National Get Outdoors Day

Alpine wild flowers on Dog Mountain, Stevenson WA
Wild flowers on Dog Mountain, Stevenson WA

Today’s post takes a bit of a turn for Sleuth4Health as it is not about GMOs and not about food.  To prepare the way for a post like this, I expanded the description of my blog to include “general health issues” so now, it belongs.

So what is more healthy than a robust hike on a beautiful Saturday afternoon?

I had just written about how the APHIS/USDA investigators are making their rounds and visiting all wheat farmers in the Pendleton, Oregon area to question them about possible sightings of Roundup resistant, or glyphosate resistant volunteer wheat plants as part of their continuing investigation into the mystery GM wheat found on a field in eastern Oregon.  Many of you know I have relatives who own and operate a large wheat farm in the area and sure enough, APHIS came calling.

What I loved most, though, was the rest of the account of the visit from the feds.  The investigators wanted to find some good fishing for the weekend and were asking farmers where the best spots were.  They were particularly interested in driving a little further east to Wallowa Lake and the Snake River Canyon, some of Oregon’s most pristine recreation areas.

When I finished that short post on Saturday, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the urge to go for a hike.  After consulting my trusty 100 Hikes In Northwestern Oregon book, I suggested the demanding ‘Dog Mountain’ ascent to my husband who readily agreed that a Saturday hike was the perfect idea.  With a few energy bars and bottles of water stuffed into our day packs, we piled in to the Explorer, drove east on I-84, crossed the Columbia atop the Bridge of the Gods, turned east on to State Route 14 in Washington and found ourselves in the heart of the stunning Columbia River Gorge.

DogMtn1When we arrived at the trail head and went to pay the day use fee, we fortuitously discovered that Saturday, June 8th was “National Get Outdoors Day” and the fee was waived.

This was already a good day on Dog Mountain!

DogMtn5

The hike is only about seven-and-a-half miles round trip but the climb up is quite strenuous.  In just over three miles the elevation gain is 2900 feet.  It’s a steep mutha and as we scaled the never ending incline I had a few other choice words for this, um, ass-kicker.   To make matters more interesting, the lower portion of the trail was overrun with poison oak so we were maintaining a strict line in the center of the sometimes very narrow sections of trail – crossing our fingers that we didn’t brush up against the scrubby shrubs so cleverly camouflaged among the rest of the varied underbrush.  Every now and then we caught a vista of the gorge and could see how much higher we were getting.  At times we were in dense forest away from the area’s famous basalt columns that tower over both sides of the river.  No matter where we were it was a constant, brutal climb.

DogMtnTopo

Beautiful gorge vista half way up to Dog Mountain
Vista on the way to summit

About three-quarters of the way up we ran across a man who had slid on some gravel and injured his knee to the point where he could not stand.  He was continuing to slide down the trail on his bottom while talking on his cell phone to county rescue personnel.  His buddy followed patiently behind wielding both backpacks.  It was a distressing situation to witness and my husband, always eater to help, asked if we could somehow carry the guy down but his friend reminded us of what we already knew – he was not small, as in he was a big fella.  Two guys and I toting him down the hill?  Not gonna happen.  So we wished them well and trudged on, confident that help was on the way.

Stunning wild flowers up top
Cheerful wild flowers were abundant
Hubby & I back lit at the summit
Back lit at the summit

Once we reached the summit, all was right with the world!  What an absolutely splendid panorama of the gorge, wildflowers and Cascade foothills around us.  Along with the always picturesque Columbia Gorge we saw the tips of snow-capped Mt. Hood, St. Helens and Adams.  The only drawback was the position of the sun.  In most of the photographs I wanted to snap, the sun was in my face so I couldn’t get decent shots of the mountain peaks.   I did the best I could with my little Nikon point and shoot.

In the picture to the right, Mt. St. Helens is there in the background but washed out by sunlight.

Back down we go!
Back down we go!
Here is part of the rescue crew wheeling the stretcher up the trail.  True American heroes!
First group of the rescue crew wheeling the stretcher up the trail. True American heroes!

On our way down we encountered the first group of the rescue party headed up to the injured hiker.  We were impressed to see these hardy souls wheeling a stretcher up this trail – an interesting one-wheeled contraption.  They were kind enough to let me photograph them.  To think of the hike they had to make with that stretcher just to strap the guy in and then bring him all the way back down just made me want to bow at their feet.  Real heroes in action right there.  We asked them how often they had to make rescues like this and they said pretty much every weekend day.  Wow.  We encountered two more paramedics a little further down the trail.  They too were loaded with gear.

Note to self:  Don’t get injured anywhere in the Columbia Gorge – always a difficult rescue.

I am thankful to report that the two of us made it down in one piece.  We crossed back over the Bridge of the Gods into Oregon, stopped at the Cascade Ale House and downed pub burgers with beer battered fries.  We deserved it.  I drank an Oregon hand crafted IPA – of course.

~ Julee K @ Sleuth4Health

email:  sleuth4health@gmail.com

2 responses to “National Get Outdoors Day”

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