The thing about Oregon summers is, they’re so outrageously nice it’s a sin to not go out and enjoy them. To avoid sin, my wife Priscilla and I opted to head up to the Mt Hood area and hike to Mirror lake, with a side trip to Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain. There’s nothing like a mountain hike to see what condition your legs are in.
The trailhead had a fair number of cars for a Friday. However, the trail itself wasn’t too badly crowded, for much of the hike we had the trail to ourselves.
The forest trail was mostly shaded, with occasional breaks in the trees that allow vistas across the valleys. A couple of the breaks provided challenging navigation, as they were composed of scree rock falls. The rest of the trail was littered with rocks as well, so we needed to watch our footing – a sprained ankle a few miles up a mountain trail is a challenge best skipped. Along with the trees we saw a fair bit of vegetation including rhododendron and trillium, which we recognize from our home garden. Here in the cooler mountain air they were just coming into bloom, whereas they were pretty much done back in Portland.
About 1.5 miles up the trail, it intersects with a loop trail that goes around Mirror lake. Another quarter mile or so got us to the lake. It’s not a particularly large lake, the loop around it doesn’t take long. Not far into the loop, we got to the trailhead spur for Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain. This spur turns a fairly easy hike into something more challenging, as it adds both distance and altitude.
Although it’s not a long hike from the lake to Tom, Dick, and Harry – maybe another mile and a half or two – the uphill, rocky nature of the beast did tend to wear on us. In time we (especially Priscilla) found ourselves needing short breaks, and a tendency to enquire from folks coming down the trail as to how much further we had to go. The answer was generally encouraging, especially the bit that suggested the trail flattened out for a while before the final climb.
At last we made it to the top! To the north Mt Hood dominated the view, still showing enough snow above the tree line to contrast nicely against the blue sky. Looking down into the valley northward we could see Mirror lake. Although we’d only gained about 1500 feet since the beginning of the trail, the lake looked small, as if it were much further down. Facing northeast we could see Mt Adams. To the south, Mt Jefferson. Valleys abounded with only minimal haze. I was reminded of the old Who song, “I can see for miles and miles and miles and miles”…
After a nice sojourn topside we headed back down to the lake. Needless to say, it was a speedier trip going downhill – no stops, no pleading queries to passers by.
Continuing on the loop trail, on the far south end, a boardwalk helps protect the tourists from the boggy turf that is normally found in the area. Mid boardwalk, a spur leads to the lakeshore at a strategic point to see Mt Hood reflected in the water, hence the name Mirror Lake. Unfortunately for us, that day there was a good bit of wind ripple so the reflection was somewhat spoiled. This only marginally detracted from the view – there’s something about a combo of lake, forest, and mountain that looks good in any conditions.
From there it was just the return hike back to the car. It sounds so simple. But, as we got towards the end of the trail we were noticing that this was the longest hike so far this year, not to mention the biggest altitude change. After six or seven miles the legs were starting to say, “are we there yet?” The last little section was almost insulting. Once we got back to the trailhead there was another couple hundred yards back to the car. At the beginning of the hike that span was barely noticeable. At the end it felt like a quarter-mile.
We rewarded ourselves for surviving the hike by driving up Mt. Hood to Timberline Lodge for a beer and a bite. We opted to skip doing the trails up there, even the elevator looked inviting over the stairs. The implication was clear, our aging legs needed a little more than our usual flat lander hikes to be ready for prime time. Good thing we have the rest of the summer…