A Look Back: Barrett Spur
The weather has finally turned and western Oregon is back to sanity weatherwise. Not that I minded three months with less than half an inch of rain. The next nine months will more than counter that drought, I have no doubt. At the same time, life seems to get ever more hectic between teaching and firefighting and sickness, and I haven’t found the time to go for a real hike lately. It seems a good time to reflect on a favorite hike from recent years.
A couple years ago, I ventured up the north side of Mount Hood to Barrett Spur, a prominent shoulder visible from Portland. I had been to the foot of the spur multiple times coming via the Top Spur and Timberline Trails. That was a great hike, but a long one if I didn’t get an early start (living close to trailheads, I am slow moving at times). At any rate, I didn’t have enough daylight to get as far up the mountain as I wanted.
This time, I drove over the top of Lolo Pass and headed for the Vista Ridge Trail. The approach is longer, but the trail is shorter. The road gained a lot of elevation for me, and I had an easy hour-long hike to treeline. The north side of the mountain is stunning, all verdant tree-dotted meadows, glacial meltwater creeks (this route avoided any tricky crossings), all below steep glaciers and volcanic ridges luring one’s eye toward the summit of a great peak.
One in the lush Wy’east Basin, I found a herd path alongside a creek and headed up it. The going was easy for a while. Some routefinding was involved as I headed up steep scree sections and crossed a couple snowfields.
I slogged up the slope of the mountain until we were at least a thousand feet above treeline. The payoff was tremendous when I reached a saddle overlooking the Ladd Glacier on one side and the spur on the other. I scrambled through a stiff wind up the spur and reached a relatively flat but rocky ridgetop between glaciers. One word: spectacular.
The mountain seemed to be on top of me as I scrambled along the ridge. I wanted to go up, up, up, but I was not prepared for technical routes.
When I climbed Cooper Spur this summer, Barrett Spur quickly came to mind. Barrett Spur is a bit more of an adventure, which lifts it higher in my favorites list. Thousands of acres in the area were scarred in 2011 by the Dollar Lake Fire. It could be fascinating to contrast my memories and photos with the current look of the landscape. One day, I will venture back, and I would recommend a trip there to anyone else looking for a modest adventure.