Saturday, August 22 – Sunday, August 23, 2020
This weekend we headed to Elk Cove and had a much more low-key weekend than last weekend.
Having done all the planning and research for everything we’ve done so far this summer, this time I left it Greg to pick the weekend’s destination. He chose Elk Cove in the Mt. Hood Wilderness. There were seven vehicles at the Vista Ridge Trailhead on Saturday morning. We hit the trail at 8:45am under sunny skies.
Most of the Vista Ridge Trail burned in the 2011 Dollar Lake Fire:
It looked the trail crews hadn’t made up here this year as we had more blowdown to negotiate than normal:
In the burn we saw a lot of pearly everlasting:
We left the burn area behind on the last stretch before the Timberline Trail. That’s Barrett Spur and Mt. Hood ahead:
We reached the junction where a new-looking sign greeted us. Unfortunately some jerks had sprayed graffiti on it:
We turned left onto the Timberline Trail and immediately reached lovely Wyeast Basin, where we had a view of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams:
In addition to the little stream gurgling through Wyeast Basin, there are several little streams crossing the trail in the next half mile. Love it!
From the trail we could see down into the Hood River Valley:
Descending into Elk Cove:
Elk Cove has some nice wildflowers, but we were too late for the peak boom. There were still some asters, though. The western pasque flowers with their “muppet” seed heads were also present:
It wasn’t even noon yet, so we had no trouble finding a campsite:
Greg wanted to try for Barrett Spur and I decided to hike over to the Coe Branch, so we parted ways. I headed east under beautiful blue skies:
There was so much fireweed!
Descending down into the canyon. This area burned in the Dollar Lake Fire:
But some trees were spared:
The Coe Branch is known as being a pretty tricky crossing on the Timberline Trail. I wanted to keep going but didn’t want to cross this thing twice:
I watched people going upstream to make the crossing:
I sat by this nice spot for a little while before heading back:
On the way back to Elk Cove I spotted a bunch of ripe huckleberries that I hadn’t seen before, so I stopped for about 20 minutes and ate as many as I could. Yum!
When I got back to Elk Cove there were lots of backpackers passing through and some that were starting to set up camp for the night. This broken sign at the junction with Elk Cove Trail #631 was confusing to many and I pointed the right way for several people:
Greg wasn’t back yet so I poked around Elk Cove for a bit;
Greg got back to Elk Cove around 5:40. He had tried to take a different route up to Barrett Spur and the route hadn’t panned out so he didn’t make it up there. But he found a nice snowmelt stream to hang out by for awhile before coming back down.
Our campsite was quite large with room for other tents, so we shared with two other groups. We made dinner and ate at our site before heading over to check out the flowers along Cove Creek:
Earlier in the summer some moron had built a campfire right in the meadow by the creek. Not cool!
We spotted a beer can in the creek:
Greg retrieved it and found that it wasn’t empty. It looked pretty beat up, though, like it had been washed downstream at some point. He checked with the campsites nearby and nobody said it was theirs, so we we hauled it out:
Elk Cove was packed. There were people camped everywhere, including in grassy meadow areas. We were glad we had arrived early.
We went back to our tent and got ready for bed. There was nice alpenglow on Mt. Hood:
When we got up in the morning we noticed a slight haze and the air smelt faintly smoky. We figured the wind had shifted and was bringing wildfire smoke into the area:
We ate breakfast, packed up, and headed out:
On the climb out of Elk Cove the trail crosses a rock slide. Greg spotted a marmot there. Although I’ve heard of marmot sightings on Mt. Hood, I’ve never seen one there myself, that was pretty cool:
While we were standing there looking at the marmot we also briefly saw a pika scurrying around on the rocks. And then I spotted another creature poking its head up out of the rocks. I got lucky and managed to get a shot with my point-and-shoot. This little guy turned out to be a long-tailed weasel!
We hiked on and noticed that there was a bunch of haze to the north. Yuck:
When we reached Wyeast Basin we paused here for a bit before continuing:
Then we headed down the Vista Ridge Trail:
There were lots of huckleberries to eat and we stopped at one good patch to pick and eat. Greg also picked some to take home. Those little suckers are so small that even filling half a sandwich bag takes awhile! After we were done picking we continued on through the burn and the wildflowers back to our car.
The last time we backpacked to Elk Cove was 2014, and boy have things changed in the last six years. Way more people do the Timberline Trail than in the past and Elk Cove has become a very busy place on the weekends.
Gaia stats: 12 miles, 2,200′ elevation gain