Tag Archives: Elk Meadows

Backpacking in to Elk Meadows – 30-Oct-2020

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Friday and Saturday, 30 & 31-October-2020

It’s been a while since I’ve gone backpacking… it feels like the Fall has flashed by, with the leaves suddenly going from green to bright red and the air becoming cool and crisp out of nowhere.

This year’s been interesting, and I think the constant barrage of calamities, news, and changes has really kept it moving quickly… but at the same time, last year feels like a lifetime ago.

I got away from it all, escaping to the Eastern flank of Mt. Hood.

Last weekend’s hike up to McNeil reminded me just how much I love Autumn and winter hiking… it’s not something I could ever forget, of course, but hiking up and into the frosted forest just brought that love vividly back to mind. Vividly enough that there was no way I was spending another weekend in town.

Friday morning, I didn’t rush. I don’t like rushing in the morning, if I can help it, and since the weather forecast called for rain until the early afternoon… I figured it’d save me some wet gear if I took my time, made a nice breakfast, and then trundled out into the woods after I’d taken my time to wake up.

The plan worked perfectly, and when I parked at the trailhead I was one of only two cars parked there.

The other team, it turns out, was just on the trail as a day hike – I ran into them pretty quickly, interestingly, as they were on their way out… which meant that I was left completely alone on the flanks of the mountain, on a perfectly beautiful late Autumn day.

Not anything I could ever complain about, and not anything that I could have dared hope for.

I headed in, set up camp, made a nice dinner, and rested… It was a beautiful night, exactly my favorite hiking weather. Cold, almost bitingly cold, but still warm enough that I was comfortable in my layers of jackets and gloves.

There was a full moon, which fully illuminated the entire meadow around me… I’ve been making effort to be more present and less distractable, and this was a perfect moment to just… be.

I don’t know how long I stood in the meadow, just watching the moonlight carve its way across the grass toward Mt. Hood. It was lovely, but soon enough I was heading back to the tent, to curl up into the sleeping bag and drift off.

At like 8:30 at night, because it gets dark crazy early now.

Saturday dawned bright, cloudless, and crisp.

Frost was covering the meadow, though there wasn’t any snow to speak of yet, and the temperature had realistically passed “crisp” pretty significantly, diving fully into “cold” as the night had worn on.

Thankfully, I had a nice puffy jacket, and a hot breakfast to cook up to keep me warm – and I even had a bird-friend to hang out with!

I really miss Ollie, on these hikes, but I do appreciate getting to see more wildlife than I really ever did before. I miss the excitement and running energy that she’d bring to the hike, but at the same time the quiet is definitely appreciated, and the calm is a nice change of pace. I’m sure I’ll get used to the difference over time… but for now, it’s something I notice every time I’m out hiking alone.

After eating, I set out for a quick walk… I hadn’t made any real plans for the day, but I figured that I’d circumnavigate the meadow, and see where that brought me.

Where it brought me was the Blue Grass Ridge trail – a spur trail off to the East of the meadows that I’d never been to before. It was a rough trail, pushing through a huge forest of standing dead trees… from a wildfire years back, it seemed like. Those empty trees gave for some amazing views though, and very interesting scrambling, which kept the blood pumping and my mind focused.

It was great, and I enjoyed the challenge of finding paths around and through the fallen trees, trying to scope out the best place to get views of the Northern and Southern volcanoes.

I hadn’t expected any mountain views aside from Hood, so seeing everything from St. Helens to The Sisters was a huge and welcome surprise.

After exploring the ridgeline for a while, I headed back down toward the meadows… it was starting to get toward mid-day, and I was getting a bit restless. I had some extra food, so I theoretically could have stayed an extra night… but I was feeling like getting a move on.

After finishing my circumnavigation of the meadow, I packed up, headed out, and started down the road back toward home… A little happier, a little more tired, and quite a lot energized for the rest of the long weekend.

Hiking up to Elk Meadows, and a few other places!

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Saturday, 25-July-2020

 

Laurel showed up with bagel sandwiches.

Bagel sandwiches are an excellent start to any adventure. They’re not the only good start, of course, but as far as starting options go there are few better.

Coffee too, but ever since I first learned about bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches from Galantes (or was it June’s Place?) in Medway, probably 20 years ago, I never looked back.

 

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about, is it? We’re here to hear about hiking!

 

The goal of the day was to head up to Elk Meadows, and then see how energetic we felt… maybe heading to the Timberline Lodge for some extra altitude and milage. A fun hike with good views, but not so intense that we couldn’t talk, or take our time.

The trailhead was surprisingly quiet when we parked – it wasn’t empty, by any means, but there were still spots to be had. For a weekend in Oregon, we took that as a clear win, and a good sign that this was the right trail to be heading up. Parking went quickly, and soon enough we were heading upward.

 

Once we were on the trail, things got exciting!

It’s hiking, guys.

I’m a good writer – I’m creative, and enjoy typing up weird long stories.

But it’s hiking.

 

One foot, then the other foot. Lots of talking and catching up and discussing, but at the end of the day hiking is just foot movement, amazing scenery, and maybe a river crossing every once in awhile. Written words don’t really describe, which is why all those famous books and movies about hiking tend to focus on internal thoughts, and background stories.

But you know what does describe hiking well? Photos!

 

 

 

We walked up to Elk Meadows, walked around Elk Meadows, and then walked back down the trail from Elk Meadows.

But we didn’t go all the way back to the trailhead for Elk Meadows. No, instead of that, we took a side trail off the main Elk Meadows trail, and hiked out to Umbrella falls! Near Elk Meadows.

Elk Meadows.

Umbrella falls was… farther than we expected. Far enough that we actually took a break partway through the hike to sit by a stream and have some sandwiches for lunch – Baguette, Prosciutto, Brie, and Apple of course. Full french style.

Re-energized, we pressed onward to Umbrella. Really similar to Rowena, once I saw it… and really tempting to go and try to find in the winter for some Ice Climbing… if it wasn’t on a ski trail :/

So yeah, Umbrella Falls was cool. We looked at it, stayed away from the people, and then headed back to the car.

It was still early though, and so instead of heading back into Portland, we kept with our original plan of heading up to the Timberline Lodge, to get our hands on some glacier snow! In July!

Yep, you read that right, dear readers. Mt. Hood has snow in July. Snow all year round, actually. Because the Palmer Glacier is, in fact, a glacier! It was fun – we threw snowballs, and then went inside to have dinner in the timberline lodge.

True story – I am not sponsored by the Timberline Lodge. But… similarly to how I think Omega Pacific should sponsor me for always ranting about how awesome their cams are, I think that Timberline should comp me a meal or two based on how much I tell people about that place.

I mean, it looks like a dwarven fortress! What more do you want? Amazing Reubens? They have those! Hot Cocoa! They have that too! What more could I ask for??

ehemm. Yes. We played on the glacier, then went for dinner, and then rocked the drive back into Portland with the top down, and the mountain wind in our hair.

It was a good day.

Hiking up to Elk Meadows for Rosh Hashanah

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Monday, 10-Sept-2018

Rosh Hashana, one of the Jewish High Holidays, is traditionally spent in the synagogue, surrounded by family and familiar prayers and wearing our best outfits.  The most working out that we do is alternating between sitting and standing, along with some bustling in and out of the kitchen afterward when making the big dinner.
We didn’t quite follow those traditions this year.
I apologize to my Grandma, but I wasn’t able to find a synagogue that we wanted to attend, and so Sarah and I started looking at some alternative ways to celebrate the New Year – specifically, ways to celebrate that focused on motion and hiking.
Sarah, as usual, took the lead in finding us an excellent hike.  I, in turn, made sure to request the time off (as is traditional, since most companies haven’t even heard of the High Holidays), pack our bags, and prepare a bit of a plan for what we’d eat for the hike.
Eating is key, you recall.  Jewish holidays tend to have a focus on food – even Yom Kippur, when we fast all day, has the breaking the fast as a critical point.  Rosh Hashana is about chicken dinner, apples and honey, and making sure to ring the New Year in as a sweet one.
The day dawned, and the car zoomed toward Mt. Hood.
The target that Sarah had selected was Elk Meadows, on the South Eastern face of the mountain.  It’d be a fairly long drive, but an extremely scenic one – definitely a good way to start the New Year.  But we also held with another important aspect of Rosh Hashana – reflection.  Rosh Hashana starts what are called the “Days of Awe”, where one is supposed to reflect on their past year prior to Yom Kippur.  In that vein, Sarah and I discussed our various upbringings, Religion, and how the previous year had gone… along with how the current course of the year seemed to be going.
Honestly, it was surprisingly positive when considering how rough this past year has been.  Moving, being unemployed, injuries, challenges… we’ve been overcoming them all, and are honestly in a far better place than we were before.
Okay, that’s a lot of backstory.

We got to the trailhead.  It was beautiful.  It was a bit rainy, but we both put on our big-kid pants (along with our no-less-helpful rainpants), shouldered our packs, and started in.  Ollie had her backpack too, of course, and was running her usual role as outrider – making sure no interesting smells or food could sneak up on us without her having first thoroughly investigated them.
The hike in was lovely – a really pleasant increase in distance and elevation gain from our previous weekend’s hike to Veda lake.  It wasn’t extremely long, but it was definitely an increase in both duration and difficulty… which is good, since increasing difficulty is the best way to ramp up strength and become unstoppable juggernauts of endurance.
Past that… it was hiking, you know?  We chatted, walked, chatted some more, and even took a short break at one point!  Super exciting stuff.
The most exciting was the meadow though – Once we arrived, we seriously had to just take a few minutes to sit and enjoy the views.  Elk Meadows is up at elevation – right around 5,200 ft, in fact – and right on the steps of Mt. Hood.  it’s gorgeous; a huge rolling alpine meadow with a few copse of trees connected by little streams and rolling grass.  Even better, we found what we assume to be a trail maintenance crew camp!  We’re talking a little area complete with table and chairs (made of cut trees), tree benches, and a perfect view over the meadow toward Mt. Hood.

With a camp like that, there’s no way we could have found anything better.  Time to stop, and enjoy a Rosh Hashanah lunch!
Lunch was:
  • Apples and Honey.  Obviously.  But two types of apple, and two types of honey!  Because we’re fancy.
  • Hot Cocoa.  Not just regular cocoa either; Sarah mixed us up some rather impressive cocoa ahead of time, and kept it in a thermos so that it’d be nice and warm.
  • Sandwiches, made fresh!  These.  These were the key.  I was dreaming about these sandwiches all day as we hiked.  Fresh baguette.  Thin sliced Fuji apples.  Brie, spread over the whole piece of bread.  Cured prosciutto.  Drool!

And it was a glorious lunch.  Perfect views, perfect company, and perfect weather.  A little chilly, which was ideal for the Cocoa to help warm us right back up.

 

After lunch we rested a bit, and explored the meadows.  It was pleasant and relaxing – we’d left our bags, and so just wandered for a bit, enjoying the breeze and the sun and the open air.  Lovely.

The hike back?  Ehh, nothing too special, honestly.  We passed a family who was on their way up to the meadows who’d never seen a dog as… energetic… as Ollie, which was definitely entertaining, but aside from that it was just fun and pleasant.

The drive home was the same – nothing to really write home about, though we did stop to get some excellent black cherry lattes to help fuel our return drive, and continue the tradition of starting the New Year off sweetly.