After parking at the 3,600-foot Douglas Trailhead on the west side of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, a white Suburban parked behind me in the long-abandoned rock quarry. Two Sheriff deputies quickly got out of their vehicle. The first one cleared his coat and came up to my car window. The second one took a defensive posture behind my Merc. Needless to say, I was wondering what in the world was going on. But, the story had a happy ending. They were checking for people abandoning cars. After deciding I was going for a hike to Wildcat Mountain, they relaxed and began sharing stories about the area. The truth is I was grateful they were checking trailheads. It’s amazing how often cars are broken into while folks are hiking.
After the officers left, I began the hike by climbing to the top of a ridge. Almost every step of the way rhododendrons and beargrass crowded the Trail. After another three-quarters mile, a short path led to the top of 4,500-foot Wildcat Mountain, an old fire lookout site. I felt a little disappointed due to the visibility being limited to a few hundred yards due to low-lying rain clouds. After leaving the old lookout, I continued on the Douglas Trail another three-quarters mile to what usually is a spectacular rocky viewpoint. On a clear day Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Mt. Jefferson and the entire expanse of the Wilderness area would have been laid out on a 360° palette of beauty before me. As a consolation prize, the red, white, lavender, purple and scarlet wildflowers made for colorful rock gardens along the crest of the Eagle Creek Canyon.
I hiked to the north about two miles to a beargrass meadow with a bench. It’s a well-known spot with one of the best up-front views of Mt. Hood, if the cloud cover had lifted. But I enjoyed the area anyway, wading in some snow and revelling in the solitude. Soon, being well drenched, I returned to the trailhead. A very pleasant seven mile, 1,400-foot gain hike.