Even after twenty years of living in Portland, there are so many places in the immediate area that I haven’t seen. And it’s not the “shades of grey” of living in New England, as there are very dramatic differences close-by. Within a two-hour (by car) radius) I can see the ocean, coastal rainforests, verdant valleys, steep mountains peppered with volcanoes, and arid landscapes considered deserts by most. Even after two decades, this vast variety still boggles my mind.
During May 16th through 19th, Emee and I checked another location off our list: Lost Lake. This body of water is located on the other side of the Cascade Divide about 10 miles north-northwest of Mount Hood. It sits cosily in high coniferous forest about 3,000 feet above sea level. When it is clear enough Mount Hood will be visible. Lost Lake is pretty “developed” for a remote place: there’s a large campground, a lodge with store, cabins and yurts, and boats to rent. It’s supposed to be very popular and very hard to get into during summer. So it was better to explore this place when the high season hadn’t begun, and getting a deal on lodging was possible.
There’s no easy or direct way to get there. We opted to drive the van east on I-84, then head south from Hood River on OR 281. From the junction at the “not really a town” of Dee, Lost Lake Road winds fourteen miles upward, emphasis on the word “wind”. And up, too. Remember that the elevation of Lost Lake is about 3,000 feet. We had experienced summer weather in Portland the previous few weeks, up in the High Cascades spring was still starting to be felt. Snowpiles were still abundant everywhere, and I’m sure the high temp didn’t get above 55F/13C.* Nights were cold.
We had booked a “glamping” yurt. The yurt structure itself wasn’t deluxe, but what was contained inside was. We had a wood stove stocked with fuel and a nice big bed with linens. (Most yurts and cabins I’ve been to have been “bring your own bedding.”) Electricity was non-existent, so there were a handful of battery powered lights. Cell service and data or internet? Ha! We were cut off from the world, the only information lifeline was my C. Crane radio which can pick up weather band and shortwave. There were showers available, so we didn’t have to be that uncivilized. We fell asleep every night to the sound of the Lake Branch of Hood River, flowing about 100 feet from us.
We either spent time around camp or took the van to “civilization”, be it Parkdale or Hood River, to get supplies and such. The first night was clear with a starry sky, but the remaining time was more clouds than not, and some rain. Unfortunately we never got a glimpse of Mount Hood from the lake, though we did see it when we got into the Hood River Valley. We had intended on doing some hiking, namely the three-mile loop around the lake. We got a half-mile in and were discouraged by the downed trees, mud, and lingering snow, so we turned back. I’m sure trying any of the other side hikes would have been even more difficult.
It was a fun little excursion, but I’d like to try it when the weather is a bit more agreeable. This will be tough due to the popularity of Lost Lake. Maybe we can try in later September, when the crowds have dissipated and the snow yet to arrive. But there’s also more places to check off the list. Nearby Wahtum Lake also sounds interesting…
For photos from the Lost Lake trip, check out the dynamic flickr album below. Or click here.
*We headed around the south side of Mount Hood via OR 35 and US 26 to return, and it was snowing when we crested the divide.