I was itching for a backpacking Get-Away so when the temperatures started to rise with guaranteed clear skies I headed for my favorite overnight at Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain.
I have done this trek many times but never in April when there would definitely be snow, but I did underestimate how much snow there would be. Early on the trail the bridges filled to the rail with snow set the tone. The trail for the first two miles was essentially ice which created many difficulties especially for the hikers trying to get to Mirror Lake.
The upper trail to the top presented more serious challenges such as not sliding down hillsides and just finding the real trail. Once on the last leg to the top I realized I should have brought my snowshoes, but it was doable even though I was questioning my wisdom in scheduling this trek. I knew what the reward would be at the top but I was also starting to be concerned about how strong the winds were going to be.
The winds were strong and the snow was deep so this was going to be a whole new camping experience at my favorite spot. The winds were ripping up the mountain so I was able to set up camp with a nice view of Hood and still get shelter from the wind.
I quickly realized that I had not properly prepared for the snow or the wind so I had to improvise with some rope tie offs to nearby trees. Thankfully those rope ties did the job as the wind never let up throughout the night. It was amazingly beautiful as I have come to expect, however, the wind prevented any comfortable viewing of Mt Hood.
The saving grace for the evening was that the winds were also bringing in unusually warm air so being cold was not a concern. However, major wind gusts pummeling my tent all night did not allow for much sleep. Plus my air mattress was not holding air so I had to blow it up about every hour. It was still beautiful at sun up, but the winds were increasing in intensity.
By 7:00 am I had to break down the campsite to avoid being blown away. The winds were fierce so I had to take an alternate path behind the view area to get to the shelter of the forest.
The hike down was not easy but it was downhill so no complaints. Overall the the ultimate Get-Away that I had hoped for did not pan out, but it sure was another great Adventure.
Brook 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. What 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. The 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.
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.
The climb up to TDH introduced a small amount of snow which created a nuisance of slippery rocks.
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.
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.
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. The views justified the cold night but not enough to hang around and freeze. The hike down was very pleasant.
I have backpacked to Tom, Dick & Harry Mountain 3 times now so I figure it is time to do a trip report. This last visit was by far the highlight, partly because I learned some lessons from previous trips. The hike up TDH Mountain passing by Mirror Lake is a moderately difficult:
- Distance: 5.8 miles round-trip to West Summit
- Elevation gain: 1710 feet
- High Point: 4,920 feet
However, the first challenge is getting a parking spot at the trailhead located right on Hwy 26 just before you get to Government Camp and there really aren’t any other options for parking because of the busy divided highway. This is an extremely popular hike primarily for those just wanting to go to Mirror Lake so plan appropriately. The hike up to Mirror Lake about half way in elevation at 4100 feet offers you an option to pass on by or take a loop around the lake. The mirror view of Mt Hood from the south end of the lake on clear calm day can be absolutely stunning.
After taking in the Mirror Lake view you head up trail which consists of one long switchback. You do get glimpses of Mt Hood on the first leg but the real prize awaits you at the top. At the turn there is a large pile of rocks, sort of the ultimate cairn. Take a sharp left and head to the summit. One option I have used on one of my trips with family was to camp at the turn. This is a large relatively flat area with about a 15 minute hike to the summit.
I chose that campsite because on my first trip to the top about 12+ years ago I ended up camping behind the summit on a piece of earth that I was barely able to stretch out on. However, on this recent trip I found the campsites.
You summit on the west end and are greeted with the amazing view of Mt Hood which is just across the valley above Hwy 26. You get a bit of a snow contrast from the 2007 version above. I’m not sure if that was a low snow year but I do believe there should have been more then a few patches of snow up on TDH here at the end of May. Plus, that is not that much snow on Mt Hood for this time of year.
You also have a nice view of Mt. Jefferson looking south.
On a weekend or holiday you will join many other hikers up here but most all are day hikers. Many photographers venture up here for those perfect shots of Mt. Hood. Now for the primo campsites you need to hike on through the rock ridge to the east until you get to the trees. Once there you will be greeted with one great campsite after another with sleeping views of Mt Hood. It was a beautiful day and I had high hopes for an evening viewing Mt. Hood under a full moon, but weather in the mountains can change quickly.
A cloud moved in from the west and all that was left for the sunset was the beam coming up the valley. If I had stayed on the west summit it would have been spectacular but instead I had to accept an evening under a cloud. This cloud did help keep the temperature up and with the slight breeze everything stayed fairly dry. As the morning drew out it felt like the sun was going to burn through and voila, what a spectacular view that would produce.
The cloud hung on in the middle of the valley providing a view of Mt. Hood on a white cloud with Mirror Lake below. So many great photos to take here are some of them.
I did hike on further along the ridge to the east to checkout other great campsites and discover some unique views between various rock formations.
One final shot before heading down.
The hike down is easy but always seems to take longer then you remember the climb, must have something to do with anticipation. I did spot a few trillium and Brook got a good drink back down at Mirror Lake. A good ending to the trip was a Bleu Burger at Charlie’s in Government Camp.