Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hamilton Mountain Loop Hike

On Friday, Loni and I had plans for doing the Munra Point scramble. This fell through due to very low energy on our part. We have hiked the Hamilton Mountain loop before and we started up the trail, but ended up stopping at the Cave of the Winds. After clambering around atop the punchbowl, we came back down and began the rest of the food orgy that continued through Saturday. Woah, that's some food.

Sunday, despite my gluttony, I woke up feeling like hiking. Sara was willing to try a longer hike than our last adventure (Dog Mountain) so I suggested we do the whole Hamilton Mountain loop.

We reached the parking lot/trailhead across from Beacon Rock at about 9:30. It would have been a later start but Sara doesn't eat breakfast. The weather was schizophrenic and oscillated between chilly, drizzly, damp, humid, hot, sunny, windy and various combinations of same conditions.

We saw quite a few people on the trail for the first half of the loop, including a bus load of guys from the "Harvard Glee Club". I noticed quite a few "social trails" A.K.A. switchback shortcuts. I think that cutting switchbacks calls for an immediate revocation of your hiking privileges by me shoulder-checking you off a cliff. It's simply rude, and destroys the trail. This is one of the many reasons I'm going to start carrying a machete while hiking.

The last time Loni and I hiked this trail, I thought it was brutal and exhausting. This time, I wasn't pressed at all, although it's still a great workout. I guess sometimes it's a good thing not to have a giant breakfast in your gut while climbing a mountain. I stayed within my breath and well hydrated. I still have not purchased my replacement hiking pole, but it really didn't matter this trip. Maybe I'm just in better shape than I was? Who knows.

The wildflowers were awesome for so late in the season, and both Sara and I took tons of pictures. I'll have to set up a link to a photo site to share some of them.

I also took some pictures of one of my next hikes, Munra Point! These little rock "nipples" are apparently the goal of the climb. You can see Bonneville down below, and another future hike in Table Mountain to the north. I can't identify all of the ridges on the Oregon side, although I'm doing what I can to climb them all.

The trail down the back half of the loop was quiet and pretty, with only a few people and we actually found a few mushrooms. There were NONE on the way up. Since we got back to Hardy Creek with plenty of energy left, we decided to see all of the sights. We climbed up onto the rocks surrounding the punchbowl and took more pictures.

Still not tired, we forked to the right on the way back, and headed up to Little Beacon Rock. The spire itself isn't very interesting, but there is an awesome little short scramble to the right that gives great views and some crazy drop-offs. I've got pictures from above and below to demonstrate how sheer this is. We watched a plane circle Beacon Rock from our perch on top of the hill. Once I'd had my fill of vertigo, we headed back down and took the loop back through the campground.

Overall, including all of the various detours, this hike comes in a little shy of 9 miles, and I felt great after. My right hip flexor muscle is sore, but my knees and feet feel fine.

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