July 27, 2012

East of Portland, Part 2: A Trip to the Hood

This entry is part 2 of our trip east of Portland (click here for Part 1).

Monday night we drove into the city of Hood River to eat dinner. We drove down to the waterfront park, and as we crested a hill, what seemed like a thousand kites and sails came into our view of the Columbia River. Since Hood River is known as the Windsurfing Capitol of the World, I was not overly surprised at the number of surfers we saw. There were so many people out on the river that I'm not sure how they all didn't crash into each other though. Their boards were going in every which way and direction, at high speeds!

I took a video, but of course, videos never do reality justice:

While wondering around on the beach and watching the surfers, we realized there must be some event going on, as there were just too many professional looking people gathered in one place. Turns out, we'd stumbled on the US Windsurfing National Championships, and it was free to watch from the beach. They were done for the day, so we checked their schedule and headed over to the Full Sail Brewery (only appropriate, given the championship and all?).

Our Beer Flight at the Full Sail Brewery
After dinner we drove up to the Panorama Point, just outside of Hood River, and caught some late in the day gorgeous views of Mt. Hood and the Hood River valley of orchards.

The view from Panorama Point
On Tuesday we woke to a warm morning at the Viento State Park. I had lots of things planned for us to do that day, so I poked Sky along and we headed out to watch the morning competitions on the Hood River waterfront. Unfortunately, mother nature was not cooperating, and the wind was only at 2 knots, when I guess it needs to be at least 10 for them to compete. We stuck around for a bit, ate lunch, but then headed out without actually getting to see any of the real showdowns.

We drove down highway 35, along the path of the famous Fruit Loop. The Fruit Loop is a 35 mile long path around the county that takes you on a tour of the 14,000 acres of pear, apple, cherry, and peach orchards and vineyards.We only drove the highway 35 portion, and then continued on to Mt. Hood.

Fruit trees on the Fruit Loop
There was a ranger station right off of the highway, and we stopped to get more information on where to camp and hike on our visit to Mt. Hood. The ranger suggested we try out the Cooper's Spur trail, which was nearby, so we headed that way. To get to the trail head, we drove up a 9 mile gravel road that twisted and turned around the base of the mountain. This used to be an old carriage trail, and at times it seemed like it was still fit for only carriages. I was thankful we were in a high clearance truck, and not my old Honda. There was a fire on this portion of the mountain a couple of years back, and what remains is a ghost white forest of tree poles. It was beautiful in its own way.

Driving up to Cloud Cap Campground
We parked at the Cloud Cap campground, and started our hike to see Mt. Hood's glaciers up close. Just half a mile in, we got turned around and ended up going on the wrong trail. This trail led us out to a rocky ridge that provided awesome views, but was super arid and hot. We got to see the Eliot glacier, and could see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams as we hiked. Thankfully, we ran into some kind folks who pointed us in the right direction, and we found our way back to the correct trail. We were super hot by then, having climbed close to 800 feet on dusty terrain with no shade, so you can imagine the ecstasy the dogs experienced when we stumbled on a large patch of snow. Chloe and Sammy went crazy cooling off their paws and eating large chunks at a time.

Hiking up the rocky ridge
Views north from Mt. Hood
Eliot glacier on Mt. Hood
Hambone, rolling around in the snow
Since we were in a National Forest, we decided to find free camping off of the numerous forest roads off of highway 35. We picked one at random, and it turned out to be a good choice. This spot was about half a mile from the main road, with a large clearing under tall trees, and someone had already built a fire ring. There was also running water there, if by running water you mean a creek. :o) We let the dogs off their leashes and they had a grand time running around exploring the forest and dipping their feet in the water. We went super classy, and had Ramen for dinner (don't be jealous...), and went to bed early.

Our site off of the forest road
In the morning, the sun was shining through the trees and we took our time eating breakfast and lounging around. Eventually we tore ourselves away from this little paradise we'd found (after marking its location on our Google Maps), and then we headed up to the Timberline Lodge. The lodge is a national historic landmark that is located on the south side of Mt. Hood, at about 6,000 feet of elevation. Today it serves as a high end hotel right on the ski slopes, and has a restaurant and several bars. The lodge was intricately constructed as a WPA project between 1936 and 1938 by local artisans, and they used local materials such as timber and stone. The craftsmanship that is visible in the lodge is astounding.

Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood
We took a free tour of the lodge, and then went out to watch skiers and snowboards on the mountain. The ski season is open on Mt. Hood through the end of August, and then it reopens sometime around Thanksgiving.  It was really crazy to stand there in my t-shirt and shorts, and see people in full ski apparel ski by me to get back on the lift. 

Mt. Hood ski zone
Me and a snowboarder
We finished our visit by hiking the two mile loop around Trillium Lake. The lake is a short drive from the Timberline Lodge, and the two mile hike is very easy and level, and follows the lake shore all the way around. The best part of the lake though is the EPIC view you get of Mt. Hood in its reflection. When we got there, there were lots of people on the lake tubing and paddling around, so the surface wasn't pristine, but I can only imagine what a picture one could get on a very early morning when the water is smooth as stone.

Mt. Hood and Trillium Lake
To see more pictures, click here.

Happy Mountain Viewing,


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  1. holy cow! These pics are so pretty they look fake :)

  2. Thanks! It was just as pretty in person, if not more so!