From Woods to Wildflowers

"You know, minus the potholes, this road is actually in pretty good shape.”

Andy just looks at me sideways as the Subaru lunges over yet another hole, jostling both of us enough to click our teeth together. Hard. 

“I think you missed some fundamental principle of what makes a road 'good', Amanda.”

It’s the first 80 degree weekend in nine months, and these gorgeous days just happen to correspond with July fourth weekend. Insert grin here. 

Mount Hood Wilderness 
6.8 miles, 1500 feet elevation gain

Yesterday, with Andy still caged at work, I took off with the Rock-monster for a much needed solo trek. I had originally planned to hit up one of my favorite places high in the Mount Hood Wilderness, Cooper Spur, but after a bit of a rough morning got a later start than I wanted. As such, I made an impromptu detour to the Burnt Lake trail, which I hadn’t done in years. The road to the trailhead there, too, was riddled with potholes, enough to leave some serious modernist mud art on the sides of my car.

Burnt Lake trail

The trail was a sun-dappled walk through a verdant, layered forest. Giant, burned cedars, the bones of the old forest, stood like sentinels among vine maple, huckleberries, hemlock, Doug fir, ferns, bunchberry and devils club. Trillium and bleeding heart sprinkled among the greenery. And a few boggy sections choked with slide alder and devils club, where skunk cabbage with its yellow, lantern-like bloom, thrived.

still-life with trillium & bug

At 4100 feet elevation, Burnt Lake has only recently melted out, but even on the first of July, large snow drifts linger, some taller than me. There was no one else around. Just warm ground, a warm sun, and lunch on an alpine lakeshore.

dah boy

requisite Burnt Lake shot

I love watching the world wake up, in that transition time between the sleep of winter and the vibrance of summer.

Columbia River Gorge, Wind River Recreation Area
4.4 miles, 1200 feet elevation gain

The first true day of the holiday weekend. We puttered about the house, halfheartedly attempting needed house chores before deciding to throw in the towel and enjoy the day. Nothing too long, since it was early afternoon already and nothing too difficult since we still had plans for a Helens backpack/climb on Monday and Tuesday. Just a sunny, warm leg-stretcher on a glorious day, and hopefully not too mobbed with holiday crowds.

I picked Grassy Knoll out of hat. Basically stuck my finger in a guide book from the library and said, let’s go there. Which leads us to the road reference above. Still, Bear Creek Road and later, Forest Service road 68, aren’t the worst roads we’ve been on. I’m going to currently leave that honor to the road leading to Breitenbush Lake from the Ollalie Lake area. That is a rip-your-oil pan-out-with-glee road. 

At the trailhead, Andy discovered that in his search for his hat, he had left his hiking boots at home. Since he’s stubborn, he hiked in these:

basically house slippers at this point

The first 1.2 miles of the Grassy Knoll trail provided a decent workout on steeper pitches than I anticipated. The reward beyond is to travel at a rolling pace amongst lovely rock gardens and meadows with sweeping views of Mount Adams, Big Lava Bed plain, Mount Hood and the Columbia River gorge.

From atop Grassy Knoll itself, the foundation stones of an old lookout tower are all that remain in a garden of flowers: phlox, sedum, balsamroot, lupine and indian paintbrush.

We could have continued on, rambling on through the myriad flowers and meadows over the ridgeline, all the way to Big Huckleberry Mountain. It was tempting, but it was already getting late, that glorious afternoon sun backlighting the meadows in a spectacular fashion.