Yesterday we completed what turned out to be our longest hike to date – Yocum Ridge. According to our 100 hikes guidebook the distance of the trail is 8.7 miles one way to a viewpoint of Mt. Hood’s Sandy Galcier. With that in mind we were anticipating a total distance around 17.5 miles, but by the time we were done exploring Yocum Ridge our garmin showed a total distance of 19.7 miles. :O Our original plan was to meet my parents at the trail head and hike together to Ramona Falls, but they were unfortunately unable to make it so Heather and I were off on our own just before 7am.
It was a cloudy morning as we crossed the Sandy River and made our way along Ramona Creek toward the falls.
Ramona Creek is one of the prettiest creeks we’ve hiked along, but the dense forest always seems too dark to get any pictures to really do it justice.
When we arrived at Ramona Falls it was just as impressive as we had remembered it from our first visit the previous July.
From Ramona Falls we took the Timberline Trail north for .7 miles to the Yocum Ridge trail and began our climb. We were presently surprised by the gentle grade of the trail which climbs nearly 3000′. The lower portion of the trail was heavily forested with lots of mushrooms and red huckleberries. We spotted one pika (and heard many more) and a small frog along the trail as well. The clouds were low and a light fog filled the trees making it impossible to tell if the trail offered any views. We passed a couple of small ponds and some meadows that had been home to flowers earlier in the year.
We were holding out hope that we would eventually climb above the clouds and into blue skies but we began to think that was just wishful thinking. We caught our break though as we approached the south side of the ridge near a rock field and wild flower meadow. When we came out of the trees in the meadow we were greeted by blue sky and sunlight. Looking up toward Mt. Hood the summit was visible above the tree tops.
The clouds were still all around so we decided to double time it up the trail not knowing how long the views would last. We were slowed by the increasingly scenic wildflower meadows and views to the south across Paradise Park to the distant summit of Mt. Jefferson.
As we hurried up the trail other flowers such as western pasque, bistort, fireweed, and groundsel showed up in the meadows. The trail then entered a series of spectacular meadows as it traversed around the ridge finally revealing a view of Mt. Hood.
Small clouds were passing in front of the mountain as we approached through the meadows. From this side of the ridge we had an up close view of Illumination Rock and the Reid Glacier.
The trail eventually came to the edge of the Sandy River canyon where melt water from the Reid Glacier feeds the Sandy River. A series of waterfalls could be seen (and heard) below.
We explored the area and spotted another good sized water fall further down and across the canyon. This one was flowing from the Paradise Park area down into the Sandy River.
We finally pulled ourselves away from the spectacular views and continued on the trail toward the north side of the ridge. The trail climbed as it crossed the ridge and passed through many more wildflower meadows. When we reached the north side of the ridge we found the clouds again. There was a bank of clouds settled over the valley between Yocum Ridge and McNeil Point. Here the trail turned up the ridge at it’s steepest grade. We reached a small saddle below the rocky cliffs that top the ridge where we found a couple of camp sites and lingering snow patches. To the right of the cliffs we could see blue sky, but on the left it was all clouds. We decided to continue on what appeared to be a faint path across loose rocks and sand to see if we could once again rise above the clouds. The “faint path” completely disappeared and visabillity was all but gone when we decided to turn around and go back. We looked at some trip reports later that showed we had been headed straight for the mountain with the Sandy Glacier to our left but we’d have never known it.
Back at the saddle the clouds began to rise keeping the mountain hidden but giving us a better look at the flowers surrounding this area. He we found lupine, cat’s ears, and even a few avalanche lilies. While exploring the tent sites we stumbled on a small group of scotch bluebells.
When we started our return trip the clouds had risen from the valley floor giving us views below, but when we arrived at the Reid Glacier viewpoint Mt. Hood was hidden. We found a couple of fellow hikers here that we had met near Ramona Falls and asked if they had made it in time to see the mountain and they had not. We all stuck around waiting to see if we would catch another cloud break since there was still plenty of blue sky around. While we were waiting a Red Tailed hawk circled overhead checking us and the meadow out.
While I was attempting to catch the hawk in flight Mt. Hood decided to make an encore appearance.
The clouds continued to roll in allowing us brief glimpses of the mountain before we decided it was time to start our return trip.
On the way down we were provided some new views due to the rise in the cloud levels. We spotted the bottoms of Mt. Jefferson and Mt. Adams, Lost Lake, and the large waterfall coming from Paradise Park.
We stopped briefly at Ramona Falls where a large crowed now milled about and then continued on the final 3.4 mile leg along the Sandy River to our waiting car. It was a long hike and we only got to see half of the views, but in the end it didn’t matter. What we did see was amazing enough and now we have an excuse to return since we have unfinished business on the north side :). Happy Trails.