Friday, September 19, 2014

Definitely Worth the Effort: Dog Mountain Hike

A picture of a picture, but isn't my mom adorable?
When we still lived in Chicago, my Mom sent me a picture of her on a hike.  I was so taken with the image and the scenery that I immediately added the hike to my Bucket List for our next trip to Oregon.
Me and My Love on the Dog Mountain Trail
It took six years of living in Oregon, but we finally hiked Dog Mountain.  We wanted to do this hike when the wildflowers were blooming.  We had a date scheduled in spring 2013, but I broke my foot so we had to delay the hike until this spring.  We chose a date in mid May and Curt took the day off work so we could hike while the kids were in school.

The only glitch with our planning was a little event called a marathon.  I added one to my spring schedule and ran it the day before we went hiking.  My legs were a tad sore the morning of the hike, but I always like to go for a walk the day after a big race to shake my legs out.  We decided the hike would be my "little walk" (and then some).  I proudly wore my Marathon Finisher t-shirt for the hike.  Since it's florescent orange, there was no problem spotting me on the trail!
can you see me?
Dog Mountain is on the Washington side of the Gorge so you need a Washington State Parks pass or a Northwest Forest Pass to park in the lot.  The trailhead is located right off WA 14 and is super easy to find.  I think it took us about two hours to get to the trailhead from Newberg -  but don't quote me on that cause we did this in May and I'm writing this review in September.

Curt on the trail once we hit the meadow
Our hiking book (60 Hikes within 60 Miles Portland by Paul Gerald) rates the Dog Mountain hike as strenuous.  My Mom and Terry - who have both hiked it several times - gave a whole hearted endorsement to the strenuous rating.  My mom, Terry, and the author of the book all made it seem like being in excellent condition is a necessity to do this hike, but rest assured.  If you have all day to hike, a good dose of determination, and decent hiking shoes you can do this hike.  Slow and steady is the name of the game.  Your level of soreness the following day however will coincide with what kind of condition you are in.
taking a break on the Augsperger portion of the trail.  
Most hikers do this as an out-and-back on the Dog Mountain Trail, but I always prefer a loop when it's an option.  We took the Augsperger Mountain Trail (on the left) and looped our way up to the summit of Dog Mountain.  Apparently the grade of the trail on this side is less steep than the Dog Mountain side, but it still felt strenuous.  We gained 2,700 vertical feet in 3.7 uphill miles.

My handsome man on the trail
The Augsperger Mountain Trail is mostly through beautiful woods, but has periodic openings that showcase the Columbia River Gorge and Wind Mountain.  At one point the trail takes a sharp turn to the right.  Curt and I made the turn and saw two girl hikers coming down.  They were chattering away and one clearly had a European accent.  She saw us, spotted my shirt, and immediately complimented me on how fun the color was.  When she saw it was a marathon finishers shirt, she wanted more details.  She was so exuberantly happy for me and the next thing I knew she was hugging me on the trail.  It was really funny and touching and made Curt and I both smile.

views for miles
Side note:  One of the reasons why I love my 60 Hikes in 60 Miles book is because Paul Gerald has a sense of humor.  He also knows all kinds of interesting historical facts about the hikes.  We were surprised to learn Dog Mountain is called that "because some pioneers in the area were forced to eat their dogs to avoid starvation."  The town of Hood River was originally called Dog River but people changed the name because no one liked to be reminded of the dog-eating incident.  Do you blame them?
These yellow flowers covered the meadow and that's Wind Mountain in the distance.
We climbed 3/4 of the way to the summit through the woods and then came out into a meadow overlooking the Gorge.  The meadow was FILLED with wildflowers, just like the picture of my Mom.  We couldn't believe how beautiful it was!  We took our time meandering through the meadow on the trail, taking photos and oohing and aching over acres and acres of mountain meadows alive in colorful flowers.  It was stunning.

I love adventuring with this guy.
We eventually hiked our way to the summit of Dog Mountain and parked ourselves with a few other hikers on a grassy area with panoramic view.  A spring chill lingered in the air but the taste of summer was on the gentle breeze that blew through my hair and made the flowers dance.  I laid down in the grass and let myself fall asleep for twenty blissful minutes, drifting in and out of consciousness and being lulled by the breeze and a few bees.  It was wonderful.

We took the Dog Mountain Trail back to the car.  Shorter, but steeper, it was a good quad burner, especially toward the end when the trail descends 600 vertical feet in less than half a mile.
on the trail.  The layers came on and off as we hiked.
The research I've done shows this trail is CROWDED on the weekends.  Since we hiked on a Monday morning, I don't have a true gauge for the accuracy of that.  We virtually had the mountain to ourselves and I liked it like that.  If you can get away for a day trip during the week, that would be my recommendation, especially because the trail isn't very wide so passing people in both directions would get kind of cozy.
take note of narrow trail.
We saw an elementary aged kid hiking the trail with his Dad.  This trail was very safe and I would have no reservations bringing our kids out to hike it.  It was difficult though, so be prepared for whining, a lot of breaks, and possibly bribery.  There's a great candy store in Cascade Locks that works wonders to regulate whining and I Can't Do It behavior.

Make everyone in your hiking party carry their own backpack.  You'll need a lot of water, a lunch, hearty snacks, and layers of clothing.  It gets a little chilly at the top.

Dog Mountain by the Stats
Mileage: 7.15 miles
Total Elapsed Time (including lunch and rest breaks): 4:36:28
Average Pace Per Mile: 25:20 min/mile
Total Moving Time: 3:01:11
Elevation Gain: 2,867 vertical feet
Elevation Loss: 2,864 vertical feet

Happy hiking!

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