Bald Mountain is located in the Mt. Hood National Forest and reached via a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. The drive to the trailhead alone offered amazing views, but the hike is definitely worth the effort. The trail is moderate due to an initial elevation gain of 1,000 ft. in the first 1.5 miles, but it isn’t too steep and levels out after that point. On the day we went it was pretty lightly trafficked, though it was early November and very cold. Since we were in the mountains (starting at 3,500 ft.), as we climbed the temperature dropped and trees became frost-covered. After the initial climb, you’re treated to a spectacular view of Mt. Hood rising out of the valley. The trail continues an additional 1.5 miles through pine forests before opening up to sweeping views of the valley and Mt. Hood. Go on a clear day to maximize the views and you won’t be disappointed.
Dog mountain is a 4-6 mile hike in the Columbia River Gorge on the Washington side of the river. It is a moderate to difficult trail and hikers have the option of a 4 mile lollipop loop or adding in an additional 2 miles out and back to the peak. The trail climbs steadily for the first half and there is an option of a difficult or more difficult route. The overall elevation gain is just shy of 3,000 feet for the full 6 miles and about 2,000 for the 4 mile loop. We did the 4 mile loop, taking the difficult route up and the more difficult route down. The more difficult route has fewer switchbacks and is quite a bit steeper. The day we went was snowy making the trail a bit slippery and pushing it into a more difficult trail for us; on a clear day we likely would have rated it moderate due to the climbing. The trail is rated moderately-trafficked, however since it was winter we didn’t see an overwhelming number of people. The spring and summer are likely a bit busier. On the way up, we had some great views of the gorge; it was shrouded in a moody winter mist. Overall it was a fun hike, and we’d love to go back to the top on a clear day.
Forest Park is right in the heart of Portland and contains a vast network of trails. It wasn’t our favorite place to go initially because many of the trails are overly crowded. We found that the further north you go, the less crowded it becomes, so we’ve been exploring more trails further in the park. It’s a great place to get out for a trail run or easy hike without having to drive too far.
Kings Mountain is located in the Tillamook Forest, 40 miles west of Portland. I ran my ultra in this forest but didn’t get to the summits, so we knew we wanted to get back and hike. The trail is not easy – it is all uphill gaining 2,500 feet in 2.25 miles until you reach Kings Summit. It’s moderately trafficked, and even on a rainy/snowy day we passed plenty of other hikers. Unfortunately there was no visibility at the top the day we hiked, but on a clear day you can supposedly see all the way to the ocean. We’re planning on going back in nicer weather to do the double Elk-Kings summit loop.
Dusting off this old blog for round two of Matt and Beth travel the country! We’re currently en route to Phoenix where we’ll spend April exploring the desert before the weather gets too hot. On the agenda: Sedona, Grand Canyon, and Flagstaff.
We’ve spent a little time in the city (mostly for work) so if you have any must-do activities/restaurants/coffee shops/etc. in the area send them our way!
We’ll do our best to keep updating throughout our time on the road. We love sharing our adventures so we’ll definitely be popping in periodically, though it may not be as regular as in 2016.
We’ve been back in Louisville for about a week, so it’s time to tie up the loose ends of our travels for 2016.
Austin Report Card
We’d heard great things about Austin, so when we were at a loss of what city to go to for the end of the year we thought: “When else would we ever live in Texas?” and went for it. Initially we were going to go right after Denver, but we swapped it for Minneapolis in order to avoid those Northern winters.
Austin is known for many things, most notably music, but their barbecue and Tex Mex rank highly as well. We were not disappointed with the food scene we encountered which ran the gamut from the standards (chili, barbecue, Mexican) to Indian, Chinese, and Greek. [Check out our post solely on beer and food for some of our favorites!] While we didn’t get to as many breweries as we have in previous cities, we visited a handful all with really solid brews – Jester King, Live Oak, and Hops and Grain to name a few. While those were all great, the real star of the beer scene for us was Craft Pride, a Texas-only beer bar on Rainey street with more options than we can name and a taste for every palate.
Austin gave us some amazing weather the short time we were there, and we loved living right on Lady Bird Lake (aka the Colorado River).Unfortunately Snickers didn’t like running in the grass very much because there were a lot of burrs that got stuck in her paws, but she loved splashing around in the lake after a run.While there weren’t a lot of parks around, a quick drive could get you into nature. We did like the couple of hikes we went on, but the terrain wasn’t variable enough and the trails weren’t accessible enough to get in a weekday run. We definitely missed the terrain of Oregon and Colorado and even our bi-weekly trail runs in Minneapolis. Austin is fairly walkable and we were able to easily access downtown, South Congress, and East Austin from our location, but you definitely need a car to really get around.
Would we go back? Absolutely! We would love to experience some of the music scene that we just didn’t get around to while we were there and it was just an all-around cool city. Would we live there? Maybe! We really liked the weather and the vibe, but we’ve heard the summers can be brutally hot and humid.
[We didn’t take a lot of photos the last few weeks here, so enjoy some of our favorites]
We took advantage of the good weather during our last weekend in Austin to get outside and do a little hiking. We went on a Saturday and practically had the place to ourselves; it might’ve been because the day was overcast and humid or because it was the weekend before Christmas, but we weren’t complaining. Also, we should note that while it was 78 degrees that day, the following day had a 50 degree swing and didn’t get above 38 so we’re experiencing drastic temperature changes along with the rest of the country.
McKinney Roughs is located about 20 miles east of downtown Austin and has miles of hiking and equestrian trails. The entrance fee is $5/person, but we lucked out going on a day where they weren’t able to access the system so we got in for free. We hiked the Pine Ridge Trail to the Cypress Trail; it wound its way through a pine forest and meandered along the Lower Colorado River. The terrain was very different than what we experienced in Hill Country at Pedernales Falls – much less rocky and more pine than scrub grass.
The trails weren’t very long, but we got in a good 4 miles and took some time to let Snickers play in the river. She’s come a long way in her relationship with water since we introduced her to the Pacific Ocean back in January! Our favorite part (and her least favorite) was when a herd of cows came down to drink across the river and she proceeded to growl and stare at them for a good 10 minutes.
All in all, it was a perfect way to get out of the city and spend a Saturday. And what Matt and Beth hike would be complete without a stop for some suds? We ended our day at Live Oak Brewing, which is located near the airport. They have a pretty solid rotation of traditional German style beers; we went with the Big Bark Amber, Liberation IPA, Schwarzbier (a black lager), and the Oaktoberfest. All were smooth and mild and perfect for drinking outside on a warm winter day.