Labor Day weekend with the weatherman’s promise of a beautiful day in the Cascades, I drove to Timberline Lodge located at 6,000 feet on the south side of Mt. Hood. There was not a cloud in the sky. The trek I took is not in any hiking book (it can be dangerous for the unwary), but is my favorite loop hike on the upper flanks of Mt. Hood. Paradise Park was the first destination. The Park (park is another name for a large alpine meadow) is one of the more spectacular places in the Cascades, but you have to work for it.
A short trail climbs several hundred feet above the Lodge before reaching the Pacific Crest Trail. I began heading west on the PCT at an easy pace through scattered fields of wildflowers until reaching the top of the Big Zigzag Canyon. Much of the remaining route of the hike was visible from this viewpoint, including Mississippi Head and Zigzag Glacier.
The Trail descended 700 feet to the bottom of the Canyon where a creek must be forded. The Trail now began the 1,100 feet climb to Paradise Park. Upon reaching the Park, I had hiked 4 1/2 miles and had almost made it back to the same elevation as Timberline Lodge. The Park is famous for its fields of wildflowers and what an amazing sight it was. Purple lupines and asters mixed with scarlet paintbrush and white bistort covered the alpine meadows. Rising above was the summit of Mt. Hood.
Last year I published an article in The Oregonian about the Mazamas Round-the-Mountain hike on Mt. Hood: http://www.oregonlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/08/round_the_mountain_mazamas_hel.html.
On the hike to Paradise Park, I met a group of hikers participating in the 2012 Round-the-Mountain hike. Several of my fellow Mazama members were leading the group. We all reached Paradise Park at the same time. Everybody had their cameras out hoping to catch the beauty of the scene for posterity. At that point I said my goodbyes. They were continuing on the trail to the north through the meadows before dropping to their destination near Ramona Falls. I began heading up through the meadows to begin a long loop back to Timberline Lodge. My next blog post will describe the rest of my adventure.
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