Mt. Hood is beautiful, year round.
Sun, rain, clouds or fog… it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter what sort of coat Hood is wearing, the views are always breathtaking.
Today was a good example of that: the forecast called for rain, changing into snow as the elevation increased. The trailhead would be a light mist, and McNeil point itself would be cleanly into the sub-freezing temperatures.
Did that stop us?
Heck no! That just meant that the trailhead would be empty!
The hike was glorious – I clocked a total of 11 miles and ~2,800ft elevation gain… though the official count is supposed to be 10.4 miles & 2,200ft gain. Meh, I’ve been working out more, and thankfully it wasn’t too bad of a hike. Made easier by a, frankly silly-large, breakfast order from Starbucks…a Danish, egg bites, and a burrito… on top of a pumpkin-spice latte. Yup. I’m cool.
I went with my friend Bri – McNeil point is her happy place, and I was really thankful to go with someone who knows the trail as well as she does. We walked, gasped at the views, and took breaks to chat, eat snacks, and enjoy the perfectly crisp air.
I love hiking up into the mountains in the fall – as the miles vanished beneath our boots, the trees got more and more snow-covered, and the trail crunched just a little bit more under each footfall. I never had to put on crampons, and we didn’t really see any true snow on the ground, but the thin layer of frost and ice that covered everything added that perfectly mystical quality to the whole world.
We had two lunches – various snacks that we’d brought, along with my standard French sandwich (apple, brie, and prosciutto on a baguette) – one at a beautiful rock about 3 miles in, and then the second lunch at McNeil point itself beside the shelter. We took a few other breaks too… but mostly just pressed onward slowly but steadily.
When we did get to McNeil point itself, we were greeted with the bluest skies of the day – The clouds didn’t fully clear, of course, but they did open up just enough for us to see the summit of Hood peaking out through the mist!
We took a shortcut on the way up, a steeper side trail that Bri knew about, but on the way down we took the longer / more scenic route – just in time to be greeted by our second clearing of the clouds for Sunset!
See, that’s another advantage to cloudy days; the sunsets are especially vibrant, and we caught a beautiful spot where we could see one layer of clouds above us, and one layer below of scraping over the mountains in the distance, being lit up a vibrant red as the sun dipped below the horizon.
We watched the sun dip below the horizon.
Well, we’d brought headlamps, since hiking out in the dark was always a very real possibility. Daniel would have been proud too – after one of the headlamps died, and is USB-charge only so I couldn’t just replace the batteries, we pulled out our phones and used the extra battery there as a flashlight… Not that we really needed it, thanks to the light of the moon… but still. Better to have headlamps.
Back to the car, then down from the trailhead and into town for dinner.
Where we learned a second lesson – dive bars don’t always have pub-food.
Sometimes, they have some of the best fried chicken and grilled cheese sandwiches that I’ve ever eaten. Also, the spiciest cajun fries.
Yeah. It was a very good day.