Mirror Lake (FD) - Government Camp, OR 9.30.18
We were up a little later than usual the night before our outing watching the University of Oregon football game with friends, so when Alexis snuck out of bed at 6:45am I snuggled in for a few more minutes of sleep. It didn’t last long though as I was so excited for the days adventure. I pushed aside the covers as the cold air rushed over and gave me a jolt. Our dog, Chuma, looked up at me from his bed with a look that said my bed is cozy too.
Alexis was busy in the kitchen putting together our lunch for the day. My responsibility was to get extra clothes together for the kids. The mountain was expected to be slightly colder than it was at home. I rushed around half asleep throwing clothes in a bag, waking and dressing the boys. I barely managed to get myself together and into the car. When I sat down in the car Alexis greeted me with a warm half bagel loaded with cream cheese along with a can of coke. The coke is my morning staple and exactly what I needed to perk up!
We blasted good tunes as we made our way for the highway and Mt. Hood. It wasn’t long until we pulled over in Sandy at “Joe’s Donut Shop”. Alexis jumped out to get our yearly National Parks pass and some hot chocolates. In the back I heard Kelly say that he was still hungry, and with a bolt both boys were headed for the Donut Shop. Minutes later they came out all smiles with two donuts in little paper bags. Kelly, per the usual, took a while to decide on a glazed donut with chocolate frosting. With all the certainty in the world Jameson walked up to the case and immediately selected the glazed donut with chocolate glaze and SPRINKLES.
The drive was going smoothly as we quickly came upon Silent Rock. In city of Rhododendron off of Route 26, there is a local legend surrounding a man-made rock formation that overlooks the valley below. Whenever you come to this formation you must be silent in every variation. The radio must be turned down, everyone must be quiet, and some have been known to hold their breath for fear of making a noise. If you do this as you pass the rock formation you will have a good mountain day. However bad luck has been said to bestow anyone who dares to test it. That can come in the form of a busted ski pole, broken leg or your car breaking down. The most widely known accident was when a truck careened out of control and veered down into the valley taking several cars with it. Many passed away in the accident. The origin of the local legend seems to remain unknown with stories dating as far back as the early 1800’s. That has not stopped hikers, skiers, snowboarders and anyone passing through on their way up to the mountains from trying to be as silent as possible.
The boys were fascinated by this tale and we got so into telling it that we passed right by the trailhead. The car’s GPS blurted out that we passed the destination just in time for me to pull over into the overflow parking lot. It was less than 25 yards beyond the trailhead with a path along the road that led down to the entrance. We quickly geared the boys up in warmer clothes, double checked ourselves, and grabbed our bags.
The trailhead had this funky narrow wooden bridge that crossed over a rushing creek below. We snapped our obligatory “start of the hike” picture and headed across the bridge. On the trail there were several unusual narrow bridges and one really cool fence made of old logs. The hike commenced with a slight incline that challenged our youngest, Jameson. As the rest of us were powering ahead we heard a little yelp from behind us to “wait up”. We turned to see him trudging the best he could with his little legs. He went on like that for the first quarter of the hike, then suddenly he had a burst of energy; taking short cuts across downed logs and up side trails.
As we neared the lake we came to a fork in the trail and had to decided which path to take. After a long pause Kelly headed to the left just as Alexis and Sawyer headed right. I looked at Kelly and said “sorry buddy majority rules and we need to stay together as a family”. He bounced off in the direction of the other two as I pulled up the rear. Soon the lake came into view and there was a small beach area where we set our bags down. The boys quickly started venturing off on the log and rocks. As Alexis sounded a warning to Jameson to be careful his foot plopped down right into the water and mud. I had a good laugh and told him that’s what happens when you adventure. After a few short minutes of contemplation on how to react he said “that’s ok” and bopped out onto the rocks again.
I explored the area snapping several pictures trying to see if I could get anything that would reflect the magic of our moments. After checking the small permitter out I saw that Alexis was pulling out the water and snacks from the bag. Each one of us settled down on a rock near each other and quietly enjoyed our treat.
It wasn’t long until we packed up our bags and found the path that lead around the lake. There was a small wooden boardwalk which led through a marshy area. It was at this point that we should have seen Mt. Hood reflecting beautifully onto the lake but due to the heavy cloud cover, it wasn’t even remotely visible. The reflection would have made the view tremendous, however, even without it the colors were vibrant across the lake. Yellows, oranges and reds made the shoreline pop.
Jameson stopped several times to draw the trees, lake, logs and his family in his tiny little notebook he toted around. He would look back and forth between his subject and his pad to ensure he was getting all the right details. We thought he did a magnificent job recreating his subjects.
We hooked around the final bend, crossed one last narrow wooden bridge and hit the fork in the path again. Starting to feel the exhaustion creep in, Kelly trudged off in front of us with his small walking stick in his hand. Alexis and I were behind him deep in a conversation when we realized that Jameson was far behind, still drawing. We turned to see him bolting towards us yelling in his tiny, cute voice “wait up guys”. He had his notebook in one hand and his pencil in the other as his speeding feet clipped the protruding rocks. It sent him flying with everything in his hands. He laid there for a minute while I hustled back to grab him. If it were any other day we would just encourage him to shake it off and keep going; however, he just got his splint off last week from his broken arm and he was told to take it easy as he may still have a weak point on his bone. Reaching for him I scooped him up to his feet, dusted him off, and gave him a big hug. We pulled up his sleeves to double check his arms which had a few scrapes, but all was good. Off he went again hustling down the hill. We shouted ahead to him to maybe slow down just a little.
As we made our way down we passed more and more people. If there is anything that you take away from our tales, it is to be the first ones out on the trail. Do not hit that snooze button and get yourself up. We were a little behind our original departure time and the effects were a crowded trail. Everyone out there is beyond nice but to have the trail to yourselves is peaceful and relaxing.
Coming to the bottom we snapped a quick “end of the hike” family picture. We had just accomplished our longest hike together totaling a little over four miles. It felt really good, but all of us were sleepy and hungry. Piling into the car we headed East for about ten minutes. Turning left we headed up the mountain. The car worked hard to get up where the trees were starting to disappear due to the elevation. Finally, the car hooked around the final bend and Timberline Lodge with the chair lift was in site. The peak of the mountain was brushed with clouds as snow pushed it’s way down towards the lodge. The terrain was not fully covered with snow but there was more than enough at the top to ski. People worked their mountain bikes up the hill past us with snowboards strapped to their backs. It was an impressive feat to see.
Once at the lodge we found tables outside overlooking the valley below. There was a cold brisk air that nipped at our noses as we gobbled down our sandwiches. I sat back to take it all in. Here I was having lunch with my family, near the top of a mountain with the most gorgeous view. Honestly, for me, there really is nothing better. While I could have sat there longer, everyone else was over it. They were shivering, and ready to bolt to the car. As we were packing up the cooler a large group of women came out onto the patio. Most of them were sporting their jackets that told us they were part of the Rose City Corvette Club. They mingled about in several groups having a grand old time. I wondered if they had driven their corvettes. Grabbing my bag, I took one final look around and followed behind. As we turned out of the parking lot, something caught my eye, about twenty variously colored corvettes were parked against the mountainous backdrop. I quickly turned the car around and jumped out with my camera. It was such a cool moment that I was able to capture.
After I was done clicking away, I slid back into the car and we were finally on our way home. I looked around to see everyone’s eyes flickering so I turned on some chill music and waited patiently. It only took about five minutes before everyone’s heads were rolled back with their mouths agape; including my loving co-pilot. The road was ahead of me as the mountain disappeared into our rear-view mirror. Another adventure was in the books. Where will we go next?
Difficulty - Moderate
Distance - 4.1 miles
Route Type - Out and Back
Elevation Gain - 679 feet
Best Time - March to October