Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Flower Power - Pinnacle Ridge Trail

The Pinnacle Ridge Trail is one of my all-time favorite wildflower hikes.  My friend John introduced me to this trail a few years ago.  The day we hiked the trail we hit the flowers at prime time.  I was dazzled and amazed by the variety and number of wildflowers blooming.    I've hiked the trail one other time since that day, and have always wanted to go back.  It's been a couple of years and I knew I needed to get back up to Pinnacle Ridge for my wildflower fix.

Obligatory trailhead sign photo

So this summer I decided would be the year.  I asked my friend Debbie to accompany me, and she, always ready for a hike, said "of course!"  The weather was predicted to be clear and cooler than the previous weekend, so all systems were go.


The Pinnacle Ridge Trail is located on the north side of Mt. Hood.  The trail climbs up the flank of the mountain, and eventually connects with the Timberline Trail.   I planned to take the Timberline Trail as far as Elk Cove, and if there was time, would visit Dollar Lake on our return trip.

Avalanche Lillies

Debbie, Bear and I arrived at the trailhead fairly early.  We headed up the trail, winding through the cool, shady forest.  The trail crossed a creek, and then headed uphill, sometimes quite steeply.  About midway, we crossed a muddy, boggy area and almost lost the trail in the muck.  But someone had tied orange survey tape on a tree where the trail picked up again.  Thank you kind person!

Orange paintbrush flowers brighten the trail

Not far from the boggy area, the flowers began to show themselves.  We crossed a small creek and lupine was blooming everywhere.  Looking up the valley, Mt. Hood was just beginning to peep out.  What a beautiful place!

Old man of the mountain blooms (or "hippie on a stick")

When we arrived at the junction of the Timberline Trail, the flowers were blooming like crazy.  There were purple lupine and red paintbrush brightening up the forest.  From the Timberline Trail, we could see Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens, and the entire Hood River Valley. 

A flowerama

We followed the Timberline Trail east towards Elk Cove.  Farther down the trail, we encountered an area I remembered from my previous hikes.  Mt. Hood rises up so close you think you can touch it, and the flowers are so plentiful and incredible.  Orange paintbrush and old man of the mountain flowers were packed in a meadow with other purple and yellow flowers (whose names I didn't know).  I spent a lot of time taking photos before we finally moved on.

The incredible meadow

Soon Debbie and I were hiking down into Elk Cove.  Elk Cove is a beautiful mountain valley with a stream running through it.  The flowers are prolific and the mountain views wonderful.  There was a huge field of old man of the mountain flowers, and the streamside was a rainbow of colorful flowers.

Bear in the Elk Cove meadow

Debbie and I decided this was a great place to sit and eat our lunch.  I had my usual PB & J sandwich, but Debbie had brought all kinds of great food.  She had homemade kettle corn (super yummy!), cantaloupe cubes, and homemade brownies.  Debbie is such a good friend that she shared her lunch with me!

Bear begging for some of Debbie's lunch

She even shared some of her food with Bear!  Of course, Bear did do a little bit of begging.  I brought a baggie of dog food for Bear, but of course, people food looked much better to him.

Streamside flower garden

After I ate my lunch, I grabbed my camera and headed down to the little creek.  The flowers were so nice, and I tried my best to capture their beauty.  It didn't help that the midday light wasn't conducive to photography, but I tried anyway.

A bright riot of monkeyflowers

Elk Cove is such a beautiful place.  There are campsites nearby, and someday I'd like to backpack into this area and spend the night.  Maybe next year...

Debbie and I relaxing after lunch

While I was wandering around taking photographs, Debbie stretched out and took a nap.  It wasn't a super warm day, but if you put on a jacket and laid in the sun conditions were just right.

Bear taking a breather

Even Bear laid down in the grass and rested up.

Mt. Hood and Barrett Spur view from Elk Cove

But soon it was time to get going.  I still wanted to visit Dollar Lake, so we couldn't stay in Elk Cove all day.  We packed up our lunch leftovers, and hit the trail, heading back west towards Pinnacle Ridge.

Brilliant red paintbrush blooms

The path to Dollar Lake from the Timberline trail is not marked, and you have to keep a sharp eye out or you'll miss it.  Luckily another nice person had piled a large rock cairn next to the turnoff, and put a hat on top of the cairn.  You couldn't miss it!

Debbie on the shore of Dollar Lake

The flowers lining the trail up to Dollar Lake were magnificent.  More bright purple lupine and red paintbrush.  As we climbed, we also saw the mountains to the north again.

Perfectly round Dollar Lake

Dollar Lake is a small alpine tarn that gets its water from snowmelt.  The lake is perfectly round, and looks like a silver dollar, hence its name.  It is a cute little tarn nestled at the edge of the treeline, with a great view of Mt. Hood.  There are a couple of campsites near the lake, and I think this also would be a nice place to spend the night.

Lovely lupine

Debbie and I walked around the lake, took some photos and chatted with a couple who were camped nearby.  It was starting to get windy and chilly and the couple wasn't sure if they were going to stay the night or head back home.

Paintbrush blooms filled this small valley

As we headed back down from Dollar Lake to the Timberline Trail, the flowers were so numerous and beautiful that I had to get some more photos.  The sky clouded up, so the light was better, and I think these photos turned out the best of all.

A nice patch of lupine

Yes, I know this post is nothing but flower photos, but I had a hard time deciding which images to include.  I could've easily added ten more pictures, but didn't want to make it super-long!

Mt. Adams view through the trees

Finally, we reached the Timberline trail, then Pinnacle Ridge trail, and down we trudged towards the trailhead and my car.  By this time, we were both getting tired, and were ready to be done.  Debbie and I decided we'd stop in the nearby town of Parkdale for some goodies on the way home.  It had been a good hike, and we deserved a little treat!

Bear and I in the paintbrush fields

What a great hike!  We had good weather, incredible flowers, and nice mountain views.  Yes, I remember why this hike is one of my favorites.  Same time next year?  I'm planning on it!


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