|Wonderful Mt Hood view in Elk Meadows|
So the first weekend back from vacation I decided to make up for lost time, planning hikes both Saturday and Sunday. Chatting about this ambitious itinerary with my podiatrist the Friday before, she asked how my body held up after two consecutive days on the trail. My response - "I guess I'll find out."
|Crossing Newton Creek|
Thanks to a glowing PortlandHikers trip report - featuring fantastic wildflower blooms on the Elk Meadows trail and the Mt Hood Meadows Ski Resort - I plotted a copycat hike for Saturday. Rising early in hopes to avoid crowds landed me at the trailhead by 8:30 that morning.
A path I've traversed many times before, the Elk Meadows Trail began in a fir forest along Mt. Hood Meadows' access road. Crossing Clark Creek on a well-built log footbridge, in no time I was meandering down the sandy slopes of Newton Creek, my next challenge.
Newton Creek has no bridge and is notoriously tricky to cross. Fueled by glacial melt, it roars to life on hot summer afternoons. Although only early morning, the stream looked mighty intimidating to this chicken hiker.
|Gorgeous Cascade Lily (that smelled heavenly)|
So I wandered up and down it's banks, searching for a good spot to hop across. A few downed trees looked promising, but wet and slippery bark caused me to resume my search. I noticed a man and his daughters approaching the creek. They headed upriver and began to inch themselves across on a large log perched high above the rushing water.
|Frog on the trail|
Now I'm not fond of balancing myself on a high log over a raging glacial stream. But there didn't appear to be a better option. So I began walking over to the same crossing point. Then I spied a lower log just downstream of the other. Now that I could handle!
|Elk Meadows perimeter trail|
Whew - crossing Newton Creek became an easy shuffle. With that behind me, I made my way via the string of cairns on the opposite bank to the trail's continuation. Now it was time to climb up the other side.
|Luscious green meadows|
And climb I did! Ascending nearly 1000 feet in a short mile, I huffed and puffed up eight long switchbacks. Although a challenging slog, the multitude of lovely wildflowers blooming trailside provided a nice distraction. There were columbine, lupine, pentstemon, and even a few beautiful white Cascade lilies decorating the forest. The Cascade lilies smelled wonderful.
I traded places with another hiking group several times - I'd stop and take a photo, then they'd stop to rest. Finally, I was near the top of my climb when I saw something moving across the trail. Turned out to be a frog. The little creature held still long enough for several photos, and then stayed put for the other hikers who'd caught up to me once again.
|Lots of color in these meadows|
Not far from the frog sighting, I came upon the beginning of Elk Meadow's loop trail. The path made a wide circle around these famously gorgeous meadows. Which direction to go? Impulsively I chose clockwise.
Starting off through a forest of mossy trees, I followed the trail as it wound around Elk Meadow's forested perimeter. Keeping my eyes peeled for one of the paths leading into the meadows themselves, I plodded along.
After a half mile of scrambling through the forest and around several small drainageways, I noticed a faint footpath meandering through the grass. Tired of the forest, I was ready to see some wildflowers.
I left the forest and entered a vibrant green meadow. And joy of joys, it was full of hundreds of colorful blooms!
|Hood view from mid-meadow|
Bright pink elephanthead flowers on tall stalks burst from the ground. Further towards the forest, huge patches of purple lupine and yellow Oregon sunshine blooms added their hues to the mix. And best of all, there were killer views of Mt Hood from Elk Meadows' very center.
|The one butterfly I managed to capture|
Tons of butterflies flitted about. I tried my darnedest to capture them with my camera, but only managed to get one orange beauty to stop long enough.
|Monkeyflowers on Newton Creek bank|
Elk Meadows is a popular place for backpackers to set up camp. Strolling through the meadow, I passed a couple campsites set up in the adjacent woods. Stopping at one lovely site not in use, I took the opportunity to enjoy a quick snack break and watch the Gray Jays as they eyed my lunch.
|I crossed on the low log|
Then it was back down the steep ridge to Newton Creek once again. As expected, it was roaring at a much higher volume than the morning's crossing. But I located my favorite low log, and this time traversing was a piece of cake.
|Lovely downstream view|
Several patches of pink and yellow monkeyflowers brightened up Newton Creek's desolate banks. Midday light illuminated them nicely, and I couldn't resist a few shots of the scene.
|Cheery pink monkeyflowers|
But my hike wasn't over yet - I'd planned to add a few extra miles by looping over to Umbrella Falls via the trail through Mt Hood Meadows Ski Area. Rumor had it the lupine bloom was going strong under it's ski lifts.
|More Cascade lilies!|
Having hiked this trail in reverse several times, I knew it would be a stiff uphill trek to the Hood River Meadows (HRM) lift. And the day wasn't getting any cooler. Still, wanting to see those wildflowers, I was willing to tackle the climb.
Oh was it a slog! The trail didn't have much shade, and bright sun beat down upon me. Not a fan of hot weather, I slowly trudged up the dusty path. Luckily, patches of Indian Paintbrush and more fragrant Cascade lilies kept me going.
|The lupine was thick on Mt Hood Meadows' slopes|
And then I reached the lupine zone. Huge fields of purple stretched across the trail. Yeah - this was what I'd come for!
|Purple spot under the HRM lift|
It's always fun to see your favorite ski hill in the off season. Mt Hood Meadows is one of the loveliest ski areas to hike. I enjoyed an amazing flower show of lupine and beargrass blooming underneath the HRM lift.
|Lupine and beargrass under the ski lift|
After wandering through the ski area, I made a short detour to Umbrella Falls. But the harsh midday light made for terrible photographic conditions, so I ended up turning around and heading back to my car. Hot and tired, I was ready for an air-conditioned ride home with a stop at Starbucks for cold ice tea!
|Mt Hood peeps through the lupine|
Lovely mountain views, tons of wildflowers, a memory card full of images, and 10 miles covered, I considered the day a success. But now it was time to rest up for tomorrow's hike. I'd invited a friend to join me so no matter how sore and tired I was, there would be no backing out.
Hike No. 2 report on the next post!