Portland is so easy to love. The downtown is lovely and lively, the food scene has been amazing, and the town always feel like an output in the middle of a huge National Park. I’m still new here and is still taken aback when I see Mt. Hood in the horizon. Even though I have lived here for about a year, I have yet to see Mt. Hood up close. Highway 26 runs from Portland to Boise in the east-west direction, cutting very close to the summit, which was the way I took when I first arrived to town. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at Government Camp, it was already pitch dark. That still does not excuse the fact that I have not returned in the last few months. Today, we head back to correct that mistake.
The route we chose was the Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain via Mirror Lake. This is one of those premier hikes in the National Forest, an extremely popular route for both day hikers and campers. We come slightly too late, so we settle by parking on the side of busy Hwy 26. Even though there are so many parked cars, there are barely any people around. With the pandemic still around and the length of the hike, hikers are spread thin which is great news for all. I am very glad to see that most people are obeying the governor’s order to wear masks outdoor. Most people have masks with them and cover themselves when passing other hikers. Even so, there are young people who did not care to follow, and disgusted people who thought we are making a political statement. Wonder that the world would have looked like if we did not have incompetent leaders around the world, or was this bound to happen with the rise of internet and ease of false narrative.
Unfortunately, the tree covers does not allow for good views. The only thing we could see are the twisty turny trail up ahead. We also had to stand to the side of the narrow path to allow others to pass, for safety measurements. We just stroll up hill for the next 2 miles, until suddenly we hit the mirror lake loop. Initially, I can only see the clearing in the distance, but as we walk closer to the lake, we find a few cutoffs towards the lake. The heat is beginning to rise, which is more noticeable among the shadeless bushes. The namesake of the lake probably came from the reflection of Mt. Hood, but the water is muddy and dark today. as I can only see miles and miles of trees from here, the break from greenery does make this place very unique. We takes a few shot before heading up to our next stop, the summit of Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain.
Most of the ascend on this trail is on the second portion. The path narrows once we cross into Salmon-Huckleberry Wilderness, which encompasses most of Mt. Hood National Forest. It is weird that they could designate such “wild” places in close proximity to both the “natural” areas that people enjoy and the developed areas such as the ski resorts and highway. This trail is still highly maintained, but much more rocky and less gripy. We see people who goes up with no gear and no water – I guess some do enjoy life on hard settings. The first glimpse of Mt. Hood comes at a clearing across a bolder field. Here, we could see the highway down below, but we are too high up to hear the sounds. We continue to climb the trail but the trees start to look slightly different and further apart. The summit is another bolder field, providing an unobstructed view of the surrounding mountains and areas.
There might be some other places where the views could rival this, but I doubt any could top this. Mt. Hood is only a valley away, the looming giant of the surrounding area. I could not spot anyone attempting to summit the still snowy peak, but I’m sure one might if they stare hard enough. Panning just slightly left, there is Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer and Mt. St. Helens, in that order. I thought that Mt. St. Helens would look larger and Mt. Rainer should look smaller due to the proximity, but the opposite is true. Unlike the other two, Mt. St. Helens does not have the symmetric mountain peak that’s synonymous to the PNW, with its blown up top that looks more like an angry volcano. Moreover, there is a also the lone Mt. Jefferson to the south of where we are standing. The cherry on the cake is the view of Mirror Lake lying between us and Mt. Hood, even though it still does not reflect its namesake with a reflection of the mountain. Such a breathtaking view, but there are nowhere to sit or hide from the blazing sun.
Tom, Dick and Harry are actually three summits on a small ridge from West to East, and the trail ends on Tom peak. Since this is the wilderness, there are no signs to suggest that we could/should continue on, but it is possible looking on trail guides on the internet. After taking in all the pictures we want from this scenic view, we walked eastwards we realized that the ridge walk isn’t as simple as we think. To continue to Dick, we have to descend an extreme steep and sandy unmarked trail. The risk of getting injure would only result in a small reward of probably not getting a better view. That led us to abandon our original plan of summit the other two peaks. Instead, we settle by hiding under a tree and enjoy our packed lunch with a gorgeous view. The terrain obstructed all the other mountains, but it is a great compromise as have claimed a little corner to ourselves away from the crowd.
Yes, the crowd. There is still large number of people on the summit that we are not comfortable staying around for too long. On the way down to Mirror Lake, we do not have to share the trail with other hikers, but the people have build up around Mirror Lake. As we circle counter clockwise around Mirror Lake, there is a section that allows for single file of hikers. We stand patiently while waiting for people who take all the time in the world to walk pass us. Moreover, there are a couple of older folks who complain about “sheep” who are wearing masks and are “ignorant”. That irritated me, but the one last look of Mirror Lake and Mt. Hood soothe the agony. We met a few hikers who camped at Mirror Lake and went to the summit with all their gear. I can imagine that the scenery is serene and peaceful without the day hikers, must be great to be able to walk around from society and forget about the craziness of 2020 that we are living in.
Visited: Sunday, July 19th, 2020.
Trail Route: Tom Dick and Harry Mountain Hike via Mirror Lake Trail #664 at Mt. Hood National Forest.
Address: 85200 US-26, Government Camp (Mirror Lake Trailhead)