Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Silver Star Mountain
If you are looking to the northeast from most locations in Portland, Oregon, your view of one of the spectacular volcanoes of the Northwest, 12,276 foot Mt Adams, is blocked by some tall hills, or low mountains, just outside of Vancouver, Washington. The tallest peak in that hump is called Silver Star Mountain, so named because it has 5 ridges that radiate from the summit.
The neat thing about Silver Star is that it and it's ridges are mostly bald of trees, and the views are worth every pain and ache it takes to reach it. Which is not much pain and ache actually, if you aren't afraid of a few gravel roads, 2 or 3 miles of hiking and a couple thousand feet in elevation.
Let me tell you, though, that all that is more than worth it. Silver Star is the tallest peak for miles around, which means that your range of views is 360, and on a good day you can see every volcano from Mt. Rainier to Mt. Jefferson, as well as Portland and Vancouver laid out before you to the southwest and the Columbia River entering the magnificent gorge through the Cascades.
Before you think I'm overstating this with flowery words, you need to get up there and see for yourself. There are a couple of ways of getting there. State forest road 1200 runs from just north of Washougal, Washington, towards the valley's around Yacolt. You can approach it from either direction. There is also a US Forest road entry from the north on road 41. You can get decent directions either here or here. It takes about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes to get there from Portland.
Silver Star Mountain is too low to be as bald as it is, at only 4300 feet. Almost all other peaks in this region are forested well beyond that elevation. During 1902, the largest recorded forest fire in Washington's history, the Yacolt burn, which was a series of burns that repeatedly scorched over 250,000 acres of forestland. There have been many landslides in the intervening years due to the geology of the unprotected slopes, and the forest has had a difficult time reclaiming the mountain.
We came in from Washougal on the 1200 for our hike. The roads are windy, so you need to follow the directions pretty closely. It's a fairly beat up mainline, but have no fear of missing the trailhead. There's a good wide area to park, and a big sign with a map of the area. You can't miss it. The trail from here is just over 3 miles, and boy is it straight up. There are two sections where you're nose is pretty close to the ground, you might say, so be prepared for the uphill trudge. Amazingly, all the great views are when you're not going up, there are several flat spots to rest your legs with wide open ridges with great views. But the best views are at the top, of course.
You're walking on very old roads, which I imagine haven't been used in decades. We were trying to imagine what vehicles attempted to use those steep roads, but grateful that they've been reclaimed by feet.
The last time we were up there I was horrified to realize I had forgotten the camera, so the picture preceding this post, alas, was pilfered from another site. (Much appreciation to Gresham High School). There are some other good pictures on the other sites I linked to above, and this one too.