Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shorthorn Trail

Late summer is a perfect time to explore the Cascades' high mountain meadows.  The bugs are gone, trails are snow-free, and sunny days are almost always guaranteed.  Last September I'd visited Mt. Adams for the first time (read about it here).  I discovered jaw-dropping mountain scenery that left me wanting more.

The grand dame herself - Mt.Adams

Fresh from my South Dakota journey, I was hankering for a hike one of my beloved PNW mountains.  The Portland Hikers website posted a trip report on Mt. Adams' Shorthorn Trail.  The photos and description were so enticing, I knew I had to pay a visit.

The trail started in an recent burn area

Mt. Adams, located across the river in Washington State, is a long drive from Portland.  It took me nearly 2 1/2 hours to reach the trailhead.  But I woke up early, put in some good music, and in no time was bumping along the rough gravel road near my destination.

Blackened bark peeling from the trees

The Shorthorn Trail starts at the Morrison Creek Campground.  The entire area, including the campground, was charred in a 2012 wildfire.  I noticed the campsites all had new picnic tables, and the bathroom looked like it had been recently installed.  But the trees left standing were all gray and dead.  It appeared the Forest Service had been cutting down the burned trunks, as there were piles of logs scattered throughout the area.  Not a very scenic place to camp, but on the plus side you'd have unlimited firewood!

Beautiful marshy meadow

I hit the trail, climbing through the blackened forest.  Although the trees were dead, I saw many birds flitting about.  I even spotted a pair of woodpeckers combing through the gray trunks.  The path climbed, steeply at times, offering occasional tiny glimpses of Mt. Adams through the trees.  A carrot to keep me going!

Happy to see this sign!

It was a long, nearly viewless three miles.  At first I enjoyed checking out the burned trees, all shedding their blackened bark (it was like the trees were all stripping off their clothes!)  But aside from that, the only excitement was traversing a vivid green marshy meadow, and then crossing a steep, gravelly stream bed.  But soon after this creek, I climbed one last slope, and there before me was the Round the Mountain Trail.

Amazing Mt. Adams view from Round the Mountain Trail

It was here I got my first grand view of Mt. Adam's bulky summit.  Spectacular!

One of many creek crossings

Thankfully, the Round the Mountain Trail is fairly level, with minimal elevation gains and losses.  I headed westward on this trail.  Mostly above treeline, I was treated to some great panoramic views of the adjacent hills and mountains.

Vibrant pink monkeyflowers

I crossed several gushing mountain streams, all originating from melting glaciers.  Each crossing offered stunning views of Adams as you looked up toward the rocky banks.  A couple creeks were also lined with green vegetation and vivid pink monkeyflowers.

Every creek crossing had stunning mountain views

Stream crossings are not my favorite part of hiking.  I always get nervous when I have to rock-hop over cold, fast-moving water.  But through the years I've discovered the crossings always look much worse than they really are.  Such was the case with all the creeks I encountered this day.

Looking back towards Mt. Hood

Two miles down Round the Mountain Trail was a path leading to a tiny mountain pond - Lookingglass Lake.  The hike recap I'd read described this little lake as incredibly scenic.  When the wind wasn't blowing it was supposed to create perfect reflections of Mt. Adams on it's glassy surface.

Friendly butterfly

It took longer than expected to reach the spur trail to Lookingglass Lake.  I was starting to think I'd missed the turnoff when I spotted the sign.  One more mile!  The path dived downhill through a lush meadow.  I noticed remnants of a large wildflower bloom.  Then I spied bright orange butterflies flitting through the shrived flower petals.  It took a few minutes, and a lot of patience, but one friendly butterfly did stop, and lingered long enough to allow a few images.

I finally spy Lookingglass Lake

This trail wound steeply downhill, recrossing the same stream multiple times.  I began to tire of rock-hopping and started to wade through the water instead (it wasn't very deep).  This last mile seemed to take an eternity.  More than once I questioned if this was the right trail.  But then I spotted a lovely blue-green lake through the forest.

Green grass brightens the lakeshore

Ohhh.....was it ever beautiful!  Surrounded by lush green grasses, the lake itself was a shining teal color.  Although surrounded by ghostly gray dead trees (sadly the forest fire passed this way too) it was still very stunning.

Perfect mountain reflection!

Following the shoreline to its opposite end, I was happy to discover that perfect reflection I'd come so far to find.

Gentians blooming around the lake

Lucky for me, the winds were calm.  The lake's glassy surface gave a perfect mirror image of Mt. Adams, towering high above.  The burned out forest, although not as scenic, did open up more views of this mountain.

Mt. Adams fills the sky

After taking the obligatory dozens of photos, I sat on a log, ate my lunch, and enjoyed the scenery.

More great reflections

I could've lingered at Lookingglass Lake all afternoon.  But, after a peaceful hour, I knew it was time to head back.  I finished the loop around the lake, following a faint trail until it petered out into a marsh.  Not watching where I was going, I ended up stepping into knee-deep water (cleverly hidden by a bed of thick moss).  My boots filled with water.  Although my feet got wet, the icy cold water felt good on my tired feet.  The day was getting warm, and anything cold was most welcome!

Colorful creek crossing

I climbed back up until again reuniting with Round the Mountain Trail.  Retracing my steps, I crossed back over the same streams.  Now that my feet were wet, stream crossings became a snap.  I didn't worry about rock hopping, and instead plowed right through the water.  One particular stream was lined with rust-colored rocks (must've been some iron minerals in them) and was especially scenic.

Rock cairns mark crossing points

A few stream crossings were marked with cute little rock cairns.  This one, with it's multicolored rocks, was my favorite.

Clear, glacial stream

I enjoyed my trek back on Round the Mountain Trail.  Although it ducked back into the forest in a few places, for the most part, I was treated to endless open views, of the surrounding foothills, Mt. Adams, and the adjacent peaks of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens.

Back through the burn zone

Hitting the last junction, I began the final leg of my journey, down the Shorthorn Trail.  Trekking back down through the viewless burned-out forest seemed endless.  My feet were hurting, the temps toasty.  Dust billowed up from my footsteps.  This part wasn't much fun at all.  I was never so happy to see the campground and my car. 

A wonderful place!

I've discovered another magical place on Mt. Adams.  Lookingglass Lake is definitely another jewel on Mt. Adams' crown.

Stats for the day:  12 miles, 1800' elevation gain.

Sharing with:  Our World Tuesday and Wednesday Around the World.


  1. The reflections are truly beautiful. Not sure about walking with wet feet though!

  2. That is quite a hiking acomplishment. Mt. Adams is amazingly beautiful and so is the scenery (even with the burnt trees). Love the lake. It shines like a jewel in the grey landscape. You had great weather and It really payed of getting up early and making the drive.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  3. Linda, thanks for taking me along on your hike. The views of Mt Adams and the Lookingglass Lake are beautiful. The flowers and butterfly are gorgeous too. Lovely post. Enjoy your day!

  4. It saddens me to see such devastation. I'm so grateful it's the start of our rainy season.. we sure need the rain (and the snow).
    Great captures of the terrain and Mt Adams.. I love it almost as much as MSH!

  5. Beautiful impressions, Linda, from a part of our world I've never seen before through my own eyes. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Fabulous hike and awesome scenery! You've got some amazing places to explore out there.

  7. Fantastic scenery! I wouldn't even attempt 12 miles. Wow.

  8. Amazingly gorgeous images again Linda.

    I so enjoy your hike posts'. feel like I'm right there with you.

  9. Wow! Stunning photos, visiting from Communal Global!

  10. Rock cairns are kind of an obsession of mine. :) I made a few in a river bed this last weekend.
    My computer has crashed, so I'm slow in getting posts together, but seizing the peak of fall colors and beautiful weather while they're here in northern MN!
    Another great excursion, Linda - it's so much fun reading about your ventures!

  11. Hello Linda
    absolutely great photos you took of your tour, the reflections are really super
    regards Frank

  12. Magnificent day; beautiful photos. I love that lake. It looks so refreshing, and relaxing. And I also love that butterfly photo. These little critters are fun to photograph, but it's not always easy!

  13. Long walk, eh!
    I've only seen Mt. Adams from afar. Thank you for those sights along the way.

    Wow! -- The Looking Glass Lake! :)

  14. What a beautiful butterfly! It's hard to see so many burnt trees. I am SO thankful that our wildfire season is over (and hopeful that we'll get some snow again this year) ;)

  15. i always enjoy your wonderful hiking adventures. The starkness of the trees which burned always make me feel saddened as it is scenery which will never be the same again, but always the beauty also. Love the reflections in the lake and your flowers and butterfly are also wonderful. Sunsets and sunrises can be so amazing though in this starkness. Thanks for sharing this wonderful hike!

  16. I always admire your willingness to drive 2 1/2 hours, then hike 12 miles. You didn't say if you camped or drove back home afterwards. Not sure I could manage another 2 1/2 hour drive after all that. But so beautiful and worth the tired feet! I'm like you with the streams - if at all possible, I'd rather just plow right through!

  17. So majestic and beautiful!

  18. Looks to me like a great place to watch a forest regenerate from year to year!

  19. I love the reflections! Thanks for sharing!

  20. What a spectacular hike, despite the burned trees. Lovely photos!

  21. Glad you had a safe hike and got lots of lovely photos. Nice of the butterfly to poise for you. Looking glass lake is beautiful with Mt Adams reflection. Mt Adams is pretty in Hood River area, when clouds don't obscure the view. Take care!

  22. Wow! All of your photos are very beautiful. If I were in your country,I would visit this trail every month. Thanks for sharing.

  23. It is always a pleasure to go on these hikes with you. I don't have to do the work and still get to see all the beauty. This was a wonderful trip. Of course it saddened me to see all the burnt trees but new life will spring up quickly. That lake was pretty and I loved the views of the mountain.

  24. Beautiful, the Cascades in the fall are perfect! I'm always jealous of the trails you have near your home, I never realized that some of them aren't as near as your frequent visits imply. You're just willing to drive more, it seems. :)

  25. What gorgeous views ! Your photos are perfect !

  26. Another fabulous hike enjoyed by all.
    Lovely reflections, perfect butterfly and beautiful gentians.

  27. Lovely images. So glad I "joined" you on this hike!

  28. As always Linda, your photos are superb.

  29. Hi Linda, I've missed hiking with you! This hike had a bit of everything - glacial snow, mountain lake, wildflowers, streams, and endless trails. Now that you've seen the gentian, it's 6 weeks until your first snow! We had more snow overnight. I went out this AM to take some shots of the snowy peaks.


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