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

Cape Disappointment State Park, WA

Named by Captain John Meares’ 1778 disappointing sailing to find the mouth of the Columbia River for trading. Being turned away by a severe storm, he named this place Cape Disappointment. While in complete contrast Lewis and Clark’ s Corps of Discovery cheered as they completed their journey with their first sight of the Pacific Ocean on a bluff on Cape Disappointment.

“Cape Disappointment Map 07-27-16”

Cape Disappointment State Park is far from being a disappointment. Steeped in Northwest history, it is a place to explore U.S. military and maritime installations, learn more of Lewis & Clark’s Corps of Discovery Expedition and their effects on native tribes of the area. Camp, fish, hike old-growth forests, roam around freshwater lakes, saltwater marshes and ocean tidelands. Marvel at the breathtaking views from the highlands above the sea and wander the beaches that are enjoyed by kite-fliers, beachcombers, sandcastle builders and those who just love to walk. Hike to 2 lighthouses that guided the mariners to the mouth of the river and kept them from becoming victims of the Grave Yard of the Pacific.

Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center

I began my day at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center and one of the Battery’s of Fort Canby that defended the entrance to the Columbia River from the mid 1900’s to the end of World War II. The Interpretive center is a museum providing a history lesson of The Corps of Discovery’s journey from settled America along the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Walk along the history path in its interactive exhibits that will entertain all ages. Sitting right above Battery Harvey Allen of Fort Canby to the inland side and overlooking the Pacific Ocean from its cliff side perch it is a wonderful place to start your visit to the park.

Off to the south from the ocean-viewing platform of the Interpretive Center you see Cape Disappointment Lighthouse. Start the hike to the lighthouse in the Interpretive Center’s parking lot. You’ll walk through dense forest glimpsing ocean and river views as you make your way to the oldest operating lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest. Built in 1856 to warn the ships of the treacherous currents and obstacles of the river bar at the mouth of the river.

Continuing on driving I thought I made a very wrong turn as I saw a sign for Waikiki Beach. It is a short ¼ mile (0.4 k) walk to the beach. It was still overcast when I visited although I suspect it would be a nice place for a picnic lunch and to watch the waters and vessels of the Columbia River float past.

Continuing my exploration of the park I stopped a short time later at the trailhead to Battery 247 that is perch on a hill in a strategic location overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. Very deteriorated and overgrown it is an interesting structure to wander through. Although being small I recommend bringing some type of flashlight or headlamp to go deeper into the underground ammunition building. This is also the area where Lewis and Clarks Corps of Discovery first laid eyes on the Pacific Ocean.

Following the road a little further leads me to the campground. I wish to see if I wanted to spend the night here. I found it to be a nice place right along the ocean and went back to the entry station to reserve a site for the night. I wanted a quiet spot to relax for the night so selected site #157. My site is not right along the beach, although a few are, but only 200 yards (183 m) away. In this group of 9 campsites there were only 2 other sites being occupied.

 

Having settled my accommodations for the night I drove up to North Head Lighthouse to walk the pathway to the base of the lighthouse. This second lighthouse was built as the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse left a section of coast unprotected from a mariner’s point of view. Built 190 feet (60 m) above sea level in 1898 this 65’ (19.8 m) tall lighthouse is still functioning and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. This is located on one of the windiest places along the west coast with recorded winds of up to 120 MPH (321.9 km/h).

Finished for the day I returned to set up camp and have a snack before I took a walk along the beach outside my temporary front door. The beach was an easy walk although exploring higher up the high tide line finds many logs that have been deposited along the beach during the severe storms coming in off the Pacific. Many small windbreak structures have been built by visitors add to the cozy feel of the beach.

Deciding to go back and grab my camera tripod, I return to the beach to watch the sun setting in the west. After a wonderful rest and watching a beautiful sunset I proceed back to my camp, fix a small dinner and climb into the tent early to do a little reading then to fall asleep listening to the waves crashing into the shore.

I will return here again to continue exploration of the trails in the area. The 1.5 mile (2.4 k) Coastal Forest Loop trail, Bell’s View Trail, the 1.5 mile (2.4 k) long North Head Trail and the south portion of the coastal Discovery Trail will be on the short list of walks.

I continue my journey in the morning crossing back into Oregon to visit Fort Stevens then head a little further south to see another fantastic beach.

Postponement of the adventure to the Great White North

Well plans have totally changed, during the last part of July right before I was to leave on my Northern Adventure. My daughter, my grandson, 13 and granddaughter, 10 were going to move out of the house so I decided to sell my home of 27 years and move north. She really wanted and loved the family home so it was agreed she would buy the home and the transaction was a go without the house ever going on the market.

That changed my plans drastically.

I reviewed my future and decided to move up the relocation to the Pacific Northwest to be by my son, daughter-in-law, 3 YO grandson and the new addition that was due in a couple of weeks. Well, going on this travel adventure and relocating 1,000 miles (1,610 k) away within a couple of months was too much for me to handle. So the Adventure would have to wait a year.

Leaving the beginning of August I traveled north to stay with my son and family while waiting on the new little one to be born. I started looking for homes and exploring the area the day after I arrived.

My daughter-in-laws family wanted to go out with kayaks on Lacamas Lake the next day, so off we went. It was a wonderful morning paddling around on this 3-mile (4.8k) long lake.

 

Next up was a loop walk down to the Columbia River then exploring Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. I will cover this walk in my next post as it deserves it’s own post.

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BarraParade Grounds, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Later in the week I went for a pleasant morning 4-mile (6.4k) walk around Round Lake, a wonderful area with many hiking trails, trees, waterfalls and streams. I went home to relax and in the afternoon started looking at homes in the area.

 

One day out of the blue we visited this wonderful home located in a pocket of pines, I really loved this place and it reminded me of a cabin that I had once owned in Lake Arrowhead, CA. My son and daughter-in-law basically said I should put an offer in right away or they might buy it, LOL. The next day I put my offer in and after a little negotiating it was to be mine.

house

A few days later a beautiful baby boy was born.

 

What an exciting and unexpected time I had in those few weeks. Instead of  heading into the great white north after the birth of my grandson, the plans suddenly changed with the selling my home, exploring some beautiful areas, buying a new home and being there for my forth grandchild’s birth.

Well now to make the drive back south and start packing up for the move. That’s going to be a massive amount of work.