PORTLAND, OR – A crush of hikers typically visit Dog Mountain each May and June to experience one of the Pacific Northwest's greatest wildflower shows. This has led to traffic congestion and safety issues on WA State Hwy 14, presenting challenges for local communities.
This year, Friends of the Columbia Gorge (Friends) partnered with the U.S. Forest Service over a five-week period in May and June to provide nearly 150 volunteer hours of trail talk services to promote the Dog Mountain shuttle and provide advice for hikers at the trailhead. Trail Talk Ambassadors also served as an on-the-ground presence to help discourage car break-ins.
A popular hike due to its easy access in the Gorge and beautiful views, hiking at Dog Mountain has grown in recent years in part from increased attention on social media. To assist hikers this year, Friends volunteers were stationed at the trailhead each Saturday and Sunday for five weeks to help manage people coming in and out of the area. The Trail Talk Ambassadors helped hikers by providing information on the bus service; outlining hiking options for Dog Mountain and other nearby locations; and handing out courtesy maps.
"The views at Dog Mountain can be breathtaking, but the trails are very steep and hikers need to prepare properly to enjoy the experience," said Jim Chase, Friends former board member and hike leader. "Our Trail Talk Ambassadors discovered that more than half were hiking the trail for the first time and many were unprepared. Bringing the correct footwear, warm clothing, food, and water are essential for day hikers," Chase added.
"The Friends trail ambassadors proved to be very effective and allowed our staff to focus on providing public contact and maintenance at recreation sites in the Gorge," said Stan Hinatsu, recreation staff officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
The Friends Trail Talk Ambassador program this spring was designed to help alleviate some of the hiking traffic and congestion in the area during wildflower season. The Dog Mountain shuttle service from Stevenson runs from April 15 to June 18, during peak blooms. In its second year, ridership has grown significantly. Friends is currently exploring options to expand the Trail Talk Ambassador program to additional popular trailheads next summer.
Hikers planning to go to Dog Mountain this summer are advised to:
1. Familiarize yourself with the route by visiting the trail page: www.gorgefriends.org/dogmtn
2. Plan to ride the shuttle (during the shuttle season) and carry $2 cash per rider. Or come prepared with a NW Forest Pass or $5 cash to purchase a parking pass onsite.
3. Carry the 10 essentials in your backpack: www.gorgefriends.org/essentials
Additional information for hikers can be found at www.readysetgorge.com
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Friends of the Columbia Gorge is a nonprofit organization with 6,000 members dedicated to protecting and enhancing the outstanding resources and communities of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.