Sunday, November 6, 2016

Munra Point - Columbia Gorge

Today Emily and I decided we needed to get out of the house and go explore with Leo.  I looked through my hiking guides for the area for a place we haven’t been close to Portland (getting fewer and fewer) and found Munra Point, a quick 2,100ft, 5mi scramble in the Gorge that we hadn’t been to yet.  The pointed summit would also prove to be a perfect place to practice flying my Mavic as well.  Read on.
We made it to the trailhead with Leo around noon.  There were lots of cars and it took us a moment to find a spot up the hill to park.  From there it was a flat couple miles along the Columbia Gorge Trail to the turn off for the scramble which is an unmarked and unmaintained trail to the top.  It was steep!  I think we gained the full 2,100ft of ascent in just about a mile and some of it was a little treacherous and slippery under our feet with the fall leaves on the ground.  In more than one location I had to give Leo a boost to get up various rocky sections.  

Just below the top we found ourselves beneath a very steep chute with trees growing out of it.  We watched as a couple people slowly made their way up it.  I gave it a go with Leo to see if I could encourage him up it but he was too nervous and old to pull himself up.  We had forgotten his leash and collar at home which meant that one of us would have to stay below and keep an eye on him while the other went to the top solo.  If we had left him below he would have been scared and perhaps risked injury to try to make it up to us.  

So, Emily headed up first to the top.  I wasn’t sure what it was like up there so I told her not to push her luck if she found herself on a narrow slope trying to get to the top.  I also told her take her time as we had made it up quick and had plenty of time in the day.  She was back down to us in about 15 minutes after exploring the top herself and assuring me that the summit wasn’t too dangerous.  Leo was happy to have her back down as well.

With Emily below watching Leo I bounded up the steep chute of rock to the summit ridge and quickly took the Mavic out to practice some of it’s flight capabilities like follow-me.  Unfortunately, it had a little trouble following me along the ridgeline and when I put it into a side tracking mode I hadn’t used before it started circling… uh oh… circling too low… Before I could do a thing, the drone had circled right into the side of the very steep summit ridge.  It didn’t hit hard, but it was enough to pin it on the side of the cliff for a second with props going… then it flipped and my heart stopped… one more flip and it would have had enough momentum to cartwheel down the cliff into the woods a thousand feet below…. but it halted… thankfully.  

I carefully walked over and retrieved it, adjusted the gimble and carried it to the top for a few more flights with the limited battery.  Once on top I took it off and circled the summit a few times the flew it up and down the various spines of rock leading to the summit where I was standing.  I looked like a tiny ant in the footage with the massive Columbia Gorge spreading out below me to the North.  Soon there were other hikers headed up to the top to join me and I didn’t want to bother them or hold them up with my flights so I quickly landed it and packed it up.  I need to find a way for me to get to beautiful places like this alone to film without bothering anyone.  Either super early in the morning or during the weekdays make be my only chance.

Once I was back down with Leo and Emily we headed down the steep path back towards the car.  The going was slippery and tough on the knees but it had been worth the trip.  Leo was actually doing really well too and didn’t look to be in too much pain descending.  He has the start of arthritis in his front legs so we are trying to take it easy on him going forward.  We were back at the car by 4:30 and headed home just as it began to get dark.  I’d love to come back to this place again once I become better at flying my Mavic and have more batteries for it!

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