Monday, November 29, 2010

Cooper's Spur and Elliot Glacier

In between Yocum Ridge and playing in the snow, our family continued its water cycle hiking up to Cooper's Spur. We wanted our son to be able to experience Elliot Glacier, the largest living glacier on Mt. Hood and the second largest in Oregon.

The winds are so extreme you need to lean into them and boulders are placed around the trail markers to keep them intact.

The Cooper's Spur Loop is really great for ridge running and provides incredible off trail walks to the glacier which do not require crampons, ice axes, or possibly risking death. This is a little more our speed right now. Next year we will hopefully be tackling summits of glaciated peaks and becoming Mazamas. Jules has already summited Rainer, so he is in, but I still need to take CBE or ICS classes for certification. If The Barracuda keeps working on his knots and conditioning he can test in before the minimum age of 15.

So out we drove to Cloud Cap and the Tilly Jane Trail. Tilly Jane connects with the Timberline Trail and gets you up high enough to the ridges that the trail just stops, but you can continue off trail for quite some time.

Looking back at the historic Cloud Cap Inn half way up our ascent. Supposedly, you can see through most of the hiking trails in Oregon from the summit (8,500 ft) when the clouds clear.

Along the way, you begin in forested evergreens but continue up the mountain past tree line. It is interesting to be able to watch not only the vegetation change, but the geology as well. The basalt along Mt. Hood cleaves very distinctly and you can see the work of years of glaciation. There are also giant boulders thrown all about which just scream, "Climb Me!" Not one to ever turn down a good climb, the Barracuda obliged.

Jules illustrating proper form while manteling and the Barracuda's own attempt.

I was fortunate enough to take an Alpine Environments class in college from alpine geography expert, researcher, and adventurer Keith Hadley. The knowledge he imparted on me has given me a whole new level of observation and understanding about just how fragile and important alpine areas are to a holistic planet. It was for this reason, we wanted The Barracuda to witness a glacier up close.
Viewing the lower portion of Elliot Glacier and its recession.

Glaciers are the largest storage of fresh water on the planet encompassing approximately 70% of the worlds fresh water reserves. Without their backstock of frozen water the entire water cycle crumbles. Not only that, they are the entire lifeblood of every watershed in the world. It is due to glaciers that the water we drink today was the same which dinosaurs lived on millions of years ago. Perhaps I'm just a science geek, but I think that is mind-alteringly cool.

Jules and Guadalupe hike toward the moraine of Elliot Glacier. It is like being on a moonscape once the ecosystems change. There is absolutely no vegetation other than lichen and the sparce Krummholtz trees.

Due to being on the north side of the Mount Hood, off trail and in considerable back country, we all wore bright yellow or orange for visibility. Even so, when the fog rolled in it was the dog who was keeping tabs on all of us because visibility was so low. We are lucky The Barracuda is a responsible enough hiker we can trust him explicitly.

Guadie would protect The Barracuda from anything and stand by him through a blizzard if need be. She was sure to continually run the trail between us and our son to make sure everyone was okay.

We spent a considerable time just marveling at the sheer size of the glacial trough and the midden piles of the moraines. As softly as snow falls and the mountain looks on, this is no act to take lightly. There is a reason the mountain has outlived us all. A quiet respect for the monstrous scale of the topography tends to seep into you like the fog itself.

Jules and The Barracuda throw rocks into glacial trough from the outer moraine of Elliot Glacier.

At this point, The Barracuda has witnessed the glacier, watched it cleave into a crevasse and shatter, hiked the tributary back to its source, played in the waters of the Columbia and the snows of the mountains on either side which feed it, read the journals of Lewis and Clark following the river out to the sea, and hiked up Cape Disapointment where the waters finally meet the Pacific Ocean. He has witnessed his watershed intimately, and he helps me filter its rain water every morning for the day's food. Our only hope is that he will grow to take none of this for granted.

5 thoughts:

Mel said...

I'm so inspired with what you can do with a properly motivated 6 year old!

Mr. H. said...

That looks like an amazing place to hike. Approximately how far can the Barracuda hike in a day now? I love what you said about the dog watching out for the boy...what a great dog.

Granola Girl said...

Mel ~ He is a great kid. We started when he was the age of your two, and just never stopped. At about 4 we stopped treating him like a kid when we hiked and expected much the same things of him we would a teenager (within reason) and that has really helped him become such a responsible hiker. He is also homeschooled and still doesn't exactly realize what he does isn't normal. I think that helps a lot.

Mr. H ~ He can do 8 to 8.5 mile days back to back to back in stride, but when he woke up at home the fourth day he admitted to being sore (as did the rest of the family, including the dog). On day hikes we have only pushed him to 10 mile loops, but he was still going strong. I'd say a 12-13 mile day is about his complete limit right now. She is a very good dog. For a pound rescue there is very little more we could ask for.

Mr. H. said...

That is really pretty incredible. Our problem is that the grandson is a movie watching couch potato when he is not with us and unfortunately there is not much we can do about it. I hope to take him on a hike to Revett lake next year, it will be his first and is an easy 4 mile round hike on the Idaho-Montana border. My wife and I have been ever so slowly working our way through the hikes in "100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest" book. We love the mountain lake hikes and would live up there if we could get away with it.:)

Mel said...

I think we (parents/society) often underestimate the abilities of our kids. My three year old hiked five miles on a hike this summer and really could have kept going. All our hikes up until then had been 2 or 3 miles. The trick is keeping him motivated. Because when he is over it, he's over it.

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