Mt. Hood is underrated. If it were a national park like Mt. Rainier, it's neighbor to the north, everyone would know about it. We had never heard of it until we came to Oregon the first time. But now we understand that both these mountains are part of a volcanic chain along the Pacific coast. Mt. St. Helen's became a lot more well known when it blew its top in the '80's and people died as a result. We hope to visit a few more members of this august volcano family on this trip if the snow doesn't get to us first. These volcanic mountains stand huge and independent and are not part of a chain like the Rockies. They often are topped with snow and can be seen miles away, looming like apparitions over the much lower landscape. Mt. Hood is in the national forest and has been a well developed ski area for decades. The WPA built the classic Timberline Lodge there, a hotel as impressive as any we have seen in a national park with its massive fireplace, wooden timbers and walls made of boulders.
We spent the day driving around Mt. Hood. As the road wound up and around, we often lost track of where it was. Then we would come around a curve and there it would be in all its glory. Awesome! We'd read that a good place to see the mountain was from Lost Lake. This well named alpine jewel is miles off the main road, which isn't all that main. We saw a sign that said that the campground there was closed, but when we finally got there, we were shocked to see that we could not get into the lake area. Luckily, we came upon some forest service workers who explained that the recent fires were over the next ridge and the park, lodge and campground had been closed. Now so late in the season it didn't seem worth opening them again. They made us leave our car at the locked gate, but allowed us to trek in about a mile. Mt. Hood reflected in the water was spectacular.
But it was equally impressive at Trillium Lake, located much closer to the summit. There tourists were kayaking and fishing on the calm blue water with that massive temple of snow looming behind them. We went up to the lodge for lunch and drove right into the snow, which fell a few days ago when the three days of rain at lower elevations finally squelched the forest fires. In the sunshine the timberline was surprisingly warm and as we ate the melting snow drip, drip, dripped down the window panes. We're due for more precipitation in a few days, so the ski lifts should be running soon.
We drove home via the Columbia Gorge, hoping to leave the expressway and take the old Rt. 30 past the waterfalls that make this area famous. Closed, closed, closed for an indefinite period of time according to a ranger who convinced us to return to the expressway. She said we would be depressed by all the burned forest we could see as we drove. Since we didn't know what it looked like before, we weren't nearly as depressed as the locals must be, but there were definitely sporadic patches that looked brown.
So, we'll leave the gorge thrilled that we were able to see so much in such beautiful weather, with a return visit still on the list, once it really recovers from the fires.