In my last post I described hiking to Paradise Park from Timberline Lodge on a beautiful, sunny Labor Day weekend. Standing in the middle of a colorful alpine meadow, it was time to begin a steep, rugged, mostly off-trail hike back to the Lodge.
I left established trails for the next six miles. Following a faint mountain climbers’ path, I hiked up through the meadows before hitting the glacial moraine below Zigzag Glacier. I now began to steeply climb over melting snow fields, and rock and debris left by the retreating glacier. I first passed over 7,200-foot Mississippi Head (a large, dark rock formation visible from Portland), then climbed to 8,200 feet (the summit of Mt. Hood was only 3,000 feet above and looked close enough to touch.) This allowed me to cross above the deep chasm of Big Zigzag Canyon.
The views were spectacular of Zigzag Glacier, Illumination Rock and the varying hues of the Mountain’s summit. I turned east, carefully walking over the snowfields and the glacier, and climbing up and down over the fields of rocks until reaching the climbers’ trail on the south side of the Mountain next to the Palmer lift. It was an easy walk from there to return to the Lodge, clearly visible almost 2,000 feet below. All in all, the hike was 11.5 miles in length with 3,200 feet of elevation gain. A fantastic day!