There’s something to be said about female empowerment, and a group of independent women backpacking through the wilderness one August weekend. McNeil Point is a hiking shelter on the side of Mt. Hood, and can either be a hefty day hike or a multi-day trip. My lady friends and I decided to commune with nature, and make a weekend excursion out of the 8 mile trail.
During the summer months, a big consideration for finding a camping location is how many mosquitos are around. We originally planned to scale Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington, but after hearing about the mosquito buffet (in which we would be the main course), we opted for an area with fewer bugs. I had heard that Mt. Hood’s alpine area had relatively few flying pests, and aside from the horse flies, the reports are correct! (A word to the wise: still bring plenty of bug repellent.) Armed with our destination in mind, we set out for our trek.
The adventure began at the Top Spur trailhead, and upon hitting the Timberline/Pacific Crest Trail junction, we took a right for our first glimpse of Mt. Hood hiking around Bald Mountain. Normally, the view is breathtaking, with an awe-inspiring vista of Mt. Hood, but ours was sheer fog and mist. (To be honest, I’m kind of glad it was overcast, otherwise the sharp cliff down might have been too overwhelming.) We were following the Portland Hikers trip report, which recommended rounding Bald Mountain, and then meeting up with the trail via a large rock scramble. Given how late it was upon starting, we opted to head back to the trailhead and follow the signs toward Cairn Basin.
The start of the trail is a pretty steep grade, but once we hit the ridge, the fog parted and Mt. Hood peaked through to greet us. A fog lake rested at the base of the mountain, and we had a beautiful view for about a quarter mile before entering the tree line again. I took stalk in our surroundings, looking at the various kinds of pine trees, vegetation, and particularly the ground. If you’re unfamiliar with backpacking, often times a lot of your hike is spent looking down, making sure you’re not tripping on rocks, roots or slipping on uneven terrain, so I was surprised to see how sandy the soil was. Much of the mountain that I’ve hiked is packed ground rather than finely ground minerals. I wonder why that is? Any geologists out there who can tell me?
There are very few locations to camp on this trail, so it’s important to get an early start (which we did not) and stake your claim to one of the two legitimate camping spots before McNeil Point. Both have fire pits, are just a short walk from a running stream, and have a gorgeous view of the sunset, so plant your packs, set up the tents and proceed with water, snacks and a daypack.
Delicious Lentil and Quinoa Dinner (serves 4)
When you’re backpacking, it’s not as easy to bring your cast iron skillet, meat and various seasonings, but I assure you there’s plenty of amazing food to be had (you will happily go back for more). All of us ladies are omnivores, but to save on agita, we decided to go mostly vegetarian for this trip. We brought along some packaged salami to intersperse among our veggie dinners, but this recipe did not need any additional protein. An important lesson about backpacking cooking is to pre-measure your ingredients and store them in ziplock bags to make packing and cooking so much easier (and lighter).
- 1 1/2 cups Quinoa
- 1 cup Sprouted Lentils (I like the TruRoots Spouted Bean Trio)
- 4 3/4 cups water
- 1 Tube Basil paste (like Gourmet Garden found by the herbs in grocery stores)
- sundried tomatoes
- dehydrated zucchini
Let’s make life as easy for ourselves as possible, shall we? After a long day of trekking, the last thing I want to deal with is a slow cooking meal. This recipe can be done within 15 minutes.
First, bring water to a boil, then add in both the lentils and quinoa. Since sprouted lentils have a much faster cooking time than regular lentils, the quinoa will not be left too mushy. Keep a lid on and stir occasionally.
Once the quinoa and lentils have absorbed the water and are almost done (about 10-13 minutes), add in remaining ingredients. The zucchini added great texture and rehydrated quickly in the pot, while the tomatoes and pesto brought out a lot of lentil flavor.
Thank you, Katie Keenan for some of the additional photos!