Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 9.7 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 681.1 miles

Elevation Gain: 1031 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 90071 feet

A nice forest road hike in a new area.  The weather was not cooperative and at times the downpour was significant.  It’s so nice to see the forest with so much new growth and a bright green.  Still, we had a nice time and enjoyed the fresh air, and even the rain! 🙂

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Dalles Mountain Ranch to Stacker Butte Hike

Hike Distance: 9.0 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 671.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 2055 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 89040 feet

I apologize for the delay in this trip report.  It’s a bit difficult to wade through a huge number of pictures and narrow it down to something manageable.  I therefore tend to submit the trip reports that are more easily generated.

This is one of those hikes that require a long drive but is so worth it!  We headed out to the Dalles Ranch parking area, which is located at the Columbia Hills State Park.  It was an extremely windy day (gusts up to 30+ mph) but there was no threat of any rain.  It was forecast to be rainy, where we lived, which is one reason we drove out here.  The other reason for driving here is that the Balsam Root flowers are at peak bloom and out in profusion!  Lastly, the view north from Stacker Butte is incredible, with a stunning view of Mt. Adams when there are no clouds!

So, the first part of this hike is walking up a gravel road towards a gate where another parking area is located.  The reason we started at the Dalles Ranch parking area is that the parking area near the gate is usually full (only about seven parking spaces).  The gate at this upper parking area has always been locked.  The road is what hikers walk on to get to Stacker Butte.

The road walk from the lower to upper parking areas has some outstanding views.  To the west is majestic Mt. Hood, but we could only see the base of the mountain due to some high clouds.  The rolling hills are quite stunning in this area, and the Balsam Root flowers painted some of the hillside and most of the areas around the road.  It’s very arid in this area so the large Balsam Root flowers stand out in stark contrast. 🙂

It’s about 1.5 miles from the lower to the upper parking areas, and there was some traffic seen along the way.  I wouldn’t recommend driving this road unless you have a high clearance vehicle due to the ruts.  At the upper parking area, near the gate, there is a board for posting information.  We easily went around the gate, where the road starts to ascend with some nice elevation gain.  There is about 2000 feet of elevation gain so I would be sure you’re aware of this before attempting it.  The out-and-back hike is about six miles if you park at the upper parking area.  Also, remember to bring plenty of water as there are no water sources and it gets hot and dry out here!

Ascending up the road the views become impressive and are vast.  We sometimes joke that this area is a visual eye-gasm (haha)!  The wind gusts can push you around a bit but it’s so worth the effort.  There were some other small groups of people walking up to the butte but they were spaced far apart.  There are some cell/microwave towers up here but I don’t find them to be too distracting.

Just before reaching Stacker Butte we had stellar views looking east!  You can see plenty of wind power generators in the distance.  We finally reached Stacker Butte, and the mountain drops away to give a stunning view looking north!  Unfortunately, Mt. Adams was primarily shrouded in the clouds, but you could still see the base.  There is also some kind of old ICBM (?) installation at the top of Stacker Butte.  It seems very out of place and is fenced off, but doesn’t obstruct any views.

You can continue walking down the road, past Stacker Butte, towards other cell/microwave towers, but we turned around due to the high winds.  One thing to note is that the flowers bloom later as you ascend up in elevation, so not much was in bloom at the summit.

A fantastic day in paradise!

Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 8.5 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 662.4 miles

Elevation Gain: 1270 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 86985 feet

A very warm day but for some reason it felt good to be out in the hot weather.  There were plenty of views of the snow capped peaks;  Mt Rainier, Mt St. Helens, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood!  Unfortunately, it was too hazy to get a picture of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams, and I had to manipulate the pictures in photoshop to get use-able images for the other mountains.

Today was a much better day, physically, than yesterday.  It might have been that I tried out a new pair of shoes that we had picked up at REI last night.  I bought a pair of Vasque Breeze low topped hiking shoes, and absolutely love them!  They’re very light and very comfortable right outside the box.  They were also quite a bit cooler than the Lowa Renegade’s.

A great hiking day with great views. 🙂

Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 10.2 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 653.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 1163 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 85715 feet

Quite the preview of summer weather and dealing with thirst.  Although I really enjoy the warmer weather and sunny skies it is much easier to hike in the cooler weather.  I carried a couple liters of fluid with me but even that didn’t seem to quench my thirst.  The clothes I wear are a light tan, which is better than darker clothes.  I also make sure to cover most of my body to avoid sunburn.  Applying suntan lotion to my hands took care the main body part that gets burned in this weather!

It was a very delightful hike and predominantly in the shade, which was by design.  There weren’t any big views but I’m quite happy to walk along and enjoy the forest.

After about 7 miles my SI joint, in the lower back, started hurting quite a bit.  The pain was aggravated by sciatica and I was getting some rather painful spasms.  I toughed it out a bit, in hopes of it working out, but that didn’t occur.  I finally broke down and took an Aleve, and the pain was reduced significantly, and manageable.  I’m finding that getting older is bringing on many small issues in my joints, and they come and go on a regular basis.  I’m going to make an attempt at lowering the weight of my pack, again, which should help the stress put on my joints.  I’ve already been ramping up my stretching, and have been putting more effort into weightlifting.  From my previous physical therapy I learned that strengthening the muscles around my joints has a profound effect on the health of the joint and handling loads.  I’ve also found that glucosamine chondroitin works very well for lubricating joints, if your body doesn’t make enough, and works quite well, for me, on my knees!

Another solution that we’ve found for our back pain is going on trails that have a lot of elevation change.  Going uphill, in particular, gets rid of our back pain very effectively.  Trails that go primarily up in elevation, on the way out, and descend during the return can be brutal.  Rails-to-trails hikes are the most brutal for us as they are typically flat and have hard surfaces that yield the most pounding to the back and feet.

Last but not least, the shoes and socks we wear are instrumental in minimizing the shock to our body.  Our solution for cold weather are Lowa Renegade hiking boots with a green Superfeet insert.  The socks we wear consist of a double-layer Wrightsock with an REI expedition merino wool sock over it.  This combination works very well for cold weather but is incredibly hot in the warmer weather.  Truthfully, we tend to still use this combo in the warmer weather, and we pay for this with sore feet.  Lately, we are investigating warm weather alternatives as we need a long term solution.

For my PCT section hike this summer I have a pair of Saucony Peregrine trail running shoes, and will wear much thinner socks.  My only concern is that I’m used to high top boots with great ankle support, and these don’t fit the bill.  That said, the Saucony’s should be very comfortable in the warm weather.

A very nice day in spite of the issues!

Frenchman’s Bar & Trail Hike

Hike Distance: 7.5 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 643.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 302 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 84552 feet

A very warm day but the wind kept it pleasant.  I decided to go hiking in an area where the winds couldn’t blow down debris on me.  I also wanted to be next to the water and this area fit the bill!  I was delighted that there were great views of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams.  These snow capped peaks are always beautiful to see. 🙂

It was quite crowded but this was to be expected in such nice weather.  Definitely a very nice day to be outside.