For some reason I found myself poring over old photos tonight. Flashback to two summers ago. I hiked up the Salmon River Trail with my friend Steve, who toted his infant daughter on his back. There are couple great lookout points on the trail including this one. After hiking a bit over an hour to get there, we sat and enjoyed the views and each other’s company. Glorious day.
On Sunday, I returned to my old stomping grounds at the foot of Mt. Hood with bittersweet feelings. First, I attended a celebration of life for a long time community volunteer and fine man. I was able to visit many of my former fire department brethren. Then it was time to go. I had no plan, but wanted a walk in the woods knowing there would be snow nearby. Less than two miles up Lolo Pass road, snow was starting to pile up on the side of the road. Hmm. Could be interesting, I thought, especially without four wheel drive. I pieced a pullout near the Sandy River and tromped through the woods. There was no goal but to get in touch with nature. It felt good. Just what I needed.
Sometimes I have to sneak in a nature fix. This was the case when I left a party in my old mountain town to take a walk with Jack. The Old Maid Flats area is one covered in ashy soil from a volcanic eruption dating to the late 18th century. I love the groundcover that results. Nearby, the Sandy River was noisy and frothing with brown water. There had been no rain, so this suggested that the glacier fed river was being inundated with snowmelt from high on Mount Hood. High temperatures in the area show no sign of easing. With the fire danger high across much of the Pacific Northwest, I hope people will minimize the use of fireworks tomorrow, but I fear a number of wildland fires will be triggered. It’s enough to make me blue, and as Eddie Cochran said, “there ain’t no cure” for that. Oh, for some rain!
On Sunday, I visited an elderly friend in my former hometown near Mount Hood. We enjoyed a delectable meal at the Resort at the Mountain, which offers some of the finest restaurant views I’ve ever seen. Some people sat out on the large patio. Even inside, there is a view over the golf course towards massive forested ridges which define the green Salmon River valley. Not bad. After our meal, we drove to the Lost Creek Campground. This is often less crowded than other campsites in the region, and it also offers a short nature trail with interpretive signs. Part of the path is paved, although the massive firs and cedars in the area have buckled some of the pavement.
It was fascinating to once again realize the power of volcanic eruptions and how it shaped the landscape. Volcanic mudflows emanating from Mount Hood in the 18th century changed the floor of the area ecosystem and preserved stumps of old trees right in the creek bed. What a wild world. At the end of the path, we sat on a bench in front an old beaver pond. The beavers have vanished in recent years, ostensibly to find better trees to eat. I hadn’t been to Lost Creek in at least four or five years. It’s a gorgeous, peaceful place to spend an afternoon with an old friend.
Here’s a little view into the gorgeous forest on the west side of Mount Hood where I took a walk with my wife recently along the Zigzag River. We started out on the Pioneer Bridle Trail and then veered off on an unofficial spur that cuts back along the riverbank. The path is overgrown in spots, but that made it more adventurous.
After a friend told me on two different occasions how he enjoyed the Clackamas River Trail, it was high on my hiking radar. When I got a day off today and the sun was shining, the Clackamas seemed a logical destination. Denise and I loaded up a couple packs and headed out there for a quick out-and-back trip. As I drove along the river, I fondly remembered kayaking it with a buddy years ago. The waters are more pristine upstream from North Fork Reservoir, but a road parallels the river for many miles.
Although I’d driven the road multiple times (its the route to the famous Bagby Hot Springs) it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d have the road as backdrop while hiking. Duh. It was in the background half the time. The woods are still really nice, more open than most forests on Mt. Hood, due to an obvious wildfire.
Denise led the way for a while, and then I took over. The walking was not too tough. The trail was rocky in a few spots, muddy in a few spots, and lined with poison oak for fifty feet (in the switchbacks). After climbing over a high point, we switchbacked down to the riverside and a tiny but pretty beach. Jackie wanted to chase sticks, so I obliged. Then it was onward and upward again. The trail was closed at the two mile mark due to recent slide activity that made the trail impassable. The signage had alerted us to the situation, but it was still a let-down.
The jade hues of the river were gorgeous from that high point. I wanted to jump into its depths or kayak down the whitewater. Maybe on a hotter day. There are many more miles to the trail. Hopefully it will get repaired and re-open at some point. I’ll be back.
Today I stumbled onto a batch of photos from a few years ago. Here, my stepson Casey and I are snowshoeing along the popular White River below the magnificent Mount Hood. I recommend cross country skis to make the return trip faster and more fun. You can go miles up the canyon before the terrain gets tough, and it’s mostly wide open. Sadly, there isn’t that much snow this year. Perhaps I shall return when more snow comes.
The Sandy River trail connects two popular recreational spots on the west side of Mount Hood: Riley Horse Camp and the Ramona Falls trailhead. The trail cuts through a forest that has unique soil due to a volcanic eruption on Hood just prior to Lewis and Clark’s passage nearby on the Columbia River. People scavenge for mushroom, camp, ride horses, and hike as much as they like in this section of the Mount Hood National Forest. Solitude is a rare quality here. Yet I find that it is possible with a little off trail travel in the relatively flat environment below the Ramona Falls trailhead.
After dealing with a pseudo retirement party Friday night, we spent Saturday doing paperwork and visiting a friend who is fighting cancer with a powerful will. I have no doubt she will win. Afterward, a serene trip to the woods was in order. The Sandy River Trail cuts across the main access road at one point, and we parked nearby. The walking is casual, the ash and mudflow soil apparent at various points where it is very soft and gets rutted easily in heavy rains.
Our destination was a stretch of open riverbed not far from the trail. Multiple channels cut through rocks and sand, the water too high for us to channel hop. There were glimmers of sun as we enjoyed the noisy company of the Sandy River and a view of the lower stretches of Mount Hood. We threw sticks for Jackie, soaked in the natural environment, and came away feeling rejuvenated.
Bigger trips are soon to come with summer weather. This was a nice stopgap stroll. For now, back to the city, work, and life.