Sunday, December 1, 2013

Munra Point: Losing a climb, gaining a 14k frozen trail run

From last weekend:  The frozen, slippery trail that passes in front of Elowah Falls, Oregon 

Not Munra Point.  That was the name that my buddy Shaun and I gave to the 9 miles of Columbia River Gorge trail that we hurriedly covered last weekend.  In contrast to our intended climb, the newly crowned Not Munra Point trail was nothing more than a trail run.

My friends Carli and Jeremiah had both recommended a climb up to Munra Point on separate occasions.  Pity that I didn't seek out reliable directions to go along with those recommendations.  Our only source of info was from a climber who blogged about the short climb on his website.  No map, no estimated hiking times, and no reported distances between trail junctions.

The climber's blog had prepared us for an uneventful approach to our climb.  Uneventful is putting it lightly.  From the Wahclella Falls trailhead, Gorge Trail #400 runs parallel to I-84 with barely enough elevation variance to justify our hiking poles.  Admittedly, only here in the Northwest would anyone complain about an occasionally flat trail in the midst of all this accessible wilderness beauty.  We have it so good here!

The long approach to the Munra cutoff quickly became an exercise in impatience.  So tucking in our poles, we ran.

An iced-over section of Gorge Trail #400

A "Trail Not Maintained" sign along Gorge Trail #400 reportedly marked the turnoff to Munra Point.  We never came across that sign.  The next day, I would do more research and find out why: the sign is actually 30 feet uptrail, not at the junction with Trail #400.  We didn't see the sign because it's not even visible from the Not Munra Point trail!

We seriously considered scrambling directly up these rocks to reach one of the peaks.  Inconveniently, my inner tree-hugger nagged at my conscience instead.  That, and a sign below that I spotted from our newly elevated viewpoint.  The sign pinpointed our location but confirmed what we already knew-- we had overshot the Munra cutoff and were heading for the more family friendly hikes to the west.

Shaun conceded that our trip was "broken," but we both had way too much energy to just turn around.  We kept running.

Elowah Falls:

The bridge in front of Elowah Falls was completely frozen over. It was a short but treacherous skate across the slippery ice to the other side.

Next stop: Upper McCord Creek Falls.  I use the word stop loosely.

We continued up past the top of the falls and followed a deteriorating path along Upper McCord Creek.  The gnarly forest growth grew thicker, the trail petered out, and we eventually turned around to battle our way back to the main trail's end.  Rather than follow the trail back down to the previous junction with Trail #400, we made it a loop.  After all, backtracking is for chumps.

We ran (off and on) back to the Wahclella Falls trailhead, paralleling and occasionally overlapping the Not Munra Point trail.   On the drive home, we stopped at McMenamins Edgefield to thaw out, warm up, and celebrate the end of the hike.

Not that our low elevation escapades earned us the right to celebrate anything.  But we'll make up for that on our next hike, researching and double checking our sources.  No doubt we had followed that blogger's directions to get to the steep stuff last weekend, but we ended up with a trail that even Lena and Sheamus could've hiked (read: baby and dog friendly).

I guess that's what we get for trusting some random traveling/ hiking blogger.   Everybody knows one of those.


Garth Hamilton said...

One of my readers pointed out something else that Shaun and I could've done differently. Instead of hiking the short route on Gorge Trail #400 from the Wahclella Falls trailhead, we should have taken the longer approach from the John B Yeon trailhead.

This longer route to approach the unmarked junction would have been more scenic and much less boring. After all, who wants to hike (or trail run) parallel to the I-84 freeway for miles at a time?

murf duffy said...

Thank you Garth that i can see through your post - i love that you two are up Living Large - Happy Trails - PEACE and grace to you and yours and never never forget LOVE WON m

Garth Hamilton said...

Always happy trails, Maurine! Shaun didn't bring Sheamus this time because we didn't think he could make it up the steep parts. So much for that concern.