Ruckel Ridge Hike
May 22, 2011
Coordinator: Fritz Capell
Elevation Gain: 3700 feet
Round-trip Distance: 9.6 miles
Excursion Time: 8 hours (car-to-car)
Carpool ratio: 2.0 (people/cars)
This trip began life as the annual Saddle Mountain Double Dare for the climb students, but by the day before, I had only one signed up (Steven, 2011 climb school student), so we decided to do something a little more interesting. Well, why not the infamous Ruckel Ridge Loop!
Meanwhile we gained a couple more teammates - Michael, another climb school student, and his friend Kirsten, and we started at 9:30 from the Eagle Creek Trailhead. None of us had tackled Ruckel Ridge before, but we had instructions from the interwebs (see here).
We had a little trouble getting onto the trail. The directions had us get on Gorge Trail 400 for just a few hundred meters before taking a fork to the right; that was correct, but it didn't mention that we were going back to the campground, to the road, and essentially to a different trailhead at campsite #5. We muddled around a bit figuring that one out, but from there, we were all set.
Though the predictions were dire, the weather was pretty much perfect: 50's, overcast, and threatening to rain, but all that fell on us were a few refreshing sprinkles.
The trail is brutal, just going up and up and up, but the terrain is interesting and fun. Some trail, some minor rock scrambling, and one rather challenging catwalk - fortunately, with a trail that allows you to skip it if you're not into that. There are also a few vistas that offer sweeping views of the Columbia River and the Bonneville Dam. Watch out for poison oak - there is quite a bit of it on this trail.
Most of the trail was clear, but near the very top there were a few inches of snow. We reached the "summit" at about 2pm, but there really isn't anything there. Just some woods, in our case snowy and foggy, and some welcome level ground. Shortly after that, a river crossing, which we negotiated with the help of a couple of fallen trees.
Between patches of snow, we lost the trail, and ended up bushwacking for about 45 minutes. Fortunately, the trail was marked on my GPS, so we were able to fumble our way toward it. Though the terrain was pretty clear, it was still steep, and rough going. We were glad to finally find the trail again, and continue the steep descent, through magnificent sloped fields and mystically mossy trees.
The last part of the trail landed us on the multi-use trail (read: carless road) that was formerly part of the Gorge Highway, and then back to Gorge Trail 400 for the last mile or so to the trailhead. We reached the cars again at about 5:30pm.
We did it! That's one tough hike - just as difficult as most mountain climbs, and a lot more rugged and brutal than most gorge hikes.
Fritz (leader) says:
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