Wildflowers are blooming, or so we thought. With the unseasonably warm weather and very mild winter we had spring has been a bit out of control. We’ve seen reports of flowers in full bloom in several places yet others still have a bit of snow. IN one report we saw that we were pretty close to the full bloom in Dog Mountain, one of the must-go places in the Gorge this time of year as the entire mountain gets covered with yellow flowers. The problem in that trail is that it has gotten so popular that is hard to find a parking spot in the huge parking area the trailhead has. When flowers bloom, everyone plus their aunts go there. Still, Val and I wanted to see some wildflowers but avoid the crowds so we opted for a hike we found a couple of years ago. Bald Butte, located in the Surveyors Ridge on the eastern side of Mt Hood, can get as many flowers as Dog Mountain but not the crowds. Usually flowers bloom there before they do on Dog, or so we thought. Still we made it there for a really nice hike on a partially cloudy day. Since the clouds were covering Mt hood, I was not able to take a lot of pictures of that so I spent most of the time taking pictures of small things. Besides the clouds, we found ourselves hiking on rather cold day. It was a bit weird because the sun felt nice and warm but the air, and the little wind there was, was cold. We even had a section of the trail all dusted white which seemed a bit earie and out of place. So all the yellow flowers are not out yet but it was still a beautiful hike
Yes, this is a loop I’ve done more than once and it’s always a good challenge early in the season to get those uphill needed muscles ready. This time around though, I decided to make a short change to the loop to make it a bit better. If you read the numerous guides about this loop, you’ll note that they start from the Elk Mountain trailhead. There’s two issues with this approach that I’ve experienced. The first one is that there’s no warmup time. Right from the sign post you start going almost straight up. By the time you get to the first view point you’re completely out of breath which will slow you down for the rest of the loop. The other issue is that you leave the Wilson River trail section for last. That section is about 3 miles of little ups and downs that, after going over Elk and Kings it’s just boring and never ending. So what we did this time instead was start from the King’s Mountain trailhead and do the Wilson River section first. Not only that served as a warmup for the Elk Mountain trail but it made the trail more enjoyable being early in the morning. Those 3 miles went pretty quickly and by the time we started climbing we were pretty warm and ready. We did luck with the weather that kept fresh and with good views throughout the day. On the way up we enjoyed all the viewpoint stops until we got to Elks were we made our first pack-off stop to eat half of our lunches. From there we continued on the Elk trail to the junction with the Kings trail that goes thru several knife edge ups and downs.
We had some pretty high clouds that made the sky look really interesting while still offering views of Mt hood (which is a rare sight from this trail). We made a second stop at what is roughly the middle point of the hike although not the most scenic. The hike from there to kings was actually easier than expected, part of it because we found the trail has been cleaned and maintained lately so it was a lot easier to follow that other times I’ve done it. Even the rope section and the couple of muddy switchbacks before the summit were easy to traverse this time. From the top of Kings we were welcomed with views of Mt Hood and Mt Adams peeking in the distance. We also meet with multiple hikers coming up from the Kings Mountain trailhead. We took our last breather before heading straight down to the parking lot. Everyone I the group liked starting the loop from Kings so I think I’ll stick with this one.
I think I did this hike a long time ago but just in case I didn’t, it was time to try again. This trail is also knowns as the Mazama Trail. That’s because at some point, this trail was decommissioned and no longer maintained. When that happened, the Mazamas, a local outdoors group, decided to maintain the trail in exchange for the name. Getting to the trailhead is half the fun as you have to drive up on a forest road that almost seems you should be hiking instead of driving. Once you negotiate that, you can start on the trail as it travels on the west side of the Ladd Creek Canyon. The route is pretty straight forward as it follows the side of the ridge to a rock field. A couple of switchbacks later, you reach the wilderness boundary and the Cathedral Ridge. I don’t recall views from here as it was probably very forested. Now the views extend a bit more as part of the forest went up in flames with the Dollar Lake fire three years ago. That with the low hanging clouds and fog make most of the hike almost magical. And needless to say, we had the trail to ourselves. The original plan for this though was to reach the Timberline Trail, veer left and descend to Cairn Basin which I haven’t visited for a year or two. That plan got thwarted about a quarter of a mile or less from the Timberline Trail as we found the ridge snow covered. We could guess were the trail was and the route to follow but the consensus of the group was not to gamble it and return. That ended up being a good choice as it started raining just a couple of minutes after we stopped to eat some lunch.
On the way back from our hike to Mirador La Picada, we made a short stop at Saltos del Petrohue (Petrohue waterfalls). This is a touristy stop for good reason. A short path takes you from the parking lot to incredibly blue waters and some pretty amazing waterfalls. Being a tourist attraction, you have to come prepared to pay for paring and also for entering the .2 mile trail system. It’s not necessarily a hike, but if you’re in the area, is worth making the stop to check it out. Once you pay the dues. The path splits in two. The path to the left travels over rocks and chasms towards the waterfall viewpoint. Views are just incredible from pretty much anywhere but especially when you pass a bridge over a narrow slit with rushing water under you. There’s a secondary trail that goes to the lower side of the river and visits some hidden forests before reaching the river bank. The contrast between the blue water and the grey rocks is outstanding in the area which is why I decided to mention it here.
Being in Chile for about a week was a perfect opportunity to add some hiking and discover new areas. After our visit to the coast, Val and I flew to Valdivia and then drove to Puerto Varas taking the route around Lago Llanquihue. That day we got the best possible weather with deep blue skies and no clouds. It was perfect to get a full view of the volcanoes across the lake which include Volcan Osorno, Volcan Puntiagudo and Volcan Calbuco (that recently erupted).
We were hopeful to have the same weather for our hike so we could go all the way to Paso la Desolacion (Desolation Pass) that offers up close and personal views of Volcan Osorno but our luck didn’t extend that much. We woke to an overcast day and a mountain not to be seen. We still went out for a hike in the area but we took it leisurely. Our drive there took us thru the Petrohue river canyon all the way to Lago de Todos los Santos (Lake of the Saints) from where we would start our hike. We were a bit surprised that at the end of the road there’s a lodge and some services to take you to Margarita Island in the middle of the lake or even to the other side. There was little indication of where the trail started. That made us park in the wrong spot and then find out, so we had to move the car. Finally parked in front of the entrance to the camping area, we started our hike and passed by an entrance hut with nobody in it. We found a sign with directions so we were set, or so we thought. After about 10 paces, a guard came running asking us where we were headed. He then told us we needed a permit – something that is not posted anywhere. So we went back to the car, drove around a bit until we found the park ranger house where we got the permits. It was a bit annoying as it took a good 45 minutes before we were ready to hit the trail again. This time though, we almost ran for it, just to make certain we wouldn’t have to stop or return for anything else. By then the clouds were moving above us and it looked like rain was coming. We decided to go for it and play it by ear. The first part of the hike climbs very slowly over a wide sandy trail. Even though there wasn’t a lot of elevation, it was still a bit of a workout because our shoes were sinking in the soft sand. Trail was very easy to follow even at a couple of spots were it crossed “aluviones” (Alluvium).
These are carved sand valleys where water has come rushing down. They were dry but you can see how much gravel and sand the water can carry. After the last aluvion, we finally started gaining some elevation. Thru the vegetation we could see the lake behind us and some of the mountains around it. To the south the view was just splendid even though it was very limited. It almost looked like a small volcano with its crater being rained on. The trail opened up at a point where we imagined the views of the mountain would have been just incredible. A bit further up, we found Mirador La Picada. It’s a small rock outcrop that overlooks the lake. We took some pictures and the fell the first drops of water so we started our hike back hoping not to get drenched. We didn’t. Instead of going all the way down, I saw there was a route that followed one of the aluviones down to the lake, so we took that route instead. The bottom was dry but it still had the shapes left behind by the water. It was almost like a petrified creek. Towards the end we found some interesting rock formations that have been probably carved by water. I imagine there being some small waterfalls in the winter or earl y spring. Once at the lake, we followed the coast line back to the trailhead. The going was slow as we spent our time admiring the scenery. Even though we missed the mountain due to clouds, it was beautiful out there.