’s easy to find. Those factors alone recommend it for weekend warriors, but it is a lovely spot as well, and the loop possibilities are intriguing. Highly recommended.
One of the best short hikes in Oregon lies at the west end of the Columbia Gorge. After spending a night in the city, I decided to take a gander at one of my favorite hikes from my college days, Angel’s Rest. It had probably been at least 15 years since I hiked it, and I was curious to see if it was enjoyable as I remembered.
The trailhead is easily found just off Highway 84 at the Bridalveil exit. There’s no need to disguise it, as this area is obviously no secret. I was there at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, and there were already seven or eight cars there. Not exactly undiscovered, but still a gem.
I passed one couple on the way up, enjoying the cool morning. Somehow, although I almost felt underdressed, I was sweating. I soon got views through the trees and spots where the trail opened up on old mossy rock slides. Below me lay the mighty Columbia River, one of the largest rivers in North America. An impressive sight, indeed.
The trail soon crosses a creek, then grinds through some relatively painless switchbacks up the ridge. There are various views along the way. Eventually a rocky brow appears above the switchbacks, but it still takes a while to get to the top, including crossing a broad rockslide decked out with two improvised rock shelters. No, I am sure these are not the remnants of a paleolithic society. A more likely scenario: a hiker had way too much time on her hands.
I reach the top of Angel’s Rest in an hour. It is a spectacular rocky spur jutting out over the Gorge, its open nature reminiscent of much higher alpine spots. There are great views to the north, east, and west.
Jackie and I have the rocky ramparts to ourselves until the couple I passed walks by with a nod. They meander to the far end of the promontory, where they soak in the views.
I am glad that the top is warmer than the woods. I relax for a while, but I need to get back to business. It is over an hour home and I have work to think about and bills to pay.
So: onward and downward. A lot more people were hiking up now. Some seemed ill-prepared, but so it goes on a trail close to the highway. A number of hikers had dogs. To avoid hassles, I put Jackie on leash for most of the descent. He is an easy pup to control, and our descent was smooth.
We got back to the car by 10:30 a.m., having hiked 4.6 miles, pleased with ourselves. Jackie would sleep well on the way home. And yes, the trail is as good as I remembered.