By Marea Bartram
Hardy Ridge Loop
Updated: Mar 30, 2019
Trip Date: 01/28/19
Trail Head: Hardy Ridge Equestrian Trailhead
Elevation Gain: 2200 Feet
Trip Time: 3.5 Hours
Our Rating: 2-Working up an appetite
Calories Burned: 1100-1300
HARDY RIDGE ABOVE THE COLUMBIA RIVER
Some people get to hike all year round. The weather certainly cooperated with us all through December and January with mild, sunny days. But Kirk is a mailman who walks eight miles a day and works five to six days a week for ten to twelve hours or more from about Thanksgiving through New Year’s, so we must take a couple months off.
We were excited to get back out there. The forecast predicted 50° and sunny. To get to the trailhead, we took I-84 on the Oregon side to Cascade Locks. Just after Multnomah Falls the wind picked up, whipping down the Gorge, tugging at our car. We stopped to use the restroom just before the Bridge of the Gods (they were closed), and when we stepped out of the car the piercing wind stabbed through me. I wondered how I could stand it. I really hate the cold.
Hardy Ridge is on the Washington side of the Columbia River just north of Beacon Rock. It’s a short loop with about 2200 feet of elevation gain. The hike starts on a gently climbing roadbed, which is now used primarily as an equestrian trail, although we didn’t see any signs of horses.
After gearing up with hat and gloves and setting off, we began to warm up a little and the wind, increasing in strength as we rose, didn’t hurt as much. Instead, it creeped me out and I think it was upsetting Misha too. He didn’t pull with his usual eagerness. He kept trotting back to my side for reassurance. The wind roared in the canopy above us and I kept thinking dismemberment or death by falling tree branch. I even wanted to turn back, but fortunately, Kirk didn’t let me.
The roadbed and surrounding flora, the white barked alders, the bare salmonberry bushes, the sword fern and firs, all of these grow in Oregon, but somehow it looks and feels different on the Washington side of the Columbia. It reminded me of “back home” where I grew up near Shelton, Washington. I felt that any minute my grandpa would drive up in his white 1971 Ford pickup and ask me if I wanted to go with him to get firewood.
Soon the road hooked up with a trail marked by a sign which read “foot traffic only”. We did the loop clockwise, which is steeper gain.
We switchbacked our way up until we broke out of the trees and stood on the top in the full force of the wind. From our perch we could see the river and the cliffs on the other side with Mount Hood’s snowy prominence beyond.
WINDY HARDY RIDGE
HARDY RIDGE ABOVE THE COLUMBIA RIVER
We turned north and continued to climb to explore the top of the spiny ridge which extends to the summit with expansive views towards Table Mountain and Mt. Adams. We walked just a short way along the trail with cliffs on one side, but the wind was so strong that we felt unsafe, as if the gusts would literally push us over the edge. Misha and I continued a little farther looking for a photo op, but as we called back to Kirk from about forty or fifty feet away, he could barely hear us over the wind. Instead of exploring, we crouched under a bush and ate sandwiches and chips.
After lunch we made a quick descent down the East Hardy Ridge Trail to the equestrian road and back to the car. I have seen pictures that were in the summer taken along the top of the ridge. I think this is an easy hike with only a bit of challenge. It is a great leg stretch and we do want to return in June or July when the winds are less savage, and wildflowers are blooming.
“Deep down, at the molecular heart of life, the trees and we are essentially identical.”