I probably shouldn’t share this, but I think a few of my Mount Hood stories already have: the weekend after Labor Day can be one of the most glorious of the summer.
The past couple Labor Days, for us anyway, have been ripe with the first signs of the season to come: chilly, gray, damp; the kind of weather that makes it feel OK to stay inside for a change. But that transition can be a hard one to make, but at least the first weekend of it is usually just a fleeting reminder to get the rest of your summer in while you can.
And how we got it in this past weekend at Lost Lake. I won’t share exactly why this annual trip to the mountain’s Northwest side this time of year sits so high atop the list, but I think it’s plain to see.
It can be tough to get the popular lakeside campsites in the campground at Lost Lake, but luckily many of the other sites, tidy and surrounded by soaring Doug firs and lodgepole pines, leave little to groan about. Even so, it’s not really about being in the campground at Lost Lake. It’s all about being on the water.
And that goes for everyone.
Our escape to Lost Lake this summer found us there for three nights. The first two days on the lake were summertime at its best, with sun and swimming and heat and barely a care in the world. I thought repeatedly about doing the three-mile hike around the lake or the 4.6-mile one up Lost Lake Butte, which I’ve never done, but the lake just kept pulling me back and making me stay. Why leave the sunny shoreline when days like this are as numbered as they are?
As if on cue, Sunday morning dawned breezy and with an unexpected chill in the air. The trees swayed with high mountain wind and white clouds swirled with the blue sky. The sun shone, but it never warmed above 65 degrees — a difference of at least 15 degrees from the days prior. Out on the wrinkled lake, tiny whitecaps sprayed off the waves, and where, days earlier, scores of rowboats, canoes, kayaks, rafts and standup paddle boards plied the waters, now only a handful bobbed around. Still, we lingered all day, chasing the sunshine and crawfish, soaking in just one more view of the mountain and hanging on to what might have been the very last drop of summertime on Lost Lake.
Pretty sure I already wrote an end-of-summer-on-Mount-Hood post, but that was before we went to Lost Lake a few weeks later. It’s been a few weeks since that trip even, but let me tell you, from crawdads and newts to sunlit hikes, stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and fishing, summer was alive and well on Lost Lake well into September.
I knew they were out there, but until a couple weeks ago, I don’t think I ever came across one. Then, while we were down in the Sisters area for two On Mount Hood book events at the Paulina Springs book shops, I got one back in a handful of change from the general store.
There’s nothing incredibly valuable about this quarter. It’s simply part of the United States Mint’s “America the Beautiful” quarters program, which kicked off in 2010. Through the program, the Mint is releasing 56 different quarters — five a year through 2021 — depicting national parks and other sites from all over the country.
The Oregon quarter showcases the Mount Hood National Forest through a view of Mount Hood over Lost Lake. For a little reference, here’s the vista in real life:
Sure, it can be a little crowded — popular might be a better word — and a touch loud close in near the boat ramp, but there is something about Lost Lake on Mount Hood that absolutely spills out summertime.
Part of it is the nostalgic air of the rustic resort (which just sold for $1.2 million to some lucky someone who will hopefully maintain its endless charm), the rowboats, the campfire smells, the chill lake — just brisk enough to refresh, just clear and calm enough to lounge about in for a while.
A simple stroll encircles Lost Lake as well, and despite the crowds on hot summer days, it still seems that you’re always able to find a spot here or there to set up for the afternoon and soak it all in. We did as much a couple weeks ago on one of the warmer Oregon weekends, and relished not only the lake, but trail-side huckleberries and salmon berries, squirt guns, elusive crawfish and newts, and a laid-out tree that invited all kinds of exploration.
Essential to a great day on Lost Lake, however, is actually getting out on the water. People do it in any number of ways, from renting rowboats and canoes from the resort to bringing their own boats, tubes, rafts, and even a few air mattresses. There is simply nothing better than being out on the water on days when the temperature and the sun are relentless, the air still and warm. Get on the water, and all of a sudden all is chill and forgotten.
But what makes Lost Lake the quintessential Mount Hood lake for kayaking, swimming, soaking in the rays, and simply enjoying a real summer day near the mountain, is the unmistakable view you take in from the middle of the lake. There’s no mistaking it. Summertime at Mount Hood.
Five little girls descended on our house today after school for an over-the-top tea party — flowered hats, petit fours, raised pinky fingers and all.
Spence and I raided the scones, made like trees and left for the river before anyone could so much as tsk tsk us.
Our plan, other than giving the tea party a mighty wide berth, was to simply cruise the Willamette in the kayak and soak up the sunshine of a late and glorious spring afternoon in Oregon. That’s just what we did as we paddled downriver from George Rogers Park, past rowers and scullers slicing through the calm water, fishermen slowly trolling along, geese, ducks, osprey, and even a bald eagle filling the blue sky.
It was great.
It also got me to thinking about other places I love to take the kayak, especially now that the weather is shifting in our favor. I love having the Willamette so close by, but let’s face it, it’s not Lost Lake up on Mount Hood.
It’s not Trillium Lake up on the south side of Mount Hood either, though Trillium’s crowds these days can sometimes be more than enough to make you want to steer pretty clear of the lake despite its views and chill kayaking.
Some other nice spots for flatwater kayaking, canoeing, or just slow, easy boating up around Mount Hood also include Timothy Lake, Clear Lake, Frog Lake, and Laurance Lake. The entire Mount Hood National Forest, in fact, is full of some great offerings for boaters of all kinds — even, I’m sure, those just looking to get out on the water and a little farther away from a tea party . . .