This was a strange, somewhat awesome but ultimately unsatisfying hike. Hamilton Mountain, which is in the Beacon Rock State Park on the Washington side of the Columbia River, is not a hike I would otherwise choose. It’s kind of like Eagle Creek on the Oregon side … it’s just too damn popular and there are too many idiots in flip-flops. Furthermore, any hike you take on the Washington side of the Columbia requires you to purchase a Washington “Discover Pass” which, like the NW Forest Pass, is also $30 a year (and $10 a day!) and seriously, I just can’t afford to buy both. So this year I decided to buy the NW Forest Pass and really focus on the trails around Mt. Hood & the Clackamas River wilderness areas.
But! The cool thing is that Washington *does* have a few “free days” every year where you can visit their parks without a “Discover Pass.” And 6/13/15 happened to be one of those “free days” so I decided to suck it up and hike Hamilton Mountain, just so I could say I’d done it. I figured I’d get a really early start so I could avoid the inevitable crowds, and all would be well.
And get an early start I did … I was out of the house by about 5:30 a.m. The first weirdness of the trip was the fact that Sugar *really* did not want to go. She saw me getting all my hiking stuff out and instead of getting excited, she started looking very reticent. I took her outside for a potty break, tried to see if throwing a ball around for her would get her excited … but she ignored the ball, did her dirty bidness, then ran back into the house. All of which made me think,”hmm, this is a dog who does not want to go hiking today.” Which was weird. I’ve already broken my daughter (who now refuses to go hiking with me because of my fondness for long distances and steep climbs) …. have I now broken my *dog* too? A depressing thought.
Anyway, I got my traditional Dutch Bros soy latte for the drive, and arrived at the trailhead by 7 a.m. Which meant I encountered very few people on the way up the mountain, which was awesome. But then on my way back down the mountain, that’s when it started to get busy.
The first annoyance was a bunch of very loud blah-blah-ers on the mountaintop. Now look, I understand, people are going to talk. But man, it’s hard to appreciate the splendor of the scenery when a bunch of chicks are loudly yammering about how fat they are and how they shouldn’t be allowed to wear leggings because they’re so fat. Jesus take the wheel. Fat shaming at 3100 feet. Ugh.
So I hot-footed it down the mountain. At the saddle (below the summit of the mountain) I decided to branch off onto the Upper Hardy Creek trail in search of extra miles (it was only about 3-4 miles back to the car, and I wasn’t feeling tired yet.) This part of the hike, which followed old logging roads, was nice and gentle, but also super confusing, as trails & old roads branched off at random intervals and I kept getting confused as to which ones to take. So I kind of got lost up there, and had to backtrack to get to the Bridge Trail/Hardy Ridge Trail–which I hadn’t even intended to take in the first place. But whatever.
By the way, this was my first hike with poles. I got a pair of super-cheap bargain basement REI clearance poles (Mountainsmith Pinnacle) just to see if I’d like them. My response was mixed. First of all, the poles themselves had some issues. The rubber handles were very pinchy on my hands (especially my thumb-crotches) and ultimately, the strap broke on one of them (quality!) But I did like the “shock absorber” feature.
Overall, hiking with poles is something I’ll have to get used to. Number one, it makes you look like a douche. No two ways around that. Also, it’s one more damn thing to juggle, and you start to feel like an asshole, juggling water straws, and poles, and all that crap. But maybe that’s something to just get used to. There were times I *really* got into the stride and understood why people like poles. They give you more power on the long open spots, and when climbing they *are* quite a bit of extra help. So I’m going to keep working with them, notwithstanding the douche factor. I will have to see how they work out when I also have a *dog* with me (that is, if Sugar ever deigns to hike with me again). Because juggling poles *and* a dog … I’m not quite sure how I would do that.
And speaking of juggling things and being annoyed … when I got out of the mysterious maze that was Upper Hardy Creek and onto the Hardy Ridge Trail, that’s when things really started to piss me off. Because there was some damn *trail run* going on. And seriously, it was like Grand Central Station up in there. Runners kept shoving by me on the narrowest of trails, necessitating me finding some place to step off and stop, breaking my stride, my concentration, my meditation, etc. They also kept *talking* to me. “Hi! How ya doin’? Thank you! Howdy!” etc. If I wanted to have eighteen million douches talking to me all day, I wouldn’t be in the fucking mountains, assholes. Whatever. I know I’m a misanthrope. But this was another reason I was actually really glad that Sugar decided not to come with me on the hike. If she’d been there, it would have been triply annoying and hard to deal with. Also, up near the top of the mountain there were some *really* sheer cliff faces and I would have been scared for her.
So, overall … a good hike, nice mileage, nice climb, I’m glad I did it (and can now *say* I’ve done it.) The waterfalls (Pool of the Winds) are gorgeous, and the trails are well-maintained. But yeah, all the annoyances of a “busy” trail (which is why I try to avoid Gorge trails now, for the most part.)
- Arrived 7 am
- Summit 9:10. Snack.
- Upper Hardy Creek 10 a.m.: Second snack & water bottle change
- Somewhere on the Hardy Ridge Trail, noon: Third snack (this was a very hungry hike!)
- Back in the car at 1:13 p.m.
Injuries: None, though my feet were real tired at the end and I got the “jelly toast” legs. Also my hips were quite stiff and sore. I think I need to start stretching more.
Weather: Sunny, a bit on the hot side.
Elevation Gain: ~3170
Bugs swallowed: None, but there were lots of bugs. Thank goodness I was liberally doused with deet.
Gear: HiTec Altitude V hiking boots (with new paracord laces that I made myself!) with orange Superfoot insoles, Darn Tough merino wool socks (no liners … a mistake), Nike dry capris (cooler, but I missed the leg protection in underbrushy areas), red cotton tank top, red Nike wind shirt (packed it away early, didn’t really need it), Mountainsmith Tour lumbar daypack with strapettes (this was my first outing with the strapettes. I liked them. They add good support to the lumbar pack and provide a place to clip the Platypus water hose) platypus collapsible water bottles w/drinking straw apparatus thingy, Mountainsmith Pinnacle Trekking poles, and my favorite Nike baseball cap.
Identified Gear Gaps: New hiking poles. (I returned the Mountainsmith ones to REI for a refund, and have ordered a pair of Black Diamond Ergo Cork poles from Backcountry. They were on sale!). Other than that … I think I’m finally mostly set for gear. And if I find something else I need, my awesome sister sent me a ginormous gift-card to Next Adventure!