Sunday, September 21
Yesterday we elected to escape the heat (in the 90's in MAC) and take a hike. We didn't get a particularly early start, arriving at the Mirror Lake trail head off of Route 26 around 12:30 p.m. Mt. Hood looms over the highway. We are just a couple of miles west of Government Camp.
Our objective, a fairly easy hike to Mirror Lake, between 2.5 and 3 miles in-and-out depending on which trail description you read. To my peril, I ignore a little sentence in the trail description: "Hiking up to Tom Dick and Harry Ridge is a more challenging hike with a view of the Cascade Range."
I pack my small water bottle and a sun shirt in my cross-body bag, lace up my tennies, and we're off. I leave the hat behind -- the wind has been blowing from the east pretty steadily all the way east on 26.
The path is dusty. Rocks protrude from the ground at all angles and tree root webs present toe-stubbing obstacles. It's not too steep, however, some 700 feet in elevation gain.
We ascend in good time, and start around the lake loop. Soon the trail splits -- the lake loop goes left and another path goes straight. Bob follows this path. I follow Bob.
"Where are we going?", I ask.
"To the top of Tom Dick and Harry, where the views are great. It's not very far."
Some time later, on a particularly rocky stretch with difficult footing, I stop, dithering. Since I broke my ankle, I have been pretty anxious about bad footing.
"How far is it?"
"About 3 tenths mile, I think."
"I'll wait here for you."
"The trail looks good after this one small stretch."
"How can you say that? You mean it looks good for as far as you can see."
"Yes." He proceeds up the trail.
Mt. Hood is visible from the trail here, in all its glory. I snap a few pictures with my iPhone, take a drink of water, and get over my panic.
A few minutes later, I start up the trail once again. It is climbs slowly but steadily, and true to Bob's prognostication, aside from that one nasty stretch is easily navigable.
Around the shoulder of Tom Dick and Harry, finally turning south away from the highway which is now far below, I march on. Now switchbacks, long ones and not too steep. I trudge forward.
Finally, I gain the ridge, and turn back east toward Mirror Lake. It's like walking in a stream bed, and I'm sure when it rains this is indeed a stream.
About a quarter mile from the summit, I meet Bob, who is on his way down.
"There you are!" he says. (Do you think he was, perhaps, expecting me?)
He turns back and climbs the last bit with me. At the end we walk on clinking fragments of granite up to a huge hunk of rock, and we are at one of the mountain's three summits. The other two are off limits -- Peregrine falcons nest there. And indeed as we rest and enjoy the views, two of them put on an aerial show for us.
Hood looms in front of us. To the west we can see just the tops of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Ranier, and Mt. Adams. We are told that this is an unusually clear day. The wind cools us as the sun warms us.
After a respite, we begin our descent. As the trail is not too steep in most places, this is quick work. The only challenge is not stubbing ones toes. We take turns tripping, but incur no real damage.
Back at Mirror Lake, we take the loop trail. Green dragonflies with lovely markings buzz around the edges of the lake. People are swimming and wading and fishing.
And so down the trail again. Instead of 2.5-3 easy miles, we have covered about 6.5 miles and gained 1700 feet elevation, max at the peak of 4920.
We cruise up the road to Government Camp. It's not a big town -- primarily ski resort. But one feature of the town is Mt. Hood Brewery. We reward ourselves with a beer and some spicy chicken wings. Words on the beer glass: "Mt. Hood Brewery A Beer with an Altitude".
We travel west toward Portland, through Rhododendron and Welches and Damascus and Boring. Evidently the east wind has whipped up the 36 Pit fire near Estacada. The pall of smoke that was white and low on our way in this morning has morphed to red and black plumes spread across the sky.
We are home by 7:30 p.m., tired and ready to clean up and relax. It was a good day.
Always verify exactly what the plan is.
Always assume we'll go further.
Wear trail shoes and carry snacks and lots of water.
Who knows where the next adventure will take us?