Round the Mountain

Every year Glenn and I plan at least one mystery vacation for each other.

We plan a special outing and the other person doesn’t know what it is until it happens. I stole this idea from a co-worker who does this with his partner and I thought it was brilliant!

This past Labor Day weekend was our 14-year wedding anniversary so I decided to plan a mystery vacation for Glenn in celebration. I had heard about this event called “Round the Mountain” where you hike all the way around Mt. Hood (Oregon) from a friend that had done it a year or two before.

The event is hosted by the Mazamas, a mountaineering club in Portland. The route around the mountain is broken up into three sections and each day you hike one of the ~15 mile sections and then return back to their lodge for a hot meal, shower and a bed. The next morning you get a hot breakfast and they take you back out to the trailhead so you can hike the next section. Wash, rinse, repeat. It sounded like a perfect mystery vacation, so I signed us up!

Soon thereafter, I walked out of the orientation for the event with my heart in my throat.

They spent much of the orientation focused on the amount of physical conditioning one needed to do in order to survive the adventure – or at the very least have it be an enjoyable experience. They said it was the equivalent of hiking Dog Mountain…twice a day…three days in a row. Ugh! Hiking Dog Mountain just once a year is a significant accomplishment in my book.

To be fair to Glenn I knew I couldn’t wait until the last moment to unveil my mystery vacation.

I had to spill my secret sooner rather than later, as Glenn and I were going to need to get some significant hikes at altitude under our belts in preparation. And we did! We hiked to Tom Dick Mountain and up Dog Mountain. We did the Lost Lake Chuck Wagon (also with the Mazamas), got lost on the way to Larch Mountain and spent a week hiking in the Olympic National Park/Forest.

By the time the event arrived I felt like we had done a great job of preparing our feet, legs and lungs to carry us long distances high up on a mountain.

On Friday I arrived at the Mazamas lodge (near Government Camp and Timberline Lodge) with great trepidation. Not only was I anxious about the hikes (Will I be able to do it three days in a row? Will I be too slow and everyone will have to wait for me?), but my social anxiety was in high gear and I was worried about meeting the strangers I would be spending the next 3 days with.


Our hiking group – one of 6 similar teams working their way around the mountain over the weekend.

The participants were divided into six groups of 12 people consisting of 10 hikers and two team leaders that serve as guides. Each group has a different pace from a more gentle “scenic” pace to a blistering “I’m walking so fast it’s all a blur” pace, and everything in between.

We ended up in a great group with a nice moderate pace that we could sustain over the 45-mile loop. Our group was made up of funny, interesting people that were very supportive of each other. We were also thrilled to find that my idol and inspiration, Gwen, was there for the event (I so want to be like her when I grow up!).


Gwen – who we met on a hike a couple of months ago. She had gifted herself a 25 mile hiking adventure for her 70th birthday (although she hadn’t been hiking in over a decade), and was now out burning through 45 miles of trails all the way around the mountain. She rocks.

All of our physical conditioning paid off and not only were we able to accomplish something that I never would have dreamed possible, but we had a blast doing it!

Although the Mazamas hiking route doesn’t make a continuous circuit around the mountain (there are some sections, such as the Eliot Glacier landslide area, that aren’t safe to cross with such a group) it covers most of it.


Red line on the map shows the route hiked over three days.

Before this hike, my experience with Mt. Hood was as the mountain I drove past to get to Bend (Oregon) or that I could occasionally see in the distance out my window at work. After this hike, I feel like I actually know the mountain in a much more intimate way.

Each side of the mountain has it’s own distinct personality varying greatly by terrain, vegetation and weather.


The many faces of Mt. Hood

 Day One: Timberline Lodge to Cloud Cap

To put it mildly, the weather on our first day was miserable! It was cold, rainy and windy. Glenn and I spent most of the day dressed head to toe in rain gear and by the end we were soaking wet and cold. This was also the day we were on the East side of the mountain at the highest elevations of the weekend – crossing slippery snowfields and exposed ridges with no vegetation. We were battered by freezing rain and ~50 mph wind gusts on top of Gnarl Ridge (gnarly ridge, more like it) that were strong enough to actually blow you off the trail. Although it was cold and miserable and clouds obscured the views, this was actually one of my favorite days of hiking. It was exciting to be out there battling the elements and making the most out of the crazy expedition.


Off to a great start – beautiful waterfalls, a bit of sun. If only we knew what was coming!


Glenn repelling down a steep embankment at the bottom of a canyon near one of the many stream crossings. He said this was one of his favorite parts.


Much of the East/Southeast side of the mountain is made up of steep canyons made by streams that cut down through the glacial moraines. Clearly – the streams are very powerful during flooding events.


Glenn – soaked from the rain that never seemed to end.


Getting ready to make our way across some of the snow fields.


Coming across Gnarl Ridge in the freezing rain and 50 mph winds. It was epic! I truly can’t describe what a crazy experience it was.


All smiles while hiding in seemingly the only bush atop Gnarl Ridge trying to get out of the wind.


And again – trying to hide from the bitter wind in the only shelter visible for miles. By this time we had a bit of a break from the rain.


Finally, a brief break in the clouds and a small peek at the Mt. Hood summit. What you don’t see here is how strong the wind is blowing and how hard my teeth are chattering!

Day Two: Timberline Lodge to Ramona Falls

The weather improved slightly the second day. It wasn’t as cold or windy, but we still spent much of the day in our rain gear walking through sporadic rains and misty clouds. In many ways this day’s hiking was the hardest for me. We started high on the mountain and ended at a much lower elevation. My knees and ankles were very sore and tired from all of the miles and miles of downhill.


We spent the higher elevation sections of the hike up in the clouds.


One of several beautiful stream crossing. So different from the raging torrents we crossed the day before.


Taking a break on the trail. Although I was resistant at first – we’ve come to love our backpack hydration systems.


Late season huckleberries – so juicy and sweet and the size of blueberries!


One of the benefits of hiking with a relaxed and moderately paced group? Plenty of time to stop and pick the huckleberries!


Hiking through beautiful meadows and wildflower covered slopes.


Dragon Egg rock up in the Paradise Park area. A fun little side hike.

I spent much of the day stressed about the Sandy River crossings. The Sandy River is a deceptively fast moving river that can be quite dangerous to cross at times. A couple of weeks ago there were some flash floods that took out the foot bridge over the river on the Ramona Falls trail. Sadly, a man was killed there when the bridge washed out while he was on it. We knew the bridge was gone, which meant we’d have to make it across the river some other way (twice), so I spent many miles on the trail envisioning falling into the river! In the end we found some logs and were able to make it across safely.


A beautiful spot for lunch along the Sandy River.


Working my way across our first Sandy River crossing. I got a little dizzy until I figured out to focus on the log and my feet, not the rushing water below!


Our team at Ramona Falls – always a beautiful place to visit. Glenn and I are thinking of trying to make it up here on snowshoes later this winter.


Our second Sandy River crossing at the area where the foot bridge was washed away. Pretty easy to see all of the damage from the recent flash flood. Pick a log, any log, and make your way across!


Glenn and others from our group getting ready to make the crossing.

Day Three: Top Spur to Elk Cove

The weather was beautiful on our third day. As such, this hike was the most spectacular in terms of views of the mountain peak as well as the surrounding countryside. The wildflowers were amazing and sections of the hike went through areas burned by the Dollar Lake Fire (2011). I was mesmerized by the beauty and eeriness of walking through stands of silver-white dead trees with a green carpet of new plants at their feet and bright blue skies above their heads.


Finally – sunshine!!


We passed by a couple of sleepy meadow ponds.


Glenn and one of our team leaders Chris scouting out a place to cross the stream.


I had carried my water shoes 3/4 of the way around this mountain…I was determined to use them on at least one stream crossing!


Heading into the area burned by the Dollar Lake fire in 2011.


Burned area in the foreground with some great views of the volcanoes in the background.


The north side of the mountain has lots of beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers.


Although the loss of this area is sad, I loved the look and feel of hiking through some of the burned sections of trail.


More wildflowers.


Not a bad spot for lunch, ehh?


One last view of the mountain on the drive back to the Mazama’s lodge. What a way to end our three day adventure!


Although, this is really how the hike ended. Lots of exhausted hikers, happy hikers…and, well Glenn picking his nose.

We had a ton of fun and I would highly recommend the Round the Mountain event hosted by the Mazamas. Both Glenn and I want to thank Robyn our friend that originally suggested the trip, as well as our other team members and especially our group leaders Aaron and Chris for such an amazing time. It’s an experience we’ll never forget and that we hope to do again next year!

More pictures from various days on the hike…


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15 comments on “Round the Mountain

  1. Pingback: A love affair in the Atacama Desert | A Life More Extraordinary

  2. It was so fun to relive the 3 day adventure. Loved your pictures and you have a great eye Michele. Loved the shot on Gnarl Ridge with my cheap Orange poncho flying in the wind. Enjoyed meeting everyone and I also felt we had a good group and very supportive. Now to Northern India and my next adventure next month.

  3. As one of the fellow hikers for the Round the Mountain event, I so appreciate getting to know these two and appreciate the effort that goes into organizing a post like this. I do a travel blog too but Michelle is an inspiration! Thank you! I shall show it to my Washington friends and hope to inspire some of them to do this or the Chuckwagon in the future.
    Yes, the “adverse condition” days may have been the most memorable, and at least we were all dressed appropriately, as opposed to some that we saw on the trail in blue jeans and no rain gear!

  4. Nice shots, Michelle! I plan on stealing a few for my fb/IG due to my Gnarl Ridge phone soak. Anyway, it was a pleasure hiking with you all.

  5. I love your commentary and photos. You captured the essence of the experience. I will share this post with Randy. He will be so jealous. I look forward to hearing about your next adventure.

    • Gwen! I was thinking about you all day and sending you positive thoughts for your last couple of river crossings. I hope they went well! I look forward to our paths crossing again in the future!

  6. This is a great post Michele. Thanks for spreading the word about the Mazama’s and the hike ’round the mountain. It truly is an inspirational experience, I’m happy to have completed. I’d recommend this to anyone and note that you can also take the bunk bed pad from your bed and sleep on it on the 2nd story deck outside the sleeping rooms. The food was wonderful, the chef prepares good food during large breakfasts, dinners and making lunch fixings available for the DIY table. The hikes do vary by year in the direction and order of trails that you will hike. You do need to prepare, but if you like nature, wild flowers, mountains, streams and rivers, Oregon, etc., this hike is a must do.

    • Thanks Chris! I’m trying. Now…if only Glenn had gotten your talent for taking pictures so that when he takes them of me they are in focus and don’t cut my feet off!

    • Yes Kim – you sleep in their lodge at night (by Government Camp) and they transport you to the trailheads in vans during the day. So you just need to bring your daypack during the hikes. We ended up sleeping in our tent outside of the lodge (based on your recommendation we got some camping cots for our tent and they were wonderful!), but most hikers slept in the bunks inside the lodge – which is a great place to hang out with a dining area, game room, fire place, etc. It was so nice to get a shower each night, and a hot meal you didn’t have to cook for dinner and breakfast!

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