by paul spencer
Mon Jun 23rd, 2008 at 01:18:41 AM EST
No idea where Dog Mountain gets its name, but, during the late Spring/early Summer, it could be called Flower Mountain. Because of the cold and wet weather - including snow - in late April, the flowers are somewhat late this year. I hiked it in mid-May, so the main show came on a few weeks later, but you'll get the basic idea.
This hike is about 5 km one way with a 1km elevation gain. (Don't believe the sign - there are 3 routes up, and I always take the shortest one.) I got to the parking lot early enough to be first up. I don't like to pass people on their way down, smirking because you still have so-and-such far to go. (Actually, that's very unusual - almost everyone on the trails out here in Ecotopia are friendly and genuine - especially on the more difficult hikes. Kind of winnows out the buttheads.)
Most of the climb is in deep woods that are quite dark for most of the morning. There's no real 'old growth', since most of 'The Gorge' was logged for firewood or lumber a long time ago, but the majority of the Dog Mountain forest is more than 50 years old.
The height change is enough to take the hiker through several changes of flora. Fortunately, the Poison Oak stage ends at about 300 meters.
baby oak tree
The little forest flowers, like this chocolate lily, come along in layers with some overlap. I either never learned, or have forgotten, the names of many of them.
'Oregon Grape' (salal)
Near the top and at the top is a huge meadow, populated primarily by balsamroot daisies, lupines, indian paintbrush, and phlox. The first three plants blanket the meadow within another three weeks of my hike, but you can get a pretty good idea of the 'show' from these pictures:
two clumps of Indian Paintbrush
On each of my last three hikes up Dog, I have walked into a cloud quite literally - from 3 to 5 degrees C with raindrops literally precipitating on my clothes. But this picture will give you an idea of the flower density, despite the fog.
This particular mountain is well-placed for views up and down the Columbia River Gorge, as in these views of Hood River, OR to the east - or at my hometown, Stevenson, and nearly to the Bonneville Dam to the west. There are peaks at the peeks of Mt. Hood, Mt. St. Helens, and Mt. Adams, too. (My pictures of Mt. Adams from this hike are totally washed out, because the viewpoint is within dark woods, while the mountain was still totally snow-capped and viewed in the morning sun. And my picture of Mt. Hood seems to have dismantled itself - can't retrieve.)
close-up of St. Helens
A family of Bluebirds has lived in a particular part of the meadow for all of the 20 or so years that I've been hiking this trail (successive generations, I'm sure). I took a picture of the alpha male in a tree, but it is unidentifiable, so you'll just have to take my word for it.
I made it to the top on this hike in 90 minutes - very disappointing. I'm getting old without doubt. But the view is still worth the time and work, so I just have to quit whining and keep on keepin' on.