Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

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Joined: March 28th, 2014, 6:58 pm

Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by normajean5 » March 28th, 2014, 11:44 pm

With some days off for spring break, I decided to get out into the wild. On this hike, I decided to detach from the modern world a bit and left my cell phone at home. It is also my camera, so no pictures will accompany this report. You're just gonna have to get out there for yourself if you want to see it! I must say it was a relief not to have the option to take pictures or check the time. I was living in the moment in the best places on earth and enjoying life to the fullest.

Luckily I was prepared just enough for this hike; going into it I did not think I would encounter snow, but boy was I wrong! I had intended on spending more time out there, but the snow changed my plans a bit. Attached is my gear list for any who are interested.

Overview of miles hiked, elevation gain/loss:

Day 1:9.8 mi, 4,632 +/-
Day 2:15 mi, 3,912 +/-
Day 3:15.4 mi, 7,240 +/-
Day 4:11.1 mi, 3,656 +/-
Day 5:14 mi, 6,516 +/-
Day 6:18 mi, 3,660 +/-

Total: 83.3 mi, 29,616 +/-

Began early March 20th with a nice 26.3 mi bike ride from SE Portland to the Angel's Rest TH. 42 lb pack really strained my lower back, but the 3 hr ride went by rather quickly. Was very glad to drop almost 4 lbs of lock and helmet with my bike at the TH. Scarfed a Clif bar and got on with the hike.

Angel's Rest Tr 415

Was feeling good right off the bat. Lower back relieved, weight now tugging on my shoulders. Despite this trail being so rocky to the summit, it was a pleasure, probably due to the new trail runners I was sporting. I was keeping a good pace, so when a light drizzle began, I did not mind. It turned to baby hail drizzle as I climbed, but stopped shortly after. At the summit, I enjoyed a nice break and as I got back to it, the baby hail really started coming down, but only lasted a short while. Quite like snow, but falls faster. A few blowdowns slowed progress, but not by much. Made my way to the foxglove trail and headed up to Devil's Rest.

Foxglove Trail

Despite being an unmaintained trail, it was in good condition. No blowdowns, and I noticed an abundance of Oregon Grape. Not very hard to navigate and shortly made it to the Devil's Rest summit. Even though there is no clear view from this summit, I still enjoy being the tallest thing around in all directions (minus the trees). Took a quick break and headed down the trail.

Devil's Rest Tr 420C

Nice gentle grade downhill with a lovely viewpoint shortly down from the summit. Good trail condition, but a bit muddy in parts, slowing the pace.

Wahkeena Falls Tr 420

Nice trail, well maintained. Came across a few jugs of drinking water along the trail. Debated filling up my bottles, but, although passing a taste test, I decided against it due to a month old sell by date and the fact that this was not really a place or time for trail angels.

Larch Mtn Tr 441

At this junction, I ran into a trail sign that I helped put up! It is nice to reap the benefits of my own volunteer trail work. Continued on, stocking up on water just before the Franklin Ridge JCT, and just past it, I noticed an established campsite just off the trail. Continued on with my sights set for Larch Mtn. After I traversed a mossy rock field, snow started to patch along the trail. The further I went, the more snow there was. Luckily, the trail was easy to follow and footprints led the way. Soon it became a constant sheet of snow no more than a few inches thick. About half a mile after the Multnomah Creek Way JCT, I found an established camp right off the trail, and decided to set up camp on the thin, crusty blanket of snow.
Woke up the next day after the sun came up and got a move on. Noticed rabbit and wolf tracks along the trail. Hiked up to Sherrard Point where I found the deepest snow yet. Beautiful view up there, could see all 5 mountains(Hood, Adams, Rainier, St. Helens, Jefferson), except Rainier was partially covered by clouds. After a quick look at the map, I headed down towards the Oneonta Tr. This involved a quarter mile walk down Larch Mtn Rd which was covered in deep, fresh powder. I almost managed to stay on top of it the whole way, but broke through here and there. As I got to the TH I came across a set of prints heading out of the trail, so i followed them down the trail.

Oneonta Tr 424

This whole trail was covered in a blanket of snow 2-4" deep. Following footsteps may have kept my feet a bit drier, but slowed my progress. Turns out the tracks had come from the Multnomah Creek Way Tr, but I continued east on the Oneonta Tr. During this stretch I became aware of multiple trail clues: cut logs, trail signs, lack of vegetation, and continuity. By the time I reached the Bell Creek Tr my trail finding skills seemed honed.

Bell Creek Tr 459

First stream crossing has a nice log bridge, and I stocked up on water. The first mile of the trail wasn't bad, it follows a creek off to the right and involves lots of hops over small drainages. Progress over the next 2 miles was painfully slow due to lots of blowdowns, some of them massive. This trail is in dire need of some maintenance. This and the fact that the trail was a creek most of the way made it confusing and difficult to navigate, and lowered the chances of my feet staying dry. They should rename it the Bell Creek Creek Tr. It took a while, but I finally arrived at the next JCT.

Horsetail Cr Tr 425

Turned east and noticed tread the same as the shoes I was wearing. This trail has great views to the north from along a ridge. I noticed some big cougar prints about the size of my palm. It was cool to see wild animals using the same trail I was. This section has lots of trees in all directions and has a kind of eerie feel to it. Kept a good pace and headed south at the next JCT to the Moffet Cr Tr.

Moffet Cr Tr 430

The trail got a bit more difficult to navigate, but my skills were honed by now and I kept up my pace. This is one of my favorite trails in the gorge. As I headed down to the second creek crossing, the snow got thick and the trail disappeared under it. I crossed and headed up to a rock outcropping, spotting more cougar prints along the way. Whipped out the trusty 'ol map and compass, and took a bearing towards the trail. Ran into the Wauneka Point Tr 429, took it back to the Moffet Cr Tr, and continued east. Ran into the old WWII shack which has some interesting scribblings inside. Good amount of snow throughout, but made it to a lake and decided to look for Von Ahm Rim Camp. Collected dry wood to make a fire as I bushwhacked on the east side of the lake. I never found any established campsite, and since the sun was on its way down, I stopped looking and cowboy camped right off the south side of the lake on some snow. Beautiful view of the stars all night, but not really the best idea, since everything became frozen overnight.
Woke up as the sun put the stars to bed and got to hiking as the sun began to hit the treetops. Took a break at one of the best viewpoints of the gorge: Tanner Butte and Mt. Hood. Dried my wet things as I cooked breakfast on the rocky ledge. Then headed downhill, finally leaving the snow, down the unmaintained switchbacks, which did not seem as bad as the first time I hiked them, although they are slanted and steep. Got to Tanner Creek and crossed on a downed log, but fording would have been much faster, and much colder and wetter.

Tanner Creek Tr 431

This trail departs from Tanner Creek just after the crossing, and has gentle rolls in it along with permanent blowdowns with notches cut into them for stepping over. There is some really unique moss on the trees in this area. The trail crosses lots of streams and finally intersects with the Tanner Cutoff Tr.

Tanner Creek Cutoff Tr 448

The trail sign that was put up long ago has since been eaten almost completely by the tree it is nailed to. The trail isn't too difficult to navigate, but has lots of false continuances at switchbacks. The switchbacks are steep! Quite a workout trudging up the side of the ridge, with blowdowns here and there to climb over. Snow began to come back as I passed the magic elevation, about 3000'. The slope becomes less steep, but the trail continues straight up it instead of switchbacking. This trail is not for the faint of foot. Got to the next JCT and headed south.

Tanner Butte Tr 401

This trail was all snow, with slush in some of the sunnier parts. I followed deep footprints the entire way, which slowed my progress. Couldn't find the trail up to the Tanner Butte summit, so I slogged on down the trail.

Eagle Tanner Tr 433

I just continued following the footsteps because the snow was deep and the trail lost under it. They winded in and out of trees and brush, heading in the general direction of the trail, but ended at a large rock field where there was no more snow. Was nervous, but after some searching, I spotted a cut log and headed towards it, finding the trail. Hauled ass down the snow-free trail, forded Eagle Creek, and made my way down the trail, now heading north.

Eagle Creek Tr 440

Found a campsite near 7 1/2 mile camp, and after drying things around a newfound friend's campfire, I passed out. Slept in a bit the next day, and when I got going, I took advantage of no snow as I headed east on the trail towards Wahtum Lake. In the last mile or snow, the snow came back and I followed the tracks in it. Eventually I found myself at a snow covered, pristine Wahtum Lake. Followed the trail east around the lake.

Pacific Crest Tr 2000

Saw signs for the trail, but otherwise it was the same, under feet of snow. Turned south, uphill at the next JCT.

Wahtum Express Tr 406J

Followed snowshoe and wolf tracks on up the ridge to the Wahtum Lake TH. This trail is on the steep side.

Ant Hill Tr 406B

Favorite part of the hike, hands down. Followed some footprints up the slope, but shortly after they turned back around and I blazed my own trail. At this point I discovered another trail clue: grade. The trail was under many feet of snow, but since the slope was so steep, there was a slight bump in the snow, signaling the trail. The weather was so lovely this day, and I really enjoyed the ascent. As I came upon the rock field near the top, which has an amazing view of Wahtum Lake from the trail, I decided to scramble up to the top for a better view. So glad I did, because I was treated to one of the best views I've seen in my life. Mt. Hood right there to the south, to the east the high oregon desert hills, and the rolling hills to Hood River, along with a view of my next destination: Mt. Defiance. Took nice long break up here and then continued on.

Rainy Wahtum Tr 409

Headed east on this fresh, untouched trail, blazing through the deep snow. The trail is quite wide and easy to follow, there is a clear path through the dense forest. At one point, I decided to go off trail and follow a ridge, but came to a peak and ended up following my tracks back to the divergence and continued down the trail, which had become rather devoid of trees at this point. This late in the day, the snow was real soft, and I began post-holing knee deep with every step. Painfully slow and quite taxing physically, but it got better as the trees began the thicken up. Upon my arrival at the Herman Cutoff Tr/Gorton Cr Tr JCT I noticed an battered old doorless shack to the west. As I headed down towards Rainy Lake, there was a pristine hilly snowfield just south of the trail that was unique and so beautiful. Slogged on down to the Rainy Lake TH where there is a cool little A-frame outhouse, also doorless. Set up camp here.

Rainy Lake Tr 423A

Woke up as the sun was hitting the treetops and the birds calling out. Got on towards Rainy Lake, which lies right below Green Point Mtn and is quite scenic. Came across footprints in the deep snow, which I followed. They squirreled around but headed in the general direction I was going.

North Lake Tr 423

Kept following the footprints which eventually got me to North Lake. This lake is almost as scenic as Rainy Lake. Ditched the footprints and took a bearing towards the next JCT, running into it after a few steps.

Wyeth Tr 411

Headed east on this trail through deep snow. The trail was fairly easy to navigate even with so much snow. I noticed birds with black heads, grey bodies and white underbellies along the trail. It seemed to get easier to navigate as I crossed a creek and hit the next JCT.

Mt Defiance Tr 413

The trail began sloping upwards, gently at first and then becoming quite steep the closer I got to the summit. Trudging through the deep snow up to the top was the most strenuous part of the trip, but was well worth it. The summit has a beautiful view of Mt. Hood, and the eastern oregon desert, along with much of Hood River. Over on the north side, climb up onto a rock to find a nice view of the other 3: St. Helens, Rainier and Adams. On this day, they were all clear, and had a slight orange tint to them. After taking a lunch break and drying out my feet, I headed down a forest service road, which was more direct and groomed to boot.

Rd 630

Winded down from the summit and I was able to keep up a decent pace on the vehicle tracks in the snow.

Warren Lake Tr 417A

Took this trail north, then east on down to starvation ridge. The snow turned to slush and ice as I descended; this was pretty slippery, almost causing my to fall a few times. This was the end of snow for the rest of the hike. Thank goodness!

Starvation Ridge Tr 414

This is a steep trail down the ridge, but has great views of Adams on the way down. It passes a massive old growth tree, probably 6 ft in diameter, which has a branch that grows out and upwards and is as big as most other trees in the area. Amazing. The trail continues down a ridgeline and eventually comes out of the trees to a grassy area under some powerlines. There are a few scenic views of the Columbia River, Dog Mtn and Wild Mtn, probably less than a mile from the TH below.

Mt Defiance Tr 413

I took this trail west, only a short while past a nice little waterfall, then onto the Highway.


This was by far the most miserable walking of all my trip. I was sick of the snow at this point, and headed west to Wyeth State Park, where I camped on nice soft grass, within earshot of the highway which was odd after being in the woods for 5 days.

Gorge Tr 400

Woke up as it began to rain, first time of the whole hike. Between Wyeth CG and the Herman Creek Tr is the best section of the Gorge Tr 400 that I hiked. It goes well off the highway and is very scenic.

Herman Creek Tr 406

Nice, wide horse trail which headed west, downhill to the next JCT.

Tr 405E

A southward jaunt uphill to intersect the PCT. I noticed an established campsite just after the first stream crossing.

Pacific Crest Tr 2000

Headed west(NB PCT) on this section, which seems to go on for a while and is rocky, but scenic nonetheless. At the TH, I ran into some more trail work I did some weeks back. Looking good! Doing trail work has really helped me to appreciate all the other work on the trails. Every time I see huge cut logs, I just imagine what it took to clear the trail. Took a break under the I-84 bridge to escape the rain, the continued on westward.

Gorge Tr 400

This part of the trail is a bit closer to the highway, and shares a bit of tread with a bike route before coming to the Eagle Creek TH. Then it crosses a nice suspension bridge over the creek and continues on uphill, with a large blowdown not far up the trail. The next section follows a forest road for part of the way, and isn't too confusing to navigate, but at one intersection, it could be if heading eastbound, as the signage is a bit unclear. Travels under powerlines and goes along to the Wahclella Falls TH. The next section after this is poorly maintained, muddy, in view of the highway at all times, and not really fun to hike. It also shares a bit of the bike path as well and at those points, there is a nice huge green sign with one line of text on it. I don't get why the signs are so big for one line of text. Anyways, it alternates between trail and bike path a few times, crossing a cool mossy bridge, then comes to Elowah Falls, which is quite impressive I must say. walked down to the TH and hitched a ride with some people I saw at the falls back to my bike at the Angel's Rest TH and rode home.

Overall, this was an amazing journey. I learned a lot about navigation, and about myself. As with every hike I go on, I learn way more than I ever thought I would. Thanks for reading! Hope some of you found some of this information useful.
Gorge Traverse March 20-25 2014 Gear List-page-001.jpg
Gorge Traverse March 20-25 2014 Gear List-page-002.jpg
Gorge Traverse March 20-25 2014 Gear List-page-003.jpg
Gorge Traverse March 20-25 2014 Gear List-page-004.jpg
Last edited by normajean5 on March 31st, 2014, 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Sean Thomas
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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by Sean Thomas » March 29th, 2014, 3:53 am

Wow! You are total badass and in no way did I think your description/TR was too long. Thanks for sharing such an epic adventure and I'm glad you came away having learned so much :) Sounds like quite the trip!

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retired jerry
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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by retired jerry » March 29th, 2014, 5:07 am

Wow is right. Amazing you did so many miles with all the snow and some of those trails are difficult.

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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by cfm » March 29th, 2014, 7:34 am

Well I thought it was a little long without pictures, but I'm 11 years old!

Congrats on your trip. Thank goodness you had the nice weather portion of spring break.

A wolf on Larch mountain? Awesome! I knew he/she would get here eventually.

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Don Nelsen
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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by Don Nelsen » March 29th, 2014, 8:10 am

Awesome trip and thanks for sharing the report! It must have been your bike I saw locked to the bike stand at the AR TH on the 21st and 22nd. Nice bike, too.

"Everything works in the planning stage".

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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by Grannyhiker » March 29th, 2014, 9:42 am

I don't want to in any way diminish your awesome experience, but I'm wondering if those might have been coyote tracks rather than wolf? There are lots of coyotes everywhere, but there's supposed to be only one confirmed wolf in the general area.

That was a fascinating trip report! Thank you! It was not just a traverse, but almost a loop! I decided to click "not long enough" just as a foil to those who might think it too long! Photos would have been nice but I fully agree with your motivation in leaving civilization behind.

Thanks also for posting your gear list! May I ask how you did it? I tried to copy/paste an Excel spreadsheet converted to text into a post here a few years ago and it was a mess!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey

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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by Rustygoat » March 29th, 2014, 9:57 am

Wow! Really awesome and making me feel lazy as I am sitting here at my desk reading TRs. :lol: Thank you for sharing with us...sounded like an awesome week :)

Chasing waterfalls can be addictive.
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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by normajean5 » March 29th, 2014, 10:54 am

I'm not expert on animal tracks, they very well may have been coyote tracks. They were about 3-4 inches long and kinda skinny.

As for the gear list spreadsheet, I converted the PDF to .jpg using a free website.

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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by RobinB » March 29th, 2014, 11:09 am

Wow! Thanks for posting. I appreciate the detailed trail information - it will help in planning much (much!) more modest hikes this spring :)

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Re: Columbia River Gorge Traverse - March 20-25, 2014

Post by geographics » March 29th, 2014, 4:42 pm


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