Silver Star Mountain
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There was no chance that the weather might cooperate today. It had been forecasted to be crummy and the Pacific Northwest delivered. It wasn't a driving rain, the sort that would make you close the curtains again and go back to bad, more of a drizzle that slowly but surely made everything outdoors under the heavens wet. We had come prepared for the damp and rain as long as it wasn't going to be a long outing. Three or four hours of being wet were far better than suffering through 12 or more hours. We decided on the Clark County highpoint, a liner called Sturgeon Fin which is really just the West Ridge of Sturgeon Rock, barely 4,000ft high. The hike is almost trivial, less than six miles roundtrip, but the effort would be in the drive to reach it. There were several options for reaching the highpoint that we could find on the Internet, but neither were easy and would require some attention to navigation. We settled on the approach from the north which would most easily allow us to tag nearby Silver Star Mountain in Skamania County.
With the help of a few websites for beta, Google maps and a GPS for navigation, we managed to find our way to the Silver Star TH at 2,900ft on the north side of the mountain. The road had been rough in places, accessible only to high clearance vehicles, of which Adam's 4Runner was thankfully a member. We had risen at 5a in our motel back on I-5, but it was nearly 7am by the end of our hour and a half drive, taking us mostly through rural backwoods before depositing us at the trailhead in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We found ourselves buried in a layer of cloud and drizzle that would come to define our hike today.
There is a nice kiosk map at the TH showing the various trails in the area. We didn't pay any attention to this initially and missed the single track trail that starts behind the kiosk to the right. Instead we headed up the old road that is now closed to vehicle traffic, both routes heading in the same direction - uphill to the south - and intersecting several times. It took just under an hour to hike the roads/trails to the summit of Silver Star Mtn about two miles distance. We found no views or register at the rocky summit still steeped in clouds. The highpoint appears to be the north summit though the south summit a minute away sported a beaten benchmark that had been rendered virtually unreadable by repeated abuse. We took more interest in the tiny flowers that we found at the summit and the lively lichen that covered much of the rocks.
After descending the summit to the trail junction, we continued south a short distance before turning west towards Sturgeon Rock on another old road. A use trail caught my attention and we followed it, thinking it might be a shorter route to the formation (it wasn't). It was a pleasant enough jaunt through the woods that avoided some of the less pleasant road, but eventually we found our way back to the road on the south side of Sturgeon Rock. There was no obvious turnoff from the road to climb up to the county highpoint, so we picked a location that offered a steep, but brush-free experience in the damp conditions. Once on the West Ridge (or the "Fin"), we wandered about in the vicinity of the CoHP waypoint indicated on our GPS, looking for a register or cairn or flagging that might mark the highpoint, but found nothing. We continued east along the ridge until we topped out on Sturgeon Rock a few minutes later. There is a steep drop off the north, east and south sides and the only exit without rappel appeared to be to return the way we came. Again, no views, no register, just more wetness for our trouble.
We found a better use trail leading off Sturgeon Rock and Fin than the one we'd used on ascending, leading us only a bit further west before returning to the old road. Using a combination of road and trail, we got back to the trailhead in under an hour. I paused to photograph some wild iris, columbine and other flowers that caught my attention along the way. The whole outing was just over two and half hours, less than the total driving time getting to and from the trailhead starting in Woodland. On our way back out through the countryside, we stopped to note the burning of the Amboy Middle School. It caught us as strange that it didn't create a spectacle - folks were going about their business as if nothing had happened. Only upon closer inspection did we see that a new middle school had already been built next door. The old one was being burned as a way to get rid of some of the materials they didn't want to haul off to a landfill.
We returned to I-5 and the town of Woodland. Following a buffet luncheon, we were in bed around 2p, in anticipation of waking at 10p to begin our Rainier effort. This was the big one we had planned the road trip around and the next day seemed to be the next good day weather-wise.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Silver Star Mountain - Sturgeon Fin - Sturgeon Rock
This page last updated: Wed Sep 5 09:36:45 2012
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