Location of Hike: Thunder Mountain and Skookum Lake Trails
Trail Number: 542 and 543
Weather during Hike: Sunny and Cool
Hiking Buddies: Thor
Start Time: 11:00 AM End Time: 3:00 PM
Hike Distance: 6.25 miles Elevation Gain: 2200 feet
We headed out at the “usual time” (just Thor and I) and made our way down all the narrow Forest Service roads. I drove quite a bit slower than usual because I was worried I might run into log trucks on the roads. There is thinning going on and I saw one loaded truck coming out as I was driving in. Fortunately, I didn’t meet any trucks. Not sure where the active thinning is going on, but that one truck was the only one I saw all day long.
On the way in, on the 4620 road, I got a pretty good view of Olallie Butte and the tip of Mt Jefferson – you can see the beautiful fall colors as well:
Shortly before the trailhead (probably the last mile or so), the road is getting increasingly brushy – I was pleased to see someone had cut a bunch of the brush out so it wasn’t quite as bad as it could be. We got to the trailhead just before 11 and headed out. The beginning of this trail goes thru a cut area and has a few very brushy sections of Thimbleberry. Those were easier to navigate today as there has obviously been a hard freeze and many of the leaves are dying now. After getting thru those first couple of inital rough spots, we got back into the forest and soon encountered the first real snow:
Shortly after seeing the snow, I noticed this print which looks like a small bear (cub maybe?):
A little further up the trail there is a switchback that gives a nice view of Olallie Butte and Mt Jefferson:
We made it up to the top where the two trails meet and the Skookum Lake trail heads down. We decided to head down to Skookum Lake first and then do Thunder Mountain second.
On the way down to the lake, there is this cool rock grotto – I remember shortly after the fire (2005 maybe?) there was a ribbon there saying this was a “safe area” – some place the firefighters could go if the fire got out of hand:
We worked our way down to the lake – it was nice – the trail has been recently cut out and there are almost no downed logs on the trail. The last time I hiked this trail, there were several bad patches of downed logs that made hiking it difficult. Those have all been cleared.
Skookum Lake was sporting fall colors:
It was rather chilly down at the lake – the whole north side of the mountain was kind of chilly but since I was moving it wasn’t too bad.
We made our way around the lake to the nice campsite at north end of lake:
It felt good sitting in the sun at the picnic table. We ate some lunch, looked around a bit and then headed back up.
I had forgotten about some of these sections – maybe because they weren’t loaded with snow or dripping wet. But I got pretty wet and snowy going thru a few spots like this:
Good thing I have quick drying pants on! Otherwise I would have gotten pretty cold.
On the way down the hill I had noticed 3 of these huge ant hills – I didn’t take photos until the return trip. But they were pretty impressive:
The only other trail I remember seeing these on was the Fish Creek Mountain trail – but now there is another one! Those ants sure are busy! I hadn’t noticed them being active on the way down, but they were certainly active on the way back up. I’m assuming it had warmed up enough for them to get out of the hill by the time I went back up.
We made good time on the way back up – I only had to stop 2 or 3 times to catch my breath (I felt pretty good about that). We made it to the junction and then took the short spur up to the old lookout location. It was sunny and pretty warm up there, and very little wind. I had heard it was supposed to be rather windy, but I didn’t feel it up on top. There were great views in almost all directions – here is a great view of Mt Hood from the top of Thunder Mountain:
I wanted to stay longer, but Thor was restless, so we headed back down. On the way down, I did a bit of searching for potential old trail connections that would have headed up to East Mountain – unfortunately, I was not able to find any semblance of old trail connections.
We made it back down to the truck about 3 and headed home. Thor was tired (as was I) – but we both enjoyed a beautiful fall day out in the woods.