|Mt Hood peek-a-boo|
Another fave summer hike was on the agenda - a trek to the lovely wildflower meadows of Paradise Park.
The hot summer temps had given way to a cloudy, cool morning. Weather in transition, rain was forecast the following day. Not a fan of heat, I was more than happy for this fall-like weather.
Parking in Timberline's "climbers lot" gave me immediate access to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Following it across the bare ski slopes above the lodge, I wandered past a huge field of luscious purple lupine.
|Illumination rock emerges from the clouds|
Mt. Hood, partially cloaked in low-hanging clouds, peeped out for a quick cameo. I also got a few quick glimpses towards Illumination Rock, looking awfully barren for early August. Quite a difference from last December's ski trip!
|Lupine and Timberline Lodge|
Looking downslope on the famous Timberline Lodge, I couldn't resist a photo of this brilliant lupine patch.
|Nice rock-lined path|
The PCT was well-defined here. Not only nicely graded, someone had lined the path with rocks. Timberline's chairlifts were still running too. This ski area is well known for it's summer ski season high on Mt Hood's glaciers. I saw a few ski camp kids heading that way, toting their boards.
|Quick view of the entire mountain|
Even at my early start time (unlike Friday's hike, I'd arrived by 8:30 am) the trail was busy. I was joined by quite a few daytrippers - guests of Timberline Lodge. And several backpackers passed me going the opposite direction. Some were wrapping up a weekend trip, and others were hiking around the entire mountain on the Timberline Trail.
|Newer PCT sign|
But a few folks I met were hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I met several southbounders who told me they'd begun their hike at the Canadian border. These people have my total admiration for attempting such a grand adventure. Rock stars of the hiking world!
|Little Zigzag Canyon|
Leaving the ski area, I crossed into the Mt Hood wilderness. The path dipped down across Little Zigzag Canyon's deep gully. In past year's trips the running creek created a small crossing issue, but today it was bone dry.
Climbing out of Little Zigzag, I continued my hike across a series of forested switchbacks. Then, the trees cleared, and I found myself staring into Zigzag Canyon's huge abyss.
|Stream crossing Zigzag Canyon|
Over time, the Zigzag River has cut a 700-foot deep chasm into the side of Mt Hood. Hikers must descend down a steep trail to it's very bottom, and ford a gushing glacial stream. Although I'm always nervous about water crossings, a series of strategically-placed boards made passage a snap.
|Climbing up Zigzag Canyon's other side|
Now I had to climb up the canyon's other side. A long, tiring trek I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and before I knew it I'd arrived at the junction with the Paradise Loop Trail.
|Beginning of the loop|
Not much further to Paradise Park's famous flower fields! I eagerly started up yet another steep, twisty trail.
|Best lupine display!|
The back to back climbs were starting to do me in. Luckily, there were huge fields of lupine providing distraction from my misery.
|Paradise park flower field|
Finally, the lupine parted and I found myself in the midst of the often-photographed flower field of Paradise Park. Sadly, the prolific blooms I'd seen in past year's trips seemed to have taken this season off. And Mt Hood also decided to hide behind the clouds.
Still it was lovely. I took a short break and chatted with a nice French couple who'd been backpacking nearby.
|More lovely meadows|
Bidding my trail friends goodbye, I continued my journey following the loop trail. Another meadow had a bit more wildflower variety, and the low-hanging fog added some drama to my photos.
|Scenic stream crossing|
Passing by a small creeklet, a nice patch of pink monkeyflowers grabbed my camera's attention. I stopped at a nearby campsite and took a quick lunch break. As I ate, the clouds dipped lower, and the wind began to pick up. Chilled, I opened my backpack and put on every bit of clothing I was carrying.
|Wild-haired "hippy on a stick"|
I needed to warm up. Time to get moving again! Continuing past the campsite, the forest opened up into a spectacular alpine meadow.
|Huge patch of magenta paintbrush|
I passed by a huge patch of pink heather and magenta paintbrush. Oh it was stunning!
|Clouds parted for a few views|
Although this high meadow boasts wonderful views on sunny days, I wasn't disappointed to be missing out. The low clouds were fascinating to watch. Every once and awhile they'd part, offering teaser glimpses of the foothills below.
I crossed one fabulous flower meadow after another. Although most of the wildflowers appeared to be past their prime, it was still a great display.
|Trail through this alpine meadow|
Finally, the Paradise Loop reconnected with the Timberline (and PCT) trails. I had a long 2.5 mile trek across this dull portion before retracing my steps down Zigzag Canyon.
However, this section turned out to be anything but dull. I spotted more wildflowers, crossed under a shimmering waterfall, and chatted with another group of PCT southbounders, eagerly anticipating the legendary hikers buffet at Timberline Lodge.
|Resting at the bottom of Zigzag Canyon|
Climbing down Zigzag Canyon, my right foot began to hurt. Although I usually hike in my trusty Lowa boots, today I'd tried out some lightweight trail shoes. The shoes did great until I began heading downhill. It was then I discovered my right shoe was apparently a tiny bit too small, as my outer toes were rubbing against the end.
|No mountain views on the return trip|
But...after reaching the bottom of Zigzag Canyon, most of the final 2.5 miles of this trail were uphill. Other times I might have complained about ending my hike with a climb, but today it was totally okay. Uphill steps would keep my toes away from the rubbing end of the shoe.
|Glad to see Timberline Lodge again!|
The final miles of any hike are always the longest, and today's trek was no exception! I was never so happy to see Timberline Lodge come into view. Although I had a bad case of "horse in the barn" syndrome by then, I still couldn't resist one last photo of this amazing patch of lupine near trail's end.
Two hikes in one weekend! That's my idea of time well spent. :)
Stats: 12.5 miles round-trip, 2300 feet elevation gain.