Sunday, August 29, 2010

Alone in Paradise - August 24th, 2010

(More photos)

There are multiple ways to get to Paradise, and none of them are easy. The routes from Ramona Falls and Hidden Lake are long, with several thousand feet of elevation gain. The trail from Timberline Lodge – the route I took last weekend – is also long, though the easiest, with a descent and climb out of Zigzag canyon, and a return trip that is moderately, yet consistently, uphill through open sub-alpine forest.

It all pays off, in the end. Even when the end is the next day at work, with sore calves and bright memories.

Hiking, alone or otherwise, is as much a mental exercise as it is physical. How you deal with fatigue, with biting insects, with heat and sun or inclement weather – it adds up to what your father told you when he assigned you chores; it builds character. I got bit by a deer fly on my adam’s apple, of all places, and it itches like hell, and I consider it the price of admission. Four miles away from the trailhead, what do you do with negative thoughts? I’d love to be at my truck, drinking hot coffee from my thermos and replacing wool socks and boots for sandals and a clean shirt, on my way home to a shower and a beer. But there are four miles to cover, including a big canyon and a mountain stream to cross, and an uphill slog through late afternoon heat.

Man, I can taste the coffee now.

Hiking alone means no one hears me complain. But it also means I get fed up with the complaining. It doesn’t get me home any faster. It doesn’t matter if I’m retracing a trail I was on earlier in the morning, with the same scenery and my own boot-prints in the dust. The sweat in my eyes and the ache in my shoulders isn’t going to go away. What I do about it isn’t going to win me points or cost me friends. All I can do is keep going.

It’s the price of admission.

I wandered through wildflower meadows full of butterflies. I crossed picturesque creeks running down from glaciers. I stood in the shade of a huge rock and marveled at the power of nature to move stone and carve deep chasms. If all it takes is an uphill walk, it’s worth it.

Where I ate lunch, there’s a block of dacite erupted from Mt. Hood, with a wide curve to it that invites lying down and spending time staring at meadows and the mountain. The boulder is covered in bright green lichen. The lichen is probably centuries old. It was there when the first climbers reached Hood’s summit, there when Robert Gray first crossed the Columbia Bar, there when the Columbia was dammed by an earthquake in 1700, giving rise to the legend of the Bridge of the Gods. How many eruptions has this lichen survived? How many seasons of wildflowers? How many lifetimes of man?

One foot after another, I walked back from Paradise.

Distance: 12 miles roundtrip (est)
Elevation Gain: 2300ft (est)

Region: Mt. Hood Wilderness
Information: Afoot & Afield: Portland/Vancouver, 2nd ed., by Douglas Lorain;

Distance from Portland: 1.5 hours
Directions from Portland: Take Highway 26 just east of Government Camp and turn left on Timberline Lodge Road. Drive 5.5 miles to the lodge and park. The well-marked Timberline Trail passes just above the lodge. Head west.

1 comment:

  1. Jason whats up!!? its adam im a friend of bk's. we went to the grails show btw. hope that helps!

    anyhow i came across this page after looking into a hike on portlandhikersfieldguide im going to do this guessed it paradise park!how was it out there?