When I saw a sunny day forecast late December, I knew the hiking doldrums were over. It was time to climb! My goal was Dog Mountain, and my partner was my puppy Jackie. Perfect. Except the thermometer reading.
As I drove out the Columbia River Gorge, I realized there was more snow than expected. Dog Mountain would have some healthy snow. I modified my goal and opted for nearby Wind Mountain, which is just under 2000 feet. The peak rises straight out of the Columbia River, its conical form obvious from Washington’s Highway 14.
I found the trailhead off the aptly-named Wind Mountain Road. A sign pointed up Girl Scout Road, where I found a broad parking area at a saddle crusted in snow and icy puddles. I was intrigued to find a boot scraper at the trailhead to prevent transplantation of invasive species. A sign of things to come, perhaps.
I popped on a beanie before I left the car, and a few minutes up the trail I added gloves. As the trail angled around the eastern flank of the peak, I hit patches of packed snow which made for slick walking. I had to clamber over a number of downed logs, and under at least one, but it was manageable as long as I was careful. I briefly regretted not having boot chains or microspikes. Jackie had no problems thanks to his nails.
Naturally, with greater elevation came more snow, but it was drier snow and not as packed out; my boot lugs bit into it nicely.
The trail cut back on a ridge and meandered north beneath the summit cone, finally twisting south to the summit. There was a prominent sign about Native American rock work to beware and leave undisturbed. It simply added another facet to the trip and the destination.
The views were great in multiple directions. I had to scale a snowy crest to hit the summit proper, then I found a dry spot in some rocks, where I got some water and gaped at the massive southern wall of the gorge, Mount Defiance and its brethren enticing me. To the east, Dog Mountain looked snowy indeed.
Looking down at the river, snowy tinted mountains rising steeply out of the mighty Columbia before me, I couldn’t help but feel satisfied. Wind Mountain is nobody’s epic summit, but winter definitely made it interesting.
The sun warmed me even as a couple vision quest shelters nearby were cloaked in snow. I’d felt wind most of the way up, but on the summit it eased and we were able to relax for a while. What a day. Jackie was a real trooper for only his second real summit. With this great reminder of the wonders in the Gorge, we will definitely have to return in the spring.