Claude, Brandon, Garth, and Mike backpacked 13 miles through the Mt Hood Wilderness Area in September to kick off the fall season of student ministry at Aloha ChoG.
Sure, we've organized lots of hiking, trail running (here is a pic of Aloha High grad Derek and me running on some urban trails earlier this year), camping, swimming, and gaming during the summer months. However, nothing could prepare us for the up-close views of Mt Hood's east face during our final fall backpacking trip into Elk Meadows.
On the first day, we jumped off from the Sno-Park trailhead into the Mount Hood Wildernesses Area and attacked the first 6-7 miles (including excursions) with all the speed we could muster. This crew was hardcore!
Switchbacks and glacial stream crossings posed no problems for us, but a couple things eventually slowed us to a temporary halt: the two biggest blisters I've every observed on the same person's feet (mine). And I've dressed PLENTY of fellow hikers' blisters in my travels.
Brandon's photos of my feet have been mercifully censored from this blog, but the outcome was unexpectedly gruesome.
Pro Tip: Double checking your backpack for extra moleskin is NOT optional. Mooching moleskin from random wilderness dwellers can be humiliating.
Hiking through the pain, we pushed forward with an aggressive pace to reach the Elk Meadows Perimeter Trail. Camping on the meadows is prohibited, so we picked a campsite on the edge of the surrounding forest.
With plenty of daylight to spare, we took our time exploring Elk Meadows before setting up camp.
The tree islands scattered throughout Elk Meadows provided non-marshy resting spots to stare at the formidable face of Mt Hood. The rocky east slope of the mountain loomed right in front of us.
An evening hike up to Gnarl Ridge worked up our appetites enough to gorge on dinner at the campsite.
Stargazing, storytelling, and discussion of a particularly appropriate passage of Scripture preceded a night trek back into the meadows. We were awed by the image of an Illuminated Mt Hood that reflected moonlight across the darkened meadow.
Being woken up during the pitch black night by an intensely focused, blinding ray of moonlight that shone through the dense forest canopy onto our isolated tent was nearly as memorable.
On the second day, morning devotions together at breakfast were eventually split off into solo encounters of reading, reflection, prayer, and meditation.
SST grad Brandon (sitting left in frame) soaks in Scripture on the edge of the meadow.
After breaking camp, we stopped by the old wooden Elk Meadows Shelter on the edge of the meadows to secure our backpacks.
Cutting through the grassy expanse one final time, we forged our own variation of the hiking loop that gradually leads back to the Sno-Park trailhead.
This may have been our last student backpacking trip of the fall, but the story doesn't have to end there. Snow camping, anyone?