Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Defying Mt. Defiance

"The mother of all day hikes in the Columbia River Gorge."

I think that sums it up for the hike we tackled on Tuesday (and those aren't even my words, read all about it here). Paul and I, along with our new pal Ania, conquered the monster that is Mt. Defiance.

This hike took us up the Defiance trail, and then back down on the Starvation Ridge trail. It is named for an incident that occurred in 1884 when a passenger train got stuck there due to heavy snow and drifts. There was little food aboard, so passengers were paid $3 per day to dig the train out of the snow while waiting for skiers from Mt. Hood to bring food. Sounds fun eh? The trail is a 12.1 mile loop that climbs to the summit at 4,960 feet; although with all the little ups and downs in between, we climbed a total of around 5,700 hundred feet - over a vertical mile! This is roughly the same distance and elevation gain as South Sister (which we are climbing on August 1), but South Sister will be at twice the altitude. From what we hear, if we can do Defiance, we can do South Sister. So I guess we're ready!

Our trail via our GPS (full map with data here)

The trail starts out nice and easy with plenty of pretty waterfalls in the first quarter mile or so.

Cabin Creek Falls

Warren Falls, behind a giant boulder that fell from the cliffs long ago

The trail begins in earnest shortly afterward.

Hole-in-the-wall Falls

Right off the bat the trail launches you up, up, up, gaining about 3,000 feet in elevation over three miles. This might not seem like much, but trust me, it is.

Water break! One of many.

Relentless switchbacks pushed us up further and further. At each hairpin turn I secretly wished that... surprise!... we'd all of a sudden be at the summit. But it just... kept... going...

This was actually a lot steeper than the photo captured. It's true!

At about 3,000 feet or so the trail opened up for the first time and really showed us how far up we had already climbed. Holy crap we were high up.

I think this must have been around 4,000 feet or so, but in the blink of an eye the vegetation and landscape changed dramatically - much more alpine.

From dense vegetation to rocky alpine

Photo op! Thank goodness Ania takes as many photos as I do.

The gorge looking west

A wonderland of rocks and beargrass flowers

The adorable Ania. Almost to the summit and still smiling... a good sign!

When we got to the summit, I was kind of surprised to see several radio/cell towers, and a few fenced-in little buildings (I'm guessing just maintenance buildings or something) with "Danger! High Voltage" signs all over. BUT, once you walk past that, the view is breathtaking. I didn't take any photos of the towers, because well, they aren't pretty.

Mighty man the summit

Once we found a good spot to hang out at the summit, we unloaded our packs and feasted on sandwiches, bars, trail mix, bananas... and CAKE. To thank us for bringing her on the hike, Ania was kind enough to bring a homemade treat - yogurt cake with strawberries. Uh, yum. Never had yogurt cake before, but it was delicious, and the perfect summit treat.


And now the obligatory series of summit shots...

Astounding view of Mt. Hood

Dirty boots

The perfect boulder for a break

Mt. Hood

More wildflowers... I think these are the Showy Penstemon again. These were swarming with bees, and I braved the bees just to take this photo. For you. Enjoy it.

Looking east... you can see Hood River down in the gorge

I am in love with this photo

You know it... you love it... it's Jenny in front of a Cascade range mountain

The girls

Here we are attempting to set our camera's self timers and jump back onto that boulder for a group shot...

Didn't quite make it on this one

Made it! But no Mt. Hood in the background. Oh well.

After a solid hour hanging out at the summit (believe me, I could have spent all day just staring), we began our descent. For a while there it was rocky. But that part was fun. :)

Coming down the mountain

A little Red Indian Paintbrush for ya

On the trail back, we passed right by Warren Lake, a gorgeous little lake set into the gorge. We stopped just to admire, but you can also camp next to the lake if you are backpacking, and even swim in it if you like.

Warren Lake

It appears to be this shallow most of the way across

I'm not sure how far down we had gone at this point (not very far I can assure you), but we caught a glimpse of the summit from which we came.

Looking back at the summit

While we have seen our fair share of bugs and slugs on the trails, we actually saw some real wildlife this time! We were trudging along when all of a sudden, a deer jumped onto the path in front of us! Not the most exciting animal of them all, but it was still beautiful. I barely got my camera out in time before she scampered off, but you can see her toward the center of this photo, just to the left of the trail.

Another gorgeous view from the trail, still very rocky at this point.

Mt. Adams

We finally made it back to a point where we could see the highway... always a welcome sight at the end of a long hike. At this point, there was roughly .6 miles left on the trail but more than 600 feet to descend. Needless to say, it got steep. Of course the hardest part of the trail had to come at the very end!

We all made it back to the car, in one piece, and in decent shape! I feel much better about South Sister now, knowing that I can go the distance. For the record, it is now Thursday and my knees, quads and joints are still not very happy with me. :)

In other news... the Mayos are coming to Michigan! It looks like we'll be visiting July 25th-28th (sans Buckley, sadly). Who wants a piece of us?? :)




dad said...

Once again, AWESOME! But, once you leave the summit, don't you start the descent, not the ascent?? just wondering......btw, thanks for braving the bees. love it.

Jenny Mayo said...

Uh, yep. :) Consider that part edited. Thanks! :)

dad said...

:-) btw, the photo of you and paul is my new desktop!

Maxzoid said...

Thanks for the great blog and pictures. I climbed Mt. Defiance just over a month ago, and it was snowy for about 2/3 of the ascent. Sure is a workout! (It took me 7 1/4 hours in the snow).