In the summer, it is much easier to hike after work. There is so much daylight. My sister drove out to Troutdale and met me after summer camp. We were on the way to our hike before 4. We avoided the northbound I205 traffic by taking Airport Way and headed quickly east on Highway 14. We were hiking by 4:45, not bad considering.
Cape Horn is technically the gorge hike that is closest to the metro. It may seem surprising that we haven’t done it yet, but there are protected bird habitats along the trail and portions of it are closed much of the year. If I’m going to do a loop, it want to do the whole thing. That’s the entire point of a loop. Look up the closures BEFORE you go. It’s worth it. I promise.
In the Portland Hiker’s Field Guide, the description of this hike is extremely detailed. The author explains that he included so much description due to poor signage. That was not our experience. In fact, we have never seen a better signed trail. The trail is incredibly clear and easy as pie to follow. You can do the whole loop with no directions and you’ll be just fine. You head across the parking lot and follow the signs up. There are a few switchbacks. This is the “difficult” portion of the trail, but honestly, this is one of the easier trails we have ever hiked. Officially, it is somewhere between 6.8 and 7.5 (differing sources) long and 1630 feet in elevation change. I did not feel 1630 feet in gain. It was definitely disguised through gentle switchbacks and lots of alternating downhill.
There are amazing, amazing gorge views all along the trail. There are six separate viewpoints and they are all worth a look. There were a ton of berries in bloom and everything smelled like them. None of the berries were edible though. My sister told me specifically not to eat them. I figured they would taste like burning. It was another instance of her giving me advice that is not necessary though. I wonder what she thinks is going on in my mind.
At a little less than half way through the hike, you cross through a tunnel to the other side of Highway 14 and you head down, down, down, down, down. It scared me. I was worried about ending with some huge ascent. It was lovely though. I would NEVER recommend going the other way. It would be a “hell of a journey,” as my friend Jeremy would say. On this bottom portion, you cross amazing scree fields and huge boulders. There are a variety of bridges and waterfalls. It is truly lovely. You get close enough to the river that it almost seems like you could jump in. Only at a closer look do you realize you are still quite high above it.
After some gentle ascent and even more descent, you wind your way through to a road. Then you walk up a “gentle incline” to the trail head. My sister said it is not a gentle incline, but it really is compared to the trail down. For those who dislike road walking, it kind of sucks to walk 1.3 miles on a road to end a hike. It is a totally remote road with two houses on it and we didn’t see another living soul, but still. The only other criticism I have is the proximity to Highway 14. You never quite get far enough away from it that you don’t hear it. I dislike that. My sister explained to me that it wasn’t a highway but a roaring river or babbling brook. Then she started singing the imagination song from Wonder Showzen. I would link it, but I can’t find it. I would need some high powered liquid imagination to believe that, Jessie, and we don’t have any.
We have never hiked so late in the evening before. It was quite pleasant. The light was waning and the temperature was perfect. We saw a ton of super cutie-pants doggies too. Gotta love the doggies. We were very hungry by the end and eagerly awaiting the pizza we had vowed to get after the hike. We normally get pizza at Mississippi Pizza, because they have the gluten free goodness, but that is so far away. My phone died so my sister did a quick search and we headed toward Flying Pie. It did not disappoint. I was a wreck because my phone was dead and I was supposed to hang out with someone. That same someone totally ditched me that night and then dumped me the next morning, so I immensely regret rushing through dinner and fretting and not giving my sister my full attention. I suck. Lesson learned. There are some people in your life who are worth your time. Give it to them, dammit.
For information about the Cape Horn Loop click here.