I wouldn’t have thought that the flowers at Elk Cove would still be looking nice by Labor Day, but my sister hiked there on Saturday of that holiday weekend, sent me a picture, and I was sold. So that’s where I hiked on Labor Day. And wow, I cannot believe I have never been here before! What took me so long? Better late than never. Holy moly!
Out of all the routes available I decided on Vista Ridge. The Elk Cove Trail and the Pinnacle Ridge Trail sounded like they had too much elevation gain and not enough views. Getting to the TH took even longer than usual when I missed the turnoff from Road 16 to Road 1650 because there is no sign, and then at another junction I accidentally ended up on 650 because the Road 1650 sign (which is in the process of falling over) is right in the middle of the fork and doesn’t indicate if the left or right fork is 1650. (It annoys me that the Forest Service will take the time and effort to drive up there and remove trail signs, but they can’t be bothered to maintain the road signage to a popular trailhead!)
Shortly after leaving the signboard on the Vista Ridge Trail I entered the burn area from last year’s Dollar Lake fire and for about two miles it was all burnt forest. This section is pretty disheartening and tedious, so I put in my earbuds and powered through as fast as I could.
That said, life is starting to come back already.
And there is some beauty to be found here, like this twisted curving tree trunk.
Finally my first view of Mt. Hood.
AND the first of many many lupine I would see.
I hit the Timberline Trail and turned left. From Wyeast Basin I could see Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams. (Mt. St. Helens too, but it didn’t end up in this photo.)
Hiking on, I crossed a gurgling creek where the lupine were flourishing.
I looked for the side trail to Dollar Lake, based on descriptions from Bill Sullivan’s book and from the field guide. This was the closest match, but it wasn’t actually a trail, dead-ending at those trees there. Hmm…. Well, next time, maybe.
Got a great view out to the Hood River Valley and Laurance Lake.
I came around a corner and POW! There’s Mt. Hood in all her glory. Ooooh!
The fire burned right up to the edge of Elk Cove, but only scorched some of the trees surrounding the meadows, thank goodness!
There’s a whole hillside carpeted with western pasque flower and lupine. It’s a sight to behold!
A gorgeous gurgling creek runs through the meadow and it’s a wildflower paradise. I was completely and totally enchanted with this awesome little creek.
But I also checked out the meadows too.
Where the trail crosses the creek I sat and enjoyed the pleasant nature noise and the awesome wildflowers, soaking my feet in the ICY cold water, letting them dry, then repeating. It was incredibly awesome. But eventually it was time to go and I had to tear myself away. One last view before turning the corner above Elk Cove.
On the way out I checked out the lupine meadows just beyond the turn-off for the Vista Ridge Trail. They didn’t disappoint.
After my hike I stopped at a roadside viewpoint a short ways from the trailhead for one last view of Mt. Hood. I love this spot.
AWESOME hike. I don’t know what took me so long to do this one but I’m glad I did and I’ll definitely be coming back next year!
2,000 feet elevation gain