Columbia Hills State Park Loop Hike from Crawford Oaks TH to Dalles Ranch

Hike Distance: 8.3 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 636.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 1729 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 84250 feet

It’s that time of year when the Lupine and Balsam Root flowers bloom in profusion on the east side of the Columbia River Gorge!  Even though the flowers are out the Columbia Hills State Park is such a beautiful area to visit.

The weather was absolutely fantastic with clear skies and temps. in the 60’s.  With the nice weather came the crowds, and it’s not surprising.  We almost didn’t get a parking space because of the crowds, and ended up parking the car on the grass.  It was unfortunate to find out that we can no longer park along Hwy 14. 🙂

There’s a beautiful loop you can hike around the lower section of the Columbia Hills Park.  We headed out in a counter-clockwise direction, which gives fanstastic views of the Columbia River.  We also got stellar views of Mt. Hood and Horsethief Butte!  The waterfall is very close to the parking area, and the overlook is so amazing, along with the drop-off.

As we continued to hike we reached the Dalles Mountain Ranch.  This ranch is a rather spooky place to visit, and I love the effect it has on me.  There is even a cemetary and covered info center with photographs.  When in the ranch area we visited the old car that is sitting in the field, which is full of flowers.  The pictures in this area are iconic, and show up in many places online.

Not trying to speak little of it,  the flower show in Columbia Hills State Park is second to none!  Every where you turn there is another display that must be photographed.  I took close to 100 pictures and had much trouble sorting through what I wanted to put on this trip report.  There is also a hike that goes to the top of Stacker Butte, in this park, which we will do next week.  The flowers come out later, on that hike, due to the 2000 foot elevation gain.

This was a spectacular day and such perfection.  I can’t wait to come back and enjoy this amazing state park. 🙂


Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 9.1 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 627.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 2094 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 82521 feet

We weren’t sure if we would hit snow but found out quickly that there was quite a bit of snow still left at the lower elevations.  We stopped when the snow depth exceeded one foot, but could have gone on if we wanted.  We decided to turn around and were able to make a loop hike out of this.

We had some really nice views of the surrounding mountains and also saw Mt. St. Helens and the Toutle River Valley below.  I didn’t expect the elevation gain to go over 2000 feet as it didn’t seem like we ascended that much.  We had a wonderful day and will definitely come back!

Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 9.9 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 618.8 miles

Elevation Gain: 1998 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 80427 feet

Another fantastic Spring day that was a bit warmer than yesterday.  In fact, the slight wind wasn’t on the cold side like it was yesterday.  However, it was overcast for much of the day until the end of the hike.  Along the drive to the TH I stopped and took pictures of some deer along the road.  I also saw two more deer during the hike, but they eluded my camera.

I wasn’t going to go very far today and decided to go down a road I had seen before.  I thought it would be a short road but turned out to branch out into other roads.  Almost four miles later, and much elevation gain and loss, I returned to the original main road.  I was surprised but glad to hike this area.

I had a fun experience along one section of road when I came up to a large stream crossing.  I saw that the road continued on past this stream and wanted to complete it.  So, to make it cross-able I placed some large rocks in the stream and then broke up a rotted log and placed it across the stream.  It really wasn’t a tough crossing but for some reason I just enjoyed improving the situation. 🙂

An incredibly fun day in the outdoors!


Forest Road Hike

Hike Distance: 8.6 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 608.9 miles

Elevation Gain: 1756 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 78429 feet

Such a beautiful day with warm temperatures and a nice breeze.  It’s so nice to finally enjoy the spring weather!

I was walking up a road and didn’t think much of it until I turned around.  To my delight Mt. St. Helens was a sight to behold! 🙂  I can’t wait to get over to the Mt. St. Helens area later in the spring.

A very nice day and glad to be in the fresh air.

The Florida Trail Hike North from Alligator Alley in Big Cypress National Preserve

Hike Distance: 6.9 miles      Yearly Hike Distance: 600.3 miles

Elevation Gain: 645 feet      Yearly Elevation Gain: 76673 feet

My wife’s father was celebrating his 95th birthday and wanted his family to help him celebrate!  Unfortunately, the location where he spends the winter is in Ft. Lauderdale Florida, and it doesn’t get much further for us than that.  As a consequence of the travel we only slept for two of the four nights of this trip. 😦   That said, we had some fantastic food and caught up with my wife’s relatives.  It ended up being a great time and was well worth the inconvenience.

Not having missed a weekend hike in almost 11 years, I investigated which trail was in close proximity and would be the best choice.  I was so pleased to find that The Florida Trail (about 1300 miles in length) was accessible within about 45 minutes of our hotel! 🙂  I had no idea what this section, north of the Alligator Alley highway, offered for scenery, but would soon find out.

The day was very hot, at about 90 degrees, and very humid.  Add to that no cover from the sun and you have a difficult hiking situation that could result in heat exhaustion, if not prepared.  My two youngest sons went along with me for this hike.

We parked at an extremely large parking area, which had only a few cars parked there.  The trail was well marked and the path led to a high fence whose gate was closed.  It kind of looked like a prison.  We opened the gate and followed the road, which it turns out was the Florida Trail.  The trail was very well marked and there was no getting lost in this area.  There was even a sign, that contained a map, that indicated we should take a picture of it on our smartphone!

On our way north there was a water filled canal on our left.  There were some nice views of the water and I was constantly looking to see if there were alligators.  To my surprise, it wasn’t long before we saw our first wild alligator ever!!! 🙂  It was so surreal to see this prehistoric animal just laying in the water and looking out at us.  At first it looked like a long tire, but it became evident it was much larger.  I’d estimate the alligator to be 6-8 feet in length.  It didn’t even flinch when we saw it.

Along the way we saw many flowers, birds and a large number of huge cricket-like insects.  I was especially enjoying all the palm trees and grassy areas along the trail.  We soon glimpsed another alligator that was a bit more covert.  Again, it didn’t move when we spotted it, and we weren’t especially scared as it would have had to climb up the canal to get to the road/trail, or about 20-30 feet.  We were always scanning and had hyper awareness in case we needed to run away quickly.

Although it was hot and humid I found the trail and scenery fantastic.  All was well until my older son indicated he ran out of water, and apparently only brought along one pint of water.  Argh, really, that’s all you brought?  Next, my youngest son was being affected by the heat and indicated he was having heat exhaustion like symptoms.   He had brought a liter of water but was very concerned.  A panic attack set in and I indicated I had Endurolytes Electrolyte capsules.  He took one and quickly calmed down.  I was feeling very good and offered one liter of Powerade for them to share.

We turned around and headed back immediately, making sure to keep hydrated along the way.  We didn’t see the alligators on the way back but did meet a couple that was hiking along the trail.   The few miles went quickly and everyone was glad to see the car.  I turned the air conditioning to high and drove back.  Along the way I stopped at a rest area so my sons could fill up their water bottles.  They both took a swig of the water and almost threw it up!  They said the water taste was horrible.  I decided not to drink the water they brought back to me.

Definitely an interesting day and an important lesson learned regarding hiking in the heat.  Me and my youngest son had burned hands as it was the only skin exposed to the sun.  My middle son had kept his hands in his pockets, and was spared having sunburn.