|Big view No. 1|
The day after my short ramble to Dry Creek Falls, my friend John invited a group of us to trek the McIntyre Ridge Trail to Wildcat Mountain. I hiked this trail last year and although it wasn't my favorite, I did remember great views of Mt. Hood along the way. And, besides, after Friday's wimpy hike, I needed something with a little more mileage. At the last minute, I emailed John and accepted his invitation.
|In the woods, ready to go|
The following morning, a group of six happy hikers assembled at the makeshift trailhead - basically the end of a bumpy Forest Service Road deep in the woods. This area had a history of illegal camping and target shooting, but it appeared this year the Forest Service was trying to clean things up. They'd installed large rocks in front of all the old target practice areas, and stamped "no shooting" on their surfaces. But most of us wore an article of orange clothing, just in case.
Our day's journey began up a rough dirt road that quickly intersected with the McIntyre Ridge trail. After winding through thick, mossy woods of fir and hemlock, we emerged at a clearing. It was big view number one. The cloudless sky provided a drop-dead gorgeous view of Mt. Hood, shining white from a recent snowfall. Cameras came out in force - talk about paparazzi! (I'll bet you never knew they existed deep in the woods of Oregon)
After a fine photo session, we dived back into the woods, climbing up a steep hill, and then emerging into a lovely meadow. As you can see, our crew was an orderly bunch, trekking through the tall grass single-file.
|John shows off his muscles|
But not without a little clowning for the camera!
|Steve working for the shot|
Steve was the group's mushroom expert. Our rainy late September weather gave rise to a bumper crop of 'shrooms in the woods. There were small ones and big ones, in every color imaginable. And eagle-eye Steve found them all. He loved photographing the colorful fungi. As you can see, Steve went to great lengths to get the perfect shot!
|"I'm ready for my close-up"|
The enthusiasm was contagious. So much so, that even I got in on the 'shroom photography action. I liked these pancake-colored guys, hiding under some blades of grass. (Kinda reminds me of a Donald Trump comb-over.)
|Big view No. 2|
Just past the mushroom fields, the woods gave way to our second big viewpoint. Another nice Hood sighting meant more clicking cameras. And a little splash of orange vine maple didn't hurt.
|Hey everyone, it's Young and Steve!|
Following the ridgeline, not far from big view number two, was the best vista of all - aka big view number three. Forested ridges spread out forever, with Mt. Hood a prominent front and center. You could see for miles. As an added bonus, the rocky slope below was full of fiery-orange vine maple leaves. It was such a scenic spot, someone had constructed a wooden bench here, for tired hikers to relax and take it all in.
|Fiery orange vine maple|
After yet more photos, some snacking, and conversation, John rounded up his group and pointed us toward our next destination - Wildcat Mountain's summit.
|John finds the trail marker to Wildcat Mtn|
Ambling down the trail, John and I got caught in conversation, and nearly missed the turnoff. Wildcat Mountain's spur trail wasn't well marked. No nice wooden trail sign, a single blue ribbon of survey tape was our lone clue.
|Ginormous fairy-tale mushroom!|
Ascending this steep trail, Steve, our top mushroom guy, noticed something hiding under the rhododendron bushes. Parting back the branches, we discovered a patch of the largest mushrooms we'd ever seen. They ranged from softball to soccer ball size! And these huge brown toadstools looked like something from a fairy tale. Although I didn't think to put an object in the above photo for scale, this particular 'shroom was about the size of a small cantaloupe. Wowza!
|Lunch spot on Wildcat Mtn|
After another mushroom photography frenzy, we all arrived on Wildcat Mountain's rocky, overgrown summit ready for a lunch break. Although once the site of a fire lookout, trees had grown tall enough to obscure any views. Bushwacking through the thick undergrowth, one could get peek-a-boo glimpses of Hood. But everyone was focused on eating, and besides, we'd already passed by three much nicer viewpoints.
|Big view no. 3|
Although the morning had been chilly, by noon temps had warmed up enough that everyone had stashed their jackets. We sat in the warm sun on Wildcat Mountain's summit, enjoying a fine fall day and good food and conversation.
|Hikers line the ridge|
After a pleasant break, John led his hikers back down the mountain, retracing our steps back across McIntyre Ridge. It was nice to stop by all the big viewpoints a second time. The afternoon sun had shifted angles, which made for better photographic light on the mountain.
|Huckleberry fall finery|
Although there wasn't a lot of fall color yet, a few scattered vine maples, and some bright red huckleberry bushes added accents to the green forest.
|Hanging out on the bench|
Some of us enjoyed a brief rest break on the bench at viewpoint number three.
|A spot of yellow in the woods|
Heading back through the thick forest, our group was crossing a draw when I happened to look up. I don't know how it got missed before, but the entire canyon was full of bright yellow leaves. The sun illuminated the leaves making them glow. Everyone gaped in awe. A wonderful patch of fall color, it made the perfect ending to a nice fall hike.
|Big view No. 4 (Are you sick of Mt. Hood yet?)|
Well.....actually the perfect ending was heading to a local Mexican restaurant for some local brews and unlimited chips and salsa. Ahhhh! Food tastes so much better after you've been trekking around the woods all day.
Total stats: 8 miles, 1700' elevation gain. And a camera full of Mt. Hood and mushroom photos.
Sharing with: Tuesday Muse.