Into the woods and then some

Mt. Hood greets us on the trail

One of the ongoing gifts of walking the camino is the joy one finds in simply being afoot in nature. Busy lives and bustling communities make modern day life stressful, but fortunately help is often nearby. Most of us can find a bit of solace and quietude in some nearby park or less traveled part of whatever town or city we live in. We who live in the Pacific Northwest are truly blessed to have an abundance of places of great natural beauty, close at hand, where our weary bodies can go to find peace and renewal. Yes, it takes a bit of effort and there is some physical challenge, but the feeling one finds after a day in the mountains is worth every calorie burned to get there.

Yesterday, was a perfect early fall day with clear skies over the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon. A friend of mine emailed me and suggested a trip up to Mt. Hood to hike the McNeil Point trail. I have never hiked this particular trail and with the weather being so perfect I quickly agreed to join him. We met up, I shifted my gear into Hal’s Suburu, and off we went. We chugged along freeways and then secondary roads and then after the little town of Zig Zag (Named after a local river), we turned onto Lolo Pass road and headed off to where we thought we would easily find the trailhead. We ambled along and as luck would have it we drove past our turn off and spent another 40 minutes or so probing the flanks of Mt. Hood looking for our destination. Eventually, we came to our senses when we chatted with two young ladies who were wandering around, as we were, looking for the same trailhead. They mentioned an unmarked road that they had briefly followed before abandoning it because it just didn’t seem like it was taking them where there wanted to go. They read off the road number from their GPS and we compared that to our very sparse notes and sure enough that was the road we were looking for. As it turns out it was just before where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Lolo Pass road. We backtracked together and after a few miles we found ourselves snaking into a parking pass alongside a narrow road filled with many other cars. This had to be the place, and it was. A few minutes later, with backpacks snugged up, off we went into the woods and started climbing. This is what unfolded as we ascended the mountain. Quite a day.

The trail begins

 

 

Hal, my hiking partner

 

 

 

Mt. Adams to the North

 

Mt. Rainier with lenticular cloud over it

 

Mt. Hood

 

Mt. St. Helens missing its pointed top due to its major eruption in 1980

 

Lunch break

 

The Sandy River which originates at Mt. Hood

 

Raven looking for lunch as we ate ours

 

Ridges in the distance

 

 

 

That’s me
Hal at our lunch break

 

Mt. Adams again

 

 

 

Mt. Hood

 

Where we diverge from the Timberline trail that circles the mountain

 

 

 

 

Last view of Mt. Hood before descending into the forest

 

Finding our sea legs again

At the trailhead

It is always a challenge to try and stay camino ready. Life tends to get in the way of the best laid plans for ¬†good nutrition and exercise. But, as always, the lure of another camino helps to recapture our resolve to get our minds and bodies ready for another walk. This coming January we will be returning to the Basque Country, Euskadi, to walk the Camino Vasco from Irun to Santo Domingo. This is a short camino of about 8 days. We then are hoping to move on to Porto and walk the Portuguese Camino as well. There are always many options but these two shorter routes seem right for us at this point. So, God willing, we will be getting underway mid January and should be away for about a month. Weather is always an issue when walking in the winter especially in the Basque mountains, but we will be cautious, and roads can be walked when passes are not open. So, now Robin and I must dust off our fitness goals and get ready to face the new year in fine camino trim. To that end we already have been doing some hiking in the local mountains. Today, was another exceptionally fine early fall day and we decided to challenge ourselves with a difficult hike in the Columbia River Gorge, Dog Mountain. This is a great training hike which we have done before. It is a steep climb all the way up to the summit at 2800 feet. What makes it particularly exhausting is that it is accomplished in 3.5 miles. It took us 2 hours to reach the summit, and then after a quick lunch break, another 1.5 hours to descend. We were pretty tired but the gorgeous weather and cool temperatures made for a perfect day in the Gorge. But, I’ll let you be the judge. Have a look.

 

The steeper trail is to the left. Guess where we went.

 

Looking back early on

 

The one reasonably flat spot on the whole mountain

 

 

 

Columbia River

 

 

Robin pushing towards the summit

 

Steep?

 

 

 

Mt. Hood beyond the ridge

 

Summit lunch break spot

 

 

View from the top

 

Robin holding onto her hat (25 mph wind)

 

Call a taxi!

 

 

 

Trail heading down

 

 

Mind your step

 

 

 

Oh God, please heal me.

Robin and I were at mass the other day and the presiding priest made a point of leaving the congregation with a simple prayer for the week ahead. It was focused on the brokenness of humanity and how each of us has something that needs healing in our lives. It was short and focused and made good sense. It was simply this, “Oh God, please heal me.” So off we went with this bit of encouragement tucked away not knowing exactly how this healing would actually play out. How could we.

Port Angeles, WA

As it turns out we decided to visit one of America’s great National Parks, Olympic National Park. It is a remarkable place for its variety of climate zones, flora and fauna, and 600 miles of hiking trails. We drove 4.5 hours up to Port Angeles and set out the following morning to go up to Hurricane Ridge to see if we could find a suitable trail to hike. It is about a 45 minute drive to get to the visitor station. The day was brilliantly clear and cool. We decided to make the additional 8 mile drive out to Obstruction Point and then hike out along Elk Ridge and back. It was a wise choice. There were only a few other cars at the Obstruction Point parking area so this was not going to be a crowd scene by any stretch of the imagination. We laced up our hiking boots and set off. Now the healing part slowly started to happen. Our faith journey has seldom been punctuated by lightning strikes. More often it is like a mist burning off in the rising sun. A gradual clarity emerges and it becomes a form of guidance. Such was this day. Virtually alone, high upon this striking ridge, it started to dawn on us how much we depend on these moments alone in nature to sort things out and and give thanks for all God’s many gifts. We always seem to discover a better sense of who we are, and why we are, and how all things are connected, as we move through the natural beauty of this amazing planet Earth. At the turn around point as we looked down on the waters below and the mountain peaks in the distance we were sure that our simple prayer had been answered. What a day.

 

 

 

 

Departure from Obstruction Point

 

 

 

Up we go.

 

 

 

 

Mt. Baker in the foreground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Angeles harbor way below.

 

 

Robin enjoying the glorious clear weather.

 

That’s me.

 

Heading back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, that is a trail.

 

 

The trailhead is just behind the ridge on the right.

 

The healing continues

Taking advantage of a great weather window we continued to explore other sections of the Olympic National Park. The photos below are from a hike up to Sol Duc Falls and another hike up into the Hoh rainforest. Both are beautiful and well worth a visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elk grazing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ruby Beach on the way home