|The PCT near Timberline Lodge|
From late July into August, the meadows below Mt. Hood's south side erupt into colorful carpets of wildflowers. Mt. Hood towers above, anchoring the skyline. Paradise Park is indeed an amazing place, totally deserving of its name.
The hike to this special area is long, over 12 miles if one does the entire loop, and arduous - the final two miles are uphill. But the incredible scenery one encounters is well worth a little extra effort.
|Blooming purple lupine frame Timberline Lodge|
The trail to paradise starts at Timberline Lodge. My normal backcountry skiing haunt, it was fun to see it in early August, checking out what the ski trails looked like without several feet of snow. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) passes right by the lodge, and I couldn't resist a quick photo op by the sign.
|Tons of purple daisy-like flowers|
The first mile was a delight. Tons of purple lupine, and lavender daisy-like flowers lined the trail. Although the sky was cloudy, Mt. Hood peeped out occasionally, giving me glimpses of her rocky slopes.
|Chairlifts waiting for snow|
I walked under ski lifts, silent except for one. The Magic Mile lift was still turning, transporting skiers to glacial snowfields high on the mountain.
|This way to Paradise Park!|
Yeah.....with so many wonderful photo subjects, let's just say I didn't cover the first mile in record time. I leapfrogged a bit with an older couple, who turned around after a short distance. Upon seeing me on their return trip, the man remarked "You're not going to reach your destination if you keep stopping to take pictures all the time."
|Fireweed blooming beside a spring|
But taking photographs is what I do, so onward I advanced (even if it was rather slowly). I passed a small spring surrounded by lovely rose-colored fireweed flowers.
I crossed a small glacial melt stream in Little Zigzag Canyon. Upon climbing up the opposite bank I ran into my first PCT through hiker, a young man traveling southbound. The man told me he'd began his journey exactly one month ago at the Canadian border. He was looking forward to reaching Timberline Lodge and partaking of their famous hiker buffet.
|Creek crossing in the bottom of Zigzag Canyon|
Bidding the man goodbye, I continued on across rocky slopes decorated by an occasional lupine bloom. Shortly, I reached the eastern bank of Zigzag Canyon. An enormous, deep depression formed by melting glaciers, it was an impressive sight. Standing on the exposed overlook peering down into the canyon's wide valley made me feel mighty small.
|A few paintbrush were blooming|
Thus began the long trip down, down, down 600 feet to the canyon bottom. It took some time, but finally I found myself at the rushing waters of Zigzag River. Formed by melting ice of the Zigzag Glacier, by midday it was already churning mightily.
|Lots of lovely meadows|
Now I'm not a huge fan of river crossings. They always strike a tiny bit of fear in me. Balancing on rocks over fast water can be rather scary. As with any glacial stream, the Zigzag River is sometimes tricky to traverse. I walked up the bank for a short distance, looking for rock cairns that signaled a crossing point. Luckily, I found a narrow spot in the river that I was fairly sure could be jumped across. As with most river crossings, they always look much worse than they really are, and happily I hopped across the gap with no problem.
|The famous flower-filled meadow|
What goes down must come up, so after my successful conquest of the Zigzag River, came a trudge up the steep, gravelly opposite bank. But after a long, sweaty climb, I reached the first junction of the Paradise Loop Trail. Not much further to those wonderful wildflower meadows!
|This is truly paradise!|
I wound along the trail, heading uphill. Occasional patches of lupine and purple daisy flowers lined my path. But I was disappointed to see most of the daises were wilted. It's been a very hot summer here in Oregon, and the flowers appeared to be victims of the unseasonably high temps.
Finally, I reached the wonderful meadow. Located at a junction of two trails, this grassy field erupts in a riot of color by late summer. But this year, although speckled with lupine, small yellow, and fluffy white flowers, the show was not near as spectacular as in past trips. (Check out this post from a prior year's visit).
|These monkeyflowers are pretty in pink|
But the meadow did make an excellent lunch spot, and being it was well past noon, I eagerly dug into my food bag. The sun came out for a short period, but I was too busy eating to even think about grabbing my camera and taking advantage of the nice light. Once I was done, the mountain had clouded over again, and I'd lost my golden opportunity.
|Lovely little creeklet|
Remembering from past visits that more colorful meadows could be found further down the trail, I packed up my things and continued on. Although the clouds were now obscuring Mt. Hood, I was able to find lots more pretty scenery closer in.
I crossed a small creek lined with many varieties of bright blooms. There were pink monkeyflowers, vibrant orange paintbrush, and frilly yellow and white blossoms. Probably the best flowers of today's trek, I made sure many images were duly recorded on my memory card.
|Lupine rules this meadow|
By now it was mid-afternoon, and I could see the skies clouding up even more. Afraid that a storm was brewing, and not wanting to get caught in a downpour, I decided to head back.
|Lots of purple here!|
Having photographed everything extensively on my outbound trip, I put the pedal to the metal on my return. The climb out of Zigzag Canyon was long, sweaty and arduous, but I survived.
One of the highlights was meeting a northbound PCT through hiker named "Lighthouse" and catching a bit of his conversation with another hiker. It was thrilling for me to meet two actual PCT through hikers in one day.
|Heading back to Timberline Lodge|
Approaching Timberline Ski Area's boundary, I began to meet more and more people. Most of them were guests of the lodge, out on short evening hikes. (A shout out to Jennifer, a very nice lady from Texas I met on the way back, who was planning to hike a portion of the Timberline Trail).
|Mt. Hood finally reveals herself|
Reaching Timberline's parking lot and the car, I was surprised to see my gps had logged a total of 11.5 miles. No wonder my feet hurt! Taking off my boots, I looked up to see Mt. Hood finally emerging from her cloudy curtain. Just in time to wish me goodbye and goodnight.
As with all my hikes, although the flowers weren't up their usual stunning displays, it was still wonderful to spend a day rambling around my favorite mountain.
Sharing with: Our World Tuesday.