My wife and I brought two suitcases with us when traveling to Oregon in late July of 2015. One contained our clothing for a wedding ceremony and subsequent week of vacation. The other contained my mountaineering equipment for an ascent of Mt. Hood. The wedding was completed without too much complication, but Mt. Hood was not as simple.
A stop at REI to gather local intel revealed that an exceptionally hot and dry summer had taken its toll on the summit conditions. Little ice, loose and falling rock, and poor snow conditions were enough to dissuade me from the climb, so I asked for alternate recommendations. South Sister was an easy second choice, being a non-technical hike to the summit at 10,358 feet. South Sister is about 30 miles west of Bend, which equated to a 4-hours drive from our hotel room. Mt. Hood was only 1-hour away, but an early start and a steady pace allowed me to finish in one day.
Still coughing from a 3 week battle with a lung infection and totally not adjusted to the altitude, I felt sluggish and tired as people passed me up the hill. I took my time to admire a new type of wilderness I can’t experienced in the East. The hike on the dusty earth and loose volcanic ash was rewarded with a calm wind, cool air, and warm sunshine at the summit.
On the return trip to Portland I stopped at Smith Rock, a mecca for rock climbers around the world. I had just enough time to stop and admire the landscape before resuming the long return trip.