It’s that time of year again where predicting the weather is somewhere between an art-form and a crap-shoot. This week, it’s been upwards of 65 degrees and sunny alternating with 45 degrees and pouring. Ah, the Pacific Northwest. It’s the time of year where you need your entire wardrobe to be immediately accessible, because you can literally go through spring/summer/fall/winter over the course of a few days (sometimes, if you’re really lucky, all in the same day.)
Hunting down the promise of sun and warmth and spring, J.B., the dogs and I found a narrow, beautiful window for hiking in the gorge, heading up on the Ruckle Creek Trail.
We started the day decked out in jackets and hats and gloves and ended in T-shirts and shorts…somewhere between the my-thighs-are-now-J-E-L-L-O stairmaster climb and the hanging meadows basking in glorious, almost-forgotten-what-that-feels-like sunshine, temps had climbed into the happiness zone.
|blue sky + sun + warmth = happiness|
It’s been almost three years since I last hiked the Ruckle Creek Trail…I remembered the beauty of it, but clearly forgot the exertion part involved in the climb (I’ve been feeling less than stellar this week yet for some strange reason still decided to tackle this particular trail). From the Eagle Creek campground, the first half mile is deceptively rolling and gentle, utilizing portions of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to access the true trailhead. Once there, it’s all up, gaining close to 2000’ in less than two miles up to the first real viewpoint. True to form, it’s a beautiful and classic Gorge ridge trail, going through all the zones of life as you gain elevation and lose lung power. Closer to the creek and the Columbia River, the trail has a rainforest quality. Beyond 2000’, the trail briefly semi-levels out, traversing some incredible mossy, hanging gardens dispersed between groves of oak trees.
|the rainforest appearance of the Gorge at Ruckle Creek|
|mossy, basalt cliffs near the Indian Pits|
|a good view of what "up" looks like|
|the Gorge can make you feel small|
|I'm not tired, why are you tired?|
This is the part of the trail that I remember fondly, and J.B. and I found a sunlit, breezy meadow to hang out, eat, and soak in some Vitamin D. Further down near a bend in the trail, a deer appeared, bounding a near vertical path up the hillside without any difficulty. We spent a long while in these meadows, watching the pups goof around and just remembering what it feels like to have sun on our skin (yes, when you live in Portland, the first couple of days of sun are both a coveted surprise and somehow make you feel like a vampire, all at the same time).
|golden, mossy oaks|
It was one of those days, where I could have lingered for a long while, but evening obligations sent us hoofing it back down the down the trail, to the displeasure of our toes and quads. I have yet to make it all the way to the Benson Plateau on this trail, but eventually…maybe…
|heading home in the sunlight|
Overall, a great day.
RUCKLE CREEK TRAIL
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon