Friday, November 19, 2021

New Boots Maiden "Voyage"

After my old hiking boots caused uncomfortable foot pain during a mid-September hike to Crystal Lakes, I knew it was time to spring for a new pair.  Since I've worn the same brand of hiking boots for many years (Lowa Lady Light GTX if you're curious), picking out a new pair is easy - all I do is go to REI's website, give them my credit card number, and hit "purchase."

These aren't the cheapest hiking boots by far but they've always worked well for my post-bunion-surgery, extremely fussy feet.  Lots of hikers these days are foregoing boots in favor of lightweight trail running shoes, but I've always preferred the stability and protection boots offer.  I feel the extra weight is worth it.

Shiny new boots - not for long!

After my new boots arrived in the mail, it was time to take them for a test drive.  I decided upon a short hike on the Mirror Lake Trail and maybe continuing to Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain.  Although the original plan was to get up early to avoid driving in rush hour traffic, my lazy retired self ended up sleeping in.  By the time I woke up there was no way I'd avoid rush hour.  So I dilly-dallied around the house until nearly 10 am before deciding to set out.  Surely traffic would have tapered off by now.

Vine maple just getting started around Mirror Lake

Well the answer to that - a resounding NO.  From where I live, reaching Mt Hood requires a drive through the heart of downtown Portland.  Usually by mid-morning freeway traffic has dropped back down to acceptable levels and it's a relatively quick trip.  But today, immediately after crossing the Willamette River, I discovered the exit to reach the main eastbound freeway closed.  Traffic was diverted north, and my car joined the throng of creeping vehicles searching for a detour.  After sitting in traffic for a frustratingly long time (and nearly bagging the whole hike and heading for home) I was finally able to exit the freeway.  Zig-zagging through the heart of the city, I found a spot to rejoin an opened portion of the eastbound freeway and continue my journey.  All of this rerouting took a good hour - which meant it was nearly 1 pm when I arrived at the trailhead.

The seasonal transition has begun

Once parked I beelined for the restroom (after sitting in traffic for nearly 3 hours I had to GO!).  I then slipped on my new hiking boots and snapped a photo for posterity.  (They'd never be this clean ever again.)  Happy to finally move my feet, down the trail I went.

A few spots of color on adjacent hills

Due to it's proximity to the main highway and fairly short distance (2 miles) the trail to Mirror Lake is wildly popular.  But on this day I met more people heading back down than going up.  Although a bit of climbing is required to reach the lake, I powered up the switchbacks like they were flat land.  (All that sitting in the car made me restless I guess.)  Reaching Mirror Lake, I opted to take the clockwise trail around it's perimeter.

Windy conditions meant no reflections on Mirror Lake

Although it was mid-September, fall colors were just getting started here.  The vine maple was beginning to turn, their treetops a faint orange-yellow mixed with lots of green.  It was pretty and certainly worthy of a few photo stops.

Panoramic views at this clearing

Halfway around the lake, I detoured onto a side trail that I knew would give me a good vantage of Mt Hood.  Sadly a strong breeze kept Mirror Lake from living up to it's name.  No mountain reflections today.  But I did run into a very nice family enjoying the sunny day and the man was nice enough to snap a photo of me in front of the lake and mountain.

Lots of brilliant vine maple on this talus slope

Time to climb higher!  Leaving the lake area my trail continued it's climb to the summit of Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain.  (I have no idea how this mountain got such an unusual name....) 

(Edit - so curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up on Wikipedia.  Apparently the ridge was originally called "Tom Dick" mountain.  Then the Board on Geographic Names decided to be cute and added "Harry" in 1969.  Now you know!)

Colorful vine maple leaves

I'd forgotten how nice this trail really was.  I passed by a large talus slope with tremendous views eastward.  Fiery vine maple bushes lit up the rocky fringes, at this higher elevation the leaves in a more advanced stage of autumn coloration.

Huckleberry leaves 

I climbed higher, leaving the vine maple and reaching the huckleberry zone.  Here the huckleberry leaves had turned a brilliant crimson - just as beautiful as the vine maple.  Brown stalks of spent beargrass rose above the bushes.  I passed a huge rockpile at an important trail junction and began the final half mile climb to Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain's summit.  As I passed the rockpile, I met a lone hiker heading the opposite direction who happily proclaimed I'd have the summit to myself with all the Cascade peaks visible on this clear-sky day.

Lots of beargrass stalks near the summit

This was just the motivation I needed to navigate the final rock-strewn trail towards the summit proper.  Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain's summit is a mess of large slabby rocks, which isn't a lot of fun to walk through.  But upon reaching the top I gaped in awe at the amazing view I had of Mt Hood and Mirror Lake.

Perfect Mt Hood view from Tom, Dick and Harry Mtn

Clear blue skies flaunted a line of white-topped Cascade peaks across the northern horizon.  Besides the obvious Mt Hood front and center, I could see Mt Adams, Rainier, and St Helens.  Turning 180 degrees and facing south gave nice views of Mt Jefferson.  After taking all the requisite photos I settled onto a flat spot in the boulder field for a quick snack break.

Color on adjacent ski slopes

The mountain's rocky spine continued eastward along a high ridge and then curved to the south, forming a cirque with steep cliffs.  In winter months, this area is part of Mt Hood Skibowl's advanced terrain, catering to the more adventurous skiers.  Today the talus slopes featured spots of brilliant fall color.

Mt Hood view from talus slope

I spent the better part of a half hour basking in the late afternoon sunshine enjoying the marvelous views.  Last time I'd hiked up here the entire summit had been fogged in (see post here) and there was nothing to see.  And, like the lone hiker had predicted, I had it all to myself for the entire time.

It was difficult to pull myself away.  But I needed to get home at a decent hour, so back down the trail I finally went.

More vine maple

On my return trip I made a second stop at the talus slope to capture just a few more images of the stunning vine maple.

On the way back, Mirror Lake lived up to it's name

Approaching the Mirror Lake area once again, I initially thought about bypassing the lake and continuing my descent.  But then I decided, "It will only take a minute to to have a look - why not?"  Boy was I glad I did!

THIS is what I saw - to my delight the wind had died down leaving the lake as smooth as glass.  Not only that, the late afternoon sun illuminated it's waters a brilliant blue hue that perfectly showcased the lake's picture-perfect Mt. Hood reflection.

Ripples in the lake

The photos I took here ended up being my favorite from the entire day.  If I thought it was hard to tear myself away from the clear-sky views on top of Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain, it was doubly difficult to leave this gorgeous scene at Mirror Lake.

A few people still enjoying the water

But leave I finally did, back downhill for the final 2-mile trek to my car.  It was past 5 pm when I returned to a nearly empty parking lot, most of the other hikers having already departed.  The advantage to leaving the mountain so late?  By the time I reached Portland, evening rush hour was over and I flew through downtown without delay.  Maybe I need to hike in the afternoon more often!

Oh, and my new boots?  They performed fabulously and were properly christened with enough trail dirt to look well-used already.  


  1. Awesome photos. Good comfortable boots are essential. They get hard use and don't last long.

  2. A frustrating start with the traffic congestion but so very worth it in the end. Sensational autumn colours, snow capped peaks, perfect reflections, and my list goes on. So glad you share the beauty of Oregon so regularly with us.

  3. ...those boots are make for walking!

  4. Hello,
    Your new boots sound great. Love the views of Mirror Lake and Mt Hood. Great collection of photos. Take care, enjoy your weekend!

  5. Awesome hike and the photos of mount hood especially. Knowing my luck I would have to break in new boots

  6. What a bunch of spectacular pictures of Mt. Hood! And glad the boots worked. That's important.

  7. WOW! Mirror Lake and those reflections are stunning.

  8. Fotografias de uma grande beleza e uma bela caminhada para estrear as botas novas.
    Um abraço e bom Domingo.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa

  9. Cracking photos as always. Modern boots are a wonder. When I was a keen young walker you had to "break them in", apply dubbin to soften the leather and walk short distances till everything felt comfortable. And if you didn't you were guaranteed to get blistered feet. Mind you, I looked your boots up online and they cost more than my bicycle!

  10. Yeah for new boots! Good for you! You took some marvelous photos! Happy Thanksgiving!

  11. I can't do boots, they seem so heavy to me. But it's all in what works for you. I'm impressed by your motivation. I just drove through Portland and I was terrified by the merging.

  12. What a nice break-in hike for your boots! I am a morning hiker like you, but at least living in a cool winter climate you can easily get out later in the day and enjoy a hike without roasting.

  13. I love those reflection shots. Always windy and very little in the way of lakes where I live sadly!

  14. I'm glad you made through Portland safely. Mirror lake lots so beautiful with Mt.Hood in the reflection. I'm glad you found another of boots to keep your feet comfortable. Its hard for me to find boots and shoes as they seem to be more narrow than normal. Thankful I have what I bought earlier this year. No work means not alot of money to spend. Habe a good Christmas season my friend.


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