Larch Mountain Hike

This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain.
This is me at the summit of Larch Mountain. Volcanoes are in the background, trust me. No really, they are.

I managed to get out with my hiking group again on Sunday. Saturdays are sooo busy (this one was my Mt. Hood Cherokees meeting), and the option for Sunday hikes is appreciated.

My hike the previous weekend to Poo Poo Point gave me a chance to prepare my body a little, because this hike was 6.8 miles to the summit from the trailhead. It was .2 miles from the car, totaling 14 miles hiked and over 4000 foot elevation gain in one day. Believe me, my legs are still having a conversation with me about what took place…

One fun thing about the trail is that it begins at Multnomah Falls. You will be amazed to hear that I did not take a single shot of the stunning falls while I was in the viewing area with all the tourists. I have hundreds of photos of Multnomah Falls and was trying to practice restraint, ha ha! But if you want a reminder of which falls I mean, check out one of my posts on it from winter 2013  or from winter 2012.

One mile of paved trail leads you to the viewing platform at the top of the falls: 611 feet above the pool at the bottom.

Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn't this perspective mess with your equilibrium?
Looking over the edge of Multnomah Falls, down to the parking lot and I-5 below. Doesn’t this perspective mess with your equilibrium?

The trail after that is not paved, but is in great shape and there are so many more remarkable waterfalls I lost track. I included several photos of my hiking companions on the trail, to help with perspective, and add a contrast to the extravagant opulence of all the green. The ground was wet from a lot of run off and creeks crossing the trails, but we found solid purchase for our feet for the first five miles. We crossed five bridges, if my memory is correct, and each one of those was an adventure in itself. The first over Multnomah Falls, then a Troll Bridge, one that warned us it was falling apart, and two very sturdy bridges built from a single log with the top flattened for us to walk on, and a railing attached to one side. So clever.

Let me explain one aspect of my photos before I get too far. A friend who looked at my photos pointed out – correctly – that if I was in front of the group and turned back, I could get photos of all the lovely faces of the ladies I hiked with. This is absolutely true and it’s a loss that you won’t see them here. However, I am sensitive to the fact that when they registered for this hike, none of them signed up to have their faces on the Internet via my blog. I got permission to post butts (ha ha), but I promised not to show faces or names.

Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.
Our trail followed Multnomah Creek for quite a while.
So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.
So many waterfalls, it was hard to keep track of them.
Troll bridge in the sunshine.
Troll bridge in the sunshine.
Part of the trail ducked under cliffs that had been carved out for us. See the waterfall in the distance here?
Part of the trail ducked under cliffs and is called Dutchman tunnel. See the waterfall in the distance here?
This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.
This is me in front of the waterfall in the shot right above.

To our surprise, about 1.5 miles from the top, we walked into snow. It started off so beautifully: a lovely layer of white to change our forest views. We were very excited, taking photos and giving some accessories to a tiny snowman that someone else built along the trail.

The snow never got very deep, but it did make for some terrible trail conditions. First, the several inches of snow on the dirt trail ensured that it was a mud trail, particularly in the afternoon return home, when many many boots had tromped the slush into a dreadful slippery mess. Second, the snow on the branches of the trees above us slowly melted throughout the day, causing “tree rain” sufficient to soak us through despite the sky teasing us with copious blue that we spotted up through the trees. Luckily we all had jackets for protection, but it was impossible to stay entirely dry at that point.

At 1:00 pm were tired and discouraged and still walking uphill through the mud and tree rain. But occasional bursts of sunshine and the persistent blue above the trees were a tease that we couldn’t resist. Besides, we had come too far to give up.

Walking past yet another waterfall.
Walking past Ecola Falls.
Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.
Switchbacks. We became rather familiar with them.
You go first!
You go first!
Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.
Snow! It was so exciting that we took photos of it at first.
Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.
Someone else built this snowman, but we added the character.
Isn't this just lovely?
Isn’t this just lovely?

The summit was worth it! A lovely little rest spot has been built right at the top of the mountain, with benches and a fence to keep us from tumbling over the side. We gathered with other tenacious hikers and ate lunch. The sun had melted the snow off the tops of the benches, where we were able to sit. There was very little wind to speak of, but it did get a bit chilly when we stopped moving.

Sadly, the clouds had been gathering all morning, so by the time we arrived, all the volcanoes were obscured. Remember my view from Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain? On a clear day, the same views can be seen from Larch Mountain. Though the volcanoes (St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, Hood, and Jefferson) were hidden, we had a great view of the valleys around us, including the Columbia River.

The journey back down was somewhat lighter, since downhill is so much less of a struggle. Typically downhill is my challenge – not uphill – but my bad knee only hollered at me a couple of times, and I was able to get to the bottom without the help of any curse words!

It was somewhat surreal to finish the hike at a popular tourist destination, and I felt distinctly out of place, with my coat and pack and mud splashed up my legs and bleached blonde hairs frizzing out in all directions. The lovely people around me had perfect hair and clean clothes and some wore sandals (and heels! good gracious). But I could still smile to myself because I had just seen things that they would not. 🙂

There it is! We made it!
There it is! We made it to Sherrard Point!
Islands in the Columbia
Islands in the Columbia
Icicles caught my eye
Icicles caught my eye
Lunch at the top in the snow.
Lunch at the top in the snow.
Snowy peaks in the distance.
Snowy peaks in the distance.
Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?
Mt. Jefferson not visible, but how lovely are the trees with natural flocking?

34 thoughts on “Larch Mountain Hike

    1. This seems like a hike I could visualize you taking! In our next life, let’s live in the same town. 🙂

      I know! The clovers were so pretty. You know how the camera doesn’t always make things look as good as your own eyes can? This scene was magical in real life. I’m pleased that it was still pretty neat in a photo.

    1. Oh Andrew I’m so glad you said so! It was a funny scene: I was the last person to cross (because I’m always distracted taking photos). So then, as I’m about to step onto the bridge, the other women start yelling something to me. I could not hear a single word because of the rushing water of the creek.

      They waved their arms and gestured, continued shouting, and pointed at the bridge and for a good while I could not figure it out. Finally, the group leader walked onto the bridge a little way toward me and shouted “Take a photo of the sign!” Turns out, one of the women had the last-minute idea. And what a good idea it was!

    1. Thank you for the link, Derrick! And I am proud that you raised two such great kids.

      I wondered about you with that second shot from the top of the waterfall. I hope it didn’t make you queasy just looking at it! 🙂

      Thank you also for the compliments on my photos. It is so much fun to try to make the most of these gorgeous scenes so that the camera lens reflects some of what it’s like to be out there.

    1. I’m happy to share them! I thank my lucky stars to be lucky enough to live here in this beautiful part of planet Earth. As we were hiking, we would actually stop and look around and say it out loud: “What a beautiful place to live.”

  1. OMG!!!!! I envy you… I couldn’t hike like you!!!! and the shots….
    fantastic!!!! they are really good.Did you cross the wonderful and perfect “bridge”?????

    1. We all crossed the bridge. It was not as bad as the sign made it seem, but the sign warning us was so funny!

      I am glad to be able to do these hikes, and will continue to do them as long as my body can manage it. So far I have no major health limitations, and I want to do as much as I can before I am forced to slow down, ha ha!

  2. Hi Crystal, I’m finally here!
    It makes me so happy for you that you’ve found such a great group to hike with. The photos from the back are actually great … I often take photos of friends in just this way. Love the icicles and whatever the green leaves are coming out of the snow.
    The description of your post-hike glory (that’s how I like to think of it) vs those who just stepped out of the car is perfect.
    Glad you had such fun!
    LB

    1. Hiya Laurie! I was thinking about you this past weekend: how my life is so busy just at the moment because multiple things are happening at once. And I thought of people campaigning, and how the schedule must be exhausting, and candidates have to put on a bright smile and be their fullest, best selves even if they’re cranky and tired. And then I thought of you and hoped you were holding up well.

      Glad you understand about the butt photos. I have seen that putting people into my photos gives a much better sense of what we’re looking at, but I don’t want to get a reputation for not valuing privacy. I bumped into the other trip leader at the end of the day at a popular gather spot for various hike groups. She brightened up when she saw me, “I remember you! The blogger!” ha ha

      Post-hike glory! Yes! That tiredness that feels so good, and big stories to tell that no one around you knows yet.

  3. That ongoing dialogue with your legs seems to be taking a back seat to the smile on your face and the pleasant thoughts remaining from your muddy hike. It’s Wednesday already. Soon, your legs will be as good as new.

  4. I’m a teeny bit in awe of your fitness level Crystal! The scenery is stunning and parts of the trail could be the local ‘bush’ that I go for a bit of a wander in around here – the bit before the snow. Isn’t it wonderful that you could see so many takes on nature and seasons – and people – in one outing! What a great hike!!

    1. I feel so lucky to have been born with energy. It’s my personality to jump up and go do stuff…and I think the fitness level is a side effect. I really can’t stand a structured workout program, and I detest most gyms. I’m not sure why I decided to tackle this tough climb, but I must have wanted to test myself. Out of the group of 26 that originally signed up, only 4 of us appeared at the gathering point in the morning. I am very, very glad I hung in there and pushed myself to do it.

      Another thing that makes this group easier to hike with is that no one is particularly young in years – they are 40s, 50s, and 60s. So that means less pressure on performance. When I got tired, or when my knee was yelling at me, I just asked the others to let me rest for a few minutes.

      Our hike leader was joking about “all four seasons in one hike!” ha ha

      I would absolutely love to wander through the bush with you some day. I’ll add it to my bucket list. Visiting your part of the world has been a dream of mine for so long – but those plane tickets are crazy expensive from here.

      1. Those plane tickets are crazy expensive everywhere from here! It’s one of the few drawbacks of living in a small country at the bottom of the globe. Still, never say never! As we both know, the universe works in magical ways!!

      2. OH, I must tell you about the huge map I have on the wall in my house. It’s a regular map except NZ and Chile are at the top and Canada and Russia are at the bottom. I wanted to give Tara a different perspective: to emphasize the point that we’re a globe, suspended in space and there is no such thing as the top.

        Oooh, the magical universe will pull some strings, I just know it.

  5. Sounds like a great day (off?) Laying around on a Sunday reading the funnies and watching the telly. Ha. You work harder on your day off than any other day of the week. Feels good, doesn’t it? That scenery was awe inspiring. I remember the snow this last weekend. We were in Leavenworth and the weather changed every few minutes but seeing the snow on everything was wonderful. Tech support took pictures but I still have to collect my share of them. 🙂 Your photos are terrific.

    1. Leavenworth is a lovely little town. Not only are the buildings and people a delight, but also it is tucked into the base of those mountains, next to a lovely river – it’s all just perfect.

      Yes Marlene, we do tend to work harder in our recreation than others do during their work day. It makes us part of a special and enviable tribe!

  6. O I wish I also could pack and go hiking. Beautiful photographs and wonderfully composed sentences that sings the melody of your experience. Thank you for leading us to you adventures Crystal. It is always a joy joining your kairos moments though reading your blog.

    1. It makes me happy to be able to bring you along, Prayson. In spirit if not in flesh. And you know, anytime in your life, if you find yourself in Oregon, you have a place to stay and a tour guide. (And I’m still planning our pastries and coffee in Denmark one day…)

    1. Forgive my very late response. I just noticed it today, ha ha. The white stuff is much more fun for me when I travel to it, then go back home to no snow. I have lived enough years with snow in my driveway to be satisfied to view it only on mountaintops now.

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