After driving through dense fog, I parked at the recently relocated 3,500-foot Douglas Trailhead on the west side of the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. Thanks to some volunteers, a one-half mile connector trail has been cut that bypasses an old rock quarry.
As I began ascending to the the top of a ridge, the rain and fog limited my visibility to about 50 yards. To my delight, almost every step of the way rhododendrons and beargrass crowded the trail. Only a handful of beargrass were coming into bloom, but the rhodies were in full glory. Their pink, complex blossoms are one of the treats of hiking on the west side of the Cascade Mountains.
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 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 turned around and 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, recalling the first time we had hiked there some 21 years ago.
Soon, being well drenched, I returned to the trailhead. A very pleasant eight mile, 1,700-foot gain hike.