Larch Mountain

Gym Not Needed When You Have This:

Saturday after breakfast Michael and I headed out to the Gorge to do a hike. It was a gorgeous day, expected to be in the 90’s here in Portland. Not having a gym membership is most definitely easier here in the summer time. I do so much more outside: biking, running, hiking.

Hiking up Multnomah Falls was hardly ideal for a holiday weekend. But it was the closest route to get to Larch Mountain–a hike we’ve tried to do for years and never done. The great thing about hiking near Multnomah Falls is that all the hikes connect to each other. You can take your pick between them, they are all free, and all beautiful.

Multnomah Falls is the most popular. It’s the tourist trap. It’s always, always, always crowded. And it’s crowded with non-hikers. The reason for this? It’s right off the freeway, it’s majestic waterfall is a sight to see, and the trail is paved. No matter that it’s a straight up climb, intense and strenuous. Nope. It attracts all ages, shapes and sizes. I always see people hiking up it in inappropriate footwear (crocs, flip flops, sandals, SLIPPERS, HIGH HEELS!!) and they are immediately spotted as the non-hikers.

Our intention was to get to Multnomah Falls early in the morning before the crowds appeared but that didn’t happen. So we had to battle through the throngs of people who don’t know trail etiquette (or common sense), to get by them. The hike was much less annoying once got passed the bridge in front of the base of the Falls.

Multnomah Falls is a mile long, straight up. But most people don’t know that it continues on after that. Larch Mountain Trail connects to the top of Multnomah Falls and it’s a much more beautiful, scenic hike.

Larch Mountain connects to half a dozen other hikes that are equally as beautiful. If you don’t want to mess with the headache of Multnomah Falls traffic, you can also get to it from Wahkeena Falls. “The seven-mile loop begins (reading clockwise on the map) on LarchMountain Trail #441, turns onto Multnomah Spur Trail #446, then Oneonta Trail #424, and finally Multnomah Way Trail #444, which will take you back to your car at the end of Larch Mountain Road (or to the LarchMountain Picnic Area).”

We hiked up Multnomah Falls on Saturday without stopping. No stops for water breaks, nothing. It was the first time we really just blazed a trail to the top. Since it was so busy, neither of us has any intention of stopping to “enjoy the view.” We’ve seen the view a million times, we just wanted to get to our real hike: Larch Mountain. Multnomah Falls was just the warm-up. We made it to the top in 26 minutes.

Once we left the paved trail and throngs of people, the hike turned quiet and contemplative. There were hardly any people on the Larch trail. We passed a few other hikers but for the most part it was just us.

The terrain of the trail changed radically. It was dirt and big rocks instead of pavement. The hike was steep, too. It was a good little workout. There was no end in sight, just a winding trail along a beautiful creek with a bunch of waterfalls.

The trail steadily climbed upward. I was a tad worried about the trip back–going downhill on a strenuous hike…I was worried that my knees would not hold up like the last hike we’d gone on. I knew the longer we hiked, the more we had to go downhill. This was in the back of my mind for awhile.

We didn’t have a lot of time to hike. We had a wedding in the early evening to go to so we hiked for about an hour and then stopped for lunch. We ate our sandwiches next to a waterfall.

It was a nice little break. The temperature had gone down a bit out in the forest. I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich (on a sandwich thin) and then we decided to turn back down the trail.

During the hike we both noticed had oddly colored the sunlight was. The sun glowed a very creepy red and cast a red hue on the trees and ground as we walked. It was rather spooky. Later I found out that there was a forest fire near Hood River and the smoke was what made the sun glow red.

The trek back down the trail was just fine. My knees held up and did not cause any issues. I went slow, took my time and tried not to get sucked into the momentum of going down hill fast on a steep trail.

We got down the trail in no time. The hike was gorgeous and I’m glad we finally got to check out Larch Mountain. Someday when we have no time constraints I’d like to do it again and try to do the full 7 miles.

Hike Stats:
Time: 1:43
Calories Burned: 605

We had enough time to drive back to the city and get cleaned up before the wedding!

QUESTION: What’s your favorite NON-gym physical activity to do?



Independence Day Hike

Our plans for the 4th of July were pretty low-key. I met my friend Robyn at the gym to do a workout Monday morning. I did a quickie 15 minute warm up jog on the treadmill (my bruised butt hurt from Sunday’s fall!) and then Robyn and I focused on upper body weights and abs. It was a really good workout after a very active weekend.

Gym Stats:
Time: 1:18
Calories Burned: 506

After the workout Robyn and I went to Panera Bread for lunch. I like Panera because their calorie information is readily available and everything is pretty low in calories! I ordered a cup of the French Onion Soup (250 calories) and half a ham and swiss sandwich (290 calories).

It was delicious and filling. Then Michael and I decided to go for a hike. It was 82 degrees, sunny and gorgeous out. We drove out to The Gorge to do Wahkeena Falls.

The Gorge was incredibly crowded–which was to be expected on such a nice day and a holiday. Wahkeena Falls connects to Multnomah Falls. It’s a very strenuous, uphill hike. The first half mile of switchbacks are steep but paved. I think that lures non-hikers into a sense that they can do the hike easily. It’s not an easy hike at all.

Our goal was to hike Wahkeena Falls to Larch Mountain. I’ve always wanted to do Larch Mountain but have never made it. One way is to hike up Multnomah Falls and then it connects to Larch Mountain at the top. All the times I’ve tried to do that I always had to turn around once I got to the top. Either I was tired, or the person I was with couldn’t do more.

After the Falls the trail is no longer paved. It turns into a very rocky, dirt trail that is just as steep as Multnomah Falls.

I personally think Wahkeena Falls is nicer than Multnomah Falls. You can get a lot closer to the actual falls on this hike and it’s less crowded.

The other great thing about Wahkeena Falls Trail is that you’re hiking alongside a lot of waterfalls. There is always something pretty to look at for most of this hike.

Most of this hike is covered under trees and shade. It was about 10 degrees cooler than Portland but it felt really nice! 75 degrees is a good hiking temperature when you’re in the shade. I was wearing my new UnderArmor boy shorts underwear and it worked great! It wicked all the moisture and kept me cool. I also wore a wicking workout shirt. Another brilliant idea on my part. We stopped for protein bars and G2 half way up the steep hike.

The hike was quiet and lovely. But there were a few other people on the trail (it always baffles me how people can do such strenuous, rocky, steep hikes in flip flops!).

There were a lot of waterfalls along the creek. It was a nice hike up the mountain. Eventually the trail left the steep switchbacks and headed into the old growth forest.

The path was shaded and less rocky. The ground was softer too. The trail leveled out for about half a mile. Doesn’t Michael look great? He’s down 16 pounds from the Four Hour Body Diet! I am so proud of his hard work.

Then we got to an opening in the forest with a bunch of other paths and signs. I’ve done this hike once before by myself. The last time I continued on to Devil’s Rest Hike which is even steeper but it’s very desolate. Not many hikers were on the path that far out. The views are nice from the peak of Devil’s Rest. We planned on checking out either Larch Mountain or Devil’s Rest but it was getting late in the day so we decided to turn back after hiking 3 miles.

We stopped to rest for a few minutes. Then we had a decision to make: go back the way we came or take the Vista Point loop back to the Wahkeena Trail.

Vista Point Trail is how I went the last time I did the hike and it was an even steeper descent than the regular Wahkeena Trail. I opted to return the way we came.

The descent back down the trail was a HARD one! I know my quads will be screaming after that. It was a nice, cool hike down the trail. We were stopped a few times by different hikers asking how far it was to the top. Sadly, they weren’t happy when we told them there was no top and the trail never really ended! Some people chose to turn around, which is too bad because there are so many nice things to see further up the trail!

The hike was fantastic! The weather was perfect, our bodies held up (miraculous after biking 38 miles!) and I was glad we got to enjoy the nice weather on the holiday.

Hike Stats:
Time: 2:19
Calories Burned: 693
Distance: 6 miles

Dinner after the hike: grillin’ up bratwursts, zucchini, drinkin’ a beer and enjoying some ice cream. A great way to end a three day weekend if you ask me!

QUESTION: What’s the longest (or hardest) hike you’ve done?