Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Beacon Rock State Park Offers Many Opportunities

With the middle elevations of Lewis County still covered with snow, it is back to plan “B”. The Columbia River Gorge is just 90 minutes away and there are so many opportunities that await.

On a recent, picture perfect day, my boys and I headed to Beacon Rock State Park 35 miles east of Vancouver. The best route from our area is I5 to I205 and then head east on Highway 14. We had two goals. One was to hike the rock, the volcanic dike that is the center piece of the 4,500 acre state park. Our second goal was to hike into a pair of waterfalls on the north side of Highway 14.

I planned nine hours to drive to the park, complete the two hikes and drive back home to Winlock. I was back in seven, and could have been home in five had it not been for our usual explorations this time around Cape Horn.

The trail up to the top of Beacon Rock is a fantastic piece of trail engineering. With 52 switchbacks and 22 bridges all bolted to the side of a vertical cliff. The ¾ mile-long trail was constructed between 1915-18 and cost an incredible $15,000 (1918 dollars of course) to build.

One web account that I had read stated that the top of Beacon Rock was “a good place for a picnic”. To that I say nix! There was room for maybe 20, standing, well balanced people. This is not a place to gather the quiet solace of nature! On any given summer day, there may be several hundred people on the trail at one time.

Upon finishing the hike to the top of the rock, we moved our vehicle across the road and found one of the last parking spaces at the Hamilton Mountain Trailhead. A ranger was actually directing traffic. A sure sign that we were in the backyard a couple of million people.

We hiked 1.4 miles up a pretty good slope to Rodney and Harvey Falls. The combination of drops was impressive, but my personal favorite was the upper Rodney Falls. For fans of natural carnival rides, you have got to stick your head into the “Pool of Winds”.

It may not be the “backcountry”, but there is no snow. That is about all many of us can hope for this spring!

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