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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.