Dog Mountain

I’m sore at 5:30 AM this morning, not from a lack of water to flush the toxins from my system, but from the 3-mile, 20% slope of Dog Mountain in Washington along the Columbia River. I hadn’t done anything this taxing since Mount Katahdin at Baxter State Park in Maine. Lying in bed, listening to the long, light rain that started just before dawn, I thought of my good trail friend Olive Oyl hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) with Twix and Salsa, AT Class of 2013, who on mornings like today spend another day hiking up and down mountains through beautiful scenery to see the vistas that one can only see by climbing a mountain, while I can roll over and go back to sleep, eventually walk to the kitchen for a cup of coffee while I catch up on the sad news of the world. Press on, ladies! Follow them at oliveoyladventure.wordpress.com

By 8:30, I’m feeling better, but it’s still raining. Wondering whether to focus on necessary chores, maybe go to a winery run by new trail-fiends, or risk a hike in the rain. There is a gorge trail I want to do, but wet rock … I don’t want to fall, it is my biggest fear about hiking, not bears, wolves, getting lost, poison oak, snakes, tick-borne diseases, not even falling off a cliff, but the short fall gone bad, like a friend whose two-foot fall turned into a major on-going health event. Tomorrow, there is chance of thunderstorms, so it’s hike today or take two days off and hope Saturday is better.

Take Dog Mountain for a work-out, but enjoy the view from the top and flowers in season. I counted 21 different flowers, although there may have been more species – I only counted those that I was certain were new; one flower, one vote. Take the shorter, steeper leg of the loop or the longer, easier leg, or the third easiest longer section up from the valley further west. On the loop, break out into an easier, open section, suddenly to a view of the mighty Columbia River – it is a mighty river, wide, deep and powerful – the Columbia passing between hard-volcanic rock mountains, some still spotted with snow, and cut by ravines with waterfalls visible here and there, the triangular peak of snow-covered Mount Hood peeks up behind the mountains across the Columbia where a man died over the weekend, falling 600 feet; to the Northwest jagged, flat-topped, snow-covered Mount Helen to the Northwest side behind; in front and around, flowered fields on slopes approaching 40% angles, even steeper. How tightly the plants must root onto the thin layer of dirt, how fragile their space, protected because no one would risk walking on those slopes. At the top, take a seat and linger while you celebrate with a snack and drink a favorite beverage.

A shout-out to several people: Sam, a young lady from Portland who slowed to walk with me up the shorter steepest section of the trail. She wrote a book, about the Power of Human Connection, something like that. It is easier hiking up difficult sections with someone. Also, Tom and Bunny, from Hawaii. Tom thinks he might have known my trail friend, Danno, and is going to look Danno up when they get back. Tom and Bunny were thinking about going down from the first viewpoint, but when I said that I was going to the top, because I would never be here again, they continued, saying that I was their inspiration. I was happy to have provided the incentive to cover the last 400 feet up. They sped past me, all they had lacked was a reason to continue. Usually others are encouraging slowest guy on the trial -me. On the way down, Ryan and Kerry (Sp?), wine-makers, I will visit their winery this week on a rainy day, kept company with me until I had to rest. One of the nicest things about hiking is that it is a social event: you hike together while it fits, sometimes only because you have the same pace for a while.

The bridge is the Bridge of the Gods, where the PCT crosses the Columbia River.

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