Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Use this forum to report and discuss trails in need of maintenance. This will help organizations like TKO and agencies like the Forest Service get the most recent on-the-ground trail conditions.
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Splintercat
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Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Splintercat » June 26th, 2012, 9:13 pm

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This thread is intended as a continuing forum for our collective efforts to bring the proposed Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail to reality. Today, the trail is in concept, only, and consists of series of existing trails that transect the Columbia River Gorge from Multnomah Falls to Starvation Falls (though other variations are possible). Along the way, the route passes through some of the most remote and rugged country in Oregon, yet is surprisingly close to the Portland metropolitan area. The west trailhead at Multnomah Falls is just 30 miles from downtown Portland, and the eastern terminus only 55 miles from downtown. These unique aspects make the Hatfield Trail one of the most accessible backcountry treks in the country.

Over the past three years, several hikers from the Portland Hikers community have not only completed the trek, but have also tackled some of the maintenance needs on long-neglected trails along the route. This thread is the place to share your experiences in hiking the route, highlight volunteer efforts to improve the trail, and tips for hikers who are considering the trip. Please feel free to backfill the thread with photos and reports from previous trips, as well, because this discussion will also be an important tool in building political support to formally designate the trail, and bring some of the major improvements described in the original concept. These include:

- Substantially restored or reconstructed trails and campsites along the entire route
- Signage along the entire route to help through-hikers make the trek
- Bridged crossings at Tanner Creek and Eagle Creek
- Construction of a completely new trail section traversing the upper Eagle Creek canyon, just inside the Bull Run administrative unit

In the meantime, the current route shown on the map (below) is the focus of efforts to promote the concept, and gradually improve the trails along this route. Over time, I'll also be improving the quality of the "official" map to reflect conditions and tips that are posted here, so you can help me by chiming in with your experiences!

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(Click here for a larger version of the map)

So, what does the remote backcountry of the Hatfield Wilderness look like? Here's a sampling from the midpoint of the trip -- this is the view from the shoulder of Indian Mountain, looking back at the first half of the trip (as described in the Portland Hikers Field Guide) with some of the major landmarks identified:

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(Click here for a LARGE scrollable version of this panorama... large file!)

So, let's hear some trip reports! (and it's okay to post them here and in the Trip Reports forum, too)

-Tom :)

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Chase
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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Chase » June 26th, 2012, 9:23 pm

Splinty wrote: "building political support to formally designate the trail, and bring some of the major improvements described in the original concept. These include:

- Substantially restored or reconstructed trails and campsites along the entire route
- Signage along the entire route to help through-hikers make the trek
- Bridged crossings at Tanner Creek and Eagle Creek
- Construction of a completely new trail section traversing the upper Eagle Creek canyon, just inside the Bull Run administrative unit"


Who do we best contact to discuss these items?

There are really just a few bad spots that need to be restored, such as Big Cedar and near the Eagle Creek crossing (my bridge there won't last a year a best).
Why is Bull Run off-limits anyway? At Hetch-Hetchy you can camp right alongside the reservoir.

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Excursionista
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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Excursionista » June 26th, 2012, 9:32 pm

Tom, I love the idea, but why does it start at Multnomah Falls? You could add more distance and more "gorge" by starting at Angel's Rest TH. Does it have something to do with distances between campsites? Or is it simply that Angel's Rest isn't within the Hatfield Wilderness?

(If you say vehicle break-ins, I'll totally understand).

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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Splintercat » June 26th, 2012, 9:37 pm

Who do we best contact to discuss these items?

The Forest Service unit that manages the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area (CRGNSA) -- hit the "contact us" link at the bottom left corner of the web page. There's no harm in simply weighing in, and voicing your support. The CRGNSA staff regularly visit this forum, so will likely see this discussion, too.

Why is Bull Run off-limits anyway? At Hetch-Hetchy you can camp right alongside the reservoir.

You've answered your own question. There is no good reason, though the concept of a new trail would actually be outside the Bull Run watershed, proper, but just inside the administrative boundary. Therefore, it should be possible under an administrative approval.

After I posted the original proposal as a blog article, one of Senator Hatfield's former staff contacted me with interest in supporting the concept. One objective of this forum is to help promote the idea, which in turn, would help me promote the idea through Senator Hatfield's advocates. They seem very interested in the way in which this trail would fit into Mark Hatfield's legacy -- after all, he was instrumental in both the creation of the CRGNSA and the Columbia Wilderness (which is now the Mark O. Hatfield Wilderness).

Thanks for chiming in, Chase!

Tom :)

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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Splintercat » June 26th, 2012, 9:45 pm

Tom, I love the idea, but why does it start at Multnomah Falls?

Mostly, for the iconic character of the lodge and falls -- in my mind, this would be a world-class trail, with people traveling to the PNW with the express purpose of hiking the trail, so heading up Multnomah Creek seems like a classic way to get some major waterfall scenery in the trek (since a lot of the trip is in high country, away from the waterfalls). That's also why I ended it at Starvation Creek.

Another part was logistics: both Multnomah and Starvation have plumbed restrooms, water, and places to rest/relax if you were to end a hike there (and wait for a ride). I'm not sure if Starvation still has a phone, but the lodge at Multnomah Falls does.

You could add more distance and more "gorge" by starting at Angel's Rest TH.

Very true, and there's no reason why that couldn't be a variation on the hike. It just doesn't have the wow-factor for a first day on the trail for someone coming from outside of Oregon, for example (e.g., huge waterfalls, old growth forest, the lodge itself at Multnomah). But you're right, locals turned off by the Multnomah Falls crowds would probably consider another trailhead, anyway.

Not to get too far into that point, but one reason I'd like to see the Perdition Trail restored is that it provides a non-paved trail to the top of Multnomah, completely bypassing the tourist trail. It would be a great way to start a Hatfield circuit! Thus, another reason to bring the Perdition back to life!

Does it have something to do with distances between campsites? Or is it simply that Angel's Rest isn't within the Hatfield Wilderness?

Didn't think of that last part, but no, it was strictly the iconic appeal of Multnomah Falls as the kick-off.

Thanks for jumping in, Jason!

Tom :)

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Excursionista
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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Excursionista » June 26th, 2012, 10:01 pm

Splintercat wrote:Not to get too far into that point, but one reason I'd like to see the Perdition Trail restored is that it provides a non-paved trail to the top of Multnomah, completely bypassing the tourist trail. It would be a great way to start a Hatfield circuit! Thus, another reason to bring the Perdition back to life!:)
Now yer talkin'! :D

And you're right about the other points, too.

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Chase
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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Chase » June 26th, 2012, 10:03 pm

Splintercat wrote:Tom, I love the idea, but why does it start at Multnomah Falls?


You could add more distance and more "gorge" by starting at Angel's Rest TH.

Very true, and there's no reason why that couldn't be a variation on the hike. It just doesn't have the wow-factor for a first day on the trail for someone coming from outside of Oregon, for example (e.g., huge waterfalls, old growth forest, the lodge itself at Multnomah). But you're right, locals turned off by the Multnomah Falls crowds would probably consider another trailhead, anyway.
Even though I may never hike this trail starting at MF, I like the idea of it starting there for the reasons Splinty stated.
The Hatfield Trail may not get on the same lists of treks as Annapurna the WCT, or the Muir trails in Backpacker and the like, but a strength it has that most of the big-name trails lack is possibilities of variations. You can start or finish this hike at several points less than 8 miles from a parking lot. You can do countless variations involving spurs off to peaks or waterfalls. You can make it longer by starting at Angels Rest and bushwhacking to Michell Point at the end.
So, the same way people hike the WCT and talk about how muddy it was or Muir and talk about snow levels, Hatfield hikers could talk about the variations they took and watefalls they got to admire. That's a pretty cool thing in its favor as a long distance hike. Could and should draw more people to it.

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Sean Thomas
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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Sean Thomas » July 2nd, 2012, 10:56 pm

Great job, Tom:) Having started at Multnomah Falls last year and Angels Rest this year I agree 100 hundred percent with the hike starting or atleast "advertising" the hike as starting at multnomah falls(or finishing). Beginning at the biggest waterfall in the gorge and ending at a trail that leads to the highest point(defiance) just adds that "it" factor from end to end. I agree, with the attractiveness of the lodge as a launch pad I think it would draw a lot more people from other areas. Unlike some of the hikers who have done certain hatfield trail variations I prefer starting at the lodge for the three beautiful falls you see in the first 1 1/2 miles or so. They really set the stage for an incredible trip. But I can see why a distance or time oriented hiker would like to start a little further west at angels rest. I can tell you this Splinter, theres now way we would have made it through your route in one night if we would have visited all the added summits/attractions and stuck to your planned route(over indian mountain, down into herman crk etc). I hope to go back later this summer with my gf and do the trip exactly to your route and see how it goes. Thanks for the inspiration and continued effort :)

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Sean Thomas
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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Sean Thomas » July 2nd, 2012, 11:12 pm

That first pic you made is really nice, here's a couple of amateur attempts :)


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Dustin DuBois
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Re: Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail Project

Post by Dustin DuBois » July 3rd, 2012, 7:51 am

Awesome! I would love to see this project get more attention, I'm definitely interested in this area and the through-hike.

Great write-up!

I would love to do this hike sometime (though I don't think I'm up to Loony paces yet) later this summer (after I warm up with a Wahtum Lake loop or two lol) - during which I could take pictures and chronicle the whole trip in detailed fashion. I don't have a nice camera, super-trail-legs or money lol but I could definitely do some great writing for the area - I just need to experience it first and have some photos for memory-jogs.

Glad to see this is getting more attention! It certainly grabbed MY attention the first time I read about it (just a couple months ago).
Hi!

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