Oregon at its Finest Hour
If you plan to pull into the west end of the Mt. Hood Skibowl Ski Area on a Saturday morning, I suggest you brush up on your “Surviving Mob Attacks on Your Vehicle” knowledge. A weekend adventure that was supposed to be spent exploring your beautiful, tranquil state has taken an overwhelming turn to expedition groups sporting matching green packs, a herd of eighth graders on their youth group bonding trip, ridiculously dressed Instagram influencers, and a three-ring circus of—wait, is that a swaddled newborn heading for the summit?! According to the recommended article above, “the safest thing to do in a situation like this is to keep moving.”
Once you have traded your haul of LaCroix’s and hiking shoes for a parking spot, you will proceed to battle the crowds moving at a glacial pace for 2.25 miles before reaching the party at the lake. Due to its short distance from Portland, convenient access off Highway 26, majestic lake and breathtaking views of Mt. Hood, the Mirror Lake Trailhead has earned the title of “busiest trailhead on Mount Hood.” (See above article if you have yet to do so.) This trailhead leads to a 4.5 mile round trip journey around the famous Mirror Lake or an 8.3 mile round trip trek to the summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
Although it’s encouraging that the masses are appreciating the great outdoors more than ever, this can be frustrating for those who are seeking a peaceful encounter with nature or the “OG’s” of the Oregon trails who reminisce about the good ol’ days of birds chirping and only answering to the names Lewis or Clark on the trail. Not speaking from personal experience of course…
If you identify with this group I have two words: Sunrise hike.
Tom Dick and Harry mountain is sure to offer hair-raising views for a sunrise hike. Not only will you witness the sun’s rays cast a celestial glow upon Mt. Hood, you will also be able to spot St. Helens, Rainier, Adams, and Jefferson from your vantage point. The best part? There’s not another soul in sight. In order to catch the full rise, aim to arrive at the (beautifully empty) parking lot at 4:45 am. Sleep is for the weak.
Here are three tips to successfully avoid the mob and experience Oregon at its finest hour:
Pack Like a Pro
If you are planning a sunrise hike during the winter or early spring, pack snowshoes, winter boots, warm coats, gloves, and hats. Although most of this gear will be shed on your hot pursuit to the summit, you will be glad you have them during the bone chilling hours of 4am. You should also be sure to have headlamps, adequate water, snacks and hand warmers during your gear check.
Take necessary precautions by towing a hiking survival kit and letting friends or family know about your expedition. Make sure the car you drive has either all-wheel or four-wheel drive and chains thrown in the trunk just in case. You don’t want to be the next person on the news for surviving off of hot sauce packets for five days, no matter how enticing a year’s worth of Taco Bell sounds.
Have Your Morning Brew with a View
Instead of eating at home, up your game by channeling your inner Bear Grylls and enjoy a meal in the wild. This can be achieved by packing a Jetboil and instant oatmeal packets. And, because no coffee shops were open at the godforsaken hour you woke up, the Jetboil has a convenient French press attachment. That’s enough to elicit a victorious “HALLELUJAH!” at the peak.
p.s. What better way to start the day than with some Canned Oregon bubbles? After all, no one is there to judge. Literally.
For more information on this wondrous hike, visit the Hiking Project’s detailed synopsis.
Born and raised in Oregon, Madi Budge is always looking for her next PNW adventure. When she isn’t busy with her studies at Oregon State, she loves hitting the slopes on Mt. Hood, wake boarding on the Willamette, hiking in Central Oregon and running the Forest Park trails.