Trip Report: Columbia River Gorge, Day 1

I first went to the Columbia River Gorge almost 15 years ago. I had just finished college and wanted a break before applying to grad school. So I took a summer job as a research technician at Oregon State University, doing field work based out of Hood River. Our job was to surgically implant acoustic tags in juvenile salmon as they headed down the Columbia River towards the ocean. Another crew was stationed at the mouth of the Columbia, in Astoria. Their job was to track the tagged salmon and see how many actually made it out to the ocean.

By the end of the summer, we could implant an acoustic tag in a juvenile salmon in less than 2 minutes. Faster was better, because it meant the fish spent less time out of the water and less time under anesthesia.

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Salmon surgery

I learned an interesting but sad fact that summer: The best way to ensure that juvenile salmon make it down the Columbia to the ocean is to put them in a tank truck full of water and haul them down Interstate 84. The Columbia River’s many dams block fish passage both upstream and downstream, and researchers have explored various ways to get the fish around the dams. At the time that I was working on the Columbia, tank trucks were deemed the best bet. (Disclaimer: this may have changed since 2001 – would be interested to know if anyone has heard differently since then.)

Anyway. After spending a summer in Hood River, I visited the Gorge several more times over the years. I did a number of hikes/runs checking out the waterfalls in the Gorge, but I’d never really explored the Hatfield Wilderness, and that was my goal for this trip.

I’d read trip reports by Luke and Erik that indicated the area was snow-free and had been for awhile. I’d been up Eagle Creek in the past, so I decided to enter the wilderness via Herman Creek, tag the summit of Chinidere, and then head back to my car via the PCT. I conferred with Christof, who knows the Hatfield wilderness well, and he confirmed that my route was a good choice.

It’s a 3-4 hr drive from my house to the Gorge, so I made it a two day trip. The plan was to drive down on Wed, do a mid-distance run Wednesday afternoon, camp Wednesday evening, and then do a long run starting early Thursday.

I left my house after morning rush hour and was in the Gorge by 2 pm. That afternoon, I did the Angels Rest-Devil’s Rest lollipop loop, which is approx 11 miles and 3000 ft of elev gain. I should’ve known that Angel’s Rest would be crowded, considering it’s proximity to Portland. It’s kind of like Portland’s version of Rattlesnake Ledge – a complete zoo on sunny days. However, just like Rattlesnake Ledge, the crowds at Angel’s Rest disappear after the first viewpoint.

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Angel’s Rest-Devil’s Rest lollipop-loop

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Pano of view from Angel’s Rest

I enjoyed the views from Angel’s Rest and then continued on with the loop. Not all of the trails for this route are shown on the Green Trails map, but if you follow these directions to the letter, and pay attention at junctions, you’ll be fine.  As mentioned in the linked directions, there are no views from Devil’s Rest, but just past the Devil’s Rest high point there is an obvious unmarked trail that provides some nice views of the Gorge. (To be honest, the best views are found at Angel’s Rest, not Devil’s Rest, so if views are your primary goal, there’s no reason to go beyond Angel’s Rest. If you’re also looking for some solitude and extra miles, the loop is a good option.)

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Looking west from Angel’s Rest

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Angel’s Rest is the rocky outcropping on the left side of the photo. This pic was taken from the trail after you leave Angel’s Rest and start ascending to Devil’s Rest.

After my run, I went in search of a place to camp. I was hoping to find a good dispersed site, but they are tough to come by in the western Gorge. I ended up forking over $20 to camp at Ainsworth State Park. That night I settled into my warm, comfy bed in the back of my truck, snuggled up with my pug/greyhound mix, and read Polar Dream by Helen Thayer. In the book, she journeys to the north pole on foot, and spends every night in a cold uncomfortable tent with her Innuit Canadian husky/wolf mix. We’re like twins. (Sarcasm.)

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Bedtime!

Day 2 coming soon…

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