McNeil Point: Switzerland in Oregon

I've hiked a lot of trails in Oregon since I moved here last March. All of them have been breathtaking, stunning, gorgeous examples of the best that the outdoors can offer. So believe me when I say that the most recent hike I went on to McNeil Point was one of the most astounding hikes I've done this year.

My friend Elizabeth and I set off to Mt Hood last weekend in search of a good 5-7 mile jaunt. After getting lost several times on the ill-marked backroads of the Mt. Hood wilderness (we joked in the car about the dumb people who drive down abandoned logging roads in the middle of the night with no map and no way out... and then we kind of did just that) we finally found the dusty trailhead and began our hike into the densely green forests that are so prevalent here.

If I thought the forest was stunning (and it was!) it was nothing compared to what lay ahead. A mile in, we noticed a break in the trees ahead and Elizabeth mused aloud, "is it about to get epic here?"

We emerged onto a narrow ridge circling Bald Mountain and were met by views.


It was like something straight out of Sound of Music. In fact, we took a corner, were met face-to-face with a larger-than-life Mt Hood and we were all like, "THE HILLS ARE ALIIIIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUUUUSICCC!"

The weather was just cool enough to create a beautiful layer of clouds surrounding the mountain. It felt like Everest, or heaven, or the Swiss Alps.

Each step got prettier. We kept stopping every two feet to take hundreds of pictures.

I kept shouting, "Oh my God, so gorgeous!" or simply, "AHHHHHHH!"
We stood there for a bit in awed silence, and Elizabeth said, "I think I might weep a little...."
I said, "I am weeping!"
Elizabeth said, "I mean... it's probably just the wind in our eyes, right?"
"Yeah," I said. "Just the wind. We are totally not crying at mountains right now."

Then we took some jumping pictures.

Because, you know, we do that.

I won't mention that I fell on my face the first time.

We took another corner and Mt. Hood loomed even more beautifully than before.

"Not weeping!!" Elizabeth yelled.
"Definitely not!" I yelled back.

I want to note, too, that the guide book by Bill Sullivan that I use for all my Portland hikes is quite fabulous. However, he has a tendency to be rather stoic in his writing. He will say things like, "walk 1.2 miles and when the trail forks, take the right turn for another 0.4 miles. You will circle Bald Mountain before climbing through the trees."

If I were writing a guide book, I'd have a hard time keeping it short and sweet like that, because I'd have my caps lock on auto and say something like: "walk 1.2 miles through A FREAKING BEAUTIFUL FOREST, when the trail forks, take the right turn for another 0.4 miles to an EPIC VIEW. You will circle Bald Mountain and be completely BLOWN AWAY by mountain gorgeousness, and thus spend the next 2 hours of your 4 hour hike taking 2857635 photos."

I guess that's why I don't write guide books.

Eventually we left the alpine splendor behind and kept climbing through forests and past little mountain tarns. The weather turned even colder, and the fog started rolling in more densely. What should have been more mountain views turned into a wash of white:

At 3.5 miles in, we met up with a ranger who said McNeil Point (another mile further) was wind-blasted, cold, and traversed a glacier. Expecting warmer weather, we only had wool pullovers and no jackets. We opted to hike back out rather than push onward to the peak. We worried about the group of hikers in front of us: they were wearing sneakers, cotton t-shirts and no jackets.

The fog rolled in so thick that it obscured our views on the way back.

We met up with a couple PCT through-hikers on our way out and swapped stories before heading home for the evening.