Lost Lake & Tamanawas Falls
For weeks, Mount Hood - the 11,000+ foot volcano towering out of the Cascades to the East of Portland - had been peering out at us. We arrived late summer so you could see it most days, sometimes just the distant tip, others what seemed the entire monstrosity popping up for a giant, "HELLO!!" Despite the recent (devastating) Gorge fire, we knew we had to get into the gorge and onto Mt. Hood as soon as possible.
We decided to make a camping trip out of it, and packed up the car with all our gear Friday evening in preparation for an early Saturday morning getaway. In the morning we woke up and headed straight for the Gorge. We were a little nervous over what we were about to see after hearing of the devastation of the fire just a month earlier. Most of the gorge trails were and still are closed to allow some restoration and rekindling after the destruction. Driving through we felt pleasantly surprised to see that the Gorge was looking beautiful as ever. There were definitely some regions of the forest along the drive that were clearly effected by the fire, but these parts were few and fleeting compared to the entirety of the gorge, and even blended in nicely with the changing fall leaves and trees. I'm sure there is much that lies beyond that we did not see from the road, and I pray for a rainy winter season just so these forests can be revived as much as possible.
Our destination for the day was Lost Lake, a camping resort surrounding a lake with the beautiful Mt. Hood as a backdrop. We dreamed of all the outdoor activities we would get into over the weekend - hiking, canoeing, maybe some mountain climbing? - and were excited to see the Hood up close & personal. We turned out of the gorge and started climbing. Twists and turns lead us up through some beautiful landscapes, especially with the height and variation of color we were seeing in the trees! It felt like the road was leading us somewhere truly beautiful. We even started seeing some snow on the tops of distant mountains! Then, we started seeing snow on the ridges we were driving next to. Then . . . little bitty piles of snow flakes on the sides of the roads. The piles grew larger, and soon we were driving through the snow, and it grew thicker, more dense, to where it was difficult to see the road. WTF?! It's mid-October. Where did all this snow come from???
We drove deeper & deeper into the snow and came close to turning around, but the GPS told us we were only a mile away so we decided to chance the snow and keep trucking forward. We came to a road closed sign at the park entrance and realized the campground and resort were closed due to snow overnight - coming to find it had dropped 10" of snow the night before! These Floridians were baffled and confused to say the least. Hmmmm, snow . . . is it crazy that we never even considered it being an issue???
We put the car in park and - well duh, HAD A SNOW PARTY!!!! Buffy leapt out of the car and just started running! Figures 8's, into the forest, around us in circles, stopped for a quick sniff, and then set off once more! I have to say, I've never seen the Buffalo move so fast. The only word to describe the feelings and emotions coursing through her is - Lit.
Buffalo being a snow angel
We clearly had to go further. We geared up and headed deeper into the snow. We tried to keep up with Buffy in the crunchy cold snow, and admired the drips falling from the snow on the trees - raining in the morning sun. The trees surrounding us were both seasonal & evergreens - so a sea of green mixed with trees at their height of color - and dowsed with snow! It was GORGEOUS!!! We followed the snow covered road for about a mile and finally found the lake. There were little piles of snow everywhere, and we stumbled upon a campsite right along the lake with a set of rock-stairs leading down into the lake. What a beautiful little spot in the world! I could only imagine the summers we could and would spend here. Only problem was - where was the Hood?
lost lake campground
We decided to take a walk for a different perspective. We followed the path around, passed the resort, over a bridge, and along the row of lakeside campsites. And then, there she was. A massive heap of rock & snow jutting out of the surrounding earth and soaring up into the deep blue. A rather pointy peak with a little pod of clouds hovering, she stood sturdy and strong between the crystal clear blue of the lake and sky. It was pretty cool to see the park abandoned in a winter wonderland, so we hiked around the lake aways, scoping out future camping sites.
woah mama ~ mount hood from lost lake
We obviously decided not to camp and just continue exploring - so we drove back out to the highway and followed the loop around Mt Hood. The drive felt about as beautiful as any hike through the forest would be, twisting & winding through a kaleidoscope of color. My favorites were the vibrant reds and the golden yellows - they seemed to stick out and steal the attention, glowing with color.
We passed a pull off with lots of cars and decided to stop, finding ourselves at the Tamanawas Falls trailhead. There was a map that showed the 3.6 mile hike following a river to a 150' waterfall. There was also a notice posted about a landslide that was "un-passable", which had been scratched out and changed to "passable" by some unknown source. We decided to go for it - and boy am I glad we did!!! It was heavenly, to sum up the experience. Literally, I felt like we were hiking through heaven.
The trees were truly glowing amongst the seeping soppy wonderland of snow and color. The river running by kept the snow nice and fluffy, making it a playground for Buffy and a crisp beautiful scene. The sinking afternoon sun set the trees on FIRE, and our hike back from the falls turned out even better than the trek there. The hike gradually climbed along through the snowy valley and just when we felt like we were to the falls we stumbled upon the landslide. I can see why it was posted as "un-passable" because you literally couldn't see beyond it. And not only was it a jumble of massive rocks and boulders blocking the path - it was covered in snow!!! We wondered how to pass it with the Buffalo and had come so far, we had to give it a go. We took it slow and had a couple slippery, nervous moments - but it really wasn't too bad once you were up in the thick of it.
Once passed the slide, we heard the falls and could tell we were close. Just a few climbs and descents later, we came upon it - a large volcanic cliff forming a basin where the water thundered over the edge and into the snowy basin below. It was misty and magical . . . and also windy and super cold!!! You could just feel the power of the falls - & of nature. The wind it produced, the chill in the air - A strong, steady flow, paving it's way through the volcanic mountain.
The hike was great exercise and found us some pretty killer views, filled with colors and feelings that still fill my heart to this day. I can close my eyes and take myself right back to that vivid beauty that is now totally engrained my in mind's eye. On our way home we passed all the ski resorts, which was some serious foreshadowing of the future of our snowy days!!!! Figuring out how to deal with this newfound seasonal shift and all the fun (& snow) it brings definitely comes with a learning curve but also some anticipation and excitement to see what kind of adventures it brings our way. Fellow Portlanders seem to be dreading the upcoming rainy/snowy season, but if it's anything like it's been so far I say BRING IT ON! Mild or intense, I think tent girl will love it either way.
xoxo, Tent Girl