One of my favorite trails to visit in the spring is Dog Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge. Situated on the north side of the river, its flanks are fully exposed to the south and all the sunshine. In the spring, the hillsides explode with the most brilliant yellows of arrowleaf balsomroot.
This was the first summit I hiked on my own many years ago. The trail climbs, steeply at times, 2800 feet above the river below. But I hardly noticed the elevation as I was so distracted by the flowers. I knew that the trail was famous for its balsomroot blooms, but I didn’t know that it was also home to seemingly hundreds of other flower species. I was just starting to learn my PNW flowers so I stopped to take photos of all of them to identify later. Most were new to me at the time.
Near the summit is an old lookout site. The lookout was built in the 1930’s to watch for fires across the river. As airplanes took to the skies in search of fires, lookouts all over the west became obsolete, including this one, which was removed in 1967.
It is said that the mountain got its name from a writer who described the steep and rough mountain as “that dogged mountain” or “that doggone mountain” and recommended sturdy boots for the ascent. There is also a legend that says some men got stranded on the mountain and had to resort to eating their dogs. I’m hoping this theory is not true.
No matter the hardships endured to get to the top of this mountain, its hard not to have a smile on your face and hum “The Sound of Music” along with the infinite number of bees feasting away.
But, with all the springtime beauty comes crowds. This trail, with its close proximity to Portland and Vancouver, is one of the most heavily trafficked in the Gorge. Parking is nearly impossible, so be sure to arrive very early or go on a weekday.
Be prepared to share the trail with others and make the best of it. Some of my favorite hikes are crowded ones where I get to see the happy faces of other hikers enjoying the same beautiful space.
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