Hiking up Mount Hamilton and Beacon Rock, July, 2010

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Mount Hamilton Summit Trail

Since the hike up Eagle Creek went so well last week, I thought I'd try something different this week. I decided to try a short-but-steep "strenuous" hike to test my knee's stability and strength. I chose Mt. Hamilton in Beacon Rock State Park in Washington, just west of Stevenson.

Mt. Hamilton Trail
Elevation Profile

My plan was to hike up to the summit of Mt. Hamilton and then return to the trailhead parking lot via a loop using the Hardy Creek Trail. But by the time I got to the summit, I was not happy with my water supply and decided to return down the same path that I took up. I also figured that the path would be more populated, since I had been the only person going up the summit that morning, I figured I'd meet some people on my way down and if I needed help, it would be more accessible.

The trail was lovely, going past Rodney Falls "Pool of the Winds" and rolling along toward the 'real' trail. I had to laugh at the trail sign that required me to choose between "Difficult" and "More Difficult", especially when I realized that, without a doubt, I was going to take the "More Difficult" route. I'm sure glad I did, though, because it was an amazing trail.

decisions, decisions...

first of many bridges

Pool of the Winds,

just to whet the old appetite!

more sweeping vistas

neat snake

mind the gap

happy Cheryl!

I had it all: from hard-packed dirt trail to gravel, to rock-scrambling, to tight, short switchbacks across a meadow above some cliffs. The summit was lovely and peaceful. In fact, the whole hike was wonderful, very quiet and good for thinking & walking. My favorite part of this trail was an encounter I had with some elderly women hiking up, just when I was descending from the summit. I was lucky enough to get to tell them that they were very, very close to the top, and to see their faces light up. "Do you think we can make it?" one of them asked me and I said "Absolutely". Nothing that lay ahead of them was a tough as what lay behind them and they were all smiles as they filed past me. I wish I'd been at the summit with them to take a photo of their group. What a neat bunch of people.

I did have to bite my tongue, though, when I passed another group of people and they asked the same question. I told them the truth (they were much farther from the summit than they thought) but then one of them asked me "What's up there?". It seemed like an odd question and, for a moment, I was stumped. I finally said "A sign" , because my usual response of "A Coke machine" isn't always funny to other people. All the way down the mountain, though, I kept thinking, why did she ask me that? I mean, what did she think I would say? "Amelia Earhardt's wreckage"? "A nice big sofa"? "A Starbucks"? It was weird. I guess she was just tired and was making conversation. Hm. At least I told her the truth and wasn't a wiseacre about it.

foreboding black cliffs

great view, getting closer to the top

not sure what these are
but they're very delicate

wildflowers everywhere

This was also the maiden voyage for my new hiking boots, so I was very careful to lace them up just right. They were great! I was relieved. Hiking boots can be so tricky to buy.

At the trailhead, there was a neat picnic shelter built by the CCC between 1933 and 1942. There are lots of CCC structures in Washington and Oregon parks.

It was a terrific hike up to the summit of Mt. Hamilton and I'm looking forward to going back. A peaceful hike that required meaningful steps and took most of my concentration. What a great way to spend the morning. In fact, when I got to the top, I realized that I hadn't even eaten breakfast yet. I'd just had coffee back in Portland. So I rested and had some grapes while I watched a red-tail hawk hunt in the valley. I bet he would have liked my grapes.

neat blossoms

neat red moss flowers

Whoo! Breakfast time!

view of Bonneville Daml

view of Mt. Adams from the summit

an entrancing trail

small, busy waterfall

neat CCC shelter

Beacon Rock Trail

Before leaving the area, I decided to hike to the top of Beacon Rock. It's a historic trail and is unique because it was blasted into the rock face between October 1915 and April 1918 by one man and one assistant. Unfortunately, I cannot figure out why they did this. I think maybe the answer is that they were angry, single men. Probably outcasts. This was a miserable, worthless, rickety hike in the full glare of the sunshine across old metal gratings and wooden decking hammered into the rock nearly a hundred years ago. When I wasn't afraid of tumbling down the sheer cliff face, I was amazed that anybody bothered to do this at all.

After summiting Mt. Hamilton at 2400 feet, getting to the top of Beacon Rock was a letdown. The only positive aspect of the hike was that I got a good view of Mt Hamilton in profile and could clearly see the black cliffs that I'd hiked above. That's about it. It's a cold, cruel joke of a hike. Yes, I finished it, but only so that I would have the 'cred' to write a scathing review.

Beacon Rock Trail
elevation profile

It should read "Dumb Trail, Goes Nowhere,
Stay off Entirely"

part of the original railing

Why does this man hate America?

up, up, in the hot sun

My advice, if anyone ever asks you to hike Beacon Rock with them, is to take a good, long look at them. This person is not your friend. You have most likely done something to make them very, very angry. You must sever all ties immediately. If they insist upon making the hike, then do yourself and them a favor and just let a ten-year-old smash your knees with a baseball bat. It's quicker, feels the same, and saves you the gas money. And for that special "sun-dazed" feeling, just stick your head in a clothes dryer.

I mean, seriously. This trail is AWFUL. If you really need to marvel at the engineering wonder that is this trail, go to MIT and get a degree in engineering, then study the blueprints on display at the nature center. That would actually be less painful and definitely more educational. Because then you could explain it to me. I stopped caring about 1/3 of the way up and so cannot write intelligently about it. I think somebody a long time ago hated the world and so they built this trail. Or something.

Repeat: Do not hike this rock. Do not! I guarantee that the rangers are laughing their butts off at the fact that anybody makes the miserable slog up this lousy excuse for a trail. BAH!

rickey railings

more rickety catwalks

but why? WHY?

Mt. Hamilton. See those
cliffs? I was above those!

Here is a video clip of Pool of Winds, taken from the trail. Looks like a nice place to cool off, doesn't it?

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