TDH from New Mirror Lake TH
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.
McNeil Point at Mt Hood
Why did it take me so long to get to McNeil Point. I don’t think a campsite next to Mt Hood can get any better. Yes, I have hiked past the trail to McNeil Point a number of times, each time saying that I should go check it out, only to rationalize that I have to move on. Well finally I planned a trip specifically for McNeil Point, and when you have the luxury of choosing how and when you tend to end up with one of those awesome experiences. As a backpacker in the Pacific Northwest, October signals that you better make the most of any good days left for high country packing. McNeil Point was the perfect choice and to do it on a weekday is probably the only way I would have been able to get a spot to park at the Top Spur Trailhead.
This was the first time I have used the Top Spur Trailhead and yes the parking area is small, but the access and road conditions are great by forest road standards. The overall hike to McNeil Point is about 5 miles and 2000′ vertical but it is an excellent trail with only a moderate incline. The hike is broken up into nice chunks with the first required option taking the loop around Bald Mountain. Again, why have I not taken that little detour when I was doing the Timberline Trail. You take in the view and then use the Cutoff Trail to get back over to clockwise Timberline Trail.
Now you get to climb a ridge trail for a little over a mile up to the next gorgeous view of McNeil Point next to Mt Hood. This was my previous Mt Hood view highlight from my Timberline Trail trips.
Back into the forest where the ground foliage autumn colors are starting turn. Shortly after this view you have the choice to take the short but steeper trail up to McNeil Point. I decided against that option not since the other route is so nice and relatively easy. This section over to the McNeil Point trail is the area where Brook got lost on my Timberline Trail trip a month ago. I think she remembered it. She has definitely stayed much closer to me since. It was afternoon so I was mostly meeting day hikers coming down. It is always interesting to observe their response to telling them that you plan on camping at McNeil. Some think you are crazy and some are totally envious.
So on up to McNeil Point on a beautiful trail up a ridge line and then cutting over to an option to the shelter or up above.
I arrived around 3 pm and spent about an hour hiking up and down the ridge above the shelter looking for the optimum campsite. The wind was going to be a factor so I was looking for wind shelter but I also wanted a view of the mountain.
I settled on a spot not to far above the shelter which gave me the mountain view along with a good valley view. There are a number of sites with rock walls and I do believe the wind break helped a lot throughout the windy night. The next few hours I just enjoyed how fabulous this view was.
There were a number of bird flyovers that highlighted the view.
The wind was on and off but each time it came I feared it would escalate, but it never did.
Actually the wind probably kept the temperature a few degrees warmer. It only got down to about 30 F during the night. I was hopeful for a great sunset but it was nice that it ended quickly because I was freezing outside of my tent waiting for it.
I did not sleep that well probably due a bit to the altitude, 6200′, or the noise the wind made flapping my tent. But overall it was a good night and as usual Brook slept out in the open making sure I was safe. Knowing that she would do this I gave her a serving of beef stroganoff on top of her dog food to make sure she had plenty of fuel to keep herself warm through the night.
Morning came and Brook was good to go. On the way back I captured the mini Ramona Falls in its full glory.
Brook was unusually friendly on the way out in greeting the few day hikers heading up to McNeil, but she was a tired pup.
Above the Clouds
I love to ski Mt Hood via the Timberline Ski Area around Memorial Day. My visit this year on May 25th was extra special with the opportunity to ski above the clouds in comfortable temps with relatively no wind. In previous years I have been treated to better snow conditions thanks to colder temps and some fresh powder, but skiing above the clouds is a special treat.
This year’s Mt. Hood ski outing was definitely something I needed but it was also about sharing the experience with Nick the Director of MacHub who really needed a day off. We headed out to the Magic Mile lift before 9:00 am with some concern about conditions. We were totally socked into a cloud with a light mist. We got off the lift thinking we needed to find the Palmer lift to take us higher, but we turned the wrong way and had to ski back down to the Magic Mile lift with essentially zero visibility.
Next try we found the Palmer Lift and quickly emerged out of the cloud into sunshine above treeline. After assuming that we were destined to ski in fog and mist the excitement from seeing the clear sky was exhilarating.
I have skied all my adult life but since receiving 2 artificial hips I have become a little more concerned about the consequences of crashing at high speed. Skiing Timberline above tree line is about speed so my first run requires some soul searching to overcome that concern. Awe yes, but the second run I forget those concerns and fly down the mountain feeling like I am the age of all the other skiers who are around me. Ski conditions were pretty good, plenty of snow and hard enough so you glided over it with ease. But the sun and warming temps did reduce the snow to a heavier mix that put significant strain on your thighs. You know what I mean, “It Hurts So Good”, but then your legs just give out; but not until I had skied to my heart’s content for yet another year.
A Night in Paradise Park
It had been 3 weeks since I last escaped to the wilderness so I just had to take advantage of the two day good weather forecast.
I initially tried to select another outing in the Tillamook State Forest since my last trip to Elk Mountain had been so rewarding, but something drew me to higher elevation. What about Mt. Hood, even if it may have gotten some fresh snow. Perfect, I had wanted to check out Paradise Park ever since my PCT segment that took me past the trail loop back in July. From Timberline Lodge it is about 5 miles to where I would want to camp. The Timberline webcams showed melting snow. The forecast called for a clear but cold night so let’s do it.
I packed my warmer bag and my perma-rest air mattress along with adequate warm cloths which turned out to provide sufficient comfort as the temperature may have hit a cold of 30 degrees. After a lunch buffet and IPA at Timberline I was off.
The typical day hike distance to the Zig Zag Canyon overlook and below offered a before and after shot showing just how much the weather changed from the trek in and next day return.
The trail takes you down to the bottom of the canyon and then you get to climb back up, but it went very well with a fresh body.
I was a little slower on the return trip as I was feeling some tired muscles. Hiking in late October does not provide the lush foliage but it was just as interesting seeing the mountain prepare for its winter blanket. I arrived at Paradise Park around 4:30 pm.
I scouted the terrain quickly selecting a campsite with a view and accepting the consequences of a cold wind. The October evening was playing out way to fast. I had to enjoy the view but I also needed to setup camp.
Then a family of deer, 4 doe and a young buck strolled by. They stood near looking at me as if to say, “what are you doing here”.
Back to the view, which was highlighted by the clouds opening to a valley exploding with sun rays. I had no idea what lay behind me as Mt. Hood was engulfed in a cloud. However, the hopes for a glorious sunset were high, but the temperature was dropping rapidly. The sunset did turn out to be unique but it was not photogenic due to the light sky above. The cold drove me into the tent where it seemed like I might be in for an uncomfortable evening.
It turned out to be just fine after I closed my air vents and put on a second pair of socks. It seemed like it was coldest at about 10 pm and then the wind shifted from the east. I wanted to enjoy the almost super moon rising over Mt. Hood but it was just too cold.
When I got up around 3 am it was awesome, a bit warmer and the moonlight exposing a clear Mt. Hood was gorgeous.
Morning brought a reluctance to leave the warmth of the sleeping bag even though the sunrise potential with a clear Mt. Hood was high. I quickly took it in and then slept in until 8ish. The sun was quickly providing welcome warmth allowing for a pleasant coffee and hot chocolate wakeup.
I hung around most of the morning enjoying the view from Paradise.
The hike back offered numerous views of Mt. Hood and Jefferson which I cherished via my many stops for rest.
The impulse backpacking escape turned out to be perfect.
I am so grateful to be able to take advantage of God’s gift to us.
Timberline to Cascade Locks
My second Oregon PCT segment was excellent, the weather was what you would expect and the scenery was as good as it gets.
Unfortunately when it ended and I returned to the cellular world at the Eagle Creek Trailhead I found out that my beloved old backpacking canine companion, Abby, had died the night before. It was good that I had another 2.5 miles before I got to Cascade Locks, I needed the time to shed tears and reflect on our years together. I am so glad that we got to travel back to Oregon together. Australian Shepherds are incredible dogs and Abby was one of the best.
Back to the Hood to Gorge review. My wife and I spent the night before I departed at Timberline Lodge. Weather was perfect as were the IPAs we consumed in the adirondack chairs observing Mt. Hood. We could see Mt. Jefferson to the South initially but the view faded away into a smoky haze from the fires in southern Oregon.
I departed on July 9th in beautiful weather with no deadlines, just a destination. The PCT from Timberline takes you into the Paradise Park area which is all about majestic views of Mt. Hood. You feel very small underneath the mountain. An afternoon thunder storm brought needed moisture but also motivated me to seek a campsite. A heavy fog moved in which essentially equated to rain all night long. The following day offered more amazing Paradise Park views. This is fairly rugged trail that skirts the many snow melt streams from Hood. The main goal was to have a relaxing lunch at Ramona Falls, however, crossing the headwaters of the Sandy river to get there always presents a challenge.
So when I came out of the forest to greet the Sandy it was obvious that I was not crossing that high volume stream at this PCT designated trail point. When looking for a crossing you head upstream and look for perfectly positioned rocks or hopefully a log assisted crossing.
I found the log/stick crossing that had been thrown together, and although it was a bit scary it turned out to be more then adequate. The reward for the challenging stream crossing is a glorious view of Mt. Hood.
Then on to the ultimate reward of Ramona Falls and I was not disappointed. The sunlight through the trees creates unique highlights of this cascading waterfall.
I needed to put in a few more miles so taking the PCT Ramona Falls alternate trail to the Muddy Fork Junction was a perfect climax to my second day. However, crossing fast flowing stream on a couple of logs was interesting. But more interesting to watch were a couple of endurance runners cross the stream on foot.
The next day, Saturday, was a bit dreary weather wise, but that was OK since it kept down the day hiker population. It was a tough day for distance and vertical, 10 miles of 3000 ft up and about 1500 down. When I passed Lolo Pass I was thinking about putting a long sleeve shirt on which made me wonder about the 4 teenagers who were heading up to Bald Mtn. in shorts and tank tops.
Sunday ushered in a lifting fog which made for an eerie beautiful trail. The body felt good as I was knocking off more vertical before the inevitable drop. I had passed Devil’s Pulpit and Preachers Peak so I was in the mood for a wilderness church setting. About 10:00 am I noticed a side trail which lead to Buck Peak. The trail was OK but narrow and overgrown enough to mean that condensation from the vegetation was going to be soaking. But I sensed its call and a half mile up I was rewarded with His majestic throne’s view of Mt. Hood and Lost Lake. The church service was excellent.
The trail began the inevitable elevation decline to the gorge and with it came an abundance of ripe berries. I had a wonderful afternoon taking my time enjoying the spectacular view of the Eagle Creek canyon and eating plenty of ripe Huckleberries. After arriving at the Indian Springs abandoned campground I opted to continue on another 3 miles to Wahtum Lake. Definitely the right call as the lake campsite was beautiful and the trail there and then on to rejoin the Eagle Creek alternate PCT trail was a more gradual vertical decline complete with beautiful lush waterfall strewn scenery. Oh yes, and plenty of Thimbleberries, a tasty relative of the raspberry.
I knew I was in for a treat from the Eagle Creek canyon trail but little did I know how amazing it would be. My daughter and I hiked up this trail about 10 years ago but stopped short of the really great landmarks. So the ultimate goal is Tunnel Falls, which totally lives up to the hype. Actually the entire Eagle Creek Trail is awesome with many serious waterfalls, good swimming holes, precarious cliff carved trail and great campsites. But Tunnel Falls, Wow.
I knew that my trip would end the next day so I kept looking for the ultimate campsite, but I was getting tired.
Thankfully I kept seeking a better site and ended up with a primo campsite just below 4-Mile Bridge next to this 30+ foot waterfall, Skoonichuk Falls. But it made for a perfect last night on the trail where I was spared the heartbreak of knowing what was happening at the time with my dog, Abby.
The final day took me past High Bridge and Punchbowl Falls, plus greeting about a hundred, mostly day hikers, many with the goal to make it the 6 miles to Tunnel Falls. After receiving the news about Abby I hiked the Columbia River Highway State Trail up to Cascade Locks which provides a very nice view of Bridge of The Gods over to Washington. My wife and daughter were at the PCT Trailhead park by the bridge waiting for me. It was a gorgeous day for a burger and beer as we mourned the loss of our family dog.
Memorial Day in Oregon
|Magic Mile run at Timberline on Mt. Hood, May 28, 2011|
Tomorrow begins the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities, CCCU, Technology Conference, that we will be hosting. Should be about 80 tech folks from the 100 or so institutions that make up the CCCU. What a conference of this size lacks in number of quality sessions it does make up for with valuable networking. The weather here in Oregon will be typical with rain, sun and not so warm temperatures. However, I think most of the visitors will love the lush green country and appreciate the temps in the 60’s and safety from tornadoes and floods.
Oregon is a different kind of place. I went skiing Saturday, May 28th, at Mt. Hood. I’ve never skied in May before, but my first run I was floating through 5” of fresh powder on top of 180” snow base. But the prize of the day was skiing the Magic Mile (see photo). Going up that high on Mt. Hood in the winter is generally not possible nor is it desirable. Sunday I played golf, also great, and today I am nursing a sore back, but it was worth it.