Ah. Summer...

Silver Star Scenic Area, Washington
8.4 miles, 1600 elevation gain

...has finally arrived. Although it took its sweet time coming up to the Pacific Northwest, our long, consistently warm and sunny days finally appear to have begun en force. And July has started off brilliantly.  

I'm revisiting old haunts and exploring some new places with some new people and one of the coolest little trail dogs, ever.

meet Oscar

Thank you, Allison.

North of Portland, sprawled across the landscape east of Battle Ground, Washington, lies an area known as the Silver Star Scenic Area. Torched by the Yacolt Burn of 1902, natural reforestation has never regained much of a foothold in these hills. As such, the area is characterized by incredible, lofty views all around and some fascinating, wildflower-filled ridge walks. Trailheads are reached via crappy forest service roads (potholes seem to be this month's theme), and deer that like to play games of 'Chicken' with your car.

Helens, Rainier & Adams from Little Baldy

I suspect Allison nearly choked when I told her I had never visited the Silver Star area, and my ignorance sealed the deal for Saturday's hike. She directed me to the Bluff Mountain Trail in a quest to climb a crumbly, scree-sloped old summit known as Little Baldy.

Little Baldy from Bluff Mountain trail

The trail stays high and follows an old jeep track before spitting you out onto something resembling true trail at around 2 miles. The wildflowers were profuse; I have never seen such a gathering of Indian paintbrush. Beargrass was prolific but currently not in its blooming cycle. I imagine when it is, these meadows are beyond breathtaking.

The next few miles traverse under a cliff face, cross a few, wee seasonal streams and deliver the predictably lovely views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount Saint Helens.

Upon rounding the side of Little Baldy, we began looking for a way up top. Silver Star Mountain sat before us, another two-ish miles away. I determined I'll be heading over there, soon.

Allison & Oscar, trail detectives

Here, my new hiking companion went bionic on me (damn, that woman can hike), and I met her on the summit of Little Baldy, 3940 feet, in my own good time. We were kept company by bees, ants, penstemon flowers, views, a cool breeze, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and a most excellent batch of homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. Score.

going bionic

Silver Star from Little Baldy