[/caption] The northwest part of Mt. Hood offers some of the best views and hiking trails inside the Mt. Hood wilderness. If you want to avoid most of the crowds and find yourself immersed in the alpine splendors, you may want to make the extra effort to visit Mt. Hood on its northwestern flanks. You will have to drive a bit on some dirt roads but you will be amazed on the true alpine experience that you will find. There are dozens of trails that take off from several different parts of the wilderness and you can hike to one of two stone shelters that dot the alpine area. This photo was taken from the southern part of Bald Mountain and the beginning of the Sandy river is born just below the mountain. You can literally get lost in this ecological masterpiece with dozens of wildflowers and an endless amount of creeks and waterfalls cascading below the mountain. There are dozens of viewpoints as well as several resting areas that will convince you to take an afternoon nap as Mt. Hood looms in the short distance. Depending on the winter snow pack, you may want to bring a pair of hiking cleats and a pair of walking poles in case you find yourself sinking in the snow well into the month of July. However, the trail is mostly free of any snow by mid July but you never know if Oregon’s late Spring will allow the snow to hang on until August. You may even see some Hawks soaring high above or catch a glimpse of a black bear or deer foraging along the ponds or meadows that dot the wilderness. When visiting during the summertime, you will get some of your best photos of the mountain and the landscape after 5:00pm. Because the sun rises directly behind the mountain and moves in a southerly direction, most of your morning and afternoon shots will be more over exposed due to the strong sun glare. However, by around 5:00pm, the sun is at about a 90 degree angle and the sky will appear more blue and the contours of the mountains landscape is more clear. Unfortunately, this photo was taken at about 1:00pm and as you can see the sky looks hazy and there is less contrast along the forest.
[/caption] Gnarl Ridge is located on the eastern slopes of Mt. Hood and it’s a great day hike as long as you start early enough and plan on hiking during the summer months since the snow can stay well past Spring. Drive south on 35 from Hwy 26 and park at the trail head that’s just before you get to the Mt. Hood Meadows Nordic parking lot. The hike is about 10.2 miles round trip but if you’re willing to trudge up Elliot Glacier you can continue until your leg give out or the terrain gets too difficult. I stopped at about 7,500 feet when my legs started burning and the terrain was getting pretty difficult. The photo was taken from the viewpoint at 6,500 feet and it provides an awesome view of Mt. Hood and of the surrounding area. You can hear the snow and ice cracking as the birth of Newton Creek juts through the glacier and rumbles through the rocks. You will also have a chance to see numerous rock slides down the massive Gnarl Ridge area as they hurl down towards Newton Creek. There are several species of alpine vegetation and you’re guaranteed to see several hawks and an occasional bald eagle soaring high above. You may want to bring a wind jacket since the wind can really howl. I took this photo with my Canon T1i and my Tamron 12-24mm wide angle lens. I set the focal length at 14mm and had the aperture at F-8 and the shutter speed at 1/125 second. I made sure to attach my CIR-PL and warming filter and set the ISO at 100 and the white balance at -2. The photo was taken on July 18th and it was about 5:15pm so the sun was still pretty high but at least I was able to keep the sun at about a 90 degree angle. You can see Mt. Jefferson and the Three Sisters in the distance. You can also get a great view of Mt. Adams but in the other direction. This photo gives somewhat of a 3D appearance since it looks as though you’re falling down the ridge towards Newton Creek. I would highly recommend this hike to anyone that wants to hike along an alpine mountain wilderness and have the opportunity to hang out along a glacier.