Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ruckel Ridge-Ruckle Creek Loop

The Ruckel Ridge route up to Benson Plateau was one of the more interesting and fun trail runs I've been on in the Columbia River Gorge. The trail is a consistently narrow, moss covered, basalt ridgeline in the middle of the forest. It climbs 3700' over 4 miles, before leveling out on Benson Plateau. It was my first time tackling the exposed, precipitous route. The trail was primitive but easy to follow. Most of it, while technical and steep, was still runnable; the other 10 percent or so was a scramble. There were a couple really nice hanging meadows lower down which afforded some nice views of the Eagle Creek drainage. These meadows were completely covered in wildflowers when I went up.

Due to the weather and the fact that I was underdressed, it wasn't the most comfortable run I've done. I was soaked and shivering most of the time. Temperatures were in the low 50's down low and low 40's up top. The snow level hovered around 4000'. Wind, showers and hail prevailed, save for occasional sunbreak. During these short sunbreaks Eagle Creek Canyon would come alive in swirling streams of sunlit mist. The last 1000' up to Benson Plateau was steep and unrelenting. The trail was white with hail and the forest was thick and very dark. Once on top I lost the trail under a foot or so of winter snowpack. I went cross country for a quarter mile or so to Ruckel Creek and then up the other side. The snow wasn't as deep here and I could easily see Ruckel Creek Trail. It was a cold and very wet run back down. Here are a couple quick snaps from the climb up.

Eagle Creek Canyon as seen from Ruckel Ridge, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm, F7.1, 1/200sec, 42mm, ISO 200

A fir along the rugged slopes of Ruckel Ridge is momentarily backlit against the shaded western slope of Eagle Creek Canyon, Columbia River Gorge, Oregon. Olympus E-PM1, Olympus M.14-42mm, F5.6, 1/160sec, 42mm, ISO 200

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