I’m getting rather attached to this rolling out of bed whenever I feel like it and arriving at the trailhead “late.” I encounter fewer people, the pants-saturating morning dew in the forest is mostly burnt off by then, and it’s no longer necessary to don seventeen 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. This oat field’s oatiness was pretty cool, too. 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 gooey rivulets, and supposedly passes a pinnacle. I say supposedly because what I managed to glimpse through the trees was less pinnacle and more rock hump. The trees, themselves, were sexier. Some of the trail markers were, shall we say, interpretive.
Pinnacle Ridge’s one distinction among Hood’s northern routes is its award-winning levels of soul-sucking mud. On my map, there’s a spot humbly labeled “bog.” Those aforementioned rivulets turned into marshes which then became 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. This was the dry spot:
If you think you’re gonna avoid a slog by finding an alternate route at the periphery, take my word for it–there is no periphery. The water burbles beneath the Marsh Marigold, 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 headed west to connect to last week’s adventure in Wy-East Basin.A forest 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.”
Boletes are monstrous ‘shrooms, large enough for five hooka-sucking Alice in Wonderland caterpillars, apiece. The one at the right is larger than my outspread hand and about seven inches tall, the barrel 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.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 to me 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 through 45 minutes of backpacks and paparazzi 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 to that goal.
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 did my best to ignore the mud and admire the details. Extra huckleberries helped.
September 12, 2010