Beacon Rock along the Columbia River

I heard of this climb in a magazine promoting hiking trails surrounding Vancouver, WA. I decided to climb the up the short 1.8 mile (2.9 k) round trip to the top of this rock when the weather got better. At only 700 foot (213 m) elevation gain this may seem like an easy hike, but don’t fool yourself it’s a 700 foot (213 m) climb in only 0.9 mile (1.45 k) involving many switchbacks, steep grades, and stairs the entire distance. Who needs a gym with a stair master when you can go out here.

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A prominent and distinctive geological feature along the Columbia River Gorge, this 848-foot (258.5 m) high landmark was the core of a volcano 57,000 years ago. The rock that remains is the lava core that was not washed away by the massive force of ice-age flooding. During the last Ice Age an ice dam formed in Idaho creating an enormous lake behind a 1/2 mile (804.5 m) thick block of ice.

This ice dam failed numerous times sending an enormous amount of water down through the Columbia River Gorge flowing at 60 mph (96.5 k/hr) up to 600 feet (182.9 m) deep. The city of Portland, OR could have been 400 feet (121.9 m) under water during these floods. This amount of water caused erosion created the hanging valleys and waterfalls that are prevalent along the river right now.

The trail built by Henry Biddle between 1915 and 1918 is one of the oldest trails in the area. At the time Biddle built the trail with handrails and bridges to the top for people to visit. His family later donated the land to the Washington State Parks in 1935.

An important landmark along the Columbia River this rock served as a landmark to local tribes denoting the last of the rapids of the great river. Originally named “Beaten Rock” by Lewis & Clark in their journals on the Voyage of Discovery in 1805, it was renamed on the  return journey “Beacon Rock” for unknown reasons.

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“The entire trail is a near-continuous series of switchbacks, many of them less than 20 feet long and the trail loops over itself at least twice. I counted 52 switchbacks, while one of my sons counted 54 and the other came up with 49. That says less bad about our educational system than it does good about the distracting views. The trail is completely lined by handrails and is safe for all but the tiniest walkers.

Most of the trail is up the open, west side of the rock, providing views down the river of Angel’s Rest and Cape Horn. With little shade or water, this part of the trail can be really hot in the summertime. Beacon Rock actually has two summits and the trail works around the south one and proceeds up the east side toward the higher, north summit. The trail is forested here, but the terrain is still rocky enough to provide great views of Hamilton Mountain and the river toward Bonneville Dam. At the summit, a few quite large stairs lead to the summit pinnacle. Here, trees block a bit of the view, but it’s certainly worth seeing.

The wind is usually howling on one side of the rock and dead calm on the other side, creating a dramatic difference in the perceived temperature. You’ll need a jacket most days, but you’ll carry it a lot.” – OregonHikers.org

New Years trip to Washington – Part 6

Well we plan another easy day as it’s getting late in the trip and I think we are all tired from all the visiting and traveling that has been done. Today it was decided to go to a nature reserve for a short drive and walk, as the weather is finally getting rainy. Imagine that, rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest during winter.

This 5,150-acre (2,084 ha) area of marshes, grasslands and woodlands, named the Ridgefield National Wildlife Reserve is just north of Vancouver, WA and is one of 4 reserves located along the Columbia River in the greater Vancouver area. Established in 1965 to protect waterfowl, it was established with the 3 other refuges in the Willamette Valley for wintering birds migrating and nesting from Alaska.

The area includes a 2-mile (3.2 k) self-guided walking trail that’s objective is to showcase the Columbia River Watershed, the 4.2-mile (6.75 k) auto tour route and a seasonal 1.2-mile (1.9 k) hiking trail.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it protects sandhill cranes, various shorebirds, and a large variety of songbirds, mallards, great blue herons, and red-tailed hawks. Mammals calling the reserve home include deer, coyote, raccoon, skunk, beaver, river otter, and brush rabbits.

The refuge consists of five sections, each unique in habitat supporting the wildlife that reside there. Two of these sections are open to public visitation and enjoyment, while the remaining three are kept as sanctuary for wildlife to rest, nest and escape human disturbance. This maintains an important balance for those species less tolerant to human presence to thrive in an increasingly urban area.  The visitors then get the chance to view and experience wildlife and habitat, receiving the many benefits of being out in nature.

The Columbia River has long sustained human population and dates back long before Euro-American arrived. There have been large Native American settlements found on the reserve. The refuge also preserves the most intact archaeological site on the lower Columbia River with evidence of at least 2,300 years of continuous human occupation. That history and culture is interpreted through the Cathlapotle Plankhouse built in 2005 and open to visitors on the weekends in the spring and summer. The plankhouse was built to represent the buildings Lewis and Clark might have found here at their Wapato Portage village.

Since we are visiting in January we are not to leave the car due to the large flocks of geese and ducks nesting in the area between October 1st and April 30th. The cars become your movable animal blind as the birds are accustomed to the vehicles presence. There is an observation blind halfway along the route you can park and take the short hike out to it.

There are 14 interpretive markers and signs along the way along the one-way road. It was a fun drive as we were one of the few vehicles in the reserve on this weekday morning. We saw many birds, mammals and 2 deer along our route. When we left the car to hike to the blind my grandson had an old cell phone that he uses to take photos and he was just shooting away at all the details on the forest floor trying be like his Dad, it was so cute.

It has been a tiring week of visiting family, meeting new people and seeing new sights so we leave at lunchtime to head home for a late lunch as I need to pack and rest for my drive home.

The most Inspirational Person I know

Taken at Mount St Helens, WA 2013

Taken at Mount St Helens, WA 2013

This is a story of the most influential and inspirational person in my life, my wife Jodi, who was my best friend, my rock, and my traveling companion; the love of my life suddenly passed away on March 31, 2016 at the age of 60. This fantastic lady was shared with me by the grace of god, I will miss her; she was the spark of light in my life. I post this as a remembrance of the love she had for family, life, traveling, and giving to others.

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