Mt. Hood

Lost Lake was even more crowded than Redfish Lake

Our trip to Canada started with a trip to Oregon. I'll give the full background in another post, but Sandy had a business meeting in Portland. She was flying out on Sunday afternoon while I would drive over the same day. I would have a free day while she had her meeting, then we would head north and spend the rest of the week exploring the area around Whistler, British Columbia.

I left Boise at 8 am. Since Sandy's flight wouldn't arrive until 4 pm I had several hours to spare. It wasn't enough time for a hike but I could do a quick scenic diversion to Lost Lake. It's about twenty five miles south of Hood River. I had gone hiking there once before, in August 2003, in a similar situation. Sandy had a business meeting at HP in Vancouver, Washington and I drove out to stay with her for a couple of days. While she had her meeting, I drove to Lost Lake, did a hike around the lake and up Lost Lake Butte, then drove back to Vancouver for dinner with Sandy. I remembered that Lost Lake had a spectacular view of the north side of Mt. Hood. For some reason I don't have any pictures from that hike, but I don't know whether I forgot to take my camera that day or just lost the photos. This would be a chance to fix that and get some good photos. My recollection was that the best view was actually from the start of the hike, so I figured I could just get a "drive by photo" and still get to Portland in time to pick up Sandy at the airport.

Tom Dick and Harry Mountain rises south of Mirror Lake

According to my odometer I was close to Mirror Lake when I was flagged down by a worker from the resort. He said that parking was full and they weren't allowing any more cars in. I would have to stop here. Then he relented and said "You were going to be the first person I stopped but why don't you go ahead."

I asked how much farther it was to the lake and he said it was just a quarter of a mile. That isn't much of a hike so I said it was fine and pulled over and parked. Well it turned out to be more like three quarters of a mile, but still no big deal. There were cars parked along one side of the road the entire way to the lake (the other was kept clear - the road wasn't that wide). When I did get to Lost Lake Resort it was a zoo. I thought Redfish Lake Lodge was crowded in summer. There were people everywhere - having picnics, playing in the water, milling around.

Yes, that really is the name of the mountain

Although the lake was pretty, the big disappointment was that I couldn't see Mt. Hood. The famous view had to be somewhere else along the lakeshore. There was a trail that went all the way around the lake so I picked a direction and walked to the east for about fifteen minutes. Still no mountain. I obviously had guessed wrong. I didn't have time to hike the other way but I at least checked out the store at the resort. They had to have a good tshirt. Wrong. I didn't like any that they had, so I had to head back with no view of the mountain, no pictures and no tshirt. Swing and a miss.

At least the timing worked out. Just as I was getting out of my car at the Portland Airport I got a text that Sandy had just landed. That evening we went to dinner at Salty's with the group from Thrivent Financial that she was meeting with the next day. The restaurant was right on the Columbia river but we were inside so we didn't get any view. It was kind of the theme for the day.

Mt Hood from Mirror Lake

Next morning I was up early, pulling out of the hotel parking lot at 6:35 am. I had to drive quite a way to the trailhead and I wanted to get out of Portland before traffic became a problem. I did make one stop in Sandy (a town on the outskirts of Portland) at Joe's Doughnuts. One of the local guys at dinner the night before had recommended it so I got a chocolate bar for my breakfast. Lots of sugar to power me up the trail. I tried to get one of their tshirts so that later I could prove that I had stopped there but unfortunately they didn't have my size.

The trailhead was easy to find. It was along the side of highway 20, the main road on the south side of Mt. Hood. There were a couple of cars there already but I found a spot to park and was on the trail at 8:30 am. I was hoping that I had an early enough start to beat the heat of the afternoon, avoid any bugs that went with it, and get back to meet Sandy by the time her meeting ended so we could start to head north.

First time hiking in this Wilderness

The trail entered dense woods right away. The morning was cool and the trail, although steady uphill, was a reasonable grade. I took my time. It was pleasant hiking. After only a mile and a quarter and 800 feet of elevation gain I reached Mirror Lake. There were several parties camped there - which explained why there had been other cars at the trailhead so early. I suppose it would be a good beginner backpacker destination. Seemed like a pretty short hike to me for all the trouble of hauling in gear but then I am not much of a camper myself.

On the far side of the lake I finally got a nice view of the mountain, but although the weather was good there were high clouds so the light was very flat. After taking some pictures I continued on the trail and entered the Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness. Only 62,000 acres, it's not a very big Wilderness. Since Oregon is a very conservation-minded state they have a lot of designated Wilderness Areas, but most of them are small. Logging in the nineteenth and early twentieth century didn't leave much roadless area for wilderness designation.

Beyond the lake the trail continued to the top of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. Yes, that really is the name of the peak. It was another two miles and a thousand feet of elevation gain. There was one short stretch on an open slope where there were views but most of the hike was in the woods, until the trail came out on the west summit of the mountain. From the top there was an amazing 360 degree view. To the south, Mt Jefferson was clearly visible forty miles to the south. To the north there was a dramatic view of the south side of Mt. Hood. Behind it, Mt Adams was visible, and then Mt. Rainier, a hundred miles away. Further to the west, Mt St Helens completed the lineup of Cascade Volcanoes.

Mt Jefferson from the summit

On our trip to Colorado in July, I had been (sadly) impressed by the large areas of dead pine forest. Here, everything as far as I could see was deep green, healthy forest. No pine beetle problems here. The forests were fir and spruce and other trees that don't suffer from the problems of the pine forests in the rocky mountains. But there was still a sad note. I had been to this area many times in the late seventies to climb Mt Hood. It was one of the first major snow climbs that I did and it took me three tries. Around 1995, Sandy and I made an unsuccessful attempt to climb Hood late in the season. What struck me now was how little snow there was on the south side of the mountain. It looked possible to get more than two thirds of the way from Timberline to the top without even setting foot on snow. Climate change has hit Mt Hood hard. I wonder how many years it will be before the summit is a trail hike late in the season like the South Sister already is.

Sadly, I've seen this pattern repeated in many mountain areas that I have visited: Mt Rainier National Park, Glacier National Park, the Alps and the Bolivian Andes. Donald Trump says that climate change is a Chinese hoax. Those Chinese are very sneaky, coming when no one is watching and taking all the snow off of mountains like Hood so it looks like the glaciers and snowfields are shrinking.

Mt Hood, Mt Adams and Mt Rainier all in line

Tom Dick and Harry Mountain has three summits. The trail ended where I was, on the west summit. I could see the other summits nearby. They were a little bit higher but they were also covered in woods. I was clearly at the best viewpoint. So while it was feasible to go and bag the two other summits, it would be a lot of work just to say that I had done it. I didn't bother. Quite a change from my youth when I had to stand on the absolute highest point of any mountain that I went up. Older and wiser (and more easily tired), I couldn't see the point to it. I decided that I had gone far enough and would head down.

Although the trail is very popular on weekends, so far I had the mountain pretty much to myself. I had seen a few people camped at Mirror Lake and three parties on the trail. I was alone for most of my time on the summit, until a young couple arrived just as I was getting ready to leave. I offered to take a picture of them together and then headed back down. The hike down was quick since it wasn't far and the trail was a nice grade. As usual, I passed a lot of people coming up who had started a lot later than I had. When I reached the parking area it was completely full and there were even a bunch of cars in the next pullout a hundred yards further up the road. Interestingly I noticed that there were three cars in a row with Idaho plates that were 1A (the code for Ada County, where Boise is located). I had passed only one large group on the way down. They must have all been from Boise. I guess I should have worn my Boise State cap.

It was a good hike. The cool morning made for pleasant hiking on the uphill climb, and there were virtually no bugs the whole time. The views were great from the lake and the summit although the high clouds meant that the light was flat so the pictures were nice but not outstanding.

Timberline Lodge

It was still before noon. I took a drive up to Timberline Lodge since I hadn't been there for years. It's a classic old building, used in the movie "The Shining". It would be fun to stay there again some time. They had a nice gift shop there too and I got some cool stuff: a tshirt, a hat, a wine glass and some books to bring my collection of Oregon hiking guides up to date. But from Timberline Lodge the lack of snow on the mountain was even more obvious. That was sad.

On my way back to the car I passed the couple that had been on the top of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. I said something about being glad to see them again and they both looked at me like I was some crazy old guy (no snickering here, please). "Remember me? I took your picture on the summit?" Finally recognition dawned. I guess I am not that memorable.

I grabbed a quick lunch on the way back to Portland and still made it to the hotel before Sandy's meeting finished. We left a little before four, thinking that we had a good jump on rush hour traffic. Wrong. As soon as we turned out of the hotel, we immediatly got stuck in a traffic jam leaving the airport and getting onto I205. It took us a whole hour to go one mile from the hotel to the freeway. But once we were on the interstate we made good time and surprisingly even got through Seattle with no trouble. We made it as far as Bellingham Washington where we found a place to stay. We were well positioned for crossing the border the next day. We had reservations in Whistler, British Columbia starting the next night, for several days of hiking and exploring the area.