Silver Star Mountain is easily visible from much of the Portland and Vancouver area, and is located about 28 crow-flying miles northeast of home. For being so close to a large metropolitan area it doesn’t see a lot of use. It does have some unique features though. The Yacolt forest fire in the early 1900’s (Washington’s largest blaze in recorded history) was so hot it virtually cooked the soil down deep on Silver Star. The upper mountain is still mostly bare, providing an uncommon “alpine” area at 4,300 feet with views extending seemingly forever in all directions.
During Christmas week I hiked to the summit of Silver Star from Grouse Vista. The day was sunny with beautiful blue skies above 2,000 feet. Below that there was dense fog and low-lying clouds. Looking down from above, the sun shining off the clouds gave the illusion of a bright white sea extending for miles.
The first three miles of the hike gained 1,700 feet on a very rocky trail with three steep pitches. In shady areas snow remained on the trail. To my delight, a few pikas were out enjoying the sun in a large talus slope near the trail. At an intersection I turned south for the last one-half mile ascent to the top, stopping for a while on the lower summit. There was six inches of crusted dry snow on the ground with beautiful hoarfrost on bushes and the noble firs in the area. It provided a great spot to sit and enjoy the views. The crown jewels of the mid-Cascades were sparkling in the sun, as were the high points of the Columbia River Gorge. After a long stay I reluctantly put on the daypack and took my time returning to the trailhead, admiring the views on the way. All in all, the hike was seven miles in length with 2,000 feet of elevation gain.
On a personal note, we placed my father’s ashes on Silver Star’s summit twelve years ago. Sitting on the summit for several hours gave me an opportunity to honor his memory. He would have enjoyed the location. The views are open and far-reaching on a clear day. Deer are often nearby, as are black bears when the huckleberries ripen in the autumn. Less than one mile away are Indian pits used for religious ceremonies in the long past. I imagine at times the spirits of the Indians and my father sitting around an open campfire telling wild and wooly stories about hunting and other adventures. Even though I miss him, he is always nearby when I am in the wilderness.