Changing Seasons on Mount Hood

Changing Seasons on Mount Hood


Hiking from spring back to winter

Leaving the Tilly Jane Sno-park just before sunrise (the gate up to Cloud Cap still shut), the forest along the lightly flowing Doe Creek was no quiet space. Instead it was a chorus of babbling wrens, trilling juncos, calling flycatchers and the ethereal swirling calls of Swainson's Thrushes. Having traveled through the rain and clouds on the west side of the mountain, I was happy to see clear sky above and warm orange glow of sunrise splashing onto the tops of the hemlocks as I ascended.


After a mile the trail emerges from the forest into the burn zone left behind by the 2008 Gnarl Ridge Fire that left this northeast corner of Mount Hood a forest of whitened, debarked standing dead timber rising over a vibrant undergrowth including beargrass and wildflowers, some just starting to poke out now. This habitat denuded of the canopy provides home for a plethora of birds, especially groups of Mountain Bluebirds, Pine Siskins, Juncos, Wrens, swallows, and easy viewing of them as they float about the open hillside. Woodpeckers love the area, and their battering of the trees can echoes across the ridgelines.


The sun climbed behind me, basking the area in a warm glow. Gone along the way is the formidable ponderosa pine that had stood alone on the ridge, having the survived the fire; it was felled by winds sometime this last winter. The warm sun, bursts, of bird flight across the trail, and budding flowers and grasses gave a very spring feeling to the climb. The wheel of time was abruptly turned back after a mile and a half on the open ridge, when I entered the forest again at the Tilly Jane Historic Area.


House Wren

Under the trees around the A-frame cabin and ampitheater several feet of snowpack whisked cold air, dropping the temperature several degrees, and winds cut in. I wandered past the old guard station, and through the deteriorating campground space to where I knew a site furthest to the east poked out into the burnzone, and thus, the sun. There I was greeted by a curious Townsends Solitaire, who watched as I threw on more layers and ate breakfast.


Once fueled up I headed across the snow, following, in general, the buried trail to Cloud Cap Saddle. There entire campground is still encased in snowpack, some of it covering the entirety of picnic tables at sites. Snow lingers on the road heading up to the Inn, and I climbed up the hill to the viewpoint to take in the view of Hood and the expanse and the Eliot glacier. Back into the forest, I found the Timberline Trail still buried under many feet of snow, and headed north following it's general course.


I know the way of the trail through the forest well enough to follow with only infrequent GPS check ins, but decided I'd rather head up onto the melted out moraine than traverse on top of snowpack through the forest. Along the way I came upon an interesting phenomenon where the snowpack on the edge climbing up the moraine was buried under several inches of fine ash and soils that had had been carried down by the recent heavy warm rains from the exposed, snow free upper reaches of the moraine.


I continued along the top of the moraine, noticing the moon starting to set down behind the mountain, much like my last trip here, while observing the fresh erosion and movement of debris down the slopes of the moraine into the valley where the Eliot is retreating up the mountain. I left the moraine to head over to the Cooper Spur Shelter, layers of clouds started to float up on the slopes from the below, eventually shrouding me in a dense mist when I left the shelter and headed towards the Timberline Trail.


From the snow covered Timberline Trail - Tilly Jane Trail junction it was a descent down the ridge through the cloud to arrive back at the Tilly Jane area. Reentering the burn zone in full sun exposure was a return to spring, with a baking warm hillside that made me glad I was descending and not climbing up now.


More Adventures

More Adventures

Changing Seasons on Mount Hood


Utilizing Lidar in Mapping Trails


Chehalem Ridge Nature Park


Cartography at Old Maid Flat


A Lookout Mountain Night


Coe Glacier as Winter Draws Near


Stadter Buried Forest


To White River Glacier


Wandering White River


Ho Rock and Snow

Utilizing Lidar in Mapping Trails

Using Lidar Data for Mapping Trails


Lidar (light detecting and ranging) is a technology that uses lasers to reflect light off surfaces or objects to create digital three dimensional recreations them. It can model environments in stunning detail. The Oregon Department of Mineral Industries has a collection of high resolution Lidar data covering much of Oregon that is a available to the public. In creating modern cartography, Lidar data is a key source in visualizing and interpreting the landscape.


DOGAMI Bare Earth Lidar data has been compiled in a Digital Elevation Model that reveals the contours of the ground surface and can be processed into a Hillshade to create stunningly realistic representations of the environment. You can also create a Slope Analysis view that allows visualization of the slope of each data cell from 0 (flat ground) to 90 degrees (vertical cliff). For viewing Slope data I employ ESRI's "magma" color ramp that ranges from black at 0 through purples and oranges to near white yellow for vertical 90 degree.  This makes flat areas readily apparent as darker, or deeper purple, and steeper, what would be more challenging terrain as oranger with very distinct views of where cliffs are. For instance, the in the banner above the long bands of hot yellow on the right of the image are the steep cliffs of Mississippi Head on Mt Hoods southwest slope.



Lidar derived Hillshade Terrain


Lidar derived Slope



Exploring the slope data is a great way to pick out geologic oddities, safer and less steep routes, and especially waterfalls. Water courses in hydrology are in general flat, so the most current channels are easier to identify on slope analysis, and waterfalls, are easily discerned as a bright perpendicular band across the flow. For example, here is a view of Disappointment Falls along Cast Creek, and the very distinct exposed cliff alongside of it. The waterfall is not a vertical drop but a steep slope, a lighter orange/purple band. Compare that to Apparition Falls further south on the creek, a steep vertical drop and bright orange band.



Hillshaded Terrain and Slope views are an excellent realistic visualization of terrain, and because of the high resolution of the data, it is easy to identify roads. A view of the National Forest Land reveals the roads in stark detail, and shows the history of timber access. Long since overgrown and decommissioned roads are visible from the Lidar data. I use these views to trace my Roads layers for maps instead of relying on available transportation data that is often more generalized and and not aligned with the actual road beds. Below is a view of Forest Roads 1828 and 1828-118, with Top Spur trailhead visible as a bulge just after the bend in the road on the far right side.

sloperoads view


On trail overview maps with a large scales like the 1:19000 scale of the Timberline Map I am working on, the width of the line visualizing the trails location would be over 50 ft wide, so the smallest twists and turns of the trail aren't visible at such a scale. So why try to get the most accurate placement of trails? One of my goals has been to try and generate more accurate estimate of elevation gain/loss along the trail, as well as total distance, and this serves that end.  Many applications that estimate elevation change like GaiaGPS or Alltrails use lower resolution DEMs and what can be more generalized trail placement from OpenStreetMap, so I hope to get a more accurate estimate by refining the trail and using lidar derived DEM to assess elevation change along it. In some areas, such as the switchbacks shown below, parts of the trail is easily traced in Aerial Imagery, but additional resources are needed once it enters the forest.

Trail Tracing utilizing Aerial Imagery


OSIP 2018 Aerial Imagery


Compared to current OpenStreetMap data

Trails are visible on Slope Analysis, but harder to discern than roads because of their smaller footprint. Some well established wide and well benched sections of trail are easily identified. For more narrow trails, especially on sloping terrain, the Slope analysis is a great tool for pinpointing their location where the canopy cover hides the trail from aerial imagery. The pixels in the slope analysis are a meter square, so the color variation is possible across a very small distance.   The slope view and photo show a section of the Timberline Trail where the bench is visible as the darker pixels cutting through the canyon.


After research, in the field observations and GPS tracks provide a view of the current conditions and a generalized location of the trails. I use GaiaGPS on my phone to record tracks, which I can export as GPX files into ArcGISPro to use as references.

My GaiaGPS tracks around Mt Hood National Forest


This view of the Timberline Trail along the Zigzag River show how variable GPS tracks can be, where I have over a dozen tracks from the trail, but they all have variance.


Zoomed in with trail drawn over, easier to distinguish the corridor and especially switchback as changes in pixel color.

Data Overlay on 3D Terrain derived from the Bare Earth Lidar


OSIP 2018 Aerial Imagery


Data Overlay on 3D Terrain derived from the Bare Earth Lidar

Here's a 3D view looking into Heather Canyon where the Timberline Trail crosses, that shows the trail and a better alignment than on OpenStreetMap. I choose to map the crossing where the trail follows further past the top of the falls, where I've always found crossing to be easier and safer, and the trail naturally leads there now.


OSIP 2018 Aerial Imagery



The drawback of this process of manual manipulation of the trail is that it is quite time consuming to apply so many vertices along the minor undulations of the trail. Placing the trail also requires special attention and knowledge of the current conditions, because the Lidar data for the area was gathered from 2009-2015. This means, for instance, there was no bench for the 2017 reroute of the Timberline constructed after the Eliot Branch blew out the original crossing upstream. Aerial Imagery, trail GPS tracks, and referencing Google Earth'3d imagery help establish the route there.

Using Lidar in visualizing the Mountain

The Lidar data can create beautiful detailed visualizations of terrain to serve as the basemap for a map. In creating my Timberline map background, I have layered and blended over a dozen layers, including many that are derived from the DOGAMI lidar. Highest Hits lidar hillshaded data layers visualizes canopy cover to the level where you can identify individual trees, buildings or large boulders. By blending together many different lidar derived layers and elements like colorized polygon layers of vegetation I have created, and snow coverage extracted from imagery, I strive for an artistic background that balances modern data with a somewhat classic look, without excessive noise of aerial imagery. A background that is beautiful to look at and displays terrain in a way that is interpretive to what is encountered on the ground, inspiring users to have a better understanding of their place in the environment while hiking.

Fires and Windstorms!

Since the collection of the Lidar data, fires like the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire have reshaped the forest canopy around Mt Hood. Since many of the areas have trees still standing, I've blended grayed color polygons traced over present stands of burned area to indicate the burned areas on the map. Other areas, like the massive windstorm damage caused by the Labor Day 2020 storms transformed vast swaths of forest, for which I chose to utilize photoshop and edit the basemap I created to better represent the current conditions, and help hikers visualize the terrain as they may see it today from across the Muddy Fork on Bald Mountain.


Basic Lidar derived Highest Hits Hillshade


Edited, Stylized Basemap


Cleaning up Lidar.

Since Lidar data is collected by different projects, it is mosaicked together, and along the borders there can be artifacts such as long lines that appear where they mesh. These lines where datasets meet are easily identifiable (you can find them in GoogleMaps for example, which also uses DOGAMI lidar as it's terrain hillshade. To remove these from the basemap was a task I accomplished in photoshop by editing the pixels along the lines to blend them in. Below is a before and after of cleaning the diagonal line across the terrain.

lidar line

Bringing things together.

A view of the north side of Mt Hood.


A map preview

Here's a snippet of my map (still a work in progress) with all my data layers combined looking at the Eliot Glacier and Cloud Cap Saddle area.


Chehalem Ridge Nature Park

Chehalem Ridge Nature Park


It's not that often that an entirely new park is added to the inventory of places for recreation, but with the opening of Chehalem Ridge Nature Park, Metro has added 1,260 acres and nearly 7.5 miles of trails to explore. The park is open 8 am to 7 pm for hiking, biking, equestrian and picnicking. Dogs and other pets are not allowed. It's Metro's park on the west side, about 15 minutes south of Forest Grove, about a half hour from the Beaverton area through some lovely rolling landscapes. Eager to explore the new trails, I headed out early and arrived shortly after to gate rolling open to the public for the first time. The parking area is immense, and can accommodate a lot of users, with an area for horse trailers. There are several covered picnic shelters that can be reserved for events.


The trailhead for the Woodland trail begins near the Picnic Shelters, and the Timber Road can be accessed from there or the east end of the parking lot. The Woodland Trail begins heading into the forest working northwards along in the hillside west of the Timber Road.


The history of land use is evident in the landscape here; the forest was a timber area and had been managed for future timber use. The trees were replanted in the unnatural feeling straight lines, and with acquisition of the land, Metro has done a great deal of restorative work to enhance the landscape for wildlife, fire resiliency and watershed restoration. Old logging roads have been decomissioned and revegetated throughout the area, while the main Timber Road runs open to users to incorporate into their excursions through the south of the park before closing to the public north of Iowa Hill.


The trails have been constructed with wide benches and easy grades, allowing for broad access to users. Many in the southern section are well graveled, and follow interesting routes to views out over the hills or along the creek. The Chehalem Ridge Trail, follows the ridge north then transitions into the the Madrona Trail which descends a more open hillslope with oaks and madrones before following the road before ending in a small loop in the forest. These trails are less developed and natural surfaced, with somewhat more rolling tread that bikers will enjoy.


I'll have to come back to check out the views- I was limted in my views out into the valley, the entirety of my time was in a steady light rain and dense cloud. My visit to the exposed meadow slope of Iowa hill brought me high enough to experience some freezing rain. While no vast views, the thick clouds and eerily straight plots of forest create a peaceful, haunting atmosphere.


The trails are exceedingly well signed, with directional markers at all junctions that include a plate with a trail map oriented to the location, so route finding should be easy. There are also plenty of benches for breaks.


After the windy weather of the weekend there were a handful of downed trees and branches across the park, but Metro maintenance crews were out removing them already.


Scattered throughout the park are massive stumps and large trees that survived the logging of the area, including some huge cedars that inspire reflection of how the area may have once been.


Hopefully there will be some interpretive displays added along the trail system, because there are some great spots that would benefit from explanation to help visitors build a sense of place and understand the historical and ecological elements they are passing by. One spot in particular is along the north end of the Chehalem Ridge Trail where on one side of the trail the forest has been thinned and on the other side the forest has not been and the difference is stark.


All total, exploring the whole of the trail system netted me about 14.5 miles. It's a really nice area to get some good distance in, especially for running and being on the west side of town. I saw a handful of hikers out enjoying opening day, and a pair of bikers on the trails. The location is designed for a huge capacity of users which it will easily accommodate without feeling crowded. It's a great spot to get some really remote feeling nature access without heading too far away from town. I'm thankful for Metro's vision of transforming woodland into a hub for conservation and recreation.


While the trail is well mapped throughout the park, I could not find any uploaded online at opening day, so I uploaded my tracks and threw together a map for planning visits.

A map of Metros Chehalem Ridge Natural Area

More Adventures

More Adventures

Changing Seasons on Mount Hood


Utilizing Lidar in Mapping Trails


Chehalem Ridge Nature Park


Cartography at Old Maid Flat


A Lookout Mountain Night


Coe Glacier as Winter Draws Near


Stadter Buried Forest


To White River Glacier


Wandering White River


Ho Rock and Snow

Cartography at Old Maid Flat




Collecting Data in National Forest Lands

I’ve been spending time exploring the Old Maid Flat area on the western side of Mt. Hood as part of a project for PCC's GIS Certificate Program, exploring the use of ESRI’s FieldMaps app for collecting and utilizing GPS data. The app premiered as an evolution of their field applications and web mapping integration prospects just a year ago. It allows users to design feature classes (categories) for collecting data with specified schema and attributes that focuses and streamlines data collection in the field. There’s a lot of potential here for amassing useful data, and those in the field using the app need not have an understanding of how the maps were set up to simply add points into the system using a modern cellphone. One of the items I focused on collecting data for with this project was Information signs and displays- trail signs, wilderness signs, use signs, interpretive displays, etc. The app allowed me to easily capture the location, condition, and most importantly, a photo of these pieces of infrastructure that, especially in more remote trails, are often in need of attention. When the data syncs to online, then all of those locations, photos and information is instantly viewable in ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Pro. With that it’d be straightforward to create heatmaps and prioritize areas most in need of improvements. The same system could be used to identify trail structures or sections in need of repair or maintenance or collect data to prioritize and plan logouts, or even simplified by utilizing the ESRI QuickCapture app which can streamline some of the data collection.


Old Maid Flat

This wide flat area through which the Sandy River flows down below Yocum Ridge toward the confluence with the Zigzag River is a basin that has been filled by successive flows of pyroclastic debris brought down in lahars from Mt. Hood. The most recent eruptive period that shaped it’s modern landscape, the Old Maid Eruptive period, was only around 250 years ago, a mere blink of an eye, geologically speaking. The channel of Lost Creek, cutting through these deposits has revealed the still standing trunks of trees from the forest that was buried in the debris flows. These are best viewed at the Lost Creek Nature Trail No. 776 where the trail leads to a platform on the river right near a collection of these exposed artifacts. Explorers keeping an eye out exploring around the creek further along its course can find others, as well as additional forest debris sticking out of the banks.


Recreational Opportunities

The landscape is unique to the area, especially at the low 2000 foot elevation, where the coarse sandy soils encourage the grown of slow growing lodgepole pines and an undulating, terrain where rocky debris is covered in vibrant, thriving mosses and lichens. Recreationally, the area offers three campgrounds and numerous trailheads offering access to the wilderness for hikers and horseback riders. Named for Fred McNeil, explorer and visionary of the mountain, newsman and author of Wy’east, ‘The Mountain (later re-published as McNeil’s Mount Hood), McNeil Campground is primitive vehicle campground. Riley Horse Camp has large sites, many of which have corrals for horses, and is surrounded by many paths for riding and exploring. Lost Creek Campground and Day Use Area is a unique site in that it has been constructed as barrier free with asphalt and graveled pathways offering enhanced access to its facilities. There is a loop of vehicle sites and 5 walk in sites available.

The Ramona Falls Trailhead is the launching point for visitors to the waterfall, one of the most popular destinations around the mountain. The Cast Creek Trail No. 773, Horseshoe Ridge Trail No. 774, and Burnt Lake Trail No. 772 offer access into the Zigzag Mountains, Burnt Lake, Cast Lake, and extensive hiking and backpacking opportunities.


USFS Motor Vehicle Use Map 2020

Poor maps, confusion

As one of the most easily accessible areas for recreation in Mt. Hood National Forest, I felt the area could use some updated cartography. The current maps for the campgrounds could be improved and some inaccuracies removed as well. Looking through the current area maps, it’s clear that the basis for much of the data and cartography goes back to the older USGS quadrangles, and the poorly updated and improperly verified Motor Vehicle Use Map based on the USFS roads GIS data. A perfect example of the problems this can cause is a read of the USFS directions to the Ramona Falls Trailhead, which can easily see hundreds of hikers on a busy summer weekend: “Bear left at the junction onto Forest Road 1825-100 and drive 0.3 mile. Take a left onto Forest Road 1825-024 to a large open parking lot (0.2 mile) at the Ramona Falls”  While years ago 1825-100 continued straight towards the river, now that section is closed and thoroughly covered over and 1825-100 flows uninterrupted into 024 just as a bend in the road. The same overcomplication can be found on the directions to the Burnt Lake Trailhead where it is again clear that route is being described by staring at old GIS data.


User trail near Riley Horse Camp

Discovering Trails

There is also a very advanced network of trails, many following old roadways, around Riley Horse Camp that have no designations but are frequented by horseback riders and don’t appear on maps, even OpenStreetMap. All along Lost Creek is a fishing trail that in many sections is better established than many designated Forest Service Trails, and offers a thoroughly enjoyable and unique trek along the creek and the opportunity to make a loop with the Sandy River Trail No. 770. I met a hiker with his dog who said he had been hiking on this unofficial trail for the past two decades. Illustrating these very established routes helps hikers with navigation when they may come to junctions that they were not expecting. I put a lot of effort into symbolizing the road system in a way that is easily discernable and useful for visitors, as that has been one of the biggest hurdles in access I’ve noticed from looking at most modern maps. This of course leads me to having to make decisions about symbolizing road conditions, like the road leading off 1825 to the Ramona Falls Trailhead which while surfaced with asphalt, is so disintegrated in spots with massive potholes that I downgrade it to a “gravel or higher clearance recommended”


Dispersed Camp in the Wilderness

Recording Trails

In trips to the Old Maid Flat area (before the gate closed on December 1st) I extensively covered the area, recording tracks using Gaia GPS and taking point location data using FieldMaps, noting such features as backcountry or dispersed campsites, campground features, restrooms, trail and information signage, parking areas, and more.

In building my Trails database, I utilize my freshly collected tracks, combined with tracks I have collected in the past (for Horseshoe Ridge Trail for instance, I have 7 tracks along much of it to compare), and overlay them on high resolution imagery and Hillshaded Terrain processed from Bare Earth Lidar from Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI). Especially for trails with wider benches, Lidar can very exactly show their layout and is especially useful in dense forest where it strips away all vegetation to give a view of the ground surface.

Data Collected in ESRI FieldMaps


A single track overlayed on Bare Earth Lidar Hillshade 


Adjusted over OSIP 2018 Satellite Imagery


Lidar reveals trail features in dense forest

Building a more accurate roads database

Because of the wide inaccuracies of the current roads data, I also use lidar as the base to finely trace the actual locations of roadbeds, and then use observational data collected in the field to determine road conditions and actual access such as the location of gates or earthen decommissioned sections.


Roads clearly visible on Bare Earth Lidar Hillshade


Tracing Road Systems


Comparing with current Roads data Layer

Building Hydrology

While out exploring and creating tracks, one of my data points to collect are Hydrologic notes, which takes photos and descriptions of hydrology as I encounter it. This helps build up a detailed hydrology layer that is tailored to recreationists and how one may find or interact with water on the trail. Having more accurate visualization of streams or even minor water crossings of the trail can help hikers orient themselves as well as plan better for drinking water. The USGS hydrology database is so expansive and detailed of potential flowlines that it can be an overload and not reflective of what may be encountered out hiking. I use these notes, combined again with imagery and Lidar data to build up my hydrology database for the Mount Hood region.


Utilizing field notes


Building hydrology over Lidar data


Relational to hiking experiences

Building Basemaps

For the Basemap of the area I used the DOGAMI Bare Earth Lidar in conjunction with Highest hits (to visualize the canopy cover), generated hill shaded layers and proceed with layering, blending, and stylizing the elements. Here I felt like a color style that somewhat alluded to the early USGS maps of the 80’s, with the mildly saturated greens for forest and tans for open areas. Contour lines are based on the Bare Earth Lidar data (although acquired from somewhat smoothed versions of the data because contours straight from Lidar can produce lines with a vast amount of vertices that are overly chaotic).


One facet of using Lidar data is that some of the most recent data for areas are a decade old and don't reflect the current situation on the ground. Since the remote sensing was conducted the bridge over the Sandy was replaced and rerouted, which necessitated me to edit the the basemap in Photoshop to reroute the bridge and better reflect the current environment


Roads overlayed on basemap, the old bridge clear to the north of the Sandy crossing


2018 OSIP Satellite Imagery showing current bridge


Basemap after Photoshop edits


I brought in the USFS Wilderness boundary, which studying for the area, I had not realize extended so far out. There are quite a few spots where there are pullouts for long established roadside dispersed camping where you would be nearly setting your tent up in the Wilderness Area as it is so close to the road.


Bringing it all together

I built a large format display for the map that echoes the current themes used by the Forest Service in their most modern interpretive displays in the area, highlighting the recreational opportunities and some of the geology of the location. For each of the campgrounds I produced informational maps highlighting the camp spots and amenities.

An interpretive display for the Old Maid Flat area

Map Details


Campground Maps

Using GPS data collected with Field Maps I constructed more accurate and up to date maps of the campgrounds.

McNeil Campground map
Riley Horse Camp area map
An overview of the Lost Creek Campground and Day Use Area

Exploring Old Maid Flat


More Adventures

More Adventures

Changing Seasons on Mount Hood


Utilizing Lidar in Mapping Trails


Chehalem Ridge Nature Park


Cartography at Old Maid Flat


A Lookout Mountain Night


Coe Glacier as Winter Draws Near


Stadter Buried Forest


To White River Glacier


Wandering White River


Ho Rock and Snow

A Lookout Mountain Night


A Lookout Mountain Night

With the potential for Aurora sightings south into Oregon due to the coronal mass ejection on the sun earlier in the week, I headed out to try and get some views of the northern sky. My plan was to head in the late afternoon to High Prairie trailhead east of Mt Hood on the northern edge of the Badger Creek Wilderness, and then proceed the short approximate mile to a campsite at 6400 feet, along the Divide Trail just west and down the ridge from the Lookout Mountain summit. Just behind the spot is a pumice slope with open views to north of Mt St. Helens, Mt Adams, and on to Mt Rainier. There’s less trees and obstruction than at the summit for that direction, and it’s also right next to an extraordinary viewpoint of the east side of Mt Hood, and it is more protected than the summit.


A little after 4 in the afternoon when I arrived at the trailhead, where the temperature was already below freezing, and along the trail, large swaths of ice needles were rising out of the trail. It really does appear as an uprising of incredibly thin needles of ice in a block, pushing soil out of the ground This type of frost happens when the ground temperature is above freezing, with moisture in the soil and a below freezing air temperature. I’d speculate that it concentrates on the trails because the compacted soils retain heat longer. I’ve never encountered such expansive coverings of it, and it offers a satisfying crunch to the trail without being slippery. Once at my camp I went about setting up camp. The spot was windy, but much less that right around the corner at the viewpoint towards Mt Hood.


Looking west to Mt Hood


North to Mt Adams and Mt Rainier

The sun crept down above the valley and warm rays cut through cloud lines that were shifting around the Mountain. A band of thick clouds floated up above Newton Clark Glacier, splashing onto the mountains shoulders while just breaking around some rocky outcroppings on the way to the summit. Wine colored accents bloomed along the trailing edges of cloud bands, bleeding out to deep greys once the sun disappeared below the mountains of the coast range.


The setting sun


colors draining out of the clouds


Happy Halloween!

With the sun down, I set about donning more layers to preserve my warmth and regaining feeling in my fingers. The wind was absolutely ripping, and if it weren’t for the foam earplugs I’d brought, I’d probably have bailed then. Ice was already starting to form in my two liters of water. After warming up for a while, enjoying a beverage (beer foam freezing on the edges of the mug) and doing some reading in the tent I went back out for a look. The sky was clear and illuminated by a vastness of stars and the Milky Way. To the north the lights leaking from Hood River offered a glow, but no discernable Aurora. I didn’t linger for long; the intensity of the wind and chill quickly robbed my extremities of their feeling even with the double layer of warm gloves and three layers of socks. Regrettably, I didn’t set about any astrophotography, wanting to preserve the life of my camera batteries for long exposures later in the evening and preserve the functioning of my hands.

Shortly after when I popped out for a view I was surprised to see that where last had been a great blanket of illumination- now was nothing.  A thick layer of clouds had moved above, and the moisture and fog in the air rushing about me in the unrelenting wind had gained a weight. Retreating back into my down bag I was grateful for the extraneous layers that I had brought, including my full body fleece dinosaur onesie that stayed on over my down jacket. My down bag will make me sweat wearing any layers in temperatures in the 50s and wasn’t feeling over warm in the slightest now. I wasn’t cold, but felt at fine level temperature wise. The air temp was at least in the low twenties and windchills into the teens. I set alarms for 2am, in the window when Aurora was forecast to be stronger, hoping I could catch some sleep and would return outside to a cloud dispersed.


Sleep wouldn’t come; the rushing wind outside was a constant white noise interjected at random by crashing gusts loud enough to cut through my earplugs, breaking through any drift out of consciousness. Around 1 AM I poked my head outside to discover the rapidly moving air outside seemed to be frozen, and was depositing small crystals of ice in piles where it hit my tent. The needles on trees, branches, rocks on the ground, all were covered in fine crystals of ice. I decided to break camp and try for some other vistas that may have views. After quick and windy packing up I descended. On the north side of the mountain and in the forest, barely more than 200 feet lower the wind was dramatically lower, the fog not frozen. At the trailhead the temperature felt so dramatically warmer and the air so comparably still that I, now too warm, stripped down out of my many layers. Felt balmy. The car thermometer said 27. I headed down the 4.8 miles really getting to enjoy heated seats.

I thought that Eightmile Point would be a good option with its northward views, and more than a 1200 feet lower than my camp may have some visibility so I headed there. At the Junction off of FS-2730 the sky was still cloudy and mild freezing rain had settled in, so I skipped on trying to hike to the Point and headed toward a view that offers great sunrises looking east and may let me see better sky conditions. After missing the pull off in the darkness, I turned around and headed back up to the view. I caught a red fingernail of the moon rising up above the eastern ridges covered with turbine beacons before it slipped behind cloud layers. Next I headed to a large gravel lot off FS17 heading north with expansive views of Hood. Saw Elk and plenty of deer along the way, and the sky was pretty cloudy and there was a collection of cars at the lot so I didn’t linger. At my next spot Mt Hood was still cloudy and the clouds still letting only a few stars through, so with my energy dwindling I closed my eyes for an hour. Awaking, now just after 5 AM I headed out to FS 1720 to drive through the grassy stretches of pine and oaks and the country opened up as I descended northeast. Warm oranges and purples began to filter into the cloudy sky as approached The Dalles and a very desired coffee.


Coe Glacier as Winter Draws Near

Coe Glacier as Winter Draws Near


With significant rain forecast for the northwest, I wanted to get back to the north side of Mt Hood to check out a few areas before more snow fell on the mountain. On this sunny morning at Cloud Cap Saddle, the outside temperatures were just a bit above freezing and the ground was frozen with patches of snow leftover from the recent low elevation snows. The trail was quiet; I didn't see a single hiker the entire day. From the campground I headed immediately down to the Eliot crossing. Last time I was here was early on in the summer as the high heat was shedding the snowpack above, and the river was a torrent, a couple feet higher in places and faster moving. Now I could cross on rocks and there were numerous spots where the flow was just ankle deep. The bigger hazard was the ice slick on rocks near the creek. The scramble out of the canyon was still puckering, although better paths have been developed up to the rim.


In the summer the stretch of trail that climbs up through the burned forest is a very dusty stretch, but now frozen in place (and much cooler) was a nice change.  Further along, the trail more shaded, had stretches of frozen snow with a nice flat boot pack on it.


falls above the Eliot Branch crossing

Almost 3 miles from Cloud Cap on the Timberline Trail I headed up the ridge that separates the Compass Creek Drainage and Coe Branch. This area is the furthest the 2011 Dollar Lake fire burned up the slopes of the mountain here, and I was finding myself amongst some large but stunted, dense growing pines in the alpine environment. Shady areas had a good collection of snow on the slopes. I kept heading up the ridge and came to an open north facing field of broken plate like flat rocks. I cautiously ascended less than a hundred feet before deciding the increasing slope severity made things too chancy to press upward. It was like scrambling over a pile of icy dinnerplates.

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