I hope my first hike of the year isn’t a sign of things to come in 2014…or maybe I do?
Beautiful yet grueling, Table Mountain from the Bonneville Dam Trailhead stretches your endurance along 15.8 miles of weaving paths and tests your resolve to make it to the top with 3350-feet elevation gain. With some of the most spectacular views of any trail I’ve hiked in the Gorge, the hike shows off the splendor of four Cascade peaks as well as the Bonneville Dam and Columbia River. But it is not an easy trek – like each new year.
It has its’ ups and downs and ups and downs again and when you are tired, it continues to climb up, up and up some more. The path is scattered with talus fields and stream crossings. Patches of clear-cut forests break up the serenity of trail and leave that lingering, heart-break of the impact of humans in this region that is as painful as that last breakup. Blisters are likely. Falls, fateful.
Yet the views fill the horizon and your soul with beauty. From the rolling, scourged cliffs in the Gorge to the frosted peaks of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood, the trip to the top makes you pause to catch your breath (for more one reason). Oregon’s blue sky sweeps away your internal blues. The strain of the climb expels the toxins of city-life making you lighter on your toes.
And while you’ll be conscious of the strain on your knees, the lines of pain won’t mark your face.
On this hike, peace propelled me forward. Without seeing another soul for six miles, I slowly became part of the setting, starting with the tread of my boots and working upward to every joint, every cell. The worries that grind through my brain constantly and the scars on my heart flew away like wisps of dandelions. Distraction overwhelmed. And my goals for the new year became singular and finite like the knife-edge of Table Mountain because all that mattered in that moment was making it to the top.
So set a goal, hike the trail and let’s make it a great 2014!
Table Mountain Hike from Bonneville Dam
Getting there: From Portland, head east on I-84 to Cascade Locks. Cross the Bridge of the Gods ($1 toll each way) and then take a left onto Highway 14. The trailhead will be on your right hand side just across from the Bonneville Dam in about two miles.
Trail notes: Make sure to pack plenty of water and food for this hike and check weather conditions as the top of the mountain is steep and exposed to the elements (plus you want a sunny day for the views!). For the lower section of the hike you’ll be following the PCT. Look for the trail markers along the way as there are many service roads that bisect the trail. The steep climb begins at the DNR signs at Heartbreak Ridge and West Table Mountain Trail. For detailed hiking instructions, print off the trail log from Portland Hiker. Not ready for 16 miles? Try the shorter versions of this hike that start from the Aldrich Butte Trailhead or the Bonneville Hot Springs.
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