Hike Distance: 9.9 miles Yearly Hike Distance: 1347.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2397 feet Yearly Elevation Gain: 178443 feet
We escaped the rainy weather in the Willamette Valley by heading our east of the Cascades to Catherine Creek! We arrived and found very few cars at the parking area, and that was surprising, but great news. At the trailhead some mountain bikers warned us of a rattlesnake they saw on the trail!!! We thanked them and were very aware for the remainder of the hike, but never saw any rattlesnakes. 🙂
Tracy hill is a decent length hike with plenty of elevation gain. We started out hiking past Catherine Creek, which was surprisingly devoid of water! We then headed up the eastern side of the syncline, and were greeted by fantastic expansive views of the surrounding terrain, and the Columbia River Gorge (looking east). It was cloudy so that Mt. Hood wasn’t visible.
Once you reach the top of the large meadow it is a short distance through a small scrub oak forest until you reach another large meadow, full of dried grasses. Continuing west along the trail, you’ll need to turn right, and follow a barely visible trail, going north toward Tracy Hill. After you climb past this large meadow you’ll reach a very well defined abandoned road system.
This road system is great for hiking and you can do various loops in this area. Unfortunately, the forest service has devastated much of this area for the purpose of preserving the scrub oak forest. I say unfortunately because there are a huge number of piles of debris covered by black plastic, and they all look abandoned. 😦 I’m all for preserving the Scrub Oak forest but think this could have been done in a more aesthetic way.
Tracy Hill is actually located on private property, but you can get close, not that it’s important. People only talk about going to Tracy Hill to indicate the area they’re hiking within, not that they reaches some awe inspiring summit with a view. We did a large loop around some of the forest roads and then noticed some new trails. I thought that one of them was a shortcut back to our car, but I was very wrong. Instead, it appeared to be a very new and very aggressive mountain bike trail. I say an aggressive trail as it plunged very steeply down several hundred feet, with some areas being almost too steep for hiking. The plunge was also a direct assault and not switchbacks, which indicates mountain bike trail to me.
After following this trail it dis some very squirrely turns and wasn’t much fun. Some of the trail was very new as it looked newly scraped, and extremely uneven, and horrible to walk upon. This trail looped back away from out intended direction and then a steep grade led back to join the Tracy Hill road system. I had no idea this trail was here (and there’s another one on the east side of the roads) and my gps track certainly showed it to be new for us!
We headed back to our car but realized this hike would be much longer than expected, due in part to the mountain bike loop and road walks. The rain alternately came and went but was never a downpour. We put our rain pants on but had to take them off due to overheating.
We got back to the car on the late side and were the only car in the parking area. We only saw one person, with his dog, during the entire hike. It’s a rare experience that we have this outstanding place all to ourselves, and it was a wonderful time. The only problem we had is that my wife’s knee was in great pain during the return hike. Last week she went to the Orthopedic surgeon and now needs an MRI to see if her meniscus is torn. The pain she gets is very sharp, which isn’t a good sign, but we’ll see what the MRI shows, and hope for the best possible outcome.