And one of the best places is none other than lovely Salmon River Trail, at the base of Mt. Hood.
|Thick, cool, mossy forest|
It was the first Sunday of June, and my son was departing for his summer assignment in Montana. The day was predicted to be a hot one. Normally I'd rise early and get my hike in while the air was relatively cool. But my son wasn't planning on leaving until noon. Being the good mommy I am, I waited around to see him off.
Then, with the AC on high, I drove towards Mt. Hood and the crystal clear Salmon River. My car's outside thermometer read a sweltering 92 degrees as I pulled into the trailhead. The hot blast that hit me as I opened the door felt like the inside of an oven.
|Salmon River's rocky beach|
Ugh! Not a fan of hot weather, I briefly questioned my sanity for hiking in such heat. But I'd driven all the way here. Telling myself to at least give it a try, I shouldered my backpack and headed towards the trail.
Located south of the tiny village of Zigzag, the Salmon River Trail is a popular place on hot summer weekends. There's a lower trail, that follows the river for 2.5 miles before reaching Green Canyon Campground. From this campground, the trail continues upriver for another 14 miles. Hikers can explore as far as their feet can take them, be it 2 mile out-and-back, or long backpacking trip.
|Large fallen tree|
Although the lower trail is pretty, I much prefer the greener, wilder upper portion, my path of choice for today.
The trail began by climbing a steep bank, until I was high above the river's rushing waters. A dense forest of mossy Douglas firs and cedars provided ample shade (for which I was most thankful!)
|Lovely green ferns|
About a half mile later, the path descended until it was nearly level with the rocky riverbank. Many groups of people were congregated here, some splashing in the Salmon River's frigid waters, while others sat on shore dangling their feet in the current. I passed by a large group of teenagers gathered around a half-finshed case of beer. Their loud shouts rudely interrupted the serene forest environment, and I quickly hustled by.
Beyond the river's beach, I entered a spectacular old growth forest, complete with huge, mossy trees. Moss hung from branches like wispy old men's beards. Enormous fallen trees lay across the forest floor, their massive roots outstretched like a giant's hand.
And the wildflowers! I saw cheery orange Columbine, a lovely patch of purple Larkspur, and some bright yellow Stonecrop unfurling from a rocky ledge.
|Mossy nurse log|
Some of the fallen logs had laid on the forest floor so long, they now had plants growing on them. Called "nurse logs" the wood of these trees had decayed enough to form soil that nourished small ferns and moss. I even spotted one log with a small tree growing out of it's top!
|Clear, cool river|
The trail passed closely by the river once again, and I stopped and marveled the water's clarity. I could see clearly all the way to the very bottom. Fed by snowmelt, this river was as clean and pure as they get.
|Pretty in pink|
But the sun was hot here on the bank, and I was more than happy to dive back in the forest's cool shade.
|Lots of shade here!|
At the two mile mark, I passed several backpacking campsites, some complete with fire rings and fancy logs to sit upon. A popular place for weekend campers, by Sunday afternoon the place was deserted.
I ventured a short distance further until I came upon a sturdy bridge crossing a side creek. Beyond this point, I knew the old growth forest ended, and the creek turned away from the river's edge. Since the day was getting late, I decided to make this my turn-around point.
Before heading back, however, I had some fun with my camera's timer, trying to capture a selfie crossing the bridge. It was harder than it looked - the camera kept focusing on my feet, or the bridge. After several botched shots, the only keeper was this one of my lower half (complete with dirty photographer's knees!)
|Wild rose with friends|
The hike out was fast and uneventful, save for a garter snake sighting as I passed by the drunk teenagers. I pointed the reptile out to one wobbly young girl and instead of the expected freak-out, she chased after it, telling me that she liked snakes.
|Odd colored fern|
I reached the trailhead sweaty, but satisfied. Although not ideal hiking weather, I'd made the best of things, endured the heat, and was rewarded with views of a beautiful river, forest, and wildflowers.
But now I quite was ready for my car's air conditioning - and a frosty chai frappuccino!
Sharing with: Scenic Weekends and Friday Greens