I’m getting rather attached to this rolling out of bed whenever and arriving at the trailhead “late.” I see fewer people, the pants-saturating morning dew on either side of the trail is mostly burnt off by the rising sun, and it’s no longer necessary to don multiple thermal layers for the first leg of the hike. Not that I don’t bring them along, anyway. This is Mt. Hood, after all.
Today’s sortie was fueled by the dual desires to see a rock pinnacle and a high mountain tarn. Dollar Lake’s tarniness is rumored to be so perfectly circular, it resembles a silver dollar. However, I dallied at spectacular photographic opportunities along the way, like oat fields.Similar to Vista Ridge, Pinnacle Ridge is a fairly straightforward trail that follows a…well…ridge. But this one winds and meanders around an impressive rock garden of car-sized talus, hops one or two rivulets, and supposedly passes a pinnacle. Don’t get your hopes up, though. The most you’re going to see of that Andesitic monument is an unphotogenic glance or two through the trees, so you might as well just focus on the forest. Which ain’t bad….Some of the trail markers were a new one on me, though. Hmmm….
Pinnacle Ridge does hold one distinction among Hood’s northern routes: It has more mud on it than a front porch in Mississippi. On my map, there is a spot humbly labeled “bog.” Those aforementioned rivulets turned into marshes which in turn became human booby traps rivaling the La Brea Tar Pits. Hikers had lain branches and logs across the goo in desperate, attempts to construct some sort of floating boardwalk. I have two words for them: extra socks. Here’s a dry spot:
If you think you’ll be clever by circumventing the slog and finding an alternate route at the periphery, take my word for it–there is no periphery. The water stretches under the Marsh Marigold and sedge and huckleberries all the way up and all the way down and completely from side to side.
Wait…did I say huckleberries?
I take it back, I love bogs! (Om, nom, nom!)
A signpost signals the end of the Muddy Horror Picture Show and heralds the Timberline Trail, which wraps completely around Mt. Hood like a neck tie. Infused with the idea of doing all of it eventually, piecemeal, I head west to connect to last week’s adventure in Wy-East Basin.A local ranger clued me into the name of the mushroom balanced on that sign: “Those are boletes you found up there…Tasty, a nice mulled nutty flavor. Works well for mushroom pie.”
These are monstrous ‘shrooms, large enough for five hooka-sucking caterpillars, apiece. The one at the right is larger than my outspread hand and about seven inches tall. The barrel-like base is wide as a coffee mug. I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole thing weighed upwards of a pound. We’re talking honkin’ mushroom pies, here.
Once you’re above five thousand feet, things open up around the drainages that perpetually siphon glacier melt downhill. In mid-September, there are still plenty of colors decorating these creeks. The pink penstemmons are my favorite.The high mountain asters are perfect sculptures in the strong afternoon sun. And I’m not the only one enjoying it all….Once I had strung together Vista and Pinnacles Ridges, I ventured east to take a sneak peek at my next goal, Elk Cove. On the way I discovered a veritable Woodstock of Hippies-on-a-Stick.Around a dramatic corner, the trail fell away to a valley kneeling before Hood’s Coe Glacier. The dark hill in front of the mountain is last week’s ascent, Barrett Spur. The valley below is Elk Cove.A ridge away from the left flank, out of sight, is Cooper Spur and Elliot Glacier, famous training ground for Search and Rescue personnel to practice Crevasse Rescue.Coe Glacier is pretty from here but I’m sure it’s a whole ‘nuther story when you’re navigating it with crampons and ice axes and trying to not die.Second Lunch called and I decided it would be best enjoyed in the sun on the shores of Dollar Lake. I was not the only one with this idea. In spite of a notoriously illusive trail junction with Timberline, I had to wait awhile before I had the place to myself. The popularity of the lake is enhanced by a trail just behind it that leads up the west flank of Barrett Spur for a more intimate approach.
However, not everybody was there to soak up the ambiance. Certain individuals had far more mundane matters to attend to–like a bath.
On the way home, I followed the sparrow’s example by ignoring the mud and admiring the details.
September 12, 2010