May 142012
 

Last I left off on yesterday’s post, I’d done a quickie workout of weights at the gym before my boyfriend and I were going to drive out to the Gorge. Had I known how my day was GOING to pan out, I would have skipped the gym…

Michael and I started our sunny Saturday with a wine tasting in Hood River. I had a Groupon for a tasting for two that included a meat and cheese plate at one of our favorite wineries in the gorge. It was a lovely drive out the Gorge and every hiking spot we passed was full. It seemed that everyone in Portland had the same idea as us. We arrived at Cathedral Ridge Winery and it was hopping.

Our tasting was good but felt rushed. It was busy and noisy and rather difficult to enjoy the tasting but the wine was good and we ended up leaving with a bottle. We tried the Halbtrocken (tasted like candy and strawberries), the Necessity Red (supposed to taste like a Jolly Rancher but it wasn’t overly sweet), Bordheaux Red (dirty, strong and bold), the Cabernet Sauvignon (tasted like berries) and the Syrah (tasted like leather, pepper and black licorice).

We sat outside in the sun for a bit before heading over to one more winery to do a tasting. This time we went to Marchesi Vineyards. It was one we had never been to before and I really liked it a lot. The place was quiet and inviting and while it was crowded, it was bigger so people weren’t feeling cramped in like sheep.

The staff at Marchesi was super friendly and fun too. They gave us a complimentary meat and cheese plate as well. They even cut the salami right in front of us with a huge meat slicer.

Marchesi was a different kind of winery, using Italian varietals that reminded the owner of his home in Italy.

Michael and I both loved the first two wines we tried at Marchesi. I ended up buying a bottle of the Pinot Grigio because I loved it so much. The Pinot Grigio was a crisp, cool white that tasted like peaches and honey. The other wine we both loved was the Dolcetto–a fruity red wine. I also liked that Marchesi was much more generous with their pours than Cathedral Ridge.

After chilling out for a bit, we headed back to Cascade Locks to go on the hike we planned on doing. It was Dry Creek Falls Hike (trailhead directions here). It was supposed to be a moderate hike with a beautiful waterfall as the payoff. I wrote down the directions for the hike and thought we were good.

It was a hot day and we brought four water bottles with us (probably not enough). The trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail. It started at the Bridge of the Gods and wound through old growth forest on soft, easy to walk on trail.

The trail ended and we were supposed to take a dirt road up a hill and then pick up the trail on an old road following the powerlines.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a distance associated with the old road following the powerlines. The instructions said the trail would be easy to find but somehow we missed it. We were walking up and down, up and down those super steep roads following the powerlines, eventually finding ourselves way off the trail.

The hills were steep and I knew I’d feel that hike in my calves the next day (which I did! And still feeling! Ouch!). We were so far from the trail that we felt discouraged. Three out of the four water bottles had been drunk and we were the only ones out there on the hills that seemed to go on forever. Michael was teasing me that it was too early to switch into “survival mode” when I mentioned that I was glad I had my water purifying tablets in my backpack just incase. I was just so thirsty and my mouth was parched, which made it hard to swallow.

When we found ourselves on a dirt road that looked like a giant pickup truck had driven through there, with empty Milwaukee’s Best cans scattered in the weeds and I was humming the banjo music from Deliverance, I decided we were giving up on the hike and going back. Where the hell had we missed the trail?

It was hot but the sun was starting to cool a bit and it wasn’t as hot and sweaty as we made our way back to the main trail. We kept our eyes open for this elusive trail and *maybe* found it? Not sure, we decided to head back to the car.

We most definitely went at least a mile or two out of our way on the trail and never did see the beautiful waterfalls. If you want to see what this hike SHOULD have looked like, check out this guy’s hike report. Oh well, next time perhaps. I had no intention of doing such a long, strenuous hike–especially since I’d done a workout that morning. In my mind, I thought we would do a leisurely hour long hike and call it good. Boy did we make the whole thing harder than it had to be!

Hike Stats:
Time: 2:06
Calories Burned: 867 (but 1379 total burned for the day) 
Mileage: God Only Knows!

We drove back to Portland and looked for somewhere to eat dinner. We we both exhausted, sweaty and ready to eat all of the food in the world. Since everyone in Portland seemed to be out, all the restaurants we tried to go to were packed full. We ended up settling on the Bridgeport Alehouse on SE Hawthorne. It wasn’t as crowded and we got a seat outside immediately!

Michael and I enjoyed a Hop Czar Imperial IPA with a lovely frothy topping as the sun began to set over Hawthorne. A nice, cool breeze picked up and made the evening much more comfortable.

Michael ordered the burger. He said it wasn’t that good. He ordered it medium and it came well-done (which is often how it comes in restaurants, unfortunately) and the spicy mustard it was supposed to come with wasn’t on it.

I ordered the pulled pork sandwich. I was craving a sandwich but nothing on the menu appealed to me for some reason. I guess I was just in that “I’m too hungry to make a decision” zone. I’ll be honest: the pulled pork sandwich was WEIRD. Instead of BBQ sauce it came with a sweet, tangy Asian sauce and slaw on top. The flavors were really, really bizarre. But I’ll admit, I started to warm up to it’s strangeness as I continued to eat.

I’m disappointed that our hike was a bust and we didn’t get to see the waterfalls. I’d do the hike again with more detailed instructions, but maybe not for awhile. I’m a little bitter right now. :) All in all, it was a fantastic day with intense fitness, good wine and a fulfilling dinner. Here’s to summer! Cheers!

QUESTION: What is your worst hiking experience?

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Apr 252012
 

I hate this hike.

I really do.  I hike Eagle Creek about once a year and then I remember just how much I hate that hike and vow to never do it again. The reason is not what you’re thinking.

Yet somehow I always forget how terrifying Eagle Creek is, and do it again. And mid-hike I become a terrified, quivering mess of anxiety. The reason I hate this hike? I am afraid of heights and this lovely like Gorge Gem happens to have sheer cliffs and drop offs, narrow and terrifying paths edged into the side of the cliffs and expansive views of the valley and river below. I’ll explain in a moment.

Our Sunday plans were busy ones. I got up early to go for a swim to soothe my aching hamstrings from weight lifting, and then we went to Michael’s mom’s house for brunch. I ate a lot, preparing for our afternoon hike. (One serving of a crab quiche, potatoes, fresh fruit, toast and just a few deviled eggs. There might have been a mojito or two in there too…)

It was unusually hot (nearly 80) and sunny and Michael and I drove out after brunch to The Gorge to hike Eagle Creek (directions here). We arrived at the peak of the heat of the day and the parking lots were full of eager hikers ready to get rid of their winter funk.

We packed a bunch of water and I slathered on sunscreen. There’s a 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot to the trailhead. You walk along the creek, which was fast moving this time of year, and then the trail starts to climb the side of the mountain.

The trail isn’t steep, it’s pretty gradual as you climb. For the first few miles you’re out in the open, full sunlight, then eventually you get some old growth shade.

There are a few waterfalls that you walk underneath and it’s very refreshing on a hot day.

I think around the first mile it gets scary. You’ve climbed up a ways and there’s the first very, very narrow trail that clings to the edge of the mountain. There’s even a steel cable bolted into the rock to hold onto. There is NO railing. Just a sheer drop off to the racing water and rocks below.

Do you see the steel cable on the left in the above photo? And the very narrow trail? Yeah. This is the first one like this. And it’s not the last. And my heart is pounding with fear and anxiety right about now.

The trail climbs higher and higher until all you see on the other side is a vast open space and the tops of the trees. This is the part where I get vertigo and feel like dying. Fun, right?

I didn’t get pictures of the truly terrifying part because I was trying not to die and I certainly wasn’t looking at the drop offs! My internal monologue is “I hate this, I hate this, I’m never doing this hike again.”

There’s parts of the trail like that I think 3 times? Higher and higher, scarier and scarier. Then the path winds through the trees and it’s quite enjoyable. We got to the above waterfall and turned around. And then you get to enjoy the scary parts all over again!

The butterflies LOVE Eagle Creek for some reason. Every time I’ve been I’ve seen dozens of them fluttering around. This time it was tiny purple butterflies. I couldn’t get a photo, unfortunately. There were a bunch of beautiful wildflowers too, but most of the super colorful ones were growing on the side of the cliff–not exactly where I want to take pictures.

We finally got down to a manageable height and my fear subsided. It was a hot, hot day and we were both dripping in sweat. The day was growing a little dimmer.

Not bad, huh? I burned over 1,000 calories on Sunday. Michael thinks we hiked 5-6 miles total, I think it was more like 4-5 miles. When we got home and cleaned up, we plopped our butts outside on the deck to enjoy the last little bits of the sunny day.

Dinner was bratwursts grilled outside, salad, and some pickled carrots to munch on.

I enjoyed one beer as we listened to the neighborhood kids playing in the sunshine. I also read some of my book (I started reading The Game of Thrones). It was such a nice day and a lovely end to a weekend. Dessert:

Now, the breakdown of the hike:

Good for Kids: Iffy. I saw a lot of kids on the trail but…those cliffs are pretty treacherous. Probably better for older kids.
Good for Dogs: Probably ok. Leash recommended because there are a lot of dogs there.
Cost: Pass required, or you can pay at the trailhead.
Activity Level: Medium in activity level. It’s not super strenuous and the elevation is gradual.
Scenery: Spectacular.
Verdict: Good first hike of the season because it’s not too difficult, but if you’re afraid of heights in any way I’d skip it. It’s also super crowded. Get there early.

QUESTION: Are you afraid of heights? Do you hike much? 

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