From Stevenson, WA up into the hills to join the PCT and enjoy the beauty around Table Mountain during the full moon.
(a long trip report from late summer,
full slide show with captions at the end of post)
We started out (HOW!), taking a fresh pizza and some brew up out of town, along the logging roads tell we had a western view of the glowing slopes of the gorge in the sunset. Walking Man Brewery does some tasty pizzas, and beer – friendly folks too. As evening descended the hammock went up among a few trees left standing in the logging area. The moon rose above the ridge and bathed all in cool light. I wandered up the forested area, found a nice log perch and looked west at Green Leaf Mountain. Some stars were out, but the moon was bright. I set up for a few self portrait moon shots. One image looks like the headshot Kira Gowin took for Shakespear in love, back in highschool. Then to bed, tarp up to keep off the dew and put the moon’s bright light to bed.
The next morning comes and I get to pick my way down towards the valley, or any which way, the route being yet undecided and open. The river sounds appealing, so down thereabouts we go, thence upriver along the banks and rocks as far a the waterfall. then keep an eye out for Sedum Ridge Trail. I start along the logging roads, to find a tributary to take down towards the river. I find steep slopes, dry gullies, sharp vines. And there below Rock Creek the river lies.
First impressions, the low water giggling along the oxbow, exposed rocks aplenty to leap between, outside the curve a curious shelf of rock grooved and with rounded siltstone boulders. Here and there a leaf, a pebble, swirling bubbles, Rock.
Ending short respite after the descent I head up river, leaping along the rocks. Following the bank. crossing. Avoiding getting wet. Occasionally beating back the bush where water runs narrowly bank to bank. Observing the obstructions that sit in my way, by my way, or simply in the flow of the river – logs, water, rocks, boulders, vines, side streams, clear water, trees.
At one point a roaring the river seemed, yet quaint it was here beyond the bend. But cliff side rise high to hem it in, and river strong has cut beneath, shallow undercuts, not yet caves, which bend the sound and focus its laughter to a roar at my approach.
Just after, the Rock Creek spreads as a pool, little flow visible, the side is a hard sloped surface of rock. and at the spot i though i might slip, the wet rubber of my soul holds no more and I dance at the shallow edge of wet water – nothing harmed, recollections of wet foot marches in New Zealand.
the junction seemed far away, or simply long in coming… it was time for lunch… I feared I might have misjudged the flow and followed the wrong fork up river, heading to far east up Forest Creek rather than Rock Creek? But signs of a road on the west bank reassured me. and pressing on, not too far, the bridge, signs of human presence – trash, bathing suits, cairns, and the bridge. There across from the waterfall I sat and ate: cucumber, banana, rye cracker, Sunflower butter sandwiches. Restock my water supply, then off again. While the rocky route along the stream had been fabulous, I decided to make some speed and take the road, and hopefully ensure hitting the trail.
But I passed the bridge, then a second bridge, backtrack, to find sedum ridge trail, but no sign, no parking, no trail, One odd survey mark or other such flag blaze, but no trail of any sort… Anyone know what’s going on with that trail?
So I consulted the map again, and trudging up the roads I took the one less traveled, as it turned to grass, and the to logged stumps. Then to forest, and through the forest i trudged, excited, surprised, nervous to find the trail or the next road. Ever peering onward through the trees for a path. finding a survey mark. deciding I was too far west on a found road, then following gut to the west anyways. and behold, a lake, and the deconstruction of a road.
Sun is lower than expected, nearing the ridge, but there is time before dark, much time. Beautiful little lake in a bend of the former road. I follow and find blazes dictating what deconstruction work to do where. searching for the PCT… searching, wondering if I should break into the trees or hope the road gets close to the trail and will have an obvious connector. I decide to follow an odd blazed trail into the woods. It leads to markers for a tree logging area, but follows a nice ridge, so I continue. and up up up, look down at the lake a bit, pick off a few huckleberry raisins. come out on the ridge to little rickety road looking up at surrounding hills.
and there behind the trees as I break into the woods again off the track – The PCT. well worn trail with a little camp spot. relieved to be in a known spot. The whacking branches are gone, which was exciting, to beat through under brush and then be in a quiet little stretch of young saplings taking over a dell. And then finding a pile of rocks, dug up? landslide? lava tube? odd space. and back into the woods to scrapes and tugs and snaps.
The PCT is quieter, gently sloping steadily up, no rolling hills. Quickly leaving the miles behind. I get trail water beta, and meet Cracker Jack. I enter the burn area of 1974, cut 73 or 74, burned 74, planted 75. Smaller trees, uniform, but healthy seeming these 40 years later. On and up, the way is forested, little snippets of view as the slope falls away, but the trees block any vista. Ah, there, a side trail, curious. Out to a view point, 180 of the hills below and the sky growing dark with clouds, the setting sun putting a bit of a glow in them. And the moon has risen! Super full moon rising, wonderful.
Lovely to sit and sketch a bit up there at that view point. But wanting a little light up at 3 corner rock I soon return to the trail and continue. The turn off appears quickly and I march off as the light dims. It is past dusk, the clouds are just above me, getting lower. Down below city lights of Portland/Vancouver shine in the last sunset glow. The rock outcrop that is 3 corner rock jumps up solid and proud, but windy from it’s peak. I descend again and Sit in the lee of a boulder, quietly cooking my rice, polenta, and veggie dinner. The moonlight meanwhile dances with the gaps in the Clouds. and I frame some shots around the radio tower which keeps the 3 corner rock company.
After dinner I continued back to the PCT and enjoyed the subdued moon glow illuminating the hike. The trail was now at the ridge line and fairly open. One side of the ridge was recently logged, so neat snags and young trees are silhouetted against the shifting/glowing clouds. As a road came up alongside I started watching for a semi sheltered spot from the wind that would have a clear view east – so the sun could wake me up. Hammock went up easily enough and I slept tell the sky was a glowin!
Rather hazy start to the opening dawn, but I had Jefferson at my feet, and hills spread beneath me with glowing clouds above them. The clouds thinned, and built up, and thinned. Revealing and hiding the sun as it lifted higher. The hills below became sharper and the transitions of depth more apparent. I even captured some fun flare and Crepuscular rays as the sun broke over various ridge tops. PCT through hikers were up early, and near me I guess. They passed by my hammock, mostly without remark or greeting. One liked my setup, another marched passed with a friendly “nature calls!”
I packed up and headed off down the trail to make some miles before breakfast. I paused often, my eye searching for a nice composition of the trail. The light falling through the trees beautiful, but harsh and spotty when photographed. It is green the forest, but also dry – rather comforting when one considers how sopping wet it can be. I crossed a road and the ridge, passing behind a peak to the north west side of the mountain. It seemed to drop 20 degrees and the clock jump back 2 hours. PCT hikers were huddled chatting on a cross roads, I paused, told them to go up the trail a hundred feet for sun, and marched smartly past to get some warm blood flowing. The Forest opened and the undergrowth vanished to present a beautiful still landscape.
On this west side I found a patch of huckleberries holding out, Turtle Don passed me there, and I shared my huckleberries (he took all of my large handful, and I had to pick a few more for myself). I warned him of the water situation, and Hope he did not run too low or get too fatigued going down to Rock Creek. I continued to watch for pleasing compositions to show the trail – admiring old stumps here and there, the opening of the trail as if a tunnel. The forest opened up, and I could see the hills around Hamilton Creek, a logging project could be heard beeping and humming, the large powerlines ran off over the hills. Here I happened on some small water, and figured I had best fill up while I can, a measly trickle, but steady and enough. As I was bent wrapping up my things a whoosh came down upon me as a raptor must have come in for a closer look.
I could not yet see Table Mountain. The steady ridge which rises to an unnamed peak, higher than either Table Mountain or Green Leaf mountain, lay ahead. On its slopes though I could see the same tumbling rock fields and rounded mounds of Basalt which exists in a more accentuated state on Table Mountain. The path rose up to the ridge, and crossed onto it, revealing Green Leaf Mountain, another peak along the ridge, and a wonderful view of the Columbia River Gorge to the east. Here, on a lovely grassy area, I set down to enjoy breakfast. I created something new with the odd fresh ingredients I had brought. I first cooked the fresh tomatoes a while to reduce them, then added two eggs, letting them boil more than fry, added some avocado and then covered and let steam to make sure all got cooked a bit warmed up. I then broke my bread (crackers) over the mess and ate it all up! warm, filling, fresh, yummy. I really loved the ridge I was on and the rise above me to the North East. The dry vegetation displayed warm colors, and the ridge was dotted with open grassy areas so inviting of exploration, relaxation, contemplation, and meditation. As I prepared to hike onward, I wondered if I would stay on the ridge, miss the ridge, or go on past the ridge and adventure over to Green Leaf Mountain.
The ridge rose to the left and the PCT wound along the eastern side, down through forest. I was sad, but resigned. Until a rockslide opened to the right, then I bolted up the slope to retake the ridge. Now I was looking at Table Mountain, looking at its cliffs and slopes of loose rocks. I was out in the open, grasses and once springtime wildflowers around me. The wind was a bit rough with the beating sun drying me out. A nice stretch of the gorge sits between table mountain and Hamilton mountain/ridge from this vantage, though the low clouds blocked mount hood. I Enjoyed watching the play of light and clouds, though the wind was trying my patience as I waited for the right combination of light. I did continue up the ridge to find the “summit” (around 3553ft), and some nice old snags along the way. One spot on the ridge had some solid trees on it, and It was surprising to walk into them and be completely sheltered from the wind – nice respite. Finally I decided I had the light I wanted and headed back to the trail. I decided to press on to table mountain, as I knew I would be loosing plenty of elevation before reaching the trail up to the top – meaning still a good solid hike ahead!
I thought I would pass the power lines at the saddle, but the PCT turned down and descended from the ridge before seeing them. I still think following the power lines over to Green Leaf Mountain would be a decent option, but saved for another day. Was neat to come down below the cliffs of Table Mountain, IT is so interesting and powerful to see the vast slopes of broken rock. At the bottom of one were some huge logs, almost seemed to be arranged into a foundation/building structure or dam structure. There was also some large cable around. Anyone know what kind of project that may have been leftover from?
It was nice to be in the woods again. And interesting mid elevation environment. The sides of the mountain seemed to even out for a while and create a basin of sorts that held decent water. I spied a red huckleberry laden with fruit and spent a while going about and managed to harvest a little half pint of fresh berries – which I still need to cook up into some sweet treat. There was some crashing in these woods, but I never did see a creature which could have caused them. The light shifted to an afternoon feeling as the shelf fell away and the slopes reached upwards and downwards more steeply again. I kept looking at ridge lines ahead, trying to guess which one I would be pushing up to reach the summit, and the trail kept hugging the slope and passing around each ridge and continuing to descend. Nice to get in a rhythm of walking again.
The trail finally appeared, and I noticed it actually crosses the PCT, so there may be a route all the way down the ridge towards the confluence of Hamilton and Cedar Creeks. I turned up slope and ouch, steep it was. But beautiful. First woods, with little undergrowth. Then the open rocky ridge above as the trail hugs less steep contours. Great to be on that rock, in one steeper section you get to hold onto wonderful handholds in the fracturing rocks, which are nice and surprisingly weathered from the sharpness I would expect from fracturing rock. I think they have improved the trail a bit, I still had some loose slippy sections, but the route went over solid scree, trail, or rock mostly – less of the loose rock slope stuff than last time. The trail parts were bad if they had medium – like fist sized – loose rocks on them.
Then I reached the summit and began scouting and exploring for nice vistas and sunset areas. Table Mountain is a massive summit just under 3500ft. Truly amazing the variety and of little eco niches and various views you get. Kinda too bad to not have a 360 view, means you have to run down the trail to get a different shot in a different direction. But you can see Mt St Helens, Mt Hood, Mt Adams, the gorge, and more. There’s steep cliff drop offs, views of cliffs, tundra areas, grassy slopes, trees, an open forest, and squirrels breaking off giant pinecones and hurling them to the ground (which makes a great racket). I couldn’t really decide on a hammok spot for sleeping. But thought an eastern spot would be well exposed to morning sun to wake me up. So I set up my tarp for shelter and then went off to enjoy the sunset while making dinner. I got a second sunset by standing up and watching part of the sun’s orb vanish again.
I then moved back towards camp to await the moon. Eating dinner and snapping away as it suddenly, hazily, and squished to an oval, rose over the waters of the gorge. The stars too were nice, and after dinner I went back around the top to look down towards Bonneville Dam and Mt Hood. Plus frame a few trees with The big dipper behind.
I then went off to bed, There was surprising amount of dew on the tarp already, I crawled under and made do. But I kept waking up for some reason, probably just too uncomfortably close to the tarp and my own moisture from my breath was collecting on the underside. So I moved off to the shelter of some trees which would block off the radiation losses to the sky and slept fine the rest of the night tell morning. No dawn, just sunrise. Rapidly changing light and the gorge filled up with clouds beneath an inversion layer. very neat.
With the excitement of sunrise behind. Mt Rainier was up and visible in the distance, and I was eager to try and capture the Red Cliffs on the south face of Green Leaf Mountain. I leisurely made breakfast and observed the world about me. Sat and thought. Went off to the cliffs to stare more at their sheerness and fragility. Such might, and such uncertainty. I listened as a rock fell and hit other rocks and slid and bounced and echoed. I sat as the sun climbed higher and with my pencil traced and shaded the hues of the drainages which empty into the gorge. A falcon flew over head, and curious came within 10 feet of me before darting off again to ride the currents of the air.
I was curious to explore some of the trails between the PCT and Bonneville and decided to head down before the sun became too hot. I went by the same route, which was very steep (and the next day my knee ached). Some say the Southern approach via the talus field is less steep; I guess if you take your time on the talus field then after that it is a more gradual descent to the PCT, while the west way is a sustained down-climb. I focused on getting into the rhythm of hiking again, and of enjoying the forest. I did also wonder about the trails around and behind. It appears there is an alternate way down which sort of parallels the PCT. You can follow the ridge from Aldrich butte to the PCT, and don’t have to take the road. There is a road to connect from beneath Aldrich butte at Carpenters lake east over to the PCT. There is no trail all the way around Carpenters lake, but the lake is beautiful and mostly covered with reeds / cattail grasses. The other trail from Carpenters lake goes down to Bonneville Hot Springs Resort and passes through some very beautiful woods.
Walking through Bonneville to reach the bus was hot, but kind of nice. They have made it a very walking friendly place, though it always has an odd vibe to me. Sad to return to the city. But grateful I can take a bus to such wonderful places.
The dry vegetation displayed warm colors, and the ridge was dotted with open grassy areas so inviting of exploration, relaxation, contemplation, and meditation
The full gallery: