On a fine sun-kissed spring day, Portland’s hip-pocket mountain, Mount Hood, is a scene fit for framing.
It’s the size of it that steals the view and your heart.
Sprawling across the horizon and rising to nearly 12,000 feet in elevation, this magnificent mountain and its expansive national forest have long captured imaginations.
Following thousands of grueling miles on the Oregon Trail, emigrants came up against one final obstacle: the massive bulk of Mount Hood.
Later, we fell in love with it and built highways to it and around it, and then we embraced it as a playground.
The beauty of its isolation and the majesty of its dominance compel many Oregonians to admire and lovingly refer to it as “our mountain.”
As winter’s grip gives way to riotous spring, Mt Hood and the Hood River Valley countryside invites folks to play outdoors.
The drive up the valley is a scenic excursion that may leave you wide-eyed and slack-jawed for the journey.
I love to ramble across the valley at this time of year, when many roadside farms are opening up and shaking off winter’s lonesome run, and many local families like Lynn and Dolly Rasmussen are eager to see new faces.
Lynn said that Rasmussen’s Farms has operated a large flower-produce-gift stand for more than 50 years:
“I began after the War - World War II – at a time when everyone raised their own products right at home and so we had chickens and we had pigs and of course, in those days that’s just what everyone did.”
A friendly place to stop and shop and every season offers something different – and right now?
Dolly noted, “Well, plants for the garden, plants for baskets, containers, flower garden items and most are grown right here at the farm. People are anxious to get outside and enjoy themselves in a very scenic, rural and safe area. You could come here every weekend all summer long and never do the same thing twice.”
Picture-postcard country -- in the valley and on the drive beyond!
It gets even better on the short side trip to Lost Lake, where you may believe you’ve found a slice of heaven.
It certainly feels close as you travel one of the prettiest byways you’ll ever enjoy on the twenty-mile trip from Hood River to Lost Lake.
Lost Lake Resort owner, Roy Hilmick, noted, “As you drive up here from the valley, you get to see all the Rhodies pop out this time of year in an explosion of color. There are several miles of rhododendrons and bear grass too -- it makes for quite a show.”
At 3,000 feet in elevation, Lost Lake is a small body of freshwater tucked into the northwestern flanks of Mount Hood.
Deep and clear with more than 200 surface acres, Lost Lake supports a variety of fish for the angler’s pleasure, including rainbow and brown trout and Kokanee (land-locked Sockeye salmon).
No motors are allowed on Lost Lake, so this is rowboat country. And yes, you can rent a canoe or paddle boat at the lake’s resort and store.
“It’s a great little store,” added Hilmick. “It has everything that the campers might need and then there are seven cabins; rustic mountain cabins: wood stove, wood furnished, beds. People burrow in there and they are just happy as can be.”
U.S. Forest Service campsites line the shore and many offer stunning views to the lake. And on a clear day, Mount Hood steals the scene, so bring a camera for plenty of photo ops as you enjoy a delightful three-mile hiking trail that wraps around the lake for closer inspection.
“Mother Nature at its best,” according to Hilmick. “Just a real beautiful place to come and relax.”
I love this area for the simple peace of mind it brings me and the absolutely stunning view to Mount Hood, sometimes two views, if you consider the glimmering reflection you’ll enjoy as you gaze across the lake to the mountain that Oregonians cherish.