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After driving up The Dalles Mountain Ranch road for several miles, I finally broke out of the heavy fog. There was nothing but blue skies and sunshine in the Columbia Hills. The temperatures were in the lower 30s and for once there was no wind.
I parked at a gate and began the hike to Stacker Butte in the wide open spaces of the east end of the Columbia River Gorge.
After ascending a maintenance road for 2 1/2 miles, I reached the 3,300-foot summit of Stacker Butte where an FAA tracking site is located. The first time I saw the FAA equipment I thought it could be a UFO listening site.
The 360° views were spectacular, with the Columbia River stretching far to the east and rimrock canyons to the north. After a while the fog burned off the Columbia River, providing views down to The Dalles.
I hiked westerly on the ridge to a microwave site and enjoyed the sights. The crown jewels of the Cascades were sparkling with fresh white snow. Working clockwise from the south, there were spectacular views of Mts. Jefferson, Hood, St. Helens, Adams and Rainier. Goat Rocks (one of my favorite wilderness areas) was clearly visible to the east of Mt. Adams too.
Soon it was time to take a slow hike back to the car. I was looking forward to returning in the spring when the Columbia Hills will be covered in golden balsamroot and purple lupine. For now I am happy with the stark beauty of the oak-savannah habitat.
Lower microwave station before and after fog lifted (fellow hikers on left)
Views from western end of Stacker Butte