We were missing out.
The access to the trail is just after civilization ends on Highway 26 east of Portland. The highway says goodbye to Welches, narrows to two lanes, and heads through some forest before widening to four lanes again and starting towards Government Camp. Off to the right the land drops steeply into a valley for awhile, but then you go around a curve and suddenly that same side of the street has a steep hill. Usually here you will see a mess of cars parked with no real signs - this is where you park to head to Mirror Lake.
This hike is a little over three miles round trip and is generally referred to as "easy." To be honest, calling this easy is a bunch of crap. Easy is walking on flat sidewalks. This hike involves steep hills and uneven surfaces, so to call it anything less than moderate is plain wrong.
Most of the hike is uphill over a myriad of switchbacks, crossing a creek or two on narrow bridges, over ground riddled with stumps and rocks. Going up the terrain isn't a big deal, but going down following a crazy little Shiba named Misaki who apparently would rather run it's kind of dangerous. Be careful! (As always, click the pictures to see larger versions.)
One example of a switchback.
I wanted to get a picture down the hill, but the trees were too dense and they didn't really turn out.
There is a rock slide that the trail switches back and forth across about three or four times on the way; Misaki was quite pleased with herself for conquering the boulders.
Misaki is quite proud of herself.
Here's a pic of one of the bridges, this one just before the trail splits to go around the lake. Misaki continues to amaze me at how fearless she is. The creek rushed underneath, but she took a measure of what it would take to hop onto the narrow bridge and just did it. Most dogs, especially smaller ones, would hesitate, but not her.
Guess who was the first one to see the lake?
And what did she see, a little over a mile and a half into our hike? It's breathtaking, really. They don't call it Mirror Lake for nothin'.
Wifey and I had packed a lunch, so we sat on the rocks at the water's edge. We tried to enjoy the quiet, but it was shattered by a bunch of out of control kids with no sense of personal space.
One interesting note: You can make this a longer hike. Turning away from Mt. Hood, if you look up to the right there is a ridge - Tom Dick and Harry Mountain (really) - far into the distance (another four miles each way, I think). Someday, when I'm better prepared, that would be a fun (you know, if by fun I mean exhausting, mentally draining, and likely to induce massive hamstring cramps) hike to do. I can just imagine the amazing pictures one could take.
We had some chipmunks hang out with us for lunch, as well as this little guy and some birds we'd never seen before.
Our dining companion.
Misaki generally leaves the wildlife alone, but I was wondering if maybe she was going to go after some of the fish darting around in the shallows.
Looking for noms.
We had a great time. It's a great workout (moderate, not easy - I want to see their definition of easy) and not too far away. However, get their early, especially on a nice day on the weekend because that parking area can fill up and you don't want to be forced to park on the very edge of Highway 26 as cars fly by at 60+ miles an hour.
It's worth the effort, especially when you see something like this.