Looking back on how much we ramped up our hiking in 2013, Robin and I decided to kick off 2014 right with a 14 mile loop leaving from the Angel’s Rest Trailhead, taking Foxglove Way up to Devil’s Rest then looping back around on Trail 415. Apparently we were not the only people with this thought judging from the overflowing parking lot and the parade of families streaming towards the trail. The crowds didn’t thin out until Angel’s Rest proper, where we bypassed the main viewpoint after counting several dozen people. Instead, we angled up the rock fin leading into the woods above.
Scooting past the viewpoint, I couldn’t help but think of when we did that same hike just 9 months prior, which was one of our first hikes together. Our legs had been jelly by the time we reached the top and we were quite sore the following day. Today, though, we powered up past the lookout feeling strong and just getting warmed up. It was a nice sense of accomplishment to realize that even though we have eons to go, we made huge progress in our first year. I tend to get a bit down on myself for not being the fastest or strongest person on the trail (yet!), but today was different.
At the top of our climb up Foxglove Trail was the mossy perch called Devil’s Rest, a columnar cluster of rocks shrouded in moss. Two people were already having lunch there, so we continued down the other side of the hill until we found the official overlook on a rock jutting out of the forest. It featured an incredible panoramic view of the Columbia River with views of the South Washington Cascades including Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens, and the Silver Star range. There was a tiny Douglas Fir tree growing out on the exposed rock and someone had decorated it with wooden ornaments painted with animal folk art, a sweet unexpected Easter Egg in the middle of nowhere.
As we circled around on Trail 415, the sun started sinking lower in the sky and our shadows stretched like taffy. We made it back out of the forest to the Angel’s Rest junction just in time to watch the sun set. The sky was clear and painted in vivid slashes of tangerine, copper, and navy blue. To the west we could see a dense mass of low clouds socking in Portland far below, and we were a bit smug realizing that we saw a sunset the rest of the city was denied. Soon the pinnacle of the light show had faded and we switched on our headlamps for the descent back to the car.
Despite the trail turning pitch black in a matter of minutes, we unexpectedly ran into a couple about halfway down, neither of whom were dressed to be outside at night in January. The woman was perhaps 7-8 months pregnant; neither appeared to have lights or supplies. They kept to themselves when we greeted them but they continued on their way without a word. Further down the trail I was startled again when a man’s voice said “Hello” from the side of the trail; it turns out the guy got stranded without light and his buddy had gone ahead to the car to get flashlights. We offered to light his way back down, but he opted to stay put. Rounding out the variations on a theme of weird shit on the trail after dark was the party of people hunting up and down the final stretch of trail via cell phone glow for a sack of dog crap they’d left behind on their way up.
It all made for a somewhat surreal end to an otherwise lovely day marking a new year of hiking. We ended strong, though, and feeling stoked for a year of fresh adventures!
Total miles: 14
Trailhead information route directions can be found here on Portland Hikers.