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.
In late spring I hiked to the summit of Silver Star from Grouse Vista. The day began with the trail covered in low-lying clouds, limiting visibility to about 100 yards. The first three miles of the hike gained 1,700 feet on a very rocky trail with three steep pitches. And, Eureka!, the wildflowers were at their peak. The plumes of beargrass covered the hillsides with their bright white colors, joined by red paintbrush, rosy spirea, yellow pea, lavender wild iris and purple penstemon. At an intersection I turned southeast for a mile on a rough up-and-down trail ending on an open ridge with views toward the Columbia River. There were six or seven Indian pits located there. The pits are depressions built into the rocks up to five feet deep. It’s believed they were used by Indians for spiritual quests and originally built some 2,000 years ago.
From the pits it was a steep one-mile climb to the summit of Silver Star. And, finally the clouds had lifted providing spectacular views. The crown jewels of the mid-Cascades were sparkling in the sun. After one last look I hiked over to Sturgeon Rock, finding the Tarbell Trail after a steep descent. This Trail quickly descended into the Rock Creek Valley, passed a nice waterfall and eventually made its way back to the Trailhead. All in all, the hike was 9.7 miles in length with 2,700 feet of elevation gain. This hike makes my top 10 list.
On a personal note, we placed my father’s ashes on Silver Star’s summit fourteen 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.
Due to the variety of photography opportunities, I decided to split the photos in two. This is the first batch.