Hiking the Cooper Spur Trail

On Tuesday we took a short break from road riding and decided to do a hike instead. We picked the Cooper Spur trail up Mount Hood, as the smoke from all the forest fires started to roll in. It ended up being the last view of any mountain that we had this trip.

You can't really road ride three days in a row (or at least I can't), so we decided to make Tuesday a day of hiking instead. Monday night we had been looking through one of our books, and came across the Cooper Spur Trail as one we had highlighted as worth doing. It was marked as a tough hike, but we thought we'd try it anyway. 

Our little friend was still sticking around the campsite.

We tried to get out to an early start, but after getting ready, it was still close to 9:00 by the time we hit the road. The trailhead was 9 miles up a very rough forest service road, and I felt bad for Justine's poor little car. My truck would have been the better choice. Still, we went slowly and made it to the top of the trailhead at about 6,000 feet.

The drive up was through the remains of an old forest fire, but gave us impressive views of Mount Hood and it's glaciers.

It was already starting to get hazy as we headed up.

Once we got to the top of the road, we were at a campground, that was also the trailhead. The Timberline Trail is a trail that circumnavigates Mount Hood, and this is one of the campsites you can stay at if you are doing the whole loop. It's about 40 miles in total, and we were following that trail for a while. 

This little guy was at the trailhead to see us off.

We got organized and set for our hike, and started up the trail. Surprisingly, we were in sand almost straight away?!? Almost the whole hike, as it turns out, was along a trail that was primarily sand. Not sure how that works, but I assume it has something to to with the receding glaciers.

One of the early views up to the mountain.

As expected, it was a tough hike. It was pretty much straight up the side of the mountain, and while the trail itself wasn't overly steep, it was non-stop climbing. The reason we had selected the hike was that it got you close to the glaciers on Mount Hood, but also was supposed to offer amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

The one lone marmot we saw on the hike.

Sadly, because of the smoke there was no view to be had. We were right on Mount Hood, and even it was starting to get smoky. It was a little surreal, and very disappointing. 

Eventually we turned off the main trail and onto the Cooper Spur Trail.

Just after the trail split off, we came to the old mountaineering hut. The Cooper Spur rock shelter is a remnant of the Civilian Conservation Corps initiative of the 1930s. We spent a few minutes poking around it, and taking some pictures. It seemed ideal to do in black and white...

The old mountaineering hut on the trail.

This view should have been spectacular, but instead was just smoke.

Justine posing in front of the mountain.

After spending some time at the shelter, we continued climbing up the mountain. Eventually the path took us up close to the glacier, and the channel that had been created from the glacier's retreat. 

The view was pretty incredible, despite the smoke that kept creeping in. We stopped near a monument to a lost bush/rescue pilot, and decided that given the lack of a view, it was time to head back down. The trip down was much quicker than the way up, despite stopping to take some pictures of the late wildflowers.

The Google Earth view of our hike.

Once back down, we shook the sand from our boots, checked out the campground a bit and had a small snack. We were losing the view of the mountain, as the smoke continued to get heavier. Before driving back down, we finished driving up the road to the historic Cloud Cap Inn. 

There's not a lot of info about the Inn, but from what I could find online, the Cloud Cap Inn is a historic building located high on Mount Hood, at ~6,000'. It was a luxury inn for mountain climbers that included telephones as early as 1894. The inn opened in 1889 and closed as a business in 1946. In 1927 Noyes Tyrell took over the Inn’s operation, and ran it until 1932 when it stood empty for about a year. Boyd French Sr. leased it around 1934 until the war caused it to close its operation. The Mt. Hood Road and Wagon Company sold the Inn in 1942 to the Forest Service for $2,000. Attempts to operate the Inn failed after that. Hunters and vandals took their toll, as did the weather. The Forest Service considered tearing it down in 1950. In 1954, the Hood River Crag Rats offered to fix it up and maintain it if they were given a permit to use Cloud Cap as a base for their snow survey program and mountain rescue. The Crag Rats most recently renewed their Special Use Permit in 2003.

The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

After checking out the Inn, we made the long, slow drive back down the road and back to civilization. We made a quick stop in Parkdale to pick up some lunch, then made the drive out to Lost Lake to go for a swim. 

Lost Lake is a major campground half an hour outside of Hood River, and is a great lake for swimming. We paid the day use fee and headed down to the lake to swim, clean up and cool off. It was, as expected, quite busy. The campground was completely full, and that meant lot of families with kids. Despite that, we had a good swim and enjoyed ourselves.

Lost Lake

After our swim, we headed pack to Parkdale and made a quick stop for a beer at the Solera Brewery. This is one of our favorite breweries in the area, and normally it has a spectacular view of Mount Hood from their back patio, but this time with the smoke, there was nothing to see. We sat inside, had a beer then went across the road to the general store to grab food for dinner.

We made dinner at the campground, and had another enjoyable, relaxing night.