Zigzag to Paradise

August 23, 2006.

Timberline Lodge to Zigzag Canyon and Paradise Park Loop: Mt. Hood Wilderness, Oregon.
About 12 miles; 5:15 hours

I have been on a handful of hikes near my new Portland home, but until today they have all been accompanied by other people. Today I decided to head out on my own and take on a slightly more ambitious plan. Averaging 12-15 mile days back home walking in the White Mountains, I figured a 12 mile route would be a nice dayhike.

The hike into Zigzag Canyon winds through meadows, small stands of trees, and desert-like areas. The trail was so dry it was like walking in dust, and before long I was covered in it. There were several squirrels darting in and out of the rocks and wildflowers blooming all around. I’d hoped to catch sight of a rattler, especially with all those tasty mammals scurrying about, but alas I saw no snakes today. The zigs and zags of the trail lost and gained elevation over and over again. About 2 miles into the hike, I was presented with impressive views into Zig Zag Canyon, into which I would climb down into and then back up out of. I thought this would add a challenging element into the hike but it didn’t.

They sure do love switchbacks out here and so I dizzily descended into the bottom of the canyon. There was a tiny stream at the bottom which some folks were negotiating carefully. I waited for them to go and then bounded across. I would see many people today, which seemed strange for a random Thursday morning.

Once I emerged from the canyon I was spoiled with incredible views to the glacier-encrusted top of Mt. Hood fronted by gorgeous purple flowers. Walking through the meadows, I constantly flushed out hordes of dark-eyed juncos, which are more brownish in color on the West Coast.

I told myself I wouldn’t take many pictures on this trip but I could not stop myself from grabbing the camera every five minutes. The scenery was so amazing that around every bend was a wonderful surprise. Mt. Hood loomed so close, so inviting…I promised myself I’d take a mountaineering class as soon as I get settled so I can climb this thing. Dancing around the summit today was enticing and frustrated. I wanted so badly to approach those glaciers and pick my way up to the top. Why is it that there exists a compelling urge to conquer distant peaks? Maybe it’s because I’m reading Into Thin Air right now.

Once out of the teasing sight of Hood, and under cover of trees draped in moss, I lost myself in thought for what seemed like hours. Finally I acheived some solitude, which was broken by the occasional hiker passing by. The trails are so narrow that stepping out of the way usually involved stepping half down a sliding dirt pile. I find it interesting to note that on every occasion I was the one who stepped aside, not the other hiker.

Before long I was zigzagging back through the canyons and back into the sun. I converted my pants to shorts and continued along as the afternoon temperatures climbed. I encountered many more people along this leg of the trip, as many folks walk out a mile or so from the lodge to get in their sightseeing for the day.

The lifts were no longer running and a steady stream of snowboarders retreated from the mountain. I joined the ranks on the short trek back to the lodge. I soaked in one last view of Hood and returned to my car. I couldn’t believe it was only 3:30. Now what?

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