Saturday, March 4, 2017

A quick hike to Latourell Falls

Finally got back to the good stuff.

The past few weeks have mostly been forest park ramblings with nothing of true note outside my discovery of firelane 6. I actually spent more time in forest park this past week on long walks and had a bad time, because it seems forest park has been slowly infected by hobos living off the trails. I found some cool abandoned roads near Holman lane that were promising explorations, only to turn a corner and find a huge tent. I did this about 5 times.

There aren't many more corners of forest park to explore, but now I'm afraid if I go, I'll just find more hobo evidence. Hobos found all the cool stuff and made nests there.

This weekend though a brief day of decent weather gave us an excuse to get back to the gorge. The gorge is still pretty messed up (Probably will be for months) but some of the closer trails are open and clear. Latourell is one of them. The closest major waterfall hike to Portland and often overlooked because I don't think many people know there is an upper falls. It's a short, easy 2.5 mile loop and the waterfall is always more impressive than I remember it being.

Latourell in it's full 250 ft glory

From early in the trail, clockwise

Upper Latourell

Upper Latourell

The scale is huge

Behind the upper falls

Behind the upper falls

The Gorge

Dilapidated and possibly haunted house near the Latourell trail

Tourism in the 

The Yoga Tree, my favorite tree in the gorge, located on the Latourell trail 

The same tree, photo taken 2 years ago, during spring

Also, I'm cranking these art hike pictures out faster now, so i want to try and upload one with every trip report or close to it. Here is Hardy Ridge!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


No trip report this time, just a little side update!

I recently obtained a tablet (Birthdays are great and so are loving spouses) I can work on so I can create artwork in a more mobile fashion without needing to lug around my wacom and a big clunky laptop. It has a little less capability, but I can still do art stuff on it, which is all that matters.

I've used a particular side project I started a while ago as a way to integrate myself into the tablet and have been producing some more hiking art. The project, as stated way back when, was to make "postcard" inspired type paintings of hikes that I've been on. I hope to one day more or less catch up to most of my list (locally) and print them out so I can make a "wall" of triumph to hang in our home. Or maybe sell the images for others who do the same. I'll cross that bridge when I finally manage to catch up to my incredible list of completed hikes (Humblebrag snarff snarff).

Since made those first two, I've made several more. With the new tablet, I figure I can make these quicker now, so I wanted to upload the current set as kind of a calendar mark so I can look back, and also so I can see the progression I've made as an artist trying out a slightly new look.

Note, I made most of these with text indicating location meant to be at the top, but I've recently decided I wasn't happy with the look, so for now, it's just the pictures and I'll figure out where to put the location text in later.

Here they are, in order of completion:

Dog Mountain

Indian Point

Dry Creek Falls

Munra Point

Rock of Ages

Silver Star Mountain

Mitchell point

Wallowa mountains, Eagle Cap
 These two were completed on the tablet and I think there is a marketable step up in quality:
Rowena Plateau

Oneonta Gorge
So hopefully I'll have more to share in the coming months since I seem stuck indoors anyway as the storm damage from winter gets cleaned up.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Quest for Firelane 6

The snow, illness and other issues have prevented us from doing much hiking this winter. The Gorge is apparently still a mess beyond help till at least spring, so hiking options are very limited since neither of us own microspikes or winter snow hiking gear of any sort.

But I finally managed to get out last weekend for a short hike with the wife in forest park, and then again on Friday to deal with unfinished business.

Last year I went out of my way to explore as much as forest park as I possibly could. I took every trail I could find, some trails that weren't on a map, and some trails that may not have actually been trails to begin with. My proudest moments in the quest were when I found secret old abandoned trails and roads, because it felt like I was an explorer discovering ancient ruins, even though I was actually just an asshole poking around in the woods for old paths that nobody walks anymore for good reason. For the most part, I came away satisfied. But one particular thing nagged at me.

Where the hell was Firelane 6?

Firelanes 6, 11, and 14 are not labeled on modern maps. Despite this, I found an old map confirming firelane 14, and probably discovered firelane 11 on my own.  But I never found Firelane 6. I emailed the Forest Park conservatory, no response. I searched old maps, no dice. Firelane 6 was a giant mystery. I never found it, and by the time I figured out a way to possibly find it, the real hiking season started and I left Forest Park alone. Until now. Until I found it. I found firelane 6.
Sort of. I found it, but I'm still unsure where it actually is. Allow me to explain.

My method for locating firelane 6 started much the same way as how I found firelane 11. Looking at google maps' terrain view showed a hidden flat, roadish surface that was unmarked where a firelane would presumably be. Firelanes (with the weird exception of 12) are located, in order, going north. So to find firelane 6, I would have to look for flat sections of terrain between Firelane 7 and 5. It's a big area, and a lot of it is on private land. But the map showed promise, and it only had two major ridgelines to choose from:

The ridge showed a flat, road like section going north to south, which was weird as all firelanes bisect east west, but this was still very promising. I decided to set out for the tip of the ridgeline when the WW would cross it, then head up the ridge looking for evidence of a firelane.

I parked at firelane 7, walked down the Trillium trail, fought my way through some storm damage blowdowns (It's going to take a year to clean up this winter mess) and found the ridgeline. Before I walked west, up the ridge, I walked east, down the ridge on a small user trail to what looked like an old campsite and former location of a powerline tower. Then I set up the ridge, looking for an old roadbed.

I didn't have much luck. There was no evidence of any old roadbed on the ridgeline or just off it. I was determined to walk up the ridge anyway and with the undergrowth low it wasn't too hard. But then I found it. I came across an old roadbed coming from a different, side ridge, and there was a legit trail in front of me. It was marked with petroleum signs. I found an oil-line access trail through the park. This was firelane 6 alright. Maybe it wasn't abandoned like the other 2, maybe they took it off the map to prevent people from walking on an oil-line and eroding it away or something.

The oil road

I reached the "intersection" where the north-south road crossed. I walked through and continued up the oil line road on the hill (Which isn't visible on google) to a power line clearing, and a big gate at the back end of someone's property, and turned around and went back to the intersection. Now to find out where these side roads went.

I went south first as the road was more visible. It was clearly abandoned and incredibly squishy, each footstep creating a disgusting slurp of mud. The road was pretty clear but difficult to navigate in spurts that had washed out or overgrown. I walked maybe a 5th of a mile upcreek, and I could see the roadbed on the other side of the creek, but I hit a wall of brush and squish that I didn't have the motivation to push through, so I turned back. I think I know where the road ends, so in the future I might seek the opposite end out.

I got back to the intersection and went north to abrupt disappointment. Overgrown and the roadbed immediately vanished in ferns. Looking back at the map, I think I took an offshoot I shouldn't have, so returning to here might be in order as well. I headed back down the ridge and followed the signs along the road I had missed on the way up. When I reached the intersection with the wildwood, I saw why. Outside an oil line sign on the side of the WW, the way up was completely indistinguishable from a normal hillside. Hidden in plain sight.

I headed back towards the car, satisfied that I had found F6. When I rounded the top of the wiregate trail, however, I saw it. Another old roadbed, heading uphill west off of the WW. I sighed, and up I went.

The Wiregate trail is a weeny steep connection between Leif Erikson and the WW. It follows an old oil-line (The same oil line as what I just found, actually) roadbed for most of the route, then curves up north and the old roadbed goes another 80 yards to the WW. I never noticed that it actually crossed the WW here. But it does. For whatever reason, I never noticed the grade. It's been there the whole time, and I never saw it.

It was steep and covered in difficult to navigate blowdowns. But past the mess it opened into a nice meadow with just hints of Mt. Hood to see, and then it became an obvious roadbed. The road went up another 6th of a mile to another gate and private property sign. It also had a short offshoot to a former powerline location. So what was this mystery road. Was I on firelane 6? Or was Firelane 6 the oil road?

I think F6 is the former. I think I found it by accident and the oil line is just an oil line. One thing has me convinced. Gravel. The oil line had no gravel on it. It resembled more of a trail in most places, which isn't a giveaway, but it didn't have gravel. Firelanes have gravel. Some have less, some are covered, but the gravel is there. The Wiregate extension had gravel on it. You had to dig a little bit, but it was there. The lower wiregate trail has gravel and follows a roadbed. So I think that Firelane 6 is now the wiregate trail (half of it, anyway) and the top half was abandoned due to the land being privately owned,  providing no upper access point. But this is a guess.

The point is, I walked on Firelane 6. But I don't know if it was the first or second secret I found. So I know where it is and have walked it, but I also don't know where it actually is. 

Schrodinger's Firelane.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Wygant Peak because WyNot

Last year, around October, Keeley ran a half marathon in Hood River and to pass the time waiting for her I did a hike. That hike was Wygant peak. A fairly forgotten mountain overshadowed by the more dramatic Mitchell Point and Mt. Defiance hikes nearby. It's a mostly abandoned hike by most accounts. There isn't a view at the top to see, the views you do get are less impressive than Mitchell, it's harder and farther than Mitchell, and there is poison oak and stuff. Wygant is not a well loved place.

I explored most of the lower area and reached the "best" viewpoint partway up the mountain last time before I needed to turn around due to time constraints. Since I never reached the top, I marked Wygant off my checklist as "unfinished business".

Time to finish that business. Keeley was doing a coding thing on Saturday. It was me vs the Mountain. Time to bag the peak.

Got a late start, spent too long trying to decide what to do on the cold, cloudy day. Do I do the Elevator Shaft? Not a far drive, no poison pak in December, but probably not real safe when things are wet. Do I do Nick Eaton ridge, and mark off some trails for my map? Nah, the clouds would block any views at Indian Point, and I might not be in good enough shape to tackle Nick Eaton in a reasonable time. So I settled on Wygant, which is listed at a medium length and height (8 miles, 1,200 feet elevation gain)

I think both of those stats are low because the people who wrote them don't actually hike the mountain enough to get accurate measurements. The thing I kept saying on the hike, to myself, was "This is more mountain than I expected". I ended up walking close to 10 miles and almost guarantee I climbed more than 1200 feet. Wygant is 2200 feet high, and most of that you climb. I'd wager somewhere around 2000 feet.

It didn't take me long to get back to the turn around point from the last excursion, since I wasn't spending much time meandering looking for picture opportunities and I was cold so I just powered up as fast as I could go reasonably.

The bridge is even more wrecked now. It was 3 pieces last year, now only 1 piece remains and the rest has been washed further downstream and upturned into shreds. The trail itself though, felt better. It's still a mess, with tons of trees over top of it that require careful steps (At least 20 blowdowns on the whole trail altogether). When I reached the upper viewpoint spur it felt easier somehow though. The trail is not great, but it's not terrible. There are a few dicey spots as the trail climbs the north west flank, which is a steep ass hill the trail slowly switchbacks up.

All that's left of the bridge over Perham creek now.

Switchbacks are the name of the game here. Wygant has no mercy for switchback haters, When I reached the upper viewpoint and officially entered new territory, I knew I had like...6 left according to google maps and most other maps.

Turns out most maps just kind of lie and drew inaccurate squiggles to the peak, because there are at minimum 13 switchbacks from the upper viewpoint to the top. The trail keeps switchbacking up the north flank for a while, giving occasional views to the west. Then the trail starts to level out, and the end feels near. NOPE. After cresting a ridge, you see plenty more ridge to climb. So climb it, you heathen. More mountain than expected.

Seen from the lower viewpoint on the way up

The upper viewpoint


After cresting that hill, it feels like the top. NOPE. The top is actually 5 minutes and 50 more feet of climbing to your west along the summit ridge. Wygant is a tease.

The Summit is an unremarkable lump with a pile of rocks and no views. Thankfully, having done my research, I knew about the supposed "meadow" on the west flank 200 yards past the summit. I trudged back down hill following the ridge and sure enough, a viewpoint that was actually kind of nice. I stayed long enough to snap a few quick photos then quickly shuffled back into the woods because the cold wind was ripping at my very soul.

Sunglare view

the view from the meadow

The thrilling summit of Wygant peak

Then it was back the same way, which got dull because the trail is just treacherous enough that you have to pay attention to each step and you can't just fart down on autopilot like you can on better built, more popular trails.

Because of the cold winds I never actually took a break longer than a minute for 9 goddamn miles of walking and 2000 feet of climbing/unclimbing. I was worn out by the end. I never saw another person the entire time, and despite it's problems, Wygant has a solitary charm to it that can only come with unpopular trails.

I have one more reason to come back here sometime this winter/spring: The Chetwood loop (An alt route halfway up Wygant) is completely toast after neglect, but there is a powerline road accessible from the beginning of it, and that powerline road should go all the way to Mitchell point, offering a Mitchell loop option that I think is worth checking out. It might not exist, but I'd like to make sure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Patapsco State Park and Harpers Ferry

So this past week I went home for the usual thanksgiving romp for delicious food, football and family. Those were labled in order of importance. But outside the one day spent dedicating myself to becoming fat I actually had a couple of solid hikes.

First off, a quick visit to Patapsco Valley State Park west of Baltimore, MD. Patapsco is probably the one place that I can directly pinpoint my love of hiking coming from. I spent probably 80% of my childhood hikes in this park with my dad and I loved every minute. I have no doubt this park made me the weirdo who goes out and does 16 miles and 4000 ft by himself today. It was a quick visit, parking by the old swinging bridge and walking up to Bleode Dam, soon to be demolished. We saw a big ass bird chilling on a rock. It was nice to be back and I felt like a kid again and wanted to explore the whole park.

We also took a brief stop in Kinder Farm park, a park near my house with a gross pond and bamboo patch.

A few days later my mom had to drive back to James Madison University to drop off the other offspring and she had a great idea: drop me and Keeley at Harpers Ferry on the way and let us spend a few hours putzing around. This was an excellent idea. I had been to Harpers Ferry once before as a wee lad and remembered pretty much none of it. I didn't care about historic little towns as a kid. You don't really appreciate history until you have been alive long enough to have some of your own.

We started at the John Brown fort, a historic individual who had to be bold and do something crazy to be remembered by history because otherwise how can you be remembered with a name as bland as John Brown? Lesson for you boys, if your name is bland, do something doomed to fail in the name of justice and everyone will remember you and your kickass beard. After taking some photos, we crossed the bridge to the Maryland side of the town and started climbing.

Loch me up

Almost the middle!

The Potomac flows majestically after swallowing the Shenandoah

The trail in Maryland climbs at a reasonable level to a junction that offers a big long loop to the north, or a short jaunt downhill to a rocky promontory over the town with stellar views. We went for the overlook since we had a time limit on the day. The overlook was crowded, but we managed to find a solitary spot on the second of two outcroppings, low down at the cliff edge, where we could be alone and admire the views.

The best photo taken all day

After heading back to town, we got lunch, and found out due to a stupid scheduling plan JMU wasn't going to let my sister into her dorm so we had some extra time to kill. We wandered down to the river and walked along it for a while, then went back and climbed the hill to Jefferson Rock, which was a rock that Thomas Jefferson thought was rad or something. The view is okay. It's no Maryland Heights. We walked up to the cemetery nearby then back down into town for a final pass through the old armory locations and I wandered down to the river again for photos. Mom picked us up and we went home. I felt very satisfied. I would have wanted to see the full Maryland Heights loop and the Virginia side Loudoun Heights trail, but alas, it was a good romp.

A man on a mountain

So like, what happened to the rest of the house

Probably a drug deal

I hope she said yes because damn that's one hell of a reminder if she didn't

Now back to the land of green for early winter hikes before Christmas takes up all my time.

Annapolis picture for the end