Hiking Angel’s Rest with my kids

Last weekend, which was the final weekend that my two youngest kids (10 and 11) were in town, we hiked Angel’s Rest. I hiked this trail back in May. It was still pretty cold then—I was in leggings, long sleeves, and gloves that day—and not much was in bloom yet. Still, it was gorgeous. I was unprepared for how gorgeous it’d be once everything was in bloom. So many wildflowers. So much green. Such lush. Much wow.

Photo of my 10-year-old son and I atop a large rock at a bend in the trail. I'm sitting, with my knees bent and one arm resting on a knee. My head is angled slightly to the side and I'm smiling widely. My son is standing next to me, shirtless, smiling, and dancing. One arm is extended in front of him and the other is bent, which his hand close to his body. His hips are pushed out to one side. Above us, the sky is blue with wispy white clouds. Behind us, dark green fir trees in the distance. Directly around us lining the dirt trail, bright green bushes and white wildflowers in full bloom.
Photo of my 10-year-old son and I atop a large rock at a bend in the trail. We're both standing and facing the camera. My son is shirtless and flexing, his mouth wide open in a yell/scream. I'm standing behind him and looking down at him, smiling. Above us, the sky is blue with wispy white clouds. Behind us, dark green fir trees and a river in the distance. Directly around us lining the dirt trail, bright green bushes and white wildflowers in full bloom.

The day we hiked this trail was the final day of a long stretch of way too many days above 90 degrees (historically unusual for Portland and the surrounding area, and quickly becoming the new normal, brought to you by climate change). We started early early—we woke up at 5:15 am, were on the road before 6:00 am, and at the trailhead before 6:30 am—to beat both the heat and potential trail traffic. It worked. On both fronts. We encountered very, very few people (just a few at the top), and no shit-ass weather. Praise be to our lord and savior, Jesus H. Styles Christ.

Photo of bright green overgrowth lining the narrow dirt trail, which is ascending at a mild grade. My son is in the distance, running up the trail.

My older kiddo didn’t enjoy the hike (which surprised me, tbh), and mostly avoided being in photos. My youngest kiddo had a blast—he monologued at length for hours afterward that it was one of his most favorite days of his life and he wished he could live it again (MY WHOLE HEART!!!)—and was happy to be in photos (and gave me permission to share the ones he’s in that I’ve shared here).

Overhead view of a small patch of bright yellow wildflowers lining the trail.
Photo of wildflowers, bushes, and trees lining the trail. In the background, the Columbia River.

The kids brought a disposable camera with them to Oregon, to document their summer stay out west. My youngest had fun using it on the trail, and I had fun witnessing his childhood curiosity and joy. I’m excited to get the photos back—once I figure out where we can have them developed. Do places still develop film??? Does one hour photo service still exist? (Remember how much of a thrill it was to get your photos back from the neighborhood Walgreens or Rite-Aid (or wherever)?)

Photo of my son sitting atop talus at the false summit. Behind him, dark green fir trees lining hills and mountains in the distance. He has a disposable camera up to his eye, as he frames a shot of the trees in the distance.
Photo of my son standing at the edge of the trail, disposable camera up to his eye as he frames a shot of the river in the distance. Directly in front of him are patches of tall wildflowers and forest foliage.

When I hiked this trail back in May, I didn’t think the view was much different between the false summit (at the talus) and the actual summit (a few minutes past the talus). This time, I felt like there was a bit of a difference. Kind of. I still think the views beyond the talus and beyond the actual summit are pretty similar. The immediate surrounding areas at each location look (and feel) a bit different now that everything’s in bloom.

View from the false summit in May:

Photo of me from my Angel's Rest hike in May. I'm standing on talus (large rocks that you must traverse as part of the trail) at the false summit, facing the camera and smiling. Behind me: the Columbia River, and tree-lined mountains. The sky is clear and blue.

And from the same spot this time (late July):

Photo of my son and I posing for the camera atop talus at the false summit. In the background, the Columbia River, with dark green fir trees lining both sides. Immediately surrounding us and the scree, in-bloom wildflowers and bright green foliage. My son and I are standing and facing the camera and smiling.

So, like. Not a huge difference yonder. Definitely a difference in the immediate surrounding area. The fuller foliage and blooming wildflowers for sure make it feel and look so much more lush and lively. Honestly, the vibes at both the false summit and the actual summit were immaculate. Both are great spots to picnic or read or draw/sketch or journal/write or watch the sun rise or set.

Photo of dense and bright green foliage lining either side of the dirt trail. In the distance, through the foliage, large rock formations are visible.

Once we reached it, the kids and I explored the actual summit, which I apparently didn’t do last time. I actually didn’t know last time that there was more to explore last time? I guess maybe there wasn’t much to explore without all the growth to wade through? Back in May it was all just kind of…bleh at the top. This time, it was a small adventure to weave through the very narrow and overgrown trail. So many small pops of color all over the place!

Photo of a patch of wildflowers and forest foliage lining the trail. Pops of white, orange, and yellow among the bright green leaves.
Photo of tall bushes and short trees lining the trail at the summit of Angel's Rest. There are small purple and pink berries growing on some of the flora. In the background, the Columbia River.

I spy with my little eye a tiny and shirtless child through the greenery.

Photo of lush, dense green overgrowth nearly blocks my son from view. He's standing several meters away on the trail, his upper body barely visible through the thick foliage.

We found this bench, which the kids tried to carve their names into. We didn’t know this bench was there (I didn’t see it last time), and had no bench-carving implements on us. Sad! The kids tried using rocks, which didn’t work. They had fun with it anyway.

Photo of my kids attempting to carve their names into a wooden bench at the top of Angel's Rest using rocks they found nearby.

I’m so happy that one of my kids still wants to take photos with me, and I’m grateful that my other kiddo is willing to take photos of us. I know they won’t always want to do either. I appreciate that they were each willing to do one of those things on this day.

My son and I pose at the summit of Angel's Rest. We're both squatting low to the ground, each with one knee bent. The Columbia River is behind us, lined by dark green trees. Immediately behind us, white wildflowers and green foliage.

On our way back after wandering around the summit, my youngest ran ahead and climbed up these rocks. I stayed behind atop a different pile o’ rocks and took a bunch of photos of him. This one, with him flexing and making a face, is my favorite.

Photo of my son standing atop large rock formations in the distance. He's shirtless and posing, flexing. Around and behind him are other large rock formations, bright green bushes and shrubs, and dark green fir trees. The early morning sun is high in the sky behind him, casting a golden light.

Our most exciting finds on this day: A bird egg, which I want to say is a robin’s egg but won’t definitively declare because I’m not a bird scientist or even knowledgable about birds and their eggs in the slightest, and which was already cracked/hatched when we encountered it. And a rabbit, which hopped away before I could get a photo. Also: several small chipmunks, all too fast to be photo-ed.

Close-up photo of a small eggshell. It's turquoise, and already cracked open. My son is holding it for the camera on one of his fingers.

A few personal wins for me on this hike. One: My knees felt great. This time last year my knees were so fucked, I couldn’t even go up and down stairs. Two: I could actually feel my posterior chain working during this hike. Huge accomplishment for me to move properly and be able to sense it. Three: My pelvic floor held like a goddamn champ. My youngest and I ran for several hundred meters a few different times on our way back to the trailhead, and not a single drop of pee leaked out of me. A true Christmas miracle.

Photo showing the Columbia River in the background, lined by dark trees on either side. In the foreground, green foliage and scree. Golden morning sunlight is falling on the talus. My son is facing away from the camera, hiking down the talus with his shirt draped over his shoulder.

I’m really glad that my kids and I were able to get this hike in. It was SO FUCKING HOT for most of their month with me. So hot that it wasn’t enjoyable (or safe) to be outside most of the time, which was a big giant bummer for a whole bunch of reasons. I’m hoping to have them out earlier next summer, before the weather ruins the experience of being outside. Fingers crossed that the climate disaster we’re living through doesn’t start accelerating faster than it has in recent years.

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