Portland Trip: Day 10 – Mt. Hood

September 1, 2014


Mt. Hood

My normal routine for hiking is to hit the road early and take a bagel with me for breakfast at the trailhead. Today I waited for the Café to open and have a hearty breakfast – eggs, hash browns, bacon, sourdough toast – and get a sack lunch made. I thanked Mark for all his hospitality and bid him adieu.

I think there’s only one gas station in Maupin and when I pulled in I don’t see any premium. “Looking for the good stuff?” asked the proprietor. The premium is the same as fuel at ORP, 92 octane with no ethanol. And like at the track, it’s pumped from an above ground tank. As has become routine, I answered questions about the car.

IMG_6073sFrom Maupin to Timberline Lodge I retrace my steps from day before yesterday. The morning was bright and cloudless and afforded beautiful views of Mt. Hood. It looked to be another wonderful day, much in contrast to my Mt. St. Helens hike.

Once on the trail, I couldn’t help but notice that they mark trails here differently than in RMNP. The signs indicate which trail (by trail number) you’re following rather than telling the hiker what the trail’s destination is. That caused me a bit of confusion. I knew I wanted to go to Paradise Park, but I wasn’t sure what trail led me there. I was fairly certain I needed to take the Pacific Crest Trail but I had a nagging doubt. I soon caught up to another hiker who said he was going to Paradise Park as well. I was happy to have confirmation that I was headed the right direction.


Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge

The hike starts at Timberline Lodge, passing under the ski lifts. There were quite a few people in the parking lot with skis or snowboards but I only saw a few actually on the lift. I put boots on the trail at 9:30. It was still quite cool, I wore both a windbreaker and a hoodie. With the sun shining brightly, it wasn’t long before I shed one then the other. The first section of trail had nice views of Hood and Jefferson, but otherwise there’s not much to see. The trail contours around the mountain clockwise, through some scraggly trees, under the chair lifts, and past a communication tower before entering the forest proper.

For the most part, the trail was generally sandy. There were very few big roots and not many rocks except near the lodge. It was easy to maintain a good stride and I moved efficiently. More about this later.


Mt. Jefferson, over Timberline Lodge

The next notable terrain feature I come to is a V-shaped ravine carved by a small creek. There’s no bridge here. In RMNP I’d expect a couple of logs, at least. But the soil is very sandy and looks like it erodes quite easily. I suppose any sort of minor bridge here would just have its ends undermined in a short time, rendering such a bridge impractical. Not a big deal, it was very easy to cross.

Zigzag Canyon overlook was next. That previous ravine was a miniature version of Zigzag Canyon. (Looking at the USGS topo map, I think it was Little Zigzag Canyon) Here the trail drops about 400’ to the river, then gains most of that back. The summit of Mt. Hood is nicely visible here. The hike down to the river is very lush. The stream itself (Zigzag River?) is much larger than previous stream but nearly as easy to cross. Again, there’s no bridge.


Zigzag Canyon

The trail climbs consistently from here to the Paradise Park trail junction, then climbs some more. Forest alternates with open meadows filled with daisy-like purple wildflowers. Up close, the ground looks mostly purple, but from a distance these meadows look green. Bees were everywhere. There must be millions of bees – my guess without thinking was 100,000 bees per acre. Every square yard had several bees.


Wildflower and bee

I soon found myself in a nice meadow with an unobstructed view of the summit. I’m used to hiking where there are lots of rocks and downed trees. Nothing like that here, the meadow was just grass and wildflowers with a trail running through it. So there was no convenient place to set the GoPro. The SLR wasn’t a problem because the tripod was taller than the flora, but the GoPro only sits a few inches off the ground. So I just set the cameras up in the shorter grass along the trail. This was a little spur trail, so not as much traffic as the main trail.

IMG_6095sI let the cameras run for nearly an hour. Although the sky was clear when I set out from Timberline Lodge, some nice clouds were sweeping past the summit. At times it seemed like the clouds were coming out of the mountain itself, which is fitting for a volcano. For most of my hikes in RMNP, I’m at secluded lakes and nobody is around. While I was shooting, a couple of hikers came by. The SLR clicking off every two seconds turns out to be quite the conversation starter.

I got back to the main trail and decided to do the loop rather than return the way I arrived. I met a couple of girls from Laramie and we each took the others’ pictures for them. They were doing the loop, too. I paused to refill water from a nice stream and they left my sight. I tried to follow the trail but kept getting into camp sites, except once at a dead-end overlooking a waterfall. I retraced my steps a couple of times (generally straight up the slope) and ended up going back the way I came.


Wildflower and bee

After a while I came to two women who were standing next to a trail marker, consulting a map. I told them what I wanted to do and one pointed to a narrow trail heading straight down slope. “That’s the Paradise Park Loop trail”. So I headed that way. After a while it intersected the Pacific Crest Trail and turned left. At another overlook I met a couple who were trying to get to Ramona Falls. They said they went a little farther along the route I was taking but turned around because it got steep. I wonder where they came from then?

I continued and after a fair amount of descent came to the trail junction I’d been at earlier. I was happy to now be on familiar ground. Just a bit more descent to the Zigzag River, then the climb out of the canyon. It took me quite a while longer to ascend than to descend earlier in the day. I kept thinking the ordeal would be over as from the overlook back to the lodge was mostly slight up and down, or at least that’s how I remembered it. Perhaps part of the reason I was moving so efficiently in the morning was that the trail was slightly downhill. To my chagrin in the afternoon, I realized it’s pretty much uphill all the way from the Zigzag overlook to the lodge. I was really feeling it by the end. But once I saw the communications tower, my spirits and my pace picked up.


Crossing the Zigzag

I didn’t see any wildlife bigger than a squirrel and no interesting birds (e.g. raptors). Not many birds at all. Just lots of bees. The weather was beautiful all day. No clouds visible when I hit the trail, one bank lying behind the mountain from my vantage, just higher than the shoulder of the mountain. By the time I got the cameras running, thin clouds were shrouding the peak. Moving fairly quickly, never really obscuring it until I was done.

One thing that I think made the hike harder than I’m used to is the humidity. I perspired quite a bit, but it didn’t evaporate, so no cooling effect. Elevation was certainly no problem, trailhead starts at about 5800′. Paradise Park is about the same. From the topo map it looks like there’s a total of 1,000’ of elevation change.

After the hike, I had to drive to Tigard for three days in the office. I don’t have much to say about the drive. Most of it was US 26, a repeat (in the opposite direction) of a few days before. This being the Monday of a holiday weekend, however, traffic was bad. The first few miles were at a crawl. Luckily that didn’t last long and I was in Tigard for dinner.