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Thirty-eight thousand steps, 18 miles, 4,000 feet of elevation gain, black flies by the thousands (imagine the Tumbleweed character in Peanuts), hot (90 at the trailhead upon return) – – – now that’s a recipe for a tough day hike by any measure.
Yocum Ridge’s alpine area lies between Paradise Park and McNeil Point on the western shoulder of Mt. Hood. It’s the least visited of the three due to the long access hike required. But, the views are spectacular with the Sandy Glacier to the north, Reid Glacier to the south and Mt. Hood’s summit directly above. And, the wildflower meadows above 6,000 feet tend to be at their peak in mid-summer.
Not long after daybreak a few years ago on the third Sunday of August, I parked at the Ramona Falls Trailhead. After throwing in an extra couple of quarts of fluid in the daypack, I began the 3 ½ mile hike to the Falls. After crossing the Sandy River on a footbridge, I gained some nice views of the mountain for a short distance until the trail moved into the forest. (As an update, the footbridge is no longer there, and the fording of the Sandy River can get very daunting at times.)
My boots were kicking up plumes of dust from the deep volcanic ash forming the trail. Ramona Falls was soon reached. I enjoyed the cool breeze created by the waterfall and the intricate patterns of the water coming down the fractured rocks. The next 3 ½ miles of the trail continued to gain elevation until reaching a small pond.
The black flies were getting so bad that I had to put on another application of Bull Frog insect repellent. In about 1 ½ miles the first of the open alpine meadows was reached. Both the views and wildflowers were as amazing as I remembered from my last trip. As Tom Cruise might have observed: It was a target-rich environment for a photographer.
Forested Yocum Ridge with Sandy Glacier on the left and Reid Glacier on the right
As I was relaxing on an overlook of the Reid Glacier, two men sat down near me and set up a telescope. One was the father of one of the two mountain climbers who had lost their lives climbing Mt. Hood earlier in the year. Their bodies had never been found. Hoping to spot the remains near the bottom of Reid Glacier while the snowpack was at its minimum, the father was attempting to find closure. They had a fixed-wing plane scheduled for the next day to continue the search. After wishing them the best I hiked to the other size of Yocum Ridge.
Finding an excellent viewpoint, I listened to the booming sounds of falling rocks descending from the Sandy Glacier and marveled at the views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens and the high point of McNeil Spur that I had climbed a few days prior. After enjoying a snack, taking a long break, putting on more insect repellent, it was time to begin heading back. I took my time hiking the trail through the alpine area, then it was a long, hot slog to the car.
What a day! These are the memories that brighten up the dull, cold days of winter.
Bistort, Cat’s-ear Lily, Avalanche Lily and White Heather