Craig Romano's Day Hiking Columbia River Gorge book posits that you can get Dog Mountain-esque views for less of a workout by visiting Grassy Knoll. I would counter that Grassy Knoll is steeper and more challenging than Dog Mountain (but I haven't done Dog Mountain in a while, so my memory may be misleading me). At any rate, the trail to Grassy Knoll is steep! (the flowers here are good, but you've gotta want to get to them).
Of course, that's because it's to a former fire lookout site, and trails to those summits never mess around. Which was unfortunate for me this day, as you'll see in a minute.
I kicked off my Saturday with this hike, after a long drive from Big Cedars County Campground (frankly, not worth the $20 overnight fee, as all the sinks in the bathroom were either leaking or completely broken, and there was no indication of potable water). I drove up NF-68, which is smooth-except-for-the-potholes. Seriously -- the road is pretty good, except for the potholes. When they're there, they're big. I returned from the trailhead following the directions in the Columbia River Gorge book, and it's far better -- definitely the recommended approach. tl;dr, don't use Google's directions.
Anyway, Grassy Knoll was a heck of a warm up hike, and I'm really glad I did it early -- it would be hot as heck on an afternoon. I loved the daffodils at the summit, and the views were excellent. It was also really nice to spend some time on a trail without hearing shooting!
Now, back to why it was unfortunate that this trail was so steep...
Shortly after I returned to the trailhead, a couple with two dogs arrived in a Jeep. They headed up the trail after chatting with me for a bit, and I got in my car just a few minutes after they'd disappeared into the woods. It was about 10 minutes from when they'd headed up when I backed my car up, looked over and...oh no. Their dome light was on! Since it had been a few minutes since they'd left, I figured it was truly on, not just something that their car would automatically turn off.
I parked my car and jumped out, figuring I could probably catch them -- it'd only been a few minutes since they'd left. Yeah right. As soon as I got into the woods, I had to slow to a fast walk. I stopped several times, shouting into the woods to get their attention (which, incidentally, feels really stupid when you're the one shouting at potentially no one). I chased them up the trail for maybe three-quarters of a mile before I decided I wouldn't be able to catch them and turned around.
When I got back to the trailhead, the dome light was off. I really, really hope it's because it was just a super long delay and the car automatically turned it off, and not because the battery died. I can't believe it would die that quickly. Anyway, here's hoping they got back OK -- I saw a lot of cars coming up to the trailhead on my way down (which was a little dicey in a couple of spots -- FR 6808 is not exactly passing-friendly). But maybe they got a jump if they needed it from another hiker!