15. Cloud Cap/Cooper Spur/ Timberline Trail, Mt Hood, Oregon 7/28/2017

Timberline Trail High Point from Cloud Cap  7/28/2017  (#39)

We drove up the dusty switchbacks of Cloud Cap Road, through the burned forest from the 2008 and 2011 fires.  Lupine, goldenrod, penstemon, aster and paintbrush lined the road, and the views to the Cascade peaks to the north appeared as we gained elevation.


Lupine lined road to Cloud Cap through the burned forest

The trail head is at 5600 feet, and we began our hike in the forest.  We soon rounded a bend to clear views of the mountain, and of our trail heading up through loose moraine and across a stream.  Abundant wildflowers lined the trail despite the dry dusty nature of the substrate.

After crossing the drainage, we continued up and soon emerged above timberline on a rocky alpine slope with local patches of snow.  We saw stunning views to the peak of Mt. Hood and it’s eastside glaciers, and to the Washington Cascade peaks of Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier and Mt Adams.

We continued gently up and down on the Timberline Trail, around ridges and across snowfields. We could see the peak, and the Cooper Spur moraine and ridgeline made distinctive by a huge boulder called tie in rock.  We hiked that ridge to the base of the glacier a few years ago, and we could see a few antlike people hiking along the ridgeline today.  We opted to stay along the timberline trail to its topographic high point, about 7300 feet.  We traversed along the ridge adjacent to this point to a lunch spot with 360 degree panoramic views, including views to the south of Gnarl Ridge, Lamberson Butte, and much further to the south, the silhouettes of Mt Jefferson and Black Butte that were somewhat obscured by wildfire smoke in that direction.  To the north, the view was still clear to Mt. Adams and Mt Rainier.


Though the landscape looks barren from a distance there were abundant flowers along the trail, some of them short or dwarf varieties.


I love to look at the shapes and textures of the glaciers:

These suncups in a melting snowfield on the trail created an otherworldly landscape.



We stopped to look at the stone Cooper Spur shelter, and get a better look at the upper part of the Eliot Glacier.


Our round trip hike for the day was about 6 miles and 1650 feet.

Lookback: We completed this same hike in October of 2015 with friends.  At that time there was an early winter dusting of snow, creating a frosted white landscape.  The clarity and blueness of the sky was remarkable that day, despite the patchy clouds, with Cascade peaks both north and south easily seen.

The three Washington peaks to the north from timberline:


July 2017

Version 2

October 2015

and from above timberline, with the Cloud cap shelter on the left:

Version 2 (1)

July 2017


October 2015

Mt. Hood from the Timberline trail high point lunch spot; Cooper Spur/Tie-In Rock on the right:


July 2017


October 2015

Looking down Tilly Jane Creek from the trail crossing:


July 2017


October 2015

Craft Update:

I made a key basket for my son, and added one and a half knitted tortillas to my collection:

14. Lupine at Elk Meadows, and a bit of Knitting, 7/22/2017

Elk Meadows, Mt. Hood   7/22/17  (#38)

This hike includes a lovely walk through the woods,


Lupine near the trailhead, with the tip of Mt. Hood in the trees.



a slightly harrowing crossing of Newton Creek,


Mt. Hood and Newton Creek

seven switchbacks up to the ridge top through woods and a hanging garden,

and a gentle descent to blooming Elk Meadows with views to the east side of Mt. Hood.


So many flowers in the meadows!

We circumnavigated the perimeter of the meadow through lupine carpeted forest.


Lupine in the woods


Mt. Hood


A million asters!


More lupine and asters


Bugbane and lupine


Another mountain view

We returned back down down the hanging meadow switchbacks, back over the rushing Newton Creek on tippy logs, and a quiet amble back to the trailhead.

It is about 5 miles to the meadow and back, and another 2 miles around the perimeter and exploring the meadow area, for a total of 7 miles/1200 feet.


Lookback: We have hiked Elk Meadows before, with different views each time.  I found photos from August 2013, where yellow flowers were prominent in the meadows, and once again, the top of the mountain was capped with clouds.  We hiked with microspikes to the meadow in March of 2015, an especially low snow year, and had a crystal clear view of the mountain across pristine white meadows.


August 2013


March, 2015


July, 2017


Progress on a few knitting projects:

13. Latourell Falls and Sherrard Point, 7/14/2017

Latourell Falls and Sherrard Point  7/14/2017  (#37)

Health issues and visitors slowed down my hiking this past couple of weeks, but we ventured out again to the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, with our visiting son, to an easy waterfall hike and an iconic viewpoint.

 Latourell Falls

Latourell Falls is one of the westernmost waterfalls in waterfall alley of the Columbia River Gorge.  The lower falls is easily seen from the old highway; the short trail down to its base was crowded on this beautiful Friday afternoon in July.  We chose to hike the easy 2.4 mile loop (500′) which took us to views of both upper and lower falls, and an overlook of the Washington side of the gorge.  Most of the usual forest flowers were past, or dusty remnants, with the exception of hedge nettle along the lower part of the trail in pleasing tall swaths, and  bright yellow arnica at the upper falls.

Sherrard Point

We then backtracked along the old highway to Larch Mountain Road, and drove the 13 winding miles through forest lined intermittently with orange tiger lilies, purple foxglove, white cow parsnip and yellow wooly weed. Sherrard Point, the view point at the top of Larch Mountain is a short (0.3 miles) walk up a wooded path that was  lined with many forest flowers.  At the top, the cream puff cascade peaks were all floating in the distance, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams to the North, Mt. Hood directly to the south, and Mt. Jefferson a bit farther south in the haze.



12. Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge

Kiwa Trail   7/4/2017  (#36)

We celebrated 4th of July with a midday stroll along the Kiwa Trail at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Washington. The  one and a half mile loop trail crosses through treed areas, open fields and wetlands.

Birders love this trail – we were surrounded by much birdsong and glimpsed a few, including redwing blackbird sentinels.  The trail is closed during winter nesting season, and I can easily imagine the fields full of swans and geese. Today was warm and dry with only a few clouds, so not much wildlife viewing.  We appreciated the vistas, the quiet,  the ambient sounds, and the splash of color from the midsummer wildflowers.


  • bullfrog – a deep bass mooing,
  • birds – higher pitched tweets, warbles, pips and chirps,
  • train – periodic horn blast and thrum of wheels on rails,
  • breeze in trees – intermittent light percussive ruffling,
  • country band – occaisional wafts from the Ridgefield 4th of July celebration, less than a mile away as the crow flies,

Critters: tree frog, turtle, butterfly, redwing blackbird, other birds.

I noticed wapato plants with acute triangular leaves and three petaled white flowers growing in one of the wetlands.  The bright green leaves reflect the sunlight in an array of pointed spaceships, ready for takeoff, and also shadowed transparency with interesting intersecting shapes in the bright sunlight.

The wapato blooms are  bright white with three petals.


Other blooming wildflowers/weeds were mostly dry season holdovers – many noted for growing in disturbed areas.  The refuge is a reclaimed pastureland, after all.

Preserving time by catching shadows behind leaves and light on grass, on water, and on a butterfly in a freeze frame photo.

11. Avalanche Lilies and Haunted Trees of Vista Ridge

Vista Ridge Hike   6/30/2017   (#35)

The Vista Ridge trail, trailhead at 4500′, is one of my favorite ways to hike to the summer alpine meadows along the Timberline Trail on the north side of Mt. Hood.  The area suffered a large forest fire in 2011, so much of the lower part of the trail is through a burned forest.  Each year the undergrowth in the burn zone has increased, and there are many huckleberry bushes now filling in the ashy ground, but there is little shade in the scorched forest.  We see glimpses of the stark white peak of Mt. Hood through the screen of burned trees, and each year we notice more fallen trees.  Usually we wait to hike until the snow has melted out up to the Timberline Trail at about 6000′, and we have noticed  abundant lily seed heads lining the trail through the burn zone.  We have also seen the social media posts about the incredible avalanche lily display that follows the snowline up the mountain. We have previously seen swathes of lilies in the upper trail area, but this year we went early enough to see the lower trail in full bloom.  With the heavy snowpack this year, it may be a while before the Timberline trail is snow free.


Dan hiking toward Mt. Hood in the lower lily fields, flowers fading to pink.

There were millions of lilies along the trail and throughout the forest floor. The lilies in the first patches we encountered were fading and turning pink, petals tips curling up. But soon enough we were surrounded by fresh blooming flowers with crisp white points and yellow centers. They were beautiful and amazing and the pictures speak for themselves.  It was lovely to be able to walk through them.  We hiked to about 5300′, where snow obscured the trail and the lily plants in the patches of snow free ground had not yet bloomed.

Meanwhile, we were walking among  the ghosts of a forest past – trees reduced to spiky trunks, sloughed black bark, chalky curled branches and ashen soil.   Trees with haunted sad faces, gaping mouths, and twisted empty eye sockets occasionally loomed above, watching us walk by. The contrast between blue sky and bare trees creates a starkly beautiful if tragic setting.

Two photos from previous year’s hikes show one of the tree faces that I couldn’t find this year, so it must have fallen.  The August 2014 photo shows abundant lily seed heads.  In March of 2015, a low snow year, I saw the same face with a snowy ground.

Returning down the trail, Mt. Adams seems to float  on the skyline, reminding me of Carl Sandburg’s Village of Cream Puffs.

There were only a few other wildflowers blooming on this day, including some seen along the road to the trailhead.  Our hiking mileage for the day was 4.2/800 feet.