As I left the summit of Big Huckleberry Mountain and reentered the forest, a loud and close-by Bull Elk bugled. The short hairs on my neck raised and I was instantly in hunting mode. Nothing captures the beauty and wildness of the Pacific Northwest more than the bugling of a bull elk.
But, let me return to the beginning. On the first weekend of fall I drove to Triangle Pass and then north to the Grassy Knoll Trailhead, about seven miles north of the Columbia River Gorge. It was a shirtsleeve day with sunny skies – – – about as nice a day that could be found above 3,000 feet in early autumn. The only downside was plenty of smoke to the south due to wildfires east and south of Hood River.
The first 1 1/2 miles climbed rather steeply through a forest with a few examples of large, old-growth Douglas firs. The Trail then reached the rim of a cliff with views across the Big Lava Bed (20 square miles of relatively level basalt rock covered with trees.) If the smoke hadn’t obscured the views, Mt. Adams and the jagged old volcanic peaks of the Indian Heaven Wilderness would have dominated the horizon. From there it was a short climb to the top of Grassy Knoll, an open, tundra-like ridge crest with views extending across the Columbia River Gorge to Mt. Hood and beyond.
After a short rest I continued hiking up and down the ridge for another three miles to the Pacific Crest Trail, mostly through forest. Within a few feet of reaching the PCT, the steep one-quarter mile trail to the top of 4,200-foot Big Huckleberry Mountain was found. A few minutes later I was at the summit, enjoying 360° views obscured somewhat by smoke. I spent a short while at the top before beginning the return hike. After entering the timber on the ridge crest, I heard the elk bugle mentioned above.
This trek was a great example of a fine hike during the autumn; it was warm, not much wind, colorful autumn leaves, lots of interesting sights to see and a good workout. All in all the hike was 11 miles in distance with 3,000 feet of elevation gain.