Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dog Mountain | The Hike. The Struggle. The Triumph.

 I'm glad there aren't lawyers ready and waiting 30 minutes prior to the summit of Dog Mountain advertising free divorces as you passed by. Because there was a 5-minute stretch where Jay and I may have served each other papers that instant. And we weren't even mad at each other but boy were we roaring and needing to be heard. For a good "era" (let's call it) as the cliffs got steeper and the trail effervesced into the clouds with no visible endpoint & 2,000 feet of pain & climbing below us: We each rocked our own unique form of a mini-tantrum.
But let's not start there. Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.
When you read you begin with A-B-C. When you hike Dog Mountain  you begin with "Are-You-****ing-Kidding-Me?". The first three words just happen to be: "Woe is me" ... because that ish gets steep and hilly real fast. 
^Just as we started these self-proclaimed "consummate dog lovers!" ladies were finishing. They filled Chandler up with water from their bottles at their insistence so he started off well-hydrated. It was so cute. 

After welcoming Jay's grand idea to head to the Columbia Gorge on this sunny Saturday (I mean "grand" seriously, I love going there! As seen here.), I felt a little overwhelmed just in the first few minutes of the hike. Because it starts out super, duper steep and immediately makes a novice hiker wonder if they have the goods to continue this for 2.6 very vertical miles.
But the views start early as well and they remain the reason for crunching your shoe into the salty earth over and over and over again. 
I'm a big fan of hiking. Really, I am. I think it's a great way to get exercise in a manner in which you can't during the week. I love the views. The fresh air. The photography opportunities. The fact that the winding trails allow for some wide-ranging conversation with your companion or a reflective inner dialogue. It's all good. It just had been awhile since I had done a trail that was also incredibly difficult while all this other goodness occurred.
The path kind of has three sections, or Mario levels as they seemed with the distinct atmosphere to each one: You begin with the lower, open area where you wind under trees and dig your heels into a reddish-brown warm dirt with an abundance of colorful wildlife surrounding you. 

Followed by a loooong stretch of forest where a canopy of slender trees work as the soundtrack (the wind can be heard whooooshing over their tops) and the lighting (manicured beams of light shoot through the openings, landing majestically on the earth throughout.). This is also the area where it gets really, really steep. Chandler & Jay were seemingly always about fifteen feet ahead of me and looking at my dog's bouncy little bottom rocketing up the trails made me feel inadequate in my outdoorsy skills (But dogs are the best thing on this earth so I shouldn't be too surprised they excel at this as well). I had to request little breaks here and enjoyed commiserating with fellow hikers as we passed.
 ^I didn't get too many pics in this section because the struggle was real.

But the gloriousness (if you can try to focus on the fact that you're not done yet at all but kinda, sorta, almost there) begins when you leave the forest and emerge to the open, top of the mountain with views in every direction and wild flowers dancing along the cliff side to the beat of the wind. It is exquisite.
However, about 20 min. after entering this world, Jay and I each had a little tantrum. One of us was so hungry we thought we might pass out. One of us has a fear of steep cliffs and huge, open spaces and was clinging to the side in a little bit of a panic. And it was there, that we both became whiny, semi-frantic beings who asked the sky how much longer this hike was, screamed at the other for the beef jerky and generally acted exactly like every Snickers' hangry commercial. This lasted about 5 minutes, but it was a poor showing indeed.

But, magic happened right after: We finally made it to the top. We collapsed against the earth, couldn't believe our views and tore into our bag for the much needed sustenance. Food and drink never tastes as good as it does at the summit of a hike.  Ever.
^Butts on the ground. Food in the mouth. We made it.
 ^My favorite summit shots.
^See Jay & Chandler bottom right. Summit views.

People always say "Northwest people are so nice!!" and I don't find that to be the case most of the time (Chicago people are the nicest IMHO). There's kind of an arrogance out here surrounding a lot of topics and I'm not constantly running into the OMG NICEST PEOPLE. But as with any other hard outdoor activity, you're all in it together. Fellow hikers at the top of the summit, with their backpacks deflated and gutted next to them, spilling out the sandwiches, drinks & snacks we all worked so hard to enjoy- there was a sense of community like I hadn't seen in awhile. Everyone was petting everyone's dogs, helping other groups take pictures & complaining about the hike up with our new found pride. It was delightful.
^Messing with my macro lens at the top.
And we quietly laughed about the meltdown, finished our meal, drank in the summit view one last time and then made our way back down the steep mountain: Igniting new pains in a whole other set of muscles but with a little pep in our step that we didn't have on the way up. It was fun and we felt like a million bucks when we got back down to the base

As a reward for our efforts, on the way home we stopped at Skamania Lodge and toasted to the challenging, amazing, splendid day. Jay sipped a local IPA. I sipped a Washington Pinot Gris. And Chandler scarfed down a few treats before collapsing with an audible sigh on the cushy green grass next to our chairs. All was well.
^My little old man who can sleep anywhere.
Dog Mountain: 0 Our stupid family: 1
^The hike is in Washington. In the image above we are standing in Washington, looking across the river at Oregon.
A great day.
If you want more technical information on this hike: Click here!


Pat Hatt said...

Hey, when you want that beef jerky, you want it lol Chandler didn't look like he had any complaints. What an awesome hike indeed, but no power ups like in mario, how rude.

Kristen @ See You In A Porridge said...

well you look happy in the photos ;) i have never really been hiking, i don't think i would do very well haha.

Panty Buns said...

Wow, that was some very impressive hiking! Chandler had quite a walk. Kudos to you and Jay for making a scenic trek like that while you're still young and fit enough to do it. I can imagine the two of you managing the arduous but rewarding trek up to Machu Picchu. It's great that you get out and do things like that while your still young and fit. Those views of the Columbia River Gorge from the summit of Dog Mountain in Washington are beautiful.

Kate at Green Fashionista said...

Absolutely gorgeous pics! Well worth the arguments for sure! And toasting to a fabulous day at the end is the perfect end cap :)

BLovedBoston said...

I love how you described them as mario levels!! :) Absolutely love what you guys did at the end - a very well deserved drink! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

Lauren Farrow said...

LOL! Ha, Ha, Ha, Mario Levels! Love it.
It was all a game...
I guess Chandler was the most well behaved of all.
Great story.

PorkStar said...

Awesome pictures!!! and since the Hindenburg imagery it's stuck to my head, I was picturing you huffing and puffing all the way up there... lol...
"One of us was so hungry" <--- lmao... let me take a wild guess who!! :P

Slamdunk said...

Hehe. I am glad that you both hung in there and were rewarded with the view, the feeling of accomplishment, and the relaxation afterward. Some hikes like that can sure be grinding and having the dog along is fun, but can be a challenge sometimes.

Enjoy your weekend Caitlin.

Kara said...

My God!! What a gorgeous hike!! Such different scenery from what we get here in AZ - we have desert, mountain, cactus, desert wildlife - it's beautiful, but so different from this. Loved this post!!

Rose @ Ramblin' Rose said...

This hike looks amazing. It helps that there's good views along the way!

mirmirzimzim said...

Love this! Amazing photos! I love the crouched down ones and the dandelion pic. When I come back lets take some photo hikes so I can learn your ways.