Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Hike Through the Meadows

Ever visited a ski area in the summer?  Wonder what your favorite hill looks like without snow?  Do you image it's a bleak, barren expanse of rocks and brown grass?

Well...maybe that's true for other resorts, but my home hill, Mt Hood Meadows, is actually a nice place to hike in the off season.  (There's a reason it's called Mt. Hood Meadows!)

Young finds some huckleberries

In early September, back home from my South Dakota trip, I needed a Mt Hood fix.  My friend Young was more than happy to join me. 

Mmm....great morning snack!

So off we went on Sunday morning, Mt Hood bound!  My destination was the Elk Meadows Trailhead, on Hood's east side.  The previous night had been clear and cold, but I was still surprised when pulling into the trailhead, my car thermometer read a chilly 37 degrees.

This tree burl looks like a face!

Pulling on hats, gloves, and extra layers, Young and I set out on the Sahalie Falls Trail.  My goal was a roughly 10-mile loop that passed Umbrella Falls, before climbing to the Timberline Trail, then taking this trail through the Mt Hood Meadows ski area, before descending the Newton Creek Trail back to my car.

Lovely meadow with a mountain view

Young has a nose for huckleberries, and we hadn't traveled very far when she spotted a bush full of plump, ripe berries.  This delayed our hike for several minutes while we picked our second breakfast.  Mmmm, good!

A few wilted asters

Then it was a two mile climb through Doug fir woods to Umbrella Falls.  The morning's bright sunlight made photography of this lovely cascade extremely difficult, so instead of waterfall photos I took a few pics of an interesting tree burl (it looked like an old man's face!)

Walking under the chairlift

Past the waterfall, Young and I continued our uphill slog, crossing Mt Hood Meadow's entrance road, and getting a glimpse of a brand new equipment garage under construction.  We passed through a few lovely meadows, still sporting a few wilted wildflowers, with nice Mt Hood views.

Ski trails without snow

Upon reaching the Timberline Trail intersection, some nearby terrain began to look familiar. 

Daisy Lift cuts across the mountain

Oh yeah, there was the Daisy chairlift - sitting motionless, its chairs silhouetted against the mountain.  And I recognized South Canyon, one of my fave cruiser runs.

A few straggler fireweed blooms

The Timberline Trail contoured directly across some of Mt Hood Meadow's most popular ski runs.  And instead of being rocky and brown, the treeless ski trails were lush meadows full of green grasses and a few remaining wildflowers.

Hood rises over the meadow

Oh it was lovely!  And the wildflowers were nearly done for the season.  I can't imagine what it's like here during peak bloom.  I keep meaning to hike this trail in midsummer when the wildflowers are at their best.  Maybe next year...

Young rests her legs

The day was sunny, and temps had warmed to comfortable shirt-sleeve hiking weather.  Mt Hood loomed large over every clearing, giving spectacular views - even if she was looking a little barren.... (time for some snowfall!)

Lunch under the lift

Nearing noon, our tummies grumbling, I found a couple of stumps to sit upon directly under the Shooting Star lift.  We enjoyed a leisurely nosh in our comfy perches admiring the views.  It was interesting to sit, eat my lunch, and look down upon another series of favorite winter ski trails, looking very different without their familiar snowy coverings.

Lovely waterfall in Heather Canyon

Refreshed and rejuvenated, Young and I continued along the Timberline Trail, following it into Heather Canyon.  The expert area of the ski resort, our trail began to descend steeply, winding down into the canyon's very bottom.

A few autumn colors

We passed a lovely waterfall, churning mightily over a steep dropoff.  Who knew there was a waterfall in Heather Canyon?  Certainly not me - hidden by the winter snows, I probably skied over it half a dozen times.

Late bloomers

Throughout our trek across the Timberline Trail, we met several other hikers.  Nearly all of them were backpackers on a quest to cover the entire Timberline Trail.  This 40 mile trail circles the entire mountain, and is a popular multi-day backpacking trip.  I've hiked most sections of this trail, but never all in a single trip.  Maybe next year I'll dig out the big backpack and give it a try.

Heather Canyon sure looks different without snow!

After an extremely long descent, through more stunning meadows of late-season wildflowers, and early season fall colors, Young and arrived at Heather Canyon's lowermost reach.  Looking up the canyon was a spectacular sight.  Mt Hood anchored the skyline, and we spotted another tall waterfall off in the distance.

Crossing Clark Creek in Heather Canyon

But one more challenge awaited my friend and I - Clark Creek.  This swift glacial stream had no bridge, and was churning mightily from afternoon snowmelt.  Young and I wandered up and down it's banks, looking for the least scary place to cross.  Finally Young spotted some rocks that looked close enough to jump across.  Although it looked a little iffy, we both were able to hop over the creek no problem.

Looking back up Heather Canyon

Unfortunately, what goes down must come back up again, and now we had to ascend Heather Canyon's other side.  It rose just as steeply as the opposite wall descended.  But before beginning our climb, Young and fortified ourselves with a snack (I chose my go-to sugar source - gummi bears!) and that seemed to make the uphill trudge bearable.  (Ha, ha, unintentional pun...)

First fall colors

We were nearing the homestretch!  Once on top of the canyon, Young and I followed the Timberline Trail through an area of amazingly vibrant huckleberry bushes, all sporting brilliant fall colors.  The ensuing photo session may have delayed us just a little....

Newton Cr Trail Junction

Our second to last junction was with the Newton Creek Trail.  This wonderful path followed the very top of a high ridgeline above Newton Creek.  The view down into it's 800-foot-deep chasm was breathtaking.

Newton Creek is way, way. way down there!

It was all downhill from here!  Descending Newton Ridge, Young and I were treated to some incredible panoramas.  Green foothills spread out before us.  Newton Creek's gray rocky canyon opened up like a huge gash in the land.  Mt Hood, our day's constant companion, once again anchored the head of this deep canyon.

Looking up the Newton Creek drainage

We continued downhill until our trail was nearly at the creek's elevation.  Then, the Elk Meadows Trail, our final path of the day, took Young and I the last mile back to my car.  But not before we crossed Clark Creek once again, this time in style on a sturdy log bridge.

Bridge over Clark Creek

Another great day to be outside in the wonderful Pacific NW!  And fun to see my favorite ski area without it's winter white.

Although Mt Hood Meadows is a beautiful place winter or summer, I'm already looking forward to the time when snow again covers the slopes.  Ski season is coming!  :)


  1. I love gummy bears too! They're always the perfect pick me up. I've hiked at at a few ski resorts in the Alps and they were really ugly. I'm surprised that Mt. Hood looks so nice! Other than the ski lifts, it's hard to tell that with all that green.

  2. Que maravilha de caminha da minha amiga nestas montanhas incríveis de grande beleza fico com inveja de não poder fazer essa caminhada.
    Um abraço e boa semana.

  3. Linda, such a beautiful part of the world, you are so luck to be able to enjoy all of this.

  4. Hello, another great hike. I love the flowers and views of the mountain. Neat looking tree! Happy Wednesday, enjoy your day!

  5. Fun summertime captures up at Mt Hood!

  6. What a gorgeous day on the trail! I've only hiked one ski slope in the summer, it was in Whitefish, MT and we were thrilled to come across ripe huckleberries too.

    Those were some amazing views...it's so neat to see a favorite place a different times of the year.

  7. I've slogged across the main ski hill at Banff. It's surprising how much vegetation is there. So ski hills aren't bad to hike across. We went out to Mt. Assiniboine.

  8. Glorious scenery once again. With or without snow Mt Hood never fails.

  9. Such a gorgeous series, Linda, and I love your smile! That tree does resemble a face! I feel as though I took this walk with you, and your posts and photos bring me such joy! Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  10. It does look like a truly beautiful place in the summer - wonderful!

  11. Wow who would have thought to hike a ski area. pretty cool (no pun intended) and beautiful scenery.

  12. It was fun to see it without snow! I am certain you are anxious:)

  13. I love hiking on these ski trails in the summer... not as energetic as you are as Ilike to ride the ski lift up and hike down. Old age is getting me..... LOL! Glad you found a narrow crossing on that creek as I'll bet it is still pretty cold water and wouldn't be too much fun on a chilly day. Your photos are lovely as always and like t he face on that tree burl.

  14. What a great view of the mountains and ski area (without the snow) - So different and so beautiful. I loved it all.
    I must apologize for not visiting. When we changed e-mail addresses I lost a lot of the blogs that I use to visit. I'm glad you stopped by & left a comment so now I can see your posts again as I've resigned up to get them with my new email address.

  15. Glorious scenery up in those mountains!

  16. Always nice to have an iconic mountain like that one not far from your house. Looks a joy to climb it- winter or summer.

  17. I think the question goes the other way for me! I often wonder what my walks would look like with snow!
    We do get snow here - but nothing like the amount you have!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  18. I agree, ski areas look so different without the white stuff. Some of the trails we ski down are scary steep when hiking. I live so close to our ski area that I walk on the trails several times a week. We could sure use a storm, but none are foecast for this coming week Breck opens in two weeks! So many wildflowers were still showing some color in your photos. You must do that hike again in summer.

  19. All the wildflowers on the slopes are just beautiful.

  20. Nice you still have flowers

  21. My ski area is pretty to hike in the summer but it doesn't have all the trails yours does. I go there to pick huckleberries too!

  22. Timberline is on my list for this coming summer, your pictures have only whetted my appetite. And as a fellow writer, let me say I love the phrase "leisurely nosh"

  23. Fabulous photos and great to see a ski area looking natural even without snow. Looking forward to some of the white stuff myself now its proper winter here in the UK

  24. I've only hied one ski area since moving to Colorado, in Breckenridge, but one has to share the trails with lost of mountain bikers. Mt. Hood certainly looks lovely!

  25. Beautiful! I love the mountain views and the fall colours.


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