Basking in the majesty of Mount Hood in early-winter road trip | AspenTimes.com

Basking in the majesty of Mount Hood in early-winter road trip

Mount Hood emerges ater exiting the thick forest along the Sandy River.

I emerged from a long weekend in the Northwest with the same kind of awe for Mount Hood that I've held for the past 30-some years for Mount Sopris.

Portland typically isn't on the list of must-go places in early December, but I wanted to see an old friend — and the timing turned out to be perfect.

Despite a lot of rain this fall, the weather cleared up in time for a couple of excellent hikes in the valleys carved out near the base of Mount Hood. It seemed we had the national forest along a stretch of the Sandy River to ourselves Sunday morning. The sky was clear but the air temperature was stuck in the low 40s and a stiff breeze frequently reminded us it was winter.

My friend and guide picked a vast recreation area along Lost Creek and the Sandy River that was closed to motor vehicles for the season. Hiking in the Northwest is always a trip for me because of the differences from Colorado. All that moisture allows the trees to grow to immense proportions, even in an area where trees were wiped out by the last eruption of Mount Hood in the late 18th century. While the deciduous trees had lost their leaves, every limb was cloaked in moss a shade of green that would make vegetable farmers envious.

After following a babbling brook, venturing into forest primeval and bushwhacking to the Sandy, we finally popped out from the thick canopy right when the river valley aligned perfectly to provide a stunning view of majestic Mount Hood. It peaks at 11,250 feet in elevation but commands attention just as Sopris does in isolated splendor.

The evergreens, bluebird sky and white-covered peaks immediately jacked up my endorphins. I couldn't take my eyes off of the jagged rock collar, the possible remains of an eroded lava dome, close to the summit of Hood. The mountain is considered the Oregon volcano most likely to blow.

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It's mind-boggling that such as iconic landscape could change shape again within my lifetime. Whatever happens, Mount Hood's memorable landscape is etched in my mind.

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