"Exploring lost trails"
Time: 7 hrs, 15 min
Avg MPH: 1.8
Elev Min: 175'
Elev Max: 2,214'
Total Ascent: 3,500'
Elev Change: +2,040'
Temp Low: 40
Temp High: 55
Other hikers: 4
Longest time without seeing a hiker: 6:55
Wildlife: Raven, Eagle, BirdsOpening Shot: Sunrise from Lower Mitchell Point viewpoint
Up and out of the house at 4:45am for another sunrise hike in the Gorge, I arrived at the Mitchell Point trailhead at 6am just as it was getting light. It was interesting to read the historical signs to learn the history of this location with its roadhouse and rental cabins on the historic Columbia Highway with its unique tunnel blasted through the rock with rock window arches through to the river. It was interesting and unfortunate that the tunnel was destroyed to make room for Interstate 84.
First I had a look at the viewpoint at dawn by the parking area (which also has pit toilets and requires no parking pass).
I looked up to see my destination.
I made my way up quickly towards Mitchell Point stopping along the way to go out on the spur trail, about 1/3 the way up, to the lower viewpoint.
I saw some Western Bleeding Heart(?),
and had my first view to the west down the Gorge.
The sunrise happened just as I reached the lower viewpoint.
Here is the view over to Drano Lake from the lower viewpoint.
Flower/Tree ID on this one?
There were some eerie drop-off views in the morning fog.
A bunch of Grass Widow was present near the top.
A tug was pushing a barge down the river with Cook Hill(?) (3,014') poking through the fog to be seen from the top.
Here is the view from the summit of Mitchell Point (1,178')
Yellow Bell was sparsely spread around the top too.
Down I went to the service road for the power lines and I looked back to where I came from.
I wound my way down the power line clear cut on the road and saw some daffodil on the way.
I could see the trail/road was washed out ahead and was worried I might have to turn around...no worries, it wasn't bad.
I came up to a "trail closed" sign for the Chetwoot Trail loop that I heard was closed/impassable/washed out. I figured I'd just peek up the trail to see what all the damage was about. I was surprised to make it quite a ways as the trail was in decent shape with just a few minor blow downs. My maybe-understanding is that that "Trail Closed" means proceed at your own risk...I'm sure I'll be informed otherwise if I'm wrong. I definitely was careful, texted where I was going, and felt more intimidated on the top of Mitchell Point than at any time in here. I saw my first Western Trillium on the way.
As I got close to Perham Creek I came to the washout that pretty much decimated the trail. I couldn't really see where the trail was even supposed to be. It's on a very steep slope that runs directly to the creek on what looks to be very unstable ground. I took a picture of it before turning around to retrace my steps. This was 1 mile round trip from the power lines.
I crossed over the power lines and found the trail that goes down and quickly connects to the Wygant Trail. I saw some of the limited Fairy Slipper along the way,
and a bunch of Hound's Tongue,
and Glacier Lily.
I saw the iconic sign for the trail at the junction. I heard that someone re-created the original sign as it was worn down. Chetwoot is Chinook jargon for black bear, thus the graphic.
The viewpoint is just next to the junction and was clear and easy to get to for a good view.
I dropped quickly and easily to Perham Creek. I could see the old washed out bridge wrapped around the tree on the other side. I easily walked across the log to the other side.
There was another viewpoint not far ahead that would be a nice goal for a hike if you didn't want to go up to the top of Wygant Peak. This provided a rare 180-degree vantage point.
I found some Mountain Kittentails which I think may be more rare as I haven't seen them before (or at least I don't remember).
I got one glimpse of Mt Adams, and here it is in the center barely peeking through.
I really didn't think I'd get far up Wygant as I had heard it was "impassable". Frankly it wasn't that bad. There didn't appear to be any new blowdowns, which surprised me. All the blowdown that required any effort at all had axe-chipped notches in them which were very helpful making it easy to navigate them. Most of the western facing switchbacks had nice views down the Gorge. Here is the highest one just below the summit with a view to Wind and Dog Mountains. (HYOH, YMMV, etc., etc.)
I made it to the top to see a cairn that marked the 2,214' summit. Not much of a view though.
I followed the social trail (that quickly disappeared) off the other side of the peak down the spine a few hundred yards to a clearing where I was rewarded with my only view of the south and also down west along the Columbia.
Back to the summit and down the same way I went. I decided to count the blowdowns on the way down. There were 91 of them. About 1/3 of them could be stepped over without braking my stride and 10 of them I had to go under, and about half of those 10 required getting down on my knees. None of them were technically challenging though, they were all pretty easy to get by without slowing much if at all.
On the way down I decided to check out this side of the Chetwoot Loop trail. The matching bear sign was on a tree but it was in its final stages of decay. The trail started out okay, a little brushy, but pretty well defined. This picture represents the absolute best part of the trail.
Then it started to be a full-time job going under or over blowdowns. Then the blowdowns were non-stop with heavy brush and the trail basically disappearing. I was pretty close to the water so I checked my GPS and found that I was just across from the washed out area on the other side where I was earlier. This side of the trail was way worse and matched up appropriately to the "impassable" description on the warning sign. I gave up getting to the creek as it just looked like a mess to get there and knowing that I basically almost completed the loop anyway and knowing I couldn't get by the wash-out so I turned around to go back to the Wygant Trail, boy was that a workout. Here is a picture down to the creek where I turned around.
Hopefully I'm not covered with poison oak. It's always so hard for me to tell what poison oak is during the early season before it has leafed out or matured. I tend to not worry about it much and just take a double shower at home with scrubbing with a soapy rag with a vengeance to get any of the oils off me. I'll be sure to report back if I get any signs from it...hopefully not a major case at least!
Here are two pictures that show some of the challenges of the Chetwoot on the Wygant side. This was the easy part where the trail was still defined. The trail for this was 0.9 miles round trip from the Wygant Trail and took me 50 minutes to go round trip.
Here is one of the few viewpoints on the Wygant to the east. It shows a good view of Mitchell Point and the lower viewpoint that I mentioned earlier.
Hopping back over Perham Creek I met my first hiker of the day, 6 hours into my hike. That doesn't happen very often. I went back to the trailhead on the lower Wygant Trail past Mitchell Creek and had a nice surprise in a tall waterfall.
As I transferred from the trail onto the abandoned Historic Columbia River Highway I met 3 more hikers to bring my 7-hour hike total to 4 hikers seen, all in the last half-hour.
As I arrived at the trailhead I had a conversation with a nice young man who was working for the State Park here. He was very interested in my trail beta as he is motivated to clean-out those logs and to get his AmeriCorps crew up there to brush out the trail in the next few weeks. That would be nice to bring this trail back to something more easily hiked by the masses. He will need help with the more technical logs but he hopes to make a dent into it at least...maybe even literally by putting bigger notches into the bigger logs making them easier to get by.
The trailhead was packed and all trailheads on the way home were jammed on this beautiful day. It made me extra glad with my daybreak start strategy. It was another gorgeous day in the Gorge!Here is my Elevation Profile:
Here is a top-down view of my GPS track. Note how close I was to completing the Chetwoot Loop. That "lollipop" on the east side is just GPS jigger as I went back the same way I came in...I think!
Here is a side view of the hike to get better perspective on the elevation. I never saw Mt Hood, I'm not sure if I wasn't high enough or if it was strategically hiding behind some of the clouds/fog in the sky.
Here is some perspective on Mitchell Point and the lower viewpoint. Mitchell Point isn't as "knife-edge" as this looks...although I was definitely watching my footing anyway at the top.Favorite experience of the day:
Successfully getting to the summit of Wygant Peak when I thought it wouldn't be possible. Least favorite experience of the day:
Seeing the sign that said getting to the top of Wygant Peak was "impassable". My GPS track for reference if desired:http://gpsfly.org/a/7029-Mike (aka GoalTechwww.GoalTechHikes.com