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

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

I had just an evening and a few hours the next morning to explore the Alabama Hills. I got in after dark and it was very windy and cold Halloween night so I didn’t want to spend too much time outside. I shall return with more time to explore the Movie Road and Movie Flats to find the locations of the arches and television / movie shooting locations. The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine will provide a history and has information and self-guided tours of the area.

Alabama-Hills-Movie-Location-Map

Map of several of the Alabama Hills movie sites

These hills, arches and rock formations on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada are in the shadow of Mount Whitney just west of the California town of Lone Pine. Located right off the road to Whitney Portal, the starting point for climbing the 11th highest peak in the United States and the tallest in California, this BLM land is open for exploring, hiking, astronomy, camping and exploring. The formations are part of the same geological formation although geographically separate from the Sierra Nevada Mountains just adjacent to the east

Mines in the area were named after the Confederate Civil War ship the CSS Alabama by sympathetic confederate miners of the time and then it became the name of the entire area. When the Alabama was finally sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864 the mining district, a mountain pass and peak and a town were named Kearsarge by sympathetic union miners.

Used by television and movie productions for filming, especially Westerns. Since the 1920’s this rugged environment has been shown in approximately 150 movies and a dozen television shows. A few of the early television shows have been Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy, The Gene Audrey Show, The Lone Ranger, and Bonanza. While Gunga Din, The Walking Hills, Yellow Sky, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men, Bad Day at Black Rock and How the West was Won are some of the Movie Classics. Current Films have included Gladiator, Django Unchained, Iron Man, Man of Steel, Firefly and Tremors.

Nighttime is just as impressive as the landscape during the day as the Alabama Hills is a Bortle Class 2 “average dark sky” site. On a clear moonless night many star formations and the Milky Way appear brightly in the night sky.

My visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park on a trip south to visit family.

Lassen_Volcanic_National_Park_map

I left Vancouver for southern California and my first overnight stop was Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. As the name implies it’s major features are volcanic in origin. Being the southern most volcano of the Cascade Range the prominent features of the park are the largest plug volcano in the world, Lassen Peak and it’s sulfur – thermal hot springs.

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Originally two separate National Monuments dedicated in 1907 by Theodore Roosevelt, Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak National Monuments were declared Lassen Volcanic National Park in 1916.

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I arrived late in the afternoon after an 8 1/2 hour drive and set up camp at Manzanita Lake Campground located in the northern section of the park. Then I proceeded to walk the loop trail around Manzanita Lake, ate dinner and enjoyed a nice campfire before retiring to my tent to read and fall asleep.

 

Accessible by five vehicle entrances the majority of visitors enter either from the north or south along State Route 89, named the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway or Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway, off State route 44 in the north and 89 from the south. Three unpaved roads enter the park but do not connect with the main road through the park, Highway 89.

The north-south 29-mile (46.6k) road, Highway 89, was constructed between 1925 and 1931. The road summit is the highest in the Cascades topping at 8,512 feet (2,594 m). This road is closed in the winter months due to snow, which can reach 40 feet (12.2m) deep.

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Early morning along the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway

 

I got up early, had a quick breakfast and packed up to head south along Route 89 to visit the sites of the park. It was very interesting stopping at the many informative signs along the road to read the history of the park.

 

The last minor to major eruption started in 1914 and lasted until 1921 creating a new crater on Lassen Peak. Releasing ash and lava it fortunately did not kill anyone. This eruption covered many miles of forestlands with landslides and the new growth forest today stands many feet above the old forest floor. These landslides also created Manzanita Lake as it damned Manzanita Creek.

The first blast was on May 19, 1915 and was said to be a night to remember with it’s steam explosion and subsequent mudflows. Had it not been for Elmer Sorahan many people might have died but he ran 3 miles (4.8k) to warn others after escaping the explosion.

 

Three days later on May 22, 1915 another explosion on Lassen Peak threw ash, pumice, rock and gas into the air that was more devastating to the area than the first. The pressure in the mountain built up like a lid on a boiling pot of water and finally blew. You can now explore this area on a ½ mile (0.8k) loop trail or take the strenuous 2,000 foot (609.6m) 5 mile (8k) round trip hike to the top of 10,457 foot (3,187m) Lassen Peak. Many other hiking opportunities exist in the park along with backpacking, auto-touring, bird watching, camping skiing, skiing, snow play, and snowshoeing.

There are 5 hydrothermal areas to explore within the park. Sulphur Works, Bumpass Hell, Devils Kitchen, Boiling Springs Lake and Thermal Geyser. I am limiting myself to 2 for this trip.

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My first hydrothermal area would have been the hike out to Bumpass Hell Hydrothermal Area, a moderate 3 mile (4.8k) round trip hike. This is the largest hydrothermal area of the park with temperatures of up to 322 degrees F (161 degrees C). I had done this hike with my kids back in the early 1990’s although I found the trail closed this season for maintenance of the trail and boardwalk through the 2018 season.

My next stop was Sulphur Works, a formation of mudpots, steam vents and boiling springs located right off the main road. This hydrothermal area in near the center of a massive composite volcano that collapsed many thousands of years ago. Mount Tehama or Brokeoff Mountain was estimated to be 1,000 feet (304m) higher than Lassen Peak. Active 400,000 to 600,000 years ago it is estimated to be nearly 11 miles (17.7k) across and had towered to 11,500 feet (3,505k).

 

My final stop was the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center at the south entry of the park to visit the small museum learning the history of the park, peoples and area and had a nice talk with the Rangers.

Now for the long 8 hour drive down the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains along State highway 395 to the BLM area of Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, CA.

Fort Stevens and Ecola State Parks, Oregon

After a restful nights sleep I make a small breakfast, pack up and head out for the short 1-hour drive across the Columbia River into Oregon for a visit to Fort Stevens State Park. Located in the far northwest tip of the state this park is bordered on 1 side by the mouth of the Columbia River and on  second side by the Graveyard of the Pacific This 4,300 acre (17.4 sq km) park has much to offer to its visitors; walk or drive along the beach, hike coastal and forested paths, bicycle along bike trails, camp, beachcomb, birdwatch, visit a shipwreck, explore an abandoned military installation used during the Civil War and World War II. Or just relax and enjoy the area.

Fort Stevens Park Map

My first stop was to see one of the shipwrecks along this stretch of the Graveyard of the Pacific. Along with approximately 2,000 other ships since 1792, the remains of the Peter Iredale now rests on the sandy beach. Only a portion of this 275 foot (83.8 m) long steel ship remains, grounded where she came to rest in 1906 from a navigation error in dense fog by its Captain due to the areas treacherous weather and storms. It has become an attraction since the day it grounded on the sandbar.

 

Next stop was Fort Stevens. First built in 1863-64 during the Civil War it was in use up until the end of World War II, it was part of a 3-fort system at the mouth of the Columbia River to defend this waterway and ports from attack by sea. The other 2 forts were located in the state of Washington; Fort Canby at Cape Disappointment and Fort Columbia a few miles up river from Fort Canby. (For my visit to Fort Canby and Cape Disappointment see LINK)

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Fort Stevens installation map

 

 

 

During World War II a Japanese submarine fired upon Fort Stevens in June of 1942, making this fort notable as being the only military base on the Continental United States to be fired upon by an enemy since the War of 1812. 17 rounds were fired at the fort with no real damage being done.

After a full morning of exploring the buildings and small Fort Stevens Visitors Center – Museum I enjoyed a late picnic lunch and continued my journey south on Highway 101 to visit Ecola State Park. This 9 mile (14.5 k) long stretch of beach lets you enjoy hiking, picnicking, tidepooling, surfing and scenic coastal vistas. Located just north of Cannon Beach, OR I leave Highway 101 and travel the13 miles (21 k) of twisty narrow roadway into the north area of the park to see Indian Beach Day Use Area. This secluded beach is a spot frequented by surfers, beachcombers, and tidepool explorers and is reached along a short path down the hillside to the beach. Extending north is a network of trails that will provide a 2 ½ mile (4 k) loop trail to the top of Bald Mountain or continue north to Tillamook Head trailhead which is part of the Oregon Coast Trail. The loop trail is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Tail, walked by Lewis Clark and a band of men from the Corps of Discovery to search for a beached whale in 1806. They were hoping to return to Fort Clatsop with whale blubber as they fought hunger from their time there. They sadly return empty handed.

Day 2 Ecola State Park Map

 

 

 

After this beautiful day of exploring I returned to my car and drove the 2 hours back to my home to plan the next trip in a few weeks, south to visit my family and friends at the home I just moved from.

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.

Labor Day 2018 Barlow Trail Adventure

Excuse the lack of clarity in the photos and the videos; they were all taken with an iPhone 6 mounted to my windshield. The road was very bumpy and your looking through the very dirty windshield .

I was asked by my son to join him and 3 other friends to traverse the Barlow Trail on Labor Day weekend. I use the term Barlow Trail and Barlow Road interchangeably as the non-paved portion of this route is considered a trail on forest service roads.

What is the Barlow Road? Originally named the Mount Hood Highway this historic road/trail was the last segment of the Oregon Trail over the Cascades from Missouri.  The opening of the Barlow Road in 1846, as a toll road, allowed wagons to pass over the landscape that was both rough and steep. This ended up being the most harrowing 100 miles (160 km) of the 2,170-mile (3,490 km) Oregon Trail between Missouri and the Wilmette Valley in what was then the Oregon Territory. The original overland portion of the Oregon Trail ended in The Dalles, Oregon.

The Cascade Range of mountains west of The Dalles at Mount Hood proved to be an insurmountable obstacle to early wagon trains. Surviving the journey from Missouri the settlers found The Dalles crowded by others awaiting the expensive and dangerous passage down the Columbia River. Barge operators floated the wagons down the river, the settlors walked along the banks of the river or drove their livestock over the high-elevation Lolo Pass of the Cascades. This was the only way to complete the journey until 1846 when Sam Barlow was authorized in December 1845 by the Provisional Legislature of Oregon to build a road. The road proved popular with more than a thousand immigrants and 145 wagons using it in the first year of operation. Only about twenty percent of the old Barlow Road is still visible today, the rest being covered over by paved roads and highways.

This segment of the Barlow Road, now known as Barlow Trail (NF-3530), is open to 4x4ers, bicyclists, hikers, and those with an adventurous spirit.

Leaving town heading to the Barlow Road

Leaving early in the morning to rendezvous with the others at a roadside rest area by Mount Hood in Oregon my son and I arrived a little late, the others were waiting as we fueled up for the 32-mile overnight off-road adventure.

 

Heading east along Highway 26 to Highway 35 we turned off on a dirt side road to find the entrance to the Barlow Trial. Before continuing we all stopped and aired down our tires for better traction and to give us a more comfortable ride on the dirt forest service road. Our speed would not be more than 20 miles an hour although more often than not at a 5-10 miles per hour.

 

 

Turning left onto the road we stopped about 2-3 miles along under the trees for lunch. Sandwiches and snacks made, eaten and enjoyed we continued on.

At about 8 miles into the adventure we came to a bridge across a small river that was closed due to flood damage from a few years ago. Hikers and bicycles are allowed to cross but no vehicles are allowed. We went into the campground just before the closure to see if there was a way around or if we should just call it an early day and stop for the night. There is a way across the river but it is an illegal crossing and shouldn’t be used. As per Trails Off Road: “While there was once a crossing ….. the Motor Vehicle Use Map shows the crossing as being closed and all indications on the ground are that it is intended to be permanently closed. Further, the crossing itself is in a wilderness area. However, some 4x4ers still attempt the crossing illegally, damaging important natural resources in the process ………… Do not under any circumstances attempt the crossing. For those wanting to access the Keeps Mill Campground on the south side of White River, there are well-maintained roads coming from the south. Remember it is everyone’s responsibility to Stay on the Trail and Tread Lightly to protect our natural resources and help preserve access to our shared 4×4 trail system.” At the time we did not know this information but we all came to the conclusion this was probably an illegal crossing and we shouldn’t cross.

Deciding it was still too early we retraced our tracks then headed east on Highway 35 until we could reconnect with the trail on the opposite bank of the river.

 

 

Back on the trail we found a side trail that cut off to the north along the creek we had been paralleling. We drove in about a mile and found a beautiful creek side camping area to enjoy our evening. Fires were not permitted due to the high fire danger that the entire west was having so we sat around a legal propane fire pit one of the guys brought for a nice evening under the stars and a pretend fire. We all headed to bed rather early, bunch of old farts, and enjoyed listening to the stream splashing by us all night long.

 

 

After a great nights rest we got up for breakfast. Having eaten and picked up my camp I looked around the area and noticed some large cat prints in the sand down by the creek just 20 yards from camp. A mountain lion had been down to the water sometime during the night as we all were asleep to have a drink. They were relatively fresh in the sandy mud and in the water so it must have come down early this morning before we got up. My son got a little nervous at that point as his 3-year-old son with us. The rest of the time we were there as he ran around camp, the forest and creek side there was one of the 5 of us keeping our eyes open and not letting him wander to far from us.

Continuing on after breakfast we still had a fair ways to travel.

 

 

The group at lunch at the end of the trail

Upon completion of the trail a little after 1 PM and stopped at The Sportsman Bar and Grill in Wamic, OR for some nice big burgers before we all headed home our separate ways.

 

Heading north my son and I caught Interstate 84 at The Dalles and drove along the Columbia River until we crossed back into Washington on the Interstate 205 bridge. Arriving home right around 5 PM I unpacked the perishable foods from the cooler, showered and just rested until retiring for an early bedtime.

What a great time was had by all, it was great to finally meet this group of guys my son talks so highly about. I cannot wait to share some more adventures with them.

 

 

The Move and What I have been doing recently.

My posting has slacked off a bit recently as I decided to move 1,000 miles ( 1,609 k) north to Washington State, which was why the Alaska Trip was postponed a year. Selling my home in So Cal was a difficult decision having grew up in Orange County been living in this house for the last 26 years. Selling, buying and relocating has been taking up a lot of my time.

Since the move I have been getting settled in my new place and adventuring the local area around me. Here are some photos of the move and the areas I been exploring.

THE MOVE

Columbia River Trail

Round Lake Park

Lacamas Lake Trail

Burnt Creek Bridge Trail

Next adventure is starting tomorrow as I travel to Cape Desolation, WA, Fort Stevens, OR then head down the coast to Tillamook, OR and finally back home. Post to follow.