[/caption] Wildflowers with Mt. Hood in the distance. Late August is the best time to witness the millions of wildflowers growing along the western side of the Cascades. From Mt. Baker, Washington to Mt. Shasta, California, you can smell the wildflowers while you view a snow capped volcano. You may even see some of the dozens of wildlife that live among the wilderness as well as photograph the hundreds of waterfalls and creeks that swell beneath the alpine glaciers.
[/caption] One of the best hikes in the Mt. Hood wilderness is the Timberline Lodge Trails that follows north along the PCT and then connects to the Paradise Park trail. The hike starts at Timberline lodge and all of the trails are clearly marked just north of the lodge. The entire loop is over 12 miles and has over 2300 feet of elevation gain. However, the most difficult part of the hike isn’t the distance or elevation gain but the volcanic ash that you have to hike on. It’s like hiking on sand but very steep and hard on your pelvis. Your recovery time is almost double as any other long and steep hike that you have ever done. It doesn’t help that the trails have been trampled by millions of hikers but to make matters worse is the amount of ground up ash left by the activity of Mt. Hood’s violent history. You will have to navigate down and then up again through two canyons that are 200 feet and 700 feet respectively. That’s 1800 feet of elevation change from just two of the canyons alone. The trail is very dusty and dry but there are dozens of creeks that flow through the trails so there is no shortage of water to cool off or clean the sand from your body. If you make the hike in late August you will be surrounded by millions of lupine and other wildflowers. You will literally smell the wildflowers for most of the hike and it will literally smell like your standing in a flower shop. The hike itself parallels the mountain but due to the deep chasms the hike is very difficult and grueling. However, you will be glad that you made the hike since you have the opportunity to hike up to some of the mountains most spectacular scenery. There are several waterfalls cascading down the steep canyons that are almost impossible to get to but close enough that you can get some great photos. There are also thousands of butterfly’s and bees engulfing the flowers.
[/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.