Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Last Day of Summer

I took a much-needed vacation from work last week.  A couple of the days were spent with my folks while they were visiting, and another day was spent with my daughter, getting her ready for college.  But the final two days were all mine.  And I spent them hiking.

Click on any photo for a larger view

Mt. Hood in the morning

Thursday was the last day of summer.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend it than on the mountain.  I'd been wanting to hike the trail from Timberline Lodge to Paradise Park.  Usually the wildflowers peak there in early August.  But due to the late snowfall, the bloom was delayed.  I'd heard reports that the flowers were still going strong.  This was my chance to check it out.

PCT trail sign - it's a long way to Mexico!

I packed a lunch, loaded Bear in the car, and headed up to Timberline Lodge.  The trail started out on an asphalt path adjacent to T-line. The surrounding area was rocky and dusty in the late summer sun.  I'm used to seeing the place in winter surrounded by snow, so things sure looked barren. I followed the path up to a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail. I got a kick out of the PCT sign - it announced the mileages to Canada and Mexico. Only a mere 550 miles to Canada!

Timberline Lodge and Mt. Jefferson

Bear and I followed the PCT as it ambled through the snow-less ski trails of Timberline.   The clear skies showcased great views to the south of Mt. Jefferson and the Cascade foothills.

Colorful flowers

And there were flowers from the very beginning!  The trail was lined with lupine, tiny yellow flowers and small purple daisy-like blossoms.  I didn't have to wait until Paradise Park to get my floral fix.

A busy bee

Dozens of bees were buzzing around the flowers.  I think those bees knew that fall was fast approaching, as they seemed very intent on harvesting pollen.

Bear in the flower fields

The PCT contours across the side of Mt. Hood.  The mountain itself was always over my right shoulder.  The trail traversed a couple of drainages carrying snowmelt down the mountain.  The first, Little Zigzag Canyon, was a snap to cross.  The second, Zigzag River, posed more of a challenge.  Even by mid-morning, water was already roaring down the mountain.  I walked up and down its banks, scouting for a good place to cross.  I finally found the right combination of rocks spaced for my leg span, and did a shaky stream-hop.  Of course, Bear showed me up, wading straight across the torrent no problem.

The wonderful meadow

The trail then climbed out of Zigzag Canyon to a junction with the Paradise Loop Trail.  This path led me up to a huge meadow.  And that's where the fun began.

Yes, this is paradise!

I came upon the most wonderful alpine meadow.  It was chock full of multi-colored wildflowers.  The sheer amount of flowers combined to emit a strong floral fragrance.  Purple, yellow, blue, and white contrasted nicely with the green vegetation.  Mt. Hood provided the perfect backdrop.

Out standing in a field (of flowers!)

A sign in the middle of the meadow announced the Paradise Loop.  It was appropriately named!  This was hands-down one of the best wildflower displays on the mountain.

Bear got lots of rest during my extended photo session

I spent a lot of time capturing images of the meadow.  The scenery was absolutely stunning.  While I was shooting away, Bear was more than happy to take a breather.

Beautiful flower fields

I finally tore myself away from the meadow, and continued down the trail.  But just around the bend was another meadow, and it was just as spectacular.

Floral riot

As you might guess, it took me awhile to hike through the Paradise Loop.

Delicate pink monkey flower

I stopped for lunch at a beautiful campsite.  It was situated next to a small stream.  Colorful flowers lined the stream.  Mt. Hood rose up from the meadow's edge.  The views were wonderful.  Lunch spots don't get any better than this.

Fields ablaze with color

After Bear and I refueled, we continued our exploration of the Paradise Loop.  Further down the trail were even more flower-filled meadows.  These had rose-colored daisies and bright orange paintbrush added to the mix.

Red paintbrush bloom

The trail finally descended back down the ridge and reconnected with the PCT.  Having reached our turnaround point, Bear and I followed the PCT back towards Zigzag Canyon.

Zigzag Canyon

Another crossing of the Zigzag River awaited us.  I'm not a huge fan of fording raging mountain streams.  As the day warms up, snowmelt typically increases the river flow.  With additional water shooting down the mountain, afternoon stream crossings are usually trickier.

Zigzag River crossing

But for some reason, the trip back across the Zigzag was no problem.  I immediately found a spot to hop across, and quickly bounded to the opposite shore.  To celebrate, I broke out my last two cookies.  I had a long steep climb back out of Zigzag Canyon, and knew I'd need all the energy I could get.

Fall colors

It was a slog climbing up the endless series of switchbacks.  But I put my head down and kept on trudging.  I ran into a trio of really nice men who were visiting from the East coast (Virginia and New Jersey).  They loved Bear, and spoiled him with treats.  These men said every year they picked a national park to visit somewhere in the US.  This year was Oregon's turn.  What a great way to see the country!

Zigzag Canyon self portrait

I finally arrived at the top of Zigzag Canyon.  From here, Timberline Lodge was only a little over two miles away.  That was the good news.  The bad news was these last two miles were uphill.  It's always difficult to end a long hike with an uphill climb.

Zigzag Canyon is enormous

Zigzag canyon is amazing to view from the topside.  I couldn't fit it all into my camera lens, so I took two separate photos and combined them into this pano view.  Click on the photo above if you'd like to see a larger image.  (However, even my photo doesn't truly capture the magnificence of this canyon).

Bear at the bottom of Little Zigzag Canyon

My dog is now ten years old.  He's always been pretty energetic, but just this year Bear's started to show his age.  And around mile 10, my pup started pooping out.  He stuck with me, and didn't go bounding ahead on the trail.  I hoped this hike wouldn't be too long for him.

The ski runs look barren this time of year

I finally started to see glimpses of the Timberline ski lifts.  Yahoo!  That meant I was getting close to my car.  The late afternoon sun bathed Mt. Hood in some great light.  This slowed down my progress, as the camera came out and I attempted to capture more wonderful mountain views.

Lupine fields

I finally arrived back at my car at 5 pm.  Bear gratefully sank into the back seat and didn't move the entire trip home.  As I arrived at my house, the sun was sinking below the horizon.  The last day of summer was drawing to a close.  I'd covered 12 miles of magnificent mountain scenery and witnessed one of the best wildflower displays I've seen all year.  A perfect way to spend the last day of summer.



  1. that sounds like a perfect day and your pictures prove to be a gorgeous one.

    hopefully bear got a nice treat when he got home for keeping up with you.

  2. Beautiful pictures! Sounds like a great day hiking! Bear looks like a sweet dog!

  3. more magnificent images. that was one beautiful hike. I love the #6 image of Bear....he looks like he's smiling so big.


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