Dollar Lake

Whoa, it’s been a while. Three weeks since our last trip! I do believe that’s the longest we’ve gone since the spring. The week after Labor Day, we had another at-home weekend, and the week after that, Paul was gallivanting in LA while I went to Vegas with my Mom. Finally, this weekend, we made it out once again! It felt pretty damn good.

Summer is definitely winding down, and our high-elevation camping options are getting more limited (with the gear we currently have). We decided to head up to Dollar Lake (via Pinnacle Ridge Trail) on Mt. Hood before most of the mountain is covered in snow.

Dollar Lake via Pinnacle Ridge
Mt. Hood Wilderness (north side of Hood)
Total distance round-trip: 7.82 miles (including a small side trip to view Elk Cove)
Total elevation gain: 2,283 feet
Dollar Lake elevation: 5,960 feet

Click map for full GPS data

The original plan was to also hike up Barrett Spur after setting up camp, but we got a bit of a late start and ended up cutting it a little too close on time. I was pretty okay with that, as the hike in proved to be more demanding than I expected!

Stream crossing on the Pinnacle Ridge Trail

The Pinnacle Ridge Trail started out pretty gentle, which I was ever so grateful for (it’s amazing what taking a few weeks off can do to you). From the start, this trail is gorgeous. Huge trees and rock fields and streams and flowers. 🙂 After the forgiving start, it wasn’t long before I was painfully aware that it had been a while since we’d done any real elevation gain. The trail quickly turns upward and has some pretty steep sections to climb. Despite my burning muscles and lungs, it felt pretty damn good to exert myself that way again.

One of the steep chutes to climb

After a couple miles, we emerged from the woods and into the beautiful Pinnacle Meadow. This section is pretty amazing with all the reds and golds, but very, very muddy and swampy. We somehow missed the use path that skirts around the right side, and instead headed straight up the main trail. Whoops. We had to tread very carefully here to avoid boots and ankles being swallowed by mud. Luckily we passed another hiker coming back down on the use path, so we knew it was over there for the return trip.

Wading through chest-deep brush

Just reaching Pinnacle Meadow

After cutting through the meadow the trail takes a left back into the woods, which was a relief (although still a bit of mud to deal with there). After a few more steep climbs, the Pinnacle Ridge Trail meets up with the Timberline Trail. Relief! Once we got there, we knew there wasn’t much climbing left.

Right after making a left onto the Timberline Trail (St. Helens has almost no snow on it!)

The side trail to Dollar Lake is only a few tenths of a mile further, and can be somewhat difficult to spot. I guess we weren’t looking hard enough, because we missed it. Luckily we knew that if we came to a point where we had a view of Mt. Hood and Elk Cove below, we had gone too far. So, once we got to that point we turned around, and chalked it up to a little scenic side trip. 🙂 For future reference, the Dollar Lake trail is off to the right, and has three pretty large cairns at the base (which we also somehow missed). We had read that the side tail is about 370 steps back from the point where you first see Mt. Hood, so when we turned around, we started counting. Turns out it was pretty accurate!

Our first really good view of Hood

As I was standing there, this loud thing came flying right over my head… Drone maybe? They do make them in Hood River…

Looking down over Elk Cove, right before turning around and backtracking

We found the trail this time, and climbed a couple tenths of a mile further to Dollar Lake. The “lake” is little more than a pond, but it is perfectly round like a coin. The campsite right by the water was taken, as was the one across from that spot, but we found a great site just over a little ridge. No view of the water, but stellar views of Hood, Elk Cove, Barrett Spur, and the range to the north. Not to mention the bright fall colors that are coming out right now.

Home for the night

My little Buckles

Paul cutting some firewood

I was a little obsessed with the foliage

Adams and Rainier

Just chillin’

Okay, I had to post this one too, I think Buckley’s expression is hilarious

After getting everything set up, I got a fire going and we settled in for the night. It was a gorgeous night, completely clear sky with one of the brightest moons I’ve ever seen. We hardly needed headlamps it was so bright!

Right before sunset (click image to view larger)

Buckley playing with his new buddy Rory 🙂

Adams and Rainier at sunset

The only picture I got of Dollar Lake

At some point during the night, the wind started to seriously pick up. Our little tent took quite a beating, but held up just fine. We decided to get up early enough to see the sunrise. It was still incredibly windy with gale-force gusts (making it awfully difficult to take a clear picture), and a little bit of rain had started to move in. Slightly unpleasant, but so worth it.

Good morning

Click to view the panorama a bit larger

The mist moving over Elk Cove

After a few photos, we decided to go back to bed for a while and just let the wind and drizzle pass. It did not pass. We eventually had to drag ourselves out of the tent around 10am to even gustier winds and harder rain (I wasn’t able to take any more photos because of the blowing rain). Not exactly the conditions you hope for when camping, but, we dealt with it. Our gear was pretty wet by the time we got everything packed up and on our backs. Once we were back on the trail, the wind immediately died down, but the rain/mist/drizzle persisted. Remember those muddy, swampy areas we fought through on the way up? Yeah, those are even more fun when heading downhill after a rain. I nearly lost my right foot in what felt like quicksand at one point. We were able to find the use path back down Pinnacle Meadow though, so at least that part wasn’t too bad. Once we were through that section, we were back to the chest-deep brush crowding the trail. This time, all those leaves were wet, so any remaining square inch of dry clothing was done for as we charged through. We finished the hike out in wet clothes, wet boots, and with wet gear strapped to our backs. Which really, isn’t quite as miserable as it sounds.

So glad we got at least one more mountain camping trip in before it starts snowing up there. Paul is trying very hard to convince me to camp in the snow… we’ll see. 🙂

Badger Creek

Back in action! As you may have guessed by lack of posting, we did not get out to the great outdoors last weekend. The week flew by, and before we knew it, it was Saturday morning and we had nothing planned. We decided to just have a weekend at home in the city, which was quite pleasant; went out for breakfast, bike ride, shopping, even went to the movies.

We figured we’d be able to get out for a longer trip over Labor Day weekend anyway, but Paul ended up having to work most of Saturday (and it was looking like the rest of the weekend held the same fate). 😦 I had almost given up hope on the weekend, but then miraculously, Paul was given the all clear on Sunday afternoon. We decided to act fast and salvage the back half of the weekend. We packed up our gear in about .2 seconds, snagged a Zipcar, and got the hell outta dodge. We decided on Badger Creek for a few reasons. 1) It’s at a relatively low elevation, so it wouldn’t be too cold, 2) our guide book gave it a high solitude rating, and 3) there were reportedly several campsites along the trail, upping our chances of getting one that late in the day (and secret reason #4: the trail is flat, and I didn’t feel like working that hard this weekend :)).

Badger Creek
Badger Creek Wilderness (east side of Mt. Hood, OR)
Roundtrip hike distance (to our site): 5.19 miles (the furthest campsite is reportedly at about 2.9 miles, making a 5.8 mile roundtrip)
Total elevation gain: 397 feet

Click image for full GPS data

(Also want to take a sec to thank Paul for getting all our GPS tracks pulled off the device, onto the computer, edited, and online every week. Thanks Paul!)

After stopping for a late lunch, forgetting the directions at home and having to do a quick backtrack, we made it to the trailhead around 5pm or so. The forest is interesting around here; it has a much broader variety of trees, including more deciduous trees than we’re used to. It’s supposed to be gorgeous in late October, so we may hit this one again. While the trail is a pretty standard forest trail and the scenery is not mindblowingly gorgeous, I found it to be quite charming and adorable. The trail follows right along the creek, which is beautiful. We passed by four campsites (three of which were occupied) before finding our home for the night. It was just perfect; big, secluded, and right along the water.

Home sweet home

We set up camp and started a fire in record time (we lucked out again on wood; the previous campers dragged a bunch of branches over, we just had to take a saw to ’em!). The sun was on its way down, but we still had plenty of time to enjoy the creek and play a little fetch with Buckley before the inky black nighttime took over. The darkening sky provided some very nice lighting for creek photos, so there are… a few. 🙂

Looking down from our site. The creek is only a couple feet deep all the way across.

Just a few steps down from the campsite and we were at the water’s edge.

Getting really dark out now

The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the fire (really enjoying it… we hadn’t had a campfire since Cooper Spur!) and the bazillion trillion stars that showed themselves. Seriously clear sky. Gotta love being on the east side of the mountain.

In case you’re wondering, the strange green stuff at the top is Paul’s laser pointer. Fun with lasers and smoke.

After nearly melting my face off staring at the fire, I hit the sleeping bag and was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Something about the sound of rushing water just knocks me out. I’m usually a pretty light sleeper when camping, waking up at least a half dozen times overnight, but I think I only woke up twice this time. Incredible night’s sleep. In the morning, the sun was shinin’ and the birds were singin’. We had a leisurely morning drinking coffee and making breakfast and watching Buckles romp around in the creek. Life is good.

We even had enough dry wood left for a breakfast fire

Our trusty home away from home

Where I had my morning coffee. Not bad.

Contemplating his next dive

Look at this little guy! He kinda blends in, but you can see him just to the lower right of center. He was about 3 inches long or so.

Bucktown waiting while we pack up and put the fire out

Paul packing up Buckley’s pack. This might only be adorable to me. 🙂

The water was reflecting the trees and sky. So pretty.

We were packed up and headed out by 11am or so. The short hike back out was uneventful and we were back to the car in no time.

Not much to say about the trail… it all pretty much looked like this.


See ya later Badger Creek

We decided to stop in Government Camp on our way home for lunch, had a quick burger and beer at the Mt. Hood Brewing Company Ice Axe Grill. Traffic on the way home was a nightmare. We realize it was Labor Day weekend of course, but it was especially heinous. Looking forward to the regular, non-holiday-weekend crowds again!