When the Mountains Call
Now that I've sort of morphed into what I call a Real Adult™, I've found that my biggest struggle is finding a balance in my life that works for me. I'm sure that the strenuous nature of the service industry doesn't help my cause, but as we know all too well, bills don't pay themselves. Now that the rain season has broken in Oregon and we're caught in a seemingly endless string of sunny days, I find that all I want to do is go outside. Last week, I was lucky enough to have a day to explore more of the Mount Hood wilderness. I'd been researching some mountain hikes in the area, and everything I found led me to my breathtaking hike to the summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain.
If ever you find yourself in the mood to explore this trail, I highly suggest making a day of it. I spent 5 hours on this trail and honestly, I wish I'd stayed longer. This is one of the few trailheads in the Mount Hood area that is directly accessible from Highway 26, so parking can be troublesome if you don't arrive early enough, especially on weekends. (I arrived at this trail around 1:30pm on a Thursday and there were only two open spots left!) The hike begins at the Mirror Lake trailhead and continues for about 1.2 miles until you reach the beautiful Mirror Lake. This place is something. On a clear day, you can see Mount Hood's reflection in the still water. On my way up the trail, it was rather cloudy and the mountain was obstructed from view, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't just as beautiful. Luckily for me, the clouds cleared for my return trip down and I could see it all. There's a 0.4 mile loop around Mirror Lake that is worth exploring before you continue your trek to the summit. The remaining 1.6 mile ascent is moderately difficult if you're out of shape, but provides gorgeous views of Mount Hood and the surrounding wilderness.
More and more, I have found myself attempting to notice more in my everyday life so that I can feel more present. It's so easy to walk distractedly through the world. Truly seeing what's around you takes a conscious effort. In the age of social media, it's hard not to want to capture everything because our lives are essentially curated for the whole world to observe. Because of this, I have made it a personal goal to remain completely in the moment, especially when in the midst of such magic. I can close my eyes and I am there again. The sun filters through the trees, casting tiny shadows over the pink rhododendrons that are sprinkled along the trail. Songbirds dart high above between the tops of the trees, calling back and forth to one another. I inhale the crisp, alpine air, tinged with the unmistakable scent of evergreens. I am sitting on a rock on the side of the mountain again, staring at Mount Hood towering far above, feeling so small, yet so important. These tiny moments are what remind me of how beautiful our world is. This is the healing that nature can give us if only we let her.
On my way to the summit, a patch of clouds floated through, and I was afraid that the panoramic views would be hidden by a blanket of white. But I trekked on, knowing that it would be well worth the hike nonetheless. I reached a rocky point on the trail where I could see Highway 26 winding through the forest from above. I turned around and there was Mount Hood, peeking through the clouds in what felt like a gentle reminder that she was very much there and waiting for me. I sometimes forget how huge that mountain is. And as the mountain became more difficult to climb, I became so appreciative of my body and what it is capable of. If my legs were sentient beings, I'd thank them every single day for being strong enough to carry me through this world.
After about an hour and a half of hiking, I finally made it to the west summit of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain. I was the only one there. The clouds had cleared out enough to allow me to see Mount Rainier far in the distance. And, of course, Mount Hood was right in front of me, standing tall in all her glory. I found a large rock that was perfect for sitting and decided to take some time to appreciate the view. This idea was short lived, as a cheeky little chipmunk climbed up and ripped my protein bar from my bare hands. (Don't worry, I stole it back.) As other hikers approached the summit, I decided to wander along the rocky path toward the east summit to find a little more solitude. I found myself a new perch between the east and west summit and made it my home for an hour.
I sat. I observed. I wrote.
I reveled in my tiny moment of peace.