|Morning sunlight filters through the forest|
Hot weather was in the forecast, so I made sure to get an early start, arriving at the Barlow Pass Trailhead before 8 am. Although I've hiked from most of the trailheads near Mt Hood, this one had somehow escaped my attention. Being unfamiliar with the area, I had to do a bit of searching to locate the PCT, let alone the Barlow Road trail, my desired starting point. While puttering around the parking area, another car pulled up. Out jumped a man in running clothes. Turned out he was an ultrarunner visiting from Scotland, who had decided to get in a quick 30 miles on the PCT. After a bit of wandering we located both our desired trails. With that, I wished the man good luck, and we parted ways.
|Old Barlow Trail Wagon route (apparently)|
My trail plunged downhill through a lovely old growth forest of Douglas Fir and hemlock. Early morning sunlight filtered through the thick branches creating stunning patterns. I noticed a couple of signs denoting the original Barlow Road wagon route. The Barlow Road was an alternate route for Oregon Trail pioneers to reach the Willamette River Valley (the other option being a dangerous float down the Columbia River). Online research mentioned pioneer artifacts had been unearthed from a nearby meadow.
|Devils Half Acre|
A short half mile ramble brought me to the wide open meadows of Devils Half Acre. The meadow was boggy and still wet with morning dew. A few tents were visible from a nearby primitive campground. Somewhere nearby my trail was supposed to intersect with the Palmateer View trail, which would then take me to Palmateer Point.
Except that my current trail dead-ended in the meadow and the Palmateer view trail was nowhere to be found. I asked a couple camping nearby for directions, and they pointed me up a steep slope where I intersected with the rough gravel campground access road.
|This lovely blue butterfly posed for me|
Which direction should I follow this road - uphill or down? Thinking my trail junction was nearby I opted to hike up. I walked for half a mile with no sign of any trail. Another quarter mile with no luck made me realize I'd turned the wrong direction. But I wasn't about to retrace my steps now (there was no guarantee the trail would be the other way) so I kept following the road until it deposited me back at Barlow Pass, right where I'd started!
|More flowery goodness|
Time for plan B. Consulting my map, I found the PCT would also take me to the Palmateer View Trail. It meant a bit more mileage, but at least I'd be following established trails. Opting for the sure thing, I started again, this time following the PCT southbound.
|Mt Hood from Palmateer Point|
|Mt Hood close-up|
The forest was especially beautiful here, with more majestic tall firs and a few pines mixed in. I even found a few bushes showing the last of the rhododendron bloom. Several lovely blue butterflies floated in the breeze, and I was lucky enough to capture one with my camera.
|Mariposa Lily (or Cats Ear)|
Then I came upon an unmarked trail junction. Judging by the distance I'd traveled since the PCT, I was pretty sure this was the path to Palmateer Point. I climbed steeply up a knoll and traveled across an open ridge lined with hundreds of creamy white mariposa lilies. And there at the very end was Palmateer Point with it's killer view of Mt Hood.
|A fine view of Hood|
Early morning light lit up the mountain perfectly. If not for a few tall trees blocking Hood, the view would've been picture perfect (although it still wasn't too shabby). I wandered along the ridgeline's very edge, clicking my camera shutter, vying for the best image.
|Vanilla leaf (I think)|
My early arrival meant I was lucky enough to have Palmateer Point all to myself the entire time. After a good half hour of gazing at the mountain, photo-taking, and a quick snack, I was ready to continue the day's trek. Voices from nearby hikers coming up the trail hastened my departure.
|Upper Twin Lake|
From Palmateer Point it was a quick mile and a half ramble to the first of two Twin Lakes. It was on this trail that I began to run into other hikers. The Twin Lakes, Upper and Lower, are popular destinations so I wasn't all that surprised.
|The tip of Mt Hood is visible|
Upper Twin Lake totally charmed me. A tiny bright blue water body, it sparkled in the sunlight. Mt Hood's very tip rose above the adjacent forest. Stopping for a break, I was pulling a snack out of my backpack, when who should come bounding out of the forest than the Scottish runner I'd met at the trailhead. So funny to run into him for a second time! We both instantly recognized each other and chatted for a few minutes about where we'd been hiking (or in his case, running). I took a couple photos of the man in front of Upper Twin Lake and then we said our goodbyes once again.
|Lower Twin Lake|
Another 3/4 mile downhill trek brought me to Lower Twin Lake. Unlike it's upper cousin, the place was swarming with people. A mere two-miles from the Frog Lake Trailhead, this lake was a popular destination for backpackers and day hikers. Several groups had tents set up nearby, while a few others were sitting on the lakeshore, skipping rocks, swimming, or just enjoying the view. Needless to say I didn't linger.
|Return via the PCT|
What goes down must come back up, so I climbed a steep 3/4 mile path that connected back to the PCT. From here I had a 3.5 mile march back to Barlow Pass. This stretch of the PCT wasn't the most interesting, so I put my head down and tried to cover ground as quickly as possible. The mid-afternoon heat didn't help, so this leg was long, dusty and hot. As always, it was a relief to finally glimpse the parking lot back at Barlow Pass.
Another new trail checked off! Although I'm glad to have explored this area, I don't know that I'd do it again anytime soon. But it was good for 12 miles and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain on a sunny summer's day.