This fire burned through the heart of Pinnacle Ridge, one of my favorite northside Hood trails. I hadn't returned to this area since the fire. But, hearing that the forest was in full recovery, I recruited two of my hiking buddies to go check things out.
|Mt Hood through the burned forest|
So one glorious, but hot, late July Saturday found myself, Young, and Steve bouncing down a gravel road bound for the new Pinnacle Ridge Trailhead. Since the fire, the Forest Service had rerouted portions of this trail, and relocated the trailhead nearly a mile further away from the old one. My friends and I laced up our boots, slathered on sunscreen, and located the new trailhead sign.
We started off winding through an unburned forest, but that quickly changed. Soon, stark gray tree trunks lined our path. Although somber, there was also lots of green undergrowth sprouting from the forest floor. Further down the trail, I noticed brilliant pink fireweed brightening up the landscape. And I now noticed a perfect view of Mt Hood through the bare tree trunks - a new clearing created courtesy of the wildfire.
|The old trailhead|
After about a mile, Young, Steve and I came upon the old trailhead message board. It looked as though the fire had touched some of the forest here. After a quick photo op, we continued our climb through the burn zone.
|Climbing through the burn zone|
Although sad to see all the trees that burned, there was also a stark beauty to this silver forest.
And the higher we climbed, the better the fireweed bloom became (provided lots of photo distractions!)
|Lots of fireweed photo ops|
I especially liked this backlit stalk.
These bright pink blossoms provided a nice splash of color to the forest floor.
|New life from the ashes|
But as the morning sun rose higher, the lack of shade in the burn zone became more apparent. Temps were getting quite toasty!
|The pinnacle is visible through the trees|
Despite the fire's damage, I recognized much of the trail from the last time I'd hiked it, over 6 years ago.
I even remembered the trail as it passed through a boggy area, which was still very much intact, and just as muddy. Here Steve, Young and I lost the trail for a few minutes before we waded back through the muck and retracted our steps.
|Surprise avalanche lily bloom|
Near the junction with the Timberline Trail (Mt Hood's famous 'round the mountain path) we came upon a huge field full of frilly white avalanche lilies. A huge surprise, as these flowers typically bloom right after the snow melts and are long gone by late July.
|Lunch at Dollar Lake|
Although supposedly only 3.5 miles from the trailhead, the Timberline Trail junction seemed to take forever to reach. Climbing through shadeless woods in the hot sun didn't help. But finally the sign and trail came into view. My friends and I celebrated with an impromptu snack break, sitting right on the trail itself.
Now that we'd reached the Timberline Trail, it was decision time. Did we hike over to Elk Cove or up to Dollar Lake first? My friends, wanting a nice lunch spot voted for Dollar Lake.
|Fabulous mountain views|
So we trekked a short distance up a rocky meadow sporting magenta paintbrush blooms until we came upon the famous water body. A tiny glacial tarn, round as a silver dollar, it was situated in a beautiful basin with great views of Mt Hood. My friends and I sat on the shore, admired the scenery, ate lunch, and slapped at the pesky flies that wouldn't leave us alone.
|Mt Hood from the Timberline Trail|
The flies began to bother all three of us, so lunch was cut short in favor of continuing our hike. Young, Steve and I climbed back down the ridge and rejoined the Timberline Trail, heading east towards Elk Cove. The mountain views on the way down were nothing short of spectacular! A parade of Cascade peaks - Mt Adams, Rainier, and St Helens lined themselves across the horizon.
|Dollar Lake fire burn zone|
And the scenery just kept getting better....we rounded one bend to a slope chock-full of colorful wildflowers. Orange paintbrush and fluffy Western Pasque flowers covered the forest floor.
|Young can't decide what to photograph first|
Poor Young just couldn't decide what to photograph first! I must admit I had the same problem too....definitely slowed down my hiking pace.
|Western Pasque flowers and orange paintbrush|
Elk Cove is a gorgeous mountain valley with a clear glacial stream, and reputation for amazing summer wildflower displays. However, this appeared to be an off-year as the flowers weren't as thick as I'd seen in past visits. And down by the creek, the flies were so bad, my friends and I didn't linger long.
|Back down the Pinnacle Ridge trail|
|Admiring Mt Adams view|
Afternoon sun lit up the adjacent Cascade peaks beautifully. When we reached the boggy area once again, it's wide clearing provided a great place to take in the mountain panorama. Can you spot all three mountains in the photo below? (Hint...Mt St Helens is a gray shadow on the far left next to the tall trees).
|Can you spot all three Cascade peaks?|
Then it was back down the endless trail through hot, dusty, shadeless forest. Young and I kept our spirits up by discussing what brewpub we'd visit for our traditional after-hike beer.
As I mentioned in the prior post, this past weekend my beloved Columbia River Gorge was the victim of a huge wildfire. All week I watched the news in despair, thinking of it's lovely mossy forests now forever destroyed by flames. But going through photos from this Pinnacle Ridge hike made me realize forests do recover, plants and flowers return, and sometimes new vistas are opened up. So I hold out hope that when the fires are out, although altered, the Gorge trails just might have some new and interesting sights to see.
|Great day with good friends|
Good to see an old favorite trail rising from the ashes! Eleven miles traveled, 2100 feet of elevation gain, and a fun day in the woods with my friends.