When the weekend comes, I gleefully head to the woods. Time to get my dose of mountain happiness!
|Lovely Mt. Hood!|
In early August, I had a yen to explore the east side of Mt. Hood. The Elk Meadows Trail with a side trip to Gnarl Ridge makes an excellent summer hike. I was delighted when my good friends John and Young agreed to join me.
|Follow the trail|
This trail starts near Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area and meanders through a lovely fir forest thick with huckleberry bushes. After crossing Clark Creek on a sturdy log footbridge, the path directs hikers to a roaring Newton Creek. No nice bridge here, one must either wade, or balance on one of the precariously placed logs.
|Crossing Newton Creek in the am|
River crossings are always scarier than they look, and my party made it across Newton Creek no problem. Then a steep, switchback-y trail took us up the opposite bank.
|Mt. Hood view at Newton Creek|
The forest here was interesting. It was a mix of Douglas firs and tons of old, barkless trees that appeared to have died or were in the process of dying. Some of these trees sported huge round burls in their trunks. One of the burls looked exactly like someone's rear end. We all had a good laugh about the "butt tree" and funny John posed for the shot below.
|That tree burl looks like a .......!|
A mile and a half of steady climbing brought us to Elk Meadows. In early August, this beautiful alpine area usually boasts a huge display of wildflowers. When my friends and I arrived, we were disappointed to discover the bloom was nearly over. All that remained were a few scraggly stalks of lupine. Usually this meadow is purple with the stuff.
|Flower photo session|
Hoping to find some flowers at higher elevations, my hiking buddies and I continued up the path until it intersected with the Timberline Trail. Following the Timberline Trail from here, it was a steep mile and a half trudge to Gnarl Ridge.
|Unknown purple flower|
Although climbing in the midday heat wasn't a lot of fun, our efforts were rewarded with a few flower-spangled meadows. The higher we climbed, the more the forest opened up, and the better the views became.
|Almost above treeline|
Finally, the forest gave way to small, scraggly whitebark pines, their trunks bent by fierce winds and bleached white by the sun. Above the trees, Mt. Hood was now visible, her glaciers gleaming.
|Looking down on Newton Creek from Gnarl Ridge|
A rocky trail led us to the wonderful cliff-edge views of Gnarl Ridge. Far down below, I glimpsed Newton Creek, it's snowmelt-fed waters roaring down the mountainside. Having crossed this creek only a couple hours ago, it was amazing to see how high we'd climbed. Across the canyon, I spotted the ski lifts of Mt. Hood Meadows.
|Young takes in the views|
But at Newton Canyon's highest point, Mt. Hood dominated the sky. She sat tall, majestic and beautiful at the very top. The mountain was so close I felt as if I could reach out and touch it.
|A rock for three|
Out in the open, brisk winds forced John, Young and I to don our jackets. Then we perched on a large rock and dug into some lunch.
|Mt. Hood rises above the ridge|
My friends and I spent at least an hour lounging on top of Gnarl Ridge, taking in the scenery, and snapping tons of photos. The wind died down and temps became pleasant enough to bask in the sunshine. Although a few hikers came by, they didn't stop, and we had the place to ourselves.
|Scrubby, gnarled whitebark pines|
After an idyllic break, it was time to pick up our packs and head back down. John joked that the local brewpub was calling. Young and I agreed this was good incentive for a quick return.
|Heading back down|
But.....with views like these, my camera and I were easily distracted. Luckily I wasn't the only one. Young and I are kindred spirits when it comes to capturing lovely scenes with our cameras. Poor John! He joked that we were secret sisters, separated at birth.
Young sprained her ankle earlier in the summer, and today's hike was only the second one she'd done since the injury. All the way up to Gnarl Ridge she did fantastic. But halfway down, things began to throb, and Young finally conceded to a rest break.
|A cairn marks the Newton Creek crossing|
Approaching Newton Creek for our second crossing, I noticed the morning's clear rushing stream had changed dramatically. Afternoon snowmelt had transformed it into a wide, churning mass of brown silt. The water level rose so much that it barely fit under the logs hikers were using to cross.
|Afternoon crossing of a roaring Newton Creek|
Shakily, I approached the slippery logs, and slowly inched across. Roaring water directly below the logs was unnerving. Creek crossings always scare me a little, and I was relieved when my feet finally touched the opposite shore's rocky bank.
Creek crossing now out of the way, I followed my friends through the brushy forest. Young became distracted by some ripe huckleberries, and before I knew it, both she and John were stopped by the side of the trail, grabbing handfuls. Hey guys - did you forget about the beer?
But this gave me an opportunity to photograph some frilly white flowers. A busy bumblebee, intent on his pollen-gathering, struck a few poses for my lens.
|Hello from the bridge!|
Back across the Clark Fork footbridge, before I knew it we'd arrived at the parking lot. Time to hit the pub! Although hot, sweaty and thirsty, my mind and body were invigorated. There's nothing like a trek through some high alpine country to reset my attitude. I'd filled my tank with some mountain happiness. It would get me through another week.
Back to work tomorrow - time to dream and plan for next weekend's hike. And more mountain happiness.
Sharing with: Tuesday Muse and Share Your Cup Thursday