Category Archives: Pacific Northwest

My Dog is Complicated

My dog Brook, @AussieBrook, and I just returned from a perfect backpacking overnighter to Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain. The weather was perfect thanks to a temperature inversion that kept the Portland area under a blanket of fog. This was important because I really needed to give Brook a positive backpacking experience since our early summer outings had soured her on the whole backpacking thing. You see, Brook, an Australian Shepard, is complicated. She is a typical Aussie in that she wants to herd, protect and keep me aware of everything.

She is 4 years old and has been backpacking with me for 3 seasons. The problem relates to how Brook will totally sacrifice her own comfort to ensure that I am protected. This translates to her only sleeping outside and typically finding a strategic vantage point from which to keep watch through the night.

WetBrook

Hiking out in a snow/rain storm 6/19

Frankly, I would rather she slept in the tent to help keep me warm, but I do appreciate her concern. However, as I mentioned, Brook is complicated. I have never had a dog that I needed to negotiate with. This year those negotiations centered around her deciding that she did not want to backpack with me. This objection relates first to the fact that she hates to ride in a car, I think this relates to her not having control of her environment. However, the real objection arose from our early season treks where she was the victim of some really bad weather. The photo above is from an overnighter to Ramona Falls in early June to investigate the Sandy River crossing in preparation for an upcoming Timberline Trail Trek with friends.

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Morning at Eden

On that Timberline Trek Brook showed her disinterest in the overall trip but cooperated just fine until the weather deteriorated. After we got hit with a snow storm, Brook disappeared by positioning herself back up the trail letting us know that she was done. In this negotiation with her we agreed to end the trek. Back home when I was preparing to go on my Lofoten Norway adventure it was obvious that Brook wanted nothing to do with it. This was OK at the time because Brook was not invited to Norway or the later Colorado Trail treks, so essentially Brook got her wish and had the summer off from backpacking. Since returning home I have been looking for an opportunity to take Brook on a positive outing. I even purchased her a new winter jacket to help get her through those cold nights.

Well our recent overnighter to TDH mountain was all that I had asked for and better. From my perspective the view from TDH of Mt Hood and the many other mountains to the north is a backpackers treat. BrookJacketClear skies is a must but getting comfortable temperatures in November was more then I could have hoped for. We made it to our campsite around 4 pm and setup camp in preparation for darkness to hit early. As the sun went down it got really cold, probably got to 38 but the breeze was out of the west and it felt good. Brook ended up laying next to the tent close enough to be laying next to my legs. Again, I would have loved to have had her in the tent, but at least she was staying close. The first time I got up I could tell the temperature was rising, it felt great and I could tell that Brook was also happy with it. She hung out next to the tent until about 1 am which was a real positive. Overall she seemed very happy at sunrise and showed her appreciation with many kisses.BrookKiss

The morning was spectacular with an awesome view of Mt Hood. Brook had a wonderful time terrorizing the local squirrel population as I enjoyed a leisurely morning taking in the view.HoodGood

I think Brook may be mellowing a bit in her objections to backpacking, but I will make sure that our next outing, probably next Spring will be a pleasant one for her.

HoodWide

However, I leave this trek with a concern. I do not think I have ever seen so little snow cover on Mt Hood.

These views of the south side of the mountain are from 110519 and 110818. The problem is not a lack of snowfall but more rapid melt-off due to higher temperatures.

Timberline TR Attempt June 2019

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It was a great effort to complete Timberline Trail loop for the 3rd year in a row, but Snow and Weather dictated a different outcome. Scheduling this year required that I attempt the Timberline Trail on June 17th. Yes, a bit early but I knew there would be rewards of clear skies and few people. TimberlineTr2019PP - 2However, I did not think the snow depth on the Northeast side would create such a problem. Combine that with a snow storm emerged from the gorge when we would have been crossing the high point and we had to adjust to a Top Spur extraction. Overall it was an Epic Adventure because I have never seen the views so clear and brilliant, rhododendrons blooming and nobody on the trail.

This is my annual trek to evaluate how old my body feels and I am very pleased with the results. My main concern for completing the loop was the severity of the river crossing, but they were totally acceptable.

I can’t believe I didn’t worry more about the snow pack on the north side. It wasn’t that you could hike over the snow, it was how it created severe inclines over what was the trail and then it engulfed the trail. We made it to the Wy’East area clockwise from Timberline Lodge before we determined that we had to abort. Of course we had already met 3 backpackers who had turned around. I do think we could have made it if it wasn’t for the weather. All week the forecast just kept getting worse with the prediction of snow. And the forecast turned out to be more than accurate which made for a tough night at Eden Park and the hike out to Top Spur.

Knowing that the best weather was at the beginning I decided to do my traditional clockwise route from the lodge and boy am I glad we did. Paradise Park was amazingly beauty and it looked like we may have been one of the first to spend the night up there.

We almost got a great sunset but the sun hitting Hood at the different intensities is just as good. Unfortunately we did have fairly high winds at our Split Rock campsite and then we got a couple of hours of rain starting at sun up.

The weather cleared to give us a perfect hike down to the Sandy with the most amazingly clear views of the Sandy River headwaters up to Mt Hood.

The river crossing was challenging but we did not have to get very wet.

Of course Ramona Falls was gloriousTimberlineTr2019Post - 3 and the hike up to Top Spur junction was hard since we took the lower Muddy Fork route where one from our party exiting to the Ramona Falls TH. As I mentioned the flowers we exceptional.

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The second night we camped at Bald Mountain with a perfect night for sleep. Climbing up toward McNeil we were treated to a beautiful view of Hood, but fog and clouds were forming.

This is when the snow pack got higher than I expected. Not a real problem until about Eden Park where it became more treacherous and difficult to find the trail.

The rest of the way over to Wy’East only got more difficult, but it was still beautiful because the storm was forming to the north and Hood was backed by blue skies. Wy’East was the decision point because you have cell reception there and we had to coordinate for someone to extract us. We decided on Top Spur for the following day hoping that maybe we could get to McNeil Point.

But no, the weather started to deteriorate and we were happy to camp at Eden Park. The snow started to fall at 2 am and it was a cold wet mess for the rest of the trip out.

Ramona Falls Loop from Top Spur TH

I have passed by Ramona Falls many times since it is on the PCT and it is an easy day hike from the Ramona Falls Trailhead. But this trip was from the Top Spur Trailhead which offers a great loop option with Trail #600 the high route and the PCT #2000 low route. My motivation for this trip was primarily to checkout the Muddy Fork and Sandy river crossings in preparation for an upcoming Timberline Trail Trek. From this snippet of reconnaissance I do feel that the Timberline Trail should be fine.  I also was OK with probably being able to enjoy Ramona Falls all by myself which did happen. Unfortunately I took a chance on the weather for this Thursday-Friday trek which called for scattered showers and possibility of snow on Friday. Well the showers started out scattered but ended up continuous, and yes on the hike out it did snow. Not fun but it is all part of the deal for a backpacker.

The hike over to Ramona Falls was rather nice even though Mt Hood was mostly hidden in a cloud.

The view from Bald Mountain was unique as usual and crossing the Muddy Fork was a bit of a challenge. I found a safe rock jump about 30 yards up from the normal trail crossing.

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Overall this Trail 600 over to Ramona Falls is a great trail. The Trillium and many other flowers are coming out and the Rhododendron’s are starting to bloom as you near the falls.

And of course Ramona Falls was bursting with flow and beauty.

I camped over by the abandoned ranger cabin which provides a nice view of the Sandy Canyon.

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I did hike over to the Sandy and determined that it is crossable, however, it may entail wading across by a couple of logs that will help to stabilize you.

Overall this portion of the Sandy looked fairly normal and ready for Timberline Trail crossings. The trip was going great until the showers started to show up. So I basically was forced to stay in the tent after about 7:00 pm. And it rained most of the night and turned into a steady rain by morning. Bummer for Brook who does not like to sleep in the tent, so she got soaked and did not complain a bit even though she must have been freezing. But in her strange Aussie way she probably cherished the opportunity to protect her master. If I was her, I would have slept near one of the large trees that were offering cover, but she slept next to the tent.

Breaking camp in the rain is messy, but it is what it is. You pack everything up which is mostly wet making your pack a lot heavier than it should be. Then hiking out is just as messy, you are wet and cold but in a weird way I kind of like it. I reflect back on my Lost Coast Trek and realize how much worse it could be. The snow falling on the hike out was a bit ridiculous.

Cape Lookout

I have hiked the Cape Lookout Trail many times so I suppose it is time to actually do a trip report.

Cape Lookout Trailhead

I was in Neskowin and had a free day to hike and I am so glad I opted for a return to one of my favorite hikes, Cape Lookout. You may notice the Cougar warning at the trailhead. Yes Cougars have become a problem along the Oregon coast but I would not be overly concerned about a cougar encounter on this trail. However, this does tend to spook tourists not familiar with Oregon hiking.

 

Here is the trip report as I recorded it with Natural Atlas.

 

This is a very popular coastal hike that epitomizes the beautiful Oregon Coast. The sign says this is a 4.7 round trip but it is really a 5.2 mile out and back with enough vertical to make the hike back a bit challenging. The other trail issue can be a muddy root slippery trail that will get your pretty shoes dirty and requires attention not to slip and fall.

One of your first great views South of Sand Beach and Cape Kiwanda

Otherwise the trail condition is as good as it gets on the coast. A beautiful thoroughfare with breath taking views up and down the Oregon Coast.

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Early on in the hike if you as you are walking along the south side you may spot a plaque on the north side of the trail that serves as a memorial to the crew of a WWII plane that crashed into the side of Cape Lookout.

The trail does have a few spots that will challenge those afraid of heights and you definitely want to keep you dogs on a leash so they don’t chase a chipmunk over a cliff. I completed this hike on May 30, 2019 but I below are a few photos from previous hikes to show what you might see.

After the hike the Pelican Pub is a great way to finish the day.

BayOcean Spit

I finally backpacked the Bayocean Spit that is known as “the town that fell into the sea“. After researching the history of Bayocean I was amazed that I camped in solitude on ground that once hosted a significant resort community in the early 1900s.BeachGrassBayocean is a small stretch of land that forms one wall of Tillamook Bay which I have neglected for many years as a backpacking option. The Bayocean trailhead offers a large parking lot which mostly accommodates day hikers. What I found was one of the most beautiful coastal backpacking option available on the Central Coast. TrailSign

The name defines the the route either on the bay side or the ocean side. I started out on the ocean side mostly by accident but had no issues with the ease on walking on the wet sand. As CampsiteMapI checked the map I realized that trails were coming off the bayside trail and I was not sure if these trails connected to the ocean or ended up on the various hilltops. However, I did find that the trails connected and were very well marked. I decided to hike to the furthest trail cutover and look for a good campsite. Hiking in the bayside tide was low but beautiful. LowBayWhat I found at my destination was an awesome sand dune beach with many great campsite options. This was ridiculously nice. The weather was perfect and I was the only person here on a little slice of land surrounded by many coastal communities.

TentBrookI setup camp and Brook and I settled in for a beautiful evening waiting for a possible sunset. Brook had plenty of fun chasing sticks and digging in the sand.BrookDune

This video captures some of the experience showing Cape Mears in the distance.

Sunset was not going to be great due to the distant offshore cloud bank, but it was still pretty amazing.Campsite

Temperature got down to 45 making for a great night for sleep. Brook slept out in the grass and looked wet and sandy in the morning. FreshWaterWe took our time hiking out. I checked out the other trails knowing that I will definitely backpack this spit again. I even found some fresh water which would probably only be available in Spring or Fall. Each time I ventured back out to the beach I had to snap more beach photos.

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The tide was up on my hike out which made for beautiful bay side photos.

Scotch Broom dominates the fauna of the start of the spit but it probably provides good soil stability and it is rather attractive.BirdOnScotchBroom

The overall loop is 7 plus miles long and for not having much vertical I still got a really good workout.

Great PNW Multi-day Backpacking Loops

I have been putting together an annual multi-day backpacking loop trek for my friends for the last 8 years. The goal was to find a 4 or 5 day trek of moderate difficulty based on a loop to simplify travel logistics.NAInteractive Map The first trek was through the Sisters Wilderness in 2011 and during each trek we would ask other backpackers what they thought was another great loop option. This advice truly led us to discover and confirm the finest multi-day backpacking loop treks in the Pacific Northwest. Since I have answered this question for other backpackers through the years I decided to create post to highlight these loop treks. The order presented is based on the order in which I discovered these treks. Please feel free to share your similar favorite loops.

 

Three Sisters Wilderness

Husband Peak coming down Separation Creek

Husband Peak coming down Separation Creek

There is a 50 mile loop that encircles the 3 Sister Peaks, however, I selected an approximate 35 mile route that starts from the Lava Lake Trailhead and cuts through between the Middle and South Sister peaks. This was my first multi-day trek for which I named the post “No Pain No Gain“, reflective of efforts and rewards of backpacking. The route adhered to the 4 to 5 day goal while adding the challenge of being up close to the Sisters. I would recommend the clockwise route with attention paid to water availability on the first day. Camp Lake through to the Chambers Lakes typically presents the challenge of climbing through snow but you need to experience the view from up there. You have to time this trek to allow for the snow crossing while also taking in a maximum floral display without too many bugs. The east section which is the PCT takes you through lush forests into lava fields. Passing through the restricted Obsidian area is not a problem, however, you want to time your climb over Opie Dilldock pass during the cool part of the day. The Mattieu Lakes near the start and finish offer good rest options. You could also consider doing this loop from the Pole Creek Trailhead.

Eagle Cap Wilderness

Glacier Lake

Glacier Lake Below Eagle Cap

The Eagle Cap Wilderness was enticing, however, piecing together a loop was not as obvious. I settled on using the Two Pan Trailhead to enter via the Minam Lake Trail and returning via the East Fork Lostine Trail while taking in all of the options provided by the Lakes Basin area. This loop requires crossing the 8548′ Carper pass to settle around Mirror or Moccasin Lakes. Here you have the option of expanding the loop up and over Glacier pass through Horseshoe Lake to Douglas Lake. Or you could just base from the basin area and do a few day hikes to fill your trek. Either way you must experience Glacier Lake. The lakes here are deep and can provide some good fishing. You come out completing the loop via the East Fork Lostine Trail with a shrinking awesome view of Eagle Cap.

Goat Rocks Wilderness

Valley below Goat Lake

Valley below Goat Lake

Goat Rocks should end up on everyones list, however, with that popularity come the weekend crowds. The loop option is fairly defined with a starting point at the Berry Patch or Snowgrass Flats Trailheads. It could be treated as a 2 day loop, which is why you include spur hikes north & south on the PCT. Whether you go up Snowgrass or Goat Ridge Trails you will be doing the bulk of the climb and you typically will deal with the worst of the mosquitos and black flies. I like the Snowgrass Trail to the Bypass Trail over to the PCT. Once on the PCT portion of Goat Rocks you have access to Cispus Pass south or Old Snowy north which is worthy of a few nights. Then head over to the Lilly Basin Trail which takes you to the Goat Lake area. The lake is generally iced over, however, the campsite options around there provide an awesome view of the valley and Mt Adams. You may want to hike up to Hawkeye Point and you should be treated to herds of mountain goats above Goat Lake. Your hike out via the Goat Ridge Trail is essentially downhill.

Spider Gap Buck Creek Loop

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Spider Gap Snow Field

The Glacier Peak Wilderness provides a classic 36 mile backpacking loop that takes you up a glacier to Spider Gap past the Lyman Lakes then over Cloudy and Suiattle Pass by Fortress Mountain and over to Buck Creek Pass and Liberty Cap. This trek is probably the most true loop and it may be the most challenging especially getting up to Spider Gap. You start at the Phelps Creek Trailhead and head up the Phelps Creek Trail as far as you can in preparation for the climb up the Spider Gap Glacier. Camping near the Lyman Lakes sets you up for the next climb to Cloudy Pass and then around to Suiattle Pass where you get your first glimpse of Glacier Peak. If time and energy allow you should consider including a visit to Image Lake along Miners Ridge. As you work your way around to Buck Creek Pass, Glacier Peak is positioned prominently to the west. Find a campsite with a view of Glacier and take a hike over to Liberty Cap. The final hike out is relatively easy from there.

Timberline Trail Around Mt Hood

Brook & I in front of Hood

Mt Hood

This is a great loop trail around Mt. Hood with views many other mountains. I have decided to do this loop every year because it is so perfect and it provides me with a gauge for my overall health.  TT 2017  TT 2018 The TT is approximately 40 miles with a number of potentially challenging stream crossings. The elevation low point is near Ramona Falls at about 3300′ with a high point on the east side at 7350′. There are many choices for a starting point with the most common being at Timberline Lodge. Counterclockwise is the more common route from the lodge on the PCT which takes you by the Zig Zag Canyon where you should consider detouring up to Paradise Park for an evening. Crossing the Sandy river may be the most challenging before you take in Ramona Falls. The PCT offers you a couple of options, I like the one up toward Yocum Ridge over to Bald Mountain before you head up the Timberline Trail toward McNeil Point. On the north side you cross through some old burns but the beauty is everywhere. Once past the Cloud Cap TH you climb to above tree-line typically crossing many snow fields. Copper Spur is a side trip option and then you work your way down to Gnarl Ridge. All of this area is arid and treeless. Cross Newton creek, pass some waterfalls and head through Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area. The final push is to cross the White River and then climb back up to Timberline Lodge. This final climb can be challenging due to the sandy trail and exposure.

I hope these backpacking loops help you find that perfect trek. I will also throw in another option which is partially a loop, The Wild Rouge Loop diverges from the primary Rouge River Trail up to Hanging Rock.

Neahkahnie Mountain

img_3756I have lived near the coast of Oregon for 14 years and have never visited the Neahkahnie Mountain which is a part of the Oswald West State Park. img_3755I took the hike from the North with the trailhead starting at a parking lot pullout on Highway 101 just North of Manzanita. The trail begins on the east side of the highway and is pretty much an uphill trail. The first section of open meadow of switchbacks offers great views of the coastal cliffs at Cape Falcon. Overall the trail is of moderate difficulty, however, you are constantly navigating slippery roots.

img_3754Once you leave the initial meadow you enter into the a beautiful coastal forest.

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Once into the forest you enjoy a magical rainforest.

Once you approach the Neahkahnie View area it can be confusing about which path actually leads to the top. The easiest route actually wraps around the back side where you still need to climb a fairly steep rock face. Once at the top the view South is fabulous.

Henline Mountain with Snow

Beginning of Hike

Beginning

Retirement means you can go on a hike when conditions are optimum, which is what I did today Dec. 3 going up Henline Mountain Trail #3352. For some reason we have many days of sunshine beginning here in Oregon so I decided to touch winter by way of Henline Mountain. I really did not expect there to be much snow but I found a good fresh covering.

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No Snow

The route is about a 5 mile round trip  with a 2220′ vertical. Not an easy hike, you are basically climbing at a fairly steep grade all the way and then coming back down does a toll on your knees.

But this hike was a great workout which should help get me ready for skiing. On this day there was no snow at the start however, soon you could tell that there was plenty of snow up on the trees. Some of this snow was coming down as I ascended, but more was coming down as I descended the mountain. I noticed a great overlook site about a mile up which I figured I might use for a break on the way down.

At about this point the snow pack on the trail was becoming real and then the final mile the snow did make the hike a bit more challenging. Brook loved it though.

The sky was blue and the contrast with the trees and snow was stunning. There were a set of foot prints from the previous day but it was obvious that this trail is not heavily used. I had the mountain to myself. The final approach to the lookout spot is even steeper and with the snow depth increasing this was kind of fun.

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Once at the top you have a 360 vista with Mt Jefferson prominent to the East. However, it was probably about 30 degrees with a slight breeze so it was a bit cold.

 

We took out photos, ate some lunch and headed down. IMG_2819While I was at the top a lot of snow must have fallen off of those trees because the snow on the trail was much more pronounced.

 

In fact the snow falling from the various tree branched made for some serious snow dogging. Brook got hit once on her back by a large drop and it totally freaked her out. Once we got back to that overlook below snow line we took some time to enjoy the scenery.

Actually spent a t least an hour just soaking up the sun and enjoying the view. What better place to spend an afternoon.

We did get on the trail in time to get back to the car at sundown. The dirt portion of the road in was in OK shape.

Just returned to climb Henline again on June 11th, 2019. The dirt road sucks again. Here are some summertime photos.

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Tillamook Head Trail from Seaside TH

IMG_2539A great backpacking trip in November when the weather is nice is the Tillamook Head Trail through Ecola State Park. IMG_2548I went on this trip with Brook and my new friend, Judd Beck, whom I met on my Timberline Trail trip in September. We arrived at the Seaside Trailhead to find that there was no overnight parking so you need to park back down the road about .2 miles in a small turnout. The plan was to overnight in the Hikers Camp which is 4 miles in and about 1200 vertical.

We got a late start which meant we would probably arrive in the dark but we would get some sunset views. IMG_2589The hike is a nice workout but very doable for a day hike as well. We assumed that we would have the Hikers Camp which consists of 3 log cabins and support facilities made for an extremely comfortable night especially with the strong wind from the east.

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The cabins have 4 bunks with plenty of space and a nice tarp door cover. No issues at all with rodents.

The evening was a bit exciting due to a large tree falling about 20 yards from our cabin. It sounded like gun fire as the trunk broke into splinters. Brook again slept outside somewhere in the area keeping watch on Judd and I. The next day we hiked down to the viewpoint of the Tillamook Head Lighthouse. IMG_2627On the way you pass an old WWII Bunker that has stimulated a number of questions about why it was built there.

The bunker was part of a radar station that kept a lookout for enemy aircraft. In fact, this reinforced structure held up the gigantic antennae, which were about 30 feet tall. Article We did not attempt to enter the bunker.

Hiking back to our car on a beautiful almost 60 degree day made for an excellent trip.

TDH from New Mirror Lake TH

IMG_2482Brook and I had a great trip up to Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain in the Spring so I wanted to experience it in the Fall. We waited for optimum weather for our return. Mirror Lake & TDH TrailheadWhat we did not realize was that there is now a new Trailhead serving Mirror Lake and TDH. Initially I assumed I had missed the turnoff, but then found the new Trailhead located at the west end of the Ski Bowl parking lot, and it is nice. Not only will this provide adequate parking but a much safer access and departure for cars. IMG_2508The new trail that eventually connects with the old trail is paved for the first .2 miles down to the first of 9 new cedar bridges.

Map from new Trailhead

Map from new Trailhead

The day was partly cloudy but the clouds were hiding all the important objects such as the sun and Mt Hood. The hike up to Mirror Lake is now 2 miles and it is a super highway of trails. Many improvements which will handle far greater crowds of hikers. I do hope that they put restrictions on that traffic around Mirror Lake. I did not get the classic mirror photo of Mt Hood behind Mirror Lake on my way up but here it is from my return.

Mt Hood from Mirror Lake

Mt Hood from Mirror Lake

The climb up to TDH introduced a small amount of snow which created a nuisance of slippery rocks.

Approaching the View Summit

Approaching the View Summit

But it also added to the beauty. It was about 40 degrees with a forecast for east winds later. Once at the top we waited for the clouds to reveal the prize of Mt Hood, but views of the TDH Mountain and the valley with clouds was still fabulous.

 

Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain

Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain

There is one great campsite just past the primary view area but I scouted the entire ridge hoping for something better, but no there is only one prime site. I cleared away the few inches of snow and setup camp. It was a bit depressing knowing that it would start getting dark around 5 pm and that was when Mt Hood started to reveal herself.

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The end of the day did bring an impressive view of Mt Hood and the valley, but it was also getting cold, as in it would get down to about 25 degrees and the east winds started in the early evening.

Brook never sleeps in my tent but I felt like tonight would be different with the deep wind chill cold. Plus I would have enjoyed her contribution of body heat to the tent. But no, she slept outside all night. Once in my sleeping bag I was acceptably warm even after discovering that my patched air mattress would not hold air, but thankfully I had my ZLite foam pad. Morning broke with fabulous views of Mt Hood and the valley under clear skies, and a bitterly cold wind. IMG_2455The views justified the cold night but not enough to hang around and freeze. The hike down was very pleasant.

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View about 1/2 mile up from Mirror Lake

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