Dog Mountain 2019 – Rugby’s Trip Report

Rugby LogoSince Carolyn hasn’t posted in so long, I decided to start writing my own story. 

Dog Mountain. Again

I really didn’t want to leave this morning. The weather wasn’t perfect, I forgot to triple check my pack’s inventory for my 10 bear essentials, I’ve done this hike over 25 times, the trail has gotten too crowded (permits are now required if you hike on a weekend during the summer) and I would be playing hooky from the garden. The garden needs me. I take my role as Defender of its Seedlings seriously. But I take my role as Defender of Carolyn’s Safety even more seriously. So I went with her. Again. 

Motivated by Cinnamon Rolls

My interest in adventures is increased greatly by the purchase of a cinnamon roll, Swiss bird’s nest cookie (link goes to our most convenient source, not the best bakery), or pizza and a pint on the way home.

Empty Shelves

Something was wrong at Grand Central Baking. The bakery’s display case was nearly empty. Oven issues, they said. This outing is not starting out well. I tried not to cry. My angry glares at Carolyn convinced her to make an emergency stop at the Riverside Restaurant in Cascade Locks. The view of the river, bridge, mist; the smells of bacon, toast, eggs and sausage; the warmth of the building and happy energy of a lodge before a fun day — she almost did the hike by herself. Dog Mountain isn’t a remote wilderness trail so I’m not worried about her getting attacked by mountain lions or anything, but she’s alone and stuff could happen. I needed to go along. So I found a muffin that looked pretty good and got back into the car.

Empty Parking Lot

I counted only 10 cars at the trailhead. That seemed weird. We weren’t that early. Maybe people knew something she didn’t. The weather didn’t seem bad, but then again Carolyn rarely checks the weather, she just goes. I examined the posted information. Nothing new — other than the placement of the informational sheets. They were more carefully laid out. But the content was still inadequate. While it’s not a scramble in high altitude wilderness, it’s not a walk in the park, either. The top of the mountain is often cold and windy even when the trailhead is warm and sunny. The trail is steep and has places where a fall could be serious. It’s a popular hike because of the beautiful wildflowers and proximity to Portland, Hood River and Highway 14. 

Dog Mtn Trailhead USFS sign

The USFS has posted a lot of information about parking, the shuttle, the day use fee. But perhaps not enough about personal responsibility and the risks of the trail.

Poison Oak, Switch Backs, Trees

As we started up, my head was still fuzzy; my legs were just warming up. The first part of the trail has tons of poison oak. I’ve never had a reaction to it, but then I also avoid it. My snarky side always wonders how many hikers don’t recognize the branches which are sometimes leaning across the trail, right at human-level eye height. 

I was also preoccupied with imagining huge slugs eating all of the tender seedlings back home in the garden. And then I started thinking about the weather. It was warm and there was a hint of sun, but that could change. I didn’t want to stop but I also wanted to double check to make sure I had my first aid kit, head lamp and other safety gear in case Carolyn fell. And then to add to my dark thoughts, Carolyn started reminiscing about all of the times we’ve done this trail and the friends we walked with.

Walking with her Friends

My opinion of these hikers was mixed. I liked some of them. Especially the ones who thought it was a big hike. For those folks I worked really hard to be encouraging and positive. We could connect in our frustration with Carolyn’s cheery ease during the climb. Others, though, I didn’t like as much, generally (her friend Clay is good). Those hikers used Dog Mountain as our warm-up for the day only to be followed with a second walk (to Wind, or Augsberger Mountain, or both). As soon as I figured out I was with one of that crowd, I’d do my best to make grumpy noises whenever they got excited about additional miles. I don’t like people making my reward more difficult to achieve and more delayed in its arrival. Sadly, two of her younger friends have passed away. Most of the others were only visiting or have moved out of state. I munched my banana nut muffin, listening to Carolyn while she revealed how grateful she was to be up there. I stayed mum.

First Viewpoint, Other Hikers

We stopped at the first viewpoint. Yay! Balsamroot and paintbrush were in bloom. I grudgingly admit, even though we’ve seen meadows of this flower at least four other times this spring, it always makes me a bit happy. Add in the lupine, paintbrush, and all of the others and my fluffy head just fills with joy. We sat there for quite awhile, enjoying the views. Three women hikers walked by, wearing cotton t-shirts, knee-length yoga tights and carrying only small packs. They paused long enough to take some selfies. 

She Carries a Big Pack

One looked at Carolyn’s backpack and snorted, “What! Are you planning on spending the night out here?” Gosh I hope that’s not going to happen. She didn’t mention it. But this is just her day pack, right? It is rather large. It embarrasses me sometimes. But I’m glad she’s carrying the 10 essentials (plus 2 camera lenses). Whenever I wish she can’t be just like everyone else and just have a basic pack with jacket and a water bottle, I remind myself of the times she’s helped out hikers who were less prepared by giving them water, food, or first aid. She smiled and said no. I hid. I didn’t like that lady and I may have said something about how cold I expected she’d be in a few minutes. I could see dark skies coming our way. 

Second Viewpoint, Dark Skies

At the second viewpoint, the wind picked up and it started to rain. I bet it was still nice in Portland. My cozy blanket and pillow felt so far away. Even at the Trailhead it probably wasn’t raining. This was just typical Dog Mountain weather. We layered up, put on pack covers, jackets and hats and climbed higher in to the cloud toward the summit. As usual, we came across people nearly running down the mountain, cold and wet, nearly tripping on the rocks in their rush to get back to the cover of trees. For every hiker with a jacket, there were at least 2 without. 

In the Clouds but in Wildflower Heaven

We had the summit to ourselves. We didn’t see the three women again. They weren’t that far ahead of us. I doubt they even went up to the summit and think they just went back down the other side. Carolyn sat up there for a bit. I guess she’s kind of special that way, hanging out in a cloud staring at plants. A few hikers came up but they left quickly.

Observations

On our way back down, I really spent time looking at things. Well, I really had no choice since she wasn’t walking too fast. Today. Even without looking too hard, I couldn’t miss the turkey. He walked in front of us for several yards. He didn’t look too tasty, but if Carolyn was going to continue on at this pace, I’d consider him a dinner option. But I did notice leaves of vine maples had been eaten. Demolished. By little inch worms. And I spotted some coral root orchid starting to bloom. Elderberry and red currant were blooming side by side along the ridge. In our garden, the elderberry are still too young to bloom and the flowering red currants have little fruits on them now. Robins were busy building nests. Trillium and chocolate lily flowers were ripening in to fruit.

Vanilla leaf and others

I love all of the greens and various shapes of leaves. Each one trying to maximize exposure to light.

Vine Maple

Vine maple leaves positioned to maximized light capture in the dim Douglas-fir forest.

Back to the Car

When we got back to the car, wearing a lot of the gear that we had packed, I looked for some more chocolate in my pack and realized I’d eaten it all. I felt a little anxious about my ability to make it back to Portland without stopping for a treat. Before I could tell her I expected a pint, we noticed the parking lot had gone from 10 cars to being full of official-looking trucks. The Sheriff. Search and Rescue. Police. An ambulance. Unfortunately, it’s a common occurrence on this trail. Considering how long it takes Search and Rescue to arrive, I’m guessing it was one of the people we saw hiking down while we were on our way up. They looked tired and cold and wet. While it’s really not that hard of a hike, people underestimate the weather and overestimate their abilities. Few of the people we saw today had enough clothing and several admitted they were exerting themselves. Anyway, we were safe. And, I admit. I was glad to have gone. It’s always fun to see a field of wildflowers, even if the visibility was less than a few meters. We picked up Dixon at the airport and to top off the adventure, on our way home, we stopped for a pint and some snacks! 

Final Note

About people going out on trails — I really like this article by Washington Trails Association. I wish I had a louder voice about getting this message out to folks. 

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