|Mt. Adams emerges from the burn zone|
Because Mt. Adams is far enough away from Portland and Seattle, it doesn't get the crowds like its sister peaks of Hood, Rainier, and St. Helens. Quite of few of my friends have climbed the mountain, and some have even skied up and down its slopes. But I've never had the desire to drive the extra distance to check it out. Finally my friends John and Young went on a midsummer hike and brought back glowing reports of breathtaking wildflower meadows. OK, Mt. Adams this time you've got my attention. Time for me to pay you a visit.
|Wildflowers rise from ashes|
One week in mid-September I got my chance. After dreary cloudy skies all week, the weatherman predicted Thursday would be the only sunny day for awhile. Not wanting to waste it sitting around at work, I asked for the day off, deciding to make Mt. Adams my destination. This might be my last chance to visit before winter set in.
|A glimpse of Mt. Hood|
I left my home early, and drove the nearly three hours to the South Climb Trailhead. Although the day had a foggy start, by the time I arrived, promised sunshine was illuminating the mountain. The trail started off climbing through a forest of scorched trees, victims of a recent 2012 fire. Although sober to view, the blackened woods had an eerie beauty. I fired off numerous pictures while trudging along.
|Fall colors are starting|
After ascending for nearly a mile and a half, I reached the intersection with the Round the Mountain Trail. This mostly level trail encircles three quarters of Mt. Adams and would be my path to the lovely Bird Creek Meadows.
|Grand mountain view|
I left the burn zone behind and entered an area of scraggly trees at timberline, and then crossed through a cool ancient lava flow.
|Crossing the lava flow|
Although the morning had been chilly, moving along had warmed me up enough to peel off my layers. The temps were perfect for hiking. The clear, blue sky meant I could see for miles. And the Round the Mountain Trail provided lots of viewing opportunities.
|Entering the Yakima Indian Reservation|
After following this trail for nearly two miles, I entered the boundary of the Yakima Indian Reservation. This tribe won jurisdiction of the southeast flank of Mt. Adams, with the condition to allow public access.
Although my hike had been great so far, it's here that the really wonderful scenery began. The place was full of verdant green meadows, crossed with cute mountain streams. The trail was well-signed and in great shape, with most of the creek crossings spanned by new, sturdy log bridges. The Yakima Nation appeared to be doing a great job maintaining this trail network.
|Lovely green meadow|
Although the summer flower show was long gone, huckleberry bushes were donning their red fall clothing, making lovely crimson splashes amongst the greenery.
|The trails were well signed|
I came upon a junction with a trail sign that directed hikers to Crooked Creek Falls. It was only a quarter mile away. Never passing up a chance to see a waterfall, I decided to take the side trip.
|Last of the summer flowers|
The path followed an absolutely lovely creek, rimmed with electric green moss. A few straggler asters bloomed in the adjacent meadow and I captured some bees vying for the last of the pollen.
|Lush green creeklet|
It wasn't long before I heard the sound of rushing water. Turning a bend in the trail, I got a glimpse of a large rock cliff. Smack dab in the middle was the pretty white cascade of Crooked Creek Falls. At 50 feet in height, it was impressive indeed.
|Crooked Creek Falls|
I spent some time taking photos of this beautiful waterfall, from every conceivable angle. I didn't have my tripod, so all the shots had to be very quick exposures, with none of the silky smooth water that a long exposure would give. But the fast shutter speeds did a great job of capturing the motion and raw power of this good-sized cascade.
|This way to Hellroaring View Point!|
I returned to the Round the Mountain Trail for another mile and a half, before finally entering the famous wildflower paradise of Bird Creek Meadows. In late summer, I've heard this place erupts in the best floral display anywhere. Sadly, by mid-September the blooms were all gone, and I was left trudging through nothing but ultra-green meadows (gee...darn!).
|More vibrant reds|
Leaving the main trail, a side path led hikers up to a place called "Hellroaring Viewpoint." A few hundred feet of climbing was required. As I gained elevation, the trees became shorter, and the terrain more open. Mt. Adams began to show itself on a regular basis, and I made frequent photo stops to capture just one more image.
|Breathtaking view from Hellroaring view point|
And then I came upon a cliff-edge viewpoint. And there was Mt. Adams, front and center, right in my face. The terrain opened up to a fabulous view of the Mazama Glacier (shrunken by summer sun), and the entire drainage basin of Hellroaring Creek.
|Perfect spot for a selfie!|
Oh, it was amazing! I tried to capture its immensity, but photos did not do it justice. This area alone was totally worth the long hike in.
|Rutted trail above Hellroaring view point|
The description in my hiking book mentioned a faint trail above Hellroaring Viewpoint that followed a ridge, ending at an iceberg-filled glacial lake. It sounded like an interesting destination, and was only 1.7 miles away, so I decided to extend my trip.
|Looking back down the valley|
Let the climbing begin! My trail rose steeply from the viewpoint. Slogging along, gasping for breath, I attempted to follow a faint footpath through the rocky terrain. Many times it was hard to determine the actual trail. Intermittent cairns helped with wayfinding, but there were times I stumbled along through the rock gardens, not sure if I was on the right path.
|Iceberg Lake was just beyond this cinder dune|
After crossing a snow-filled depression, I found myself at the foot of a massive cinder slope. My gps showed the lake just beyond this tall mound of rock and ash. So close! All I had to do was ascend this slippery hill.
But easier said than done. The slope was entirely loose rock and soil. For every step I took, I slid back at least half as far. Large rocks tumbled around me, and I often found myself dodging boulders. Progress was super-slow. Fighting this slope, I was burning tons of energy. After reaching the halfway point, I checked my watch. It was 1:30, and I'd yet to have lunch. At this rate, it would take another 45 minutes just to reach the lake. And the trailhead was at least six miles away.
|Rocky terrain made trail finding a challenge|
I decided to sit down right then and there and have some lunch. And I also decided I'd gone far enough. After refueling, I turned around, a half mile short of my goal. But it was getting late, and I had a long trek ahead of me. Iceberg lake would have to wait for another day.
|Mt. Adams extreme close-up|
Still I'd made it to the 7200 foot level of Mt. Adams. And I'd soaked in some incredible views from this high. It was so nice to have a bright, sunny day to enjoy my lofty perch to the full extent. Although a tough climb, this was my reward. And a grand one it was.
|I discovered a huge clump of gentians|
Sliding back down the dusty slope, I picked my way through the rocky alpine gardens below. Again, route finding was an issue, and I totally lost the trail. Stumbling through the low bushes I came upon a huge clump of bright violet-blue gentian flowers. Such a lovely bouquet, I had a quick photo session before resuming my search. Getting lost does have its advantages!
|Red huckleberry leaves brighten the meadow|
Using my gps track as a guide, I headed in the general direction of my uphill route. I discovered I'd wandered quite a ways from the path. There were a few anxious moments, but I eventually stumbled across the trail well below Hellroaring Viewpoint. Disappointed I'd missed a chance to see this cool vantage again, I chided myself for not paying closer attention on the descent.
Now back on good trail, I put the pedal to the metal. It was nearly 3:00, and I needed to get myself back to my car at a decent hour. It was still a long drive home and I didn't really want to be doing it in the dark.
|Late afternoon light on the burned forest|
Back down the trail I marched. I didn't stop for much, and made good time back to the last junction. Ascending the path through the burn zone again, the late afternoon light on the ghost trees made for some beautiful scenery. A perfect end to an amazing day!
Returning to the car, I was surprised to see my gps registered a total of 14 miles traveled, and over 1600 feet of elevation gain. All those side trips added up! But it was well worth the time and mileage spent. How often does one get to visit such a magnificent mountain on a sunny fall day?
And in the end, I was really, really glad I'd visited Mt. Adams when I did. The very next weekend, a large wet storm descended upon the Pacific Northwest, coating the Cascade mountains under many feet of snow. The weather window now closed, I'd have to wait until next year for a return to Mt Adams.
But I will be back....
Sharing with: Tuesday Muse.