Bald Mountain and Ramona Falls
I headed out to the Mt Hood National Forest, parking along the Sandy River, just before the bridge and gate that leads across to the flats area along the Sandy with McNeil Campground, Ramona Falls Trailhead, and other access points to the Zig Zag Mountains. I got ready, geared up, and started walking to the gate, which I found... open! I'm guessing it opened on May 1st, after being closed since the windstorm in September that caused extensive damage. There are a lot of trees down through the woods down on the way to the Ramona Falls lot, with a bunch of logs attached to their root wads that have been stacked along the road with signs about not cutting, for fish and wildlife projects. I'm guessing they are destined to be transported and placed for river/creek rehabilitation projects. I went and parked along the road and cut down to the Sandy to explore along its abruptly cut banks, covered in their soft neon mosses. I took the Ramona Falls trail to the river crossing, where things have been reshaped since last summer. There's a thinner long log to cross on or a thicker overhanging log with a little bit of bounce that doesn't quite cross the river. I crossed over on the latter (returning on the former).
I headed northeast and crossed the Muddy Fork, climbing up on the PCT. Snow becomes solid around 3600 feet, and once on the more gradual sloping ridge up towards the Top Spur-Timberline Junction is several feet deep over the trail. There are really no markings or any way of telling where the trail is, especially around Bald Mountain, and no views of features through here, so having GPS to check in on is helpful. I found the junction and the Timberline Trail barely poking through the snow, then headed around the south side of Bald Mountain wandering through the forest where many smaller trees have broken down until I came to the edge, and a small patch exposed trail right before the exit from the woods where the trail curves on the open view of Mount Hood. A large icy cap of snow makes the trail a slope with free launch down, next stop Muddy Fork, so crossing that, even with microspikes was a hard no. Instead, I bombed directly uphill through the woods to the summit of Bald Mountain. The first time I came to the area was the last time I was here, and then the view was completely socked in, and in the dozen or so times I've been around Bald Mountain since I never returned. Turns out the view is spectacular, and I suppose the several feet of snow is also pressing down any berries and underbrush that might interfere with a view.
From there I retreated west down the slopes of Bald Mountain, following the drainage down until I came onto Forest Road 1828 and went around the corner to check out Top Spur Trailhead. Still many feet of snow on the trail, it's going to be some time yet before it melts off. Continued west on the road to the spot where the road and PCT pinch close together, found some bear tracks I believe, leading right down from where I was going up and followed them up and then made my way to the PCT.
Back down and over the Muddy Fork, I followed the Ramona Falls Trail (still lots of blowdown on a section here, maybe don't do the loop if you want to avoid that and stick to the PCT where crews have put in a lot of work last fall to clear that section. The section of trail where the creek draining Ramona Falls carves its way through the forest, with tight moss-covered banks and pulls and waterfalls formed by roots and logs, with the tight rocky cliffs just on the other side is one of my favorite stretches of trail in the Forest. Ramona Falls was lovely as ever, and the first time I've been alone in its amphitheater. By the time I returned to my car, a bit more than 15 miles and 3000 feet of elevation.