Clackamas County

Oregon’s Paradise

Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Late July to early August is the time that meadows across the Cascade Mountain range come alive with wildflowers. Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park is perhaps the most well known location for wildflowers here in the northwest but it’s by no means the only location. A few years ago, I learned of a meadow on Oregon’s Mount Hood that’s home to an amazing display of beargrass, which is a grass like perennial but actually a member of the Lily family. Beargrass “blooms” follow a cycle so the number of beargrass that do bloom each year will vary. Once every so often, a super bloom will occur resulting in an impressive display and 2009 was such a year in a place named Paradise Park on Mount Hood.

Located in the Mount Hood Wilderness, Paradise Park is a four mile hike north from the famous Timberline Lodge via the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s actually quite an interesting hike in a number of ways. A typical wildflower hike starts low and climbs high but trekking out to Paradise Park starts high, loses 1,100′ of elevation, and then regains 1,000′ to reach the start of the meadows. The other aspect of this hike I found interesting was the variety of ecological zones that the hike travels through. The first mile or two traverses across a corrugated alpine pumice landscape followed by a brief re-entry into high elevation forest. This brings you to the rim of the impressive Zigzag Canyon, which is where the Zigzag River has cut down nearly 1,000 feet down through volcanic deposits. The 4,800′ bottom of the canyon crosses through classic western Cascade forest before reversing the experience on the way up to Paradise Park.
Zigzag Canyon, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Zigzag Falls in Zigzag Canyon, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers along the South Fork Lost Creek in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
I was ultimately inspired to make my first visit by a hiker’s comment on the Portland Hikers forum (a great resource for hiking in Oregon) which indicated that the wildflowers were at peak condition right now. While there would be no beargrass blooms, I felt a change of pace from the rat race of Mount Rainier’s Paradise was in order (more on that in another blog post). Forecasts pointed to good weather for the most part but always with a “chance” of thunderstorms. My plan was to overnight in Paradise Park one night, hike out the next day, drive around the mountain and do it all over again at another meadow-y setting. Sure enough, I set out under sunny skies with an ever growing cloud above Mount Hood. Temperatures in the upper 70s made the hike a bit toasty, particularly with heavy pack. I’ve tried to pare down the weight of my backpacking set but I think I have a bit more work to do!

Even with 40+ lbs on my back, I found myself an hour later at the rim of the Zigzag Canyon (2.3 miles from my starting point at Timberline). After a break and some photos, an hour later I was crossing the Zigzag River and beginning my climb up to Paradise Park. The mid afternoon sunshine was still cooking so my climb up to Paradise Park took close to another 90 minutes. It seemed like I would never reach Paradise Park but eventually I turned the corner and there it was. Now, before I continue, I feel the need to explain something. Photographers use a lot of adjectives to describe scenes such as amazing, grand and stunning. So much so that they, perhaps, loose their impact.
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Despite my numerous outings over the last five years, I will admit that the number of times I’ve been truly moved by the scene in front of me have been few. What’s my definition of “moved”? I’d say it’s the desire to share what you’re experiencing with someone you hold dear. It’s wishing someone was with you at that moment because it’s the only way they can ever truly understand why you do what you do. Rounding the corner as the first meadow of Paradise Park came into view was one of those moments for me (only my second time this year). As picturesque as any meadow I’ve ever seen, I just wanted to drop everything and just stare. The sweat and fatigue of the journey to get here was but it was so, so worth it at this moment.

If I was to get ready for sunset, I needed to get going and set up camp. Not too far after entering Paradise Park is the South Fork of Lost Creek and the first campsites found in Paradise Park. The creek was lined with all sort of wildflowers along with one of the finest campsites I’ve ever seen. As good as it seemed, I decided to keep going, at least until the crossing of the North Fork of Lost Creek. Again, the creek was lined with wildflowers but the campsites were much more exposed. There was still a threat of thunderstorms so the prudent thing to do was to retreat back to the more sheltered campsites along the South Fork. I set up my camp and took a little nap before setting back out to the first meadow for sunset.
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Last light towards the west from Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Sunrise and wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Behind the Paradise Park Loop Trail signpost is a way path that meanders up through the meadow towards Mississippi Head and the rest of Mount Hood. The flowers here were thick, in perfect form, and consisted mostly of Lupine, American Bistort, Arnica, and some sporadic Indian Paintbrush. As I’ve grown fond of doing, I brought along my GoPro so that I could also shoot a time lapse series. The only downside of this is that you have to pick a spot and stay there. Sometimes this doesn’t work out to your advantage. At this lower location in the meadow, the focal point are the flowers and Mount Hood; not much else is visible due to the treeline which is literally all around you.

On this night, this didn’t work in my advantage. The large billowing clouds from the afternoon had pretty much disappeared by sunset. Minus the clouds, there wasn’t much left to capture and reflect the warm light of sunset. Behind me, though, the skies were filled with pinks and oranges. I worked my surroundings as best as I could before calling it an evening. Clouds seeped back in the darker it got and I pretty much knew that any star photography wasn’t going to be an option. I was tired enough that I didn’t have a big problem with that.
Sunrise and wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Sunrise and wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest
Waking up at 4:45am the next morning, I hiked back to the same meadow for sunrise serenaded by the cooing of a mourning dove. It was quite evident that I was in for a gray sunrise. Still, there was little wind and the no bugs. True sunrise greeted me with a few moments of light rain. This area was so nice that I had been toying with the idea of extending my stay one extra night. The weather (and myself, frankly) wasn’t looking too good so I kept with the decision to hike out and head home. Before breaking camp, I continued furthered up the path to the upper slopes. I found it interesting that the wildflowers (primarily asters) were actually a little bit past prime and somewhat “burned” out. Lower slopes normally burn out before the upper slopes simply because that’s the way the snowpack melts back during the course of summer.

By the time I had packed up camp and hit the trail, the sun appeared. A bit bittersweet but frankly it didn’t last too long. Most of the uphill hike out was graced by cloudy skies which did keep me a bit cooler. Even with dubious forecasts, I crossed paths with lots of people hiking in towards Paradise Park. After returning home, I found that that Timberline Lodge received 2.5″ of rain during the time I would have still been out there had I extended my stay. One thing I sometimes do after a trip is re-examine my “research” on an area to better understand and merge the on the ground reality I experienced and the textual or other information I had leading up to my visit. I discovered AFTER the fact that there were two waterfalls in the Paradise Park area which I could have photographed. Doh! Even with such a quick introduction to the area, I know I’ll be back. Acres of wildflowers that I didn’t have to share with anyone? Why would I NOT return??! I would highly recommend a visit to Paradise Park!
Wildflowers in Paradise Park, Mount Hood Wilderness, Mount Hood National Forest

Lastly, I’d like to give a special hat tip to Oregon photographer Wesley Picotte who generously shared some of his knowledge with me while I was researching my trip. Check out his great work also from the Pacific Northwest. Thanks again, Wesley!

Clackamas River Trail

Another stop on my recent trip south was to hike the Clackamas River Trail. You can almost forget you’re hiking parallel with a highway. Almost. For a river hike, access and views of the river are fairly limited and there’s plenty of ups and downs. Completely unexpected was a short stretch of the trail which travels through a stretch of forest reminiscent of the redwood forests of coast California. It held old growth sized trees with a forest floor of oxalis. So pretty! My destination was Pup Creek Falls which is a short way trail up a side drainage. Again, it’s a rather large water fall in a nice setting. The trail during my hike was fairly brushy coming from the Fish Creek trail head but there’s word on the hiking forum that there will be a work party shortly to brush it out. PortlandHikers lists this hike as moderate in terms of difficulty. I thought this was odd since it only gains 950 feet. After hiking it, however, I think it’s appropriate. The constant up and down nature of the trail earns the rating. Just like my hike to Falls Creek Falls (see my previous blog post), the trail doesn’t offer too many opportunities to actually visit the river’s edge or enjoy unobstructed views. Still an enjoyable hike!
Forest understory along the Clackamas River Trail
Ferns and oxalis along the Clackamas River Trail
Ferns and oxalis along the Clackamas River Trail
Pup Creeks Falls, just off of the Clackamas River Trail

2 days of Gorging – Part 1

I’ve decided that a couple days in May down in the Columbia River Gorge area is a good thing and so I made plans to go down this past week. The actual date was a little earlier than I would have liked due to other committments. Originally, I started doing this in order to photograph the endless field of Arrowleaf Balsamroot that blooms atop Dog Mountain, I’ve since then chosen to expand my itinerary to include other parts of the Gorge as well as neighboring Mount Hood.

At the last minute, I had to alter my plans and drop the Dog Mountain hike due to some highway construction located at the trailhead. I substituted the hike to Indian Point on the Oregon side in its place. The weather was forecasted to be mostly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms for the second half of my time down there but it remained sunny and clear the entire time (horrible conditions for photography!) And now the photos..

Indian Point:

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Not many photos from this first hike. A detailed description can be found on the Portland Hikers website. Overall, a wonderful forested hike to a prominent point overlooking the Gorge. Views north to Mount Adams, and east to Dog Mountain..

Oregon Grape branch nestled at the base of a Douglas Fir. Indian Point Loop Trail
Panorama from Indian Point. Mount Adams in the distant center.
Lone tree growing from the top of Indian Point

Mount Hood sunset from White River:

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First attempt had a small cloudcap over the summit but hardly any color due to the lack of clouds. I hiked about 2/3rds of a mile up the White River looking for a composition and settled on this location. Turns out some better spots were located much closer to the parking lot!..

Sunset on Mount Hood along the White River
Mount Hood cloudcap

Multnomah Creek:

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One of the highlights for me. Multnomah Creek feeds the very famous Multnomah Falls and the portion of the creek upstream of the famous falls contains some AMAZING scenery and a number of waterfalls. I spent nearly 5 hours here and only made it about 3/4 of a mile upstream of the main falls. A full description can be found on the Portland Hikers website. It’s worthy of an entire day!..

View back down over Multnomah Falls
Waterfall just upstream of the famous Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Creek
Multnomah Creek
Multnomah Creek
Middle Dutchman Falls - Multnomah Creek
Upper Dutchman Falls - Multnomah Creek
Ecola Falls - Multnomah Creek
False Solomon Seal - Multnomah Creek
Rock Patterns - Dutchman Tunnel
Rock Patterns - Dutchman Tunnel
Oregon Oxalis
Nature's cathedral ceiling - Multnomah Creek

More to come in Part two!…

Back from the Gorge

Bottom of the lower Multnomah Falls. A cliched shot to be sure but I think it's required under Oregon law..
I’ve returned from my 2 day trek down to the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood but have close to 400 photos to wade through. The weather did not go as forecasted so difficult lighting was present at every location I visited (i.e. sunny with no clouds!). I’ve gone through a fair amount of the photos but still have a ways to go. I should have a number of photos to share sometime this week!..

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