Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

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bobcat
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Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

Post by bobcat » September 2nd, 2020, 8:12 am

I hadn’t been on these two trails since the Dollar Fire (2011). Almost the entire length of the Elk Cove Trail was scorched in that blaze, and only the uppermost section of the Pinnacle Ridge Trail escaped it.

I parked at the Elk Cove Trailhead and hiked the 1 ¼ miles up decommissioned FR 2840-650. Once around the bend in the road, views open up immediately through the standing conifer corpses – across the Clear Branch to Vista Ridge and Owl Point as well as The Pinnacle on the next ridge west. Once the trail proper begins, you’re soon on the ridge crest that takes you all the way to Elk Cove, and Mt. Hood’s glaciered north face is visible most of the time.

Trailhead kiosk, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
View to The Pinnacle from the road, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
View to Owl Point from the Elk Cove Trail.jpg
Old sign at road, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
Mt. Hood from lower on the ridge, Elk Cove Trail.jpg

Nine years after the fire, there’s now a dense understory of post-fire shrubbery: Scouler’s willow, western larch, manzanita, snow brush, huckleberry, bear-grass, and chinquapin. There are a few small stands where there wasn’t crown fire, but the whole time you are in the burn.

Larch understory, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
Forest of skeletons, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
Chinquapin, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
View to Hood River Valley, Elk Cove Trail.jpg

I stopped at the rocky viewpoint (the Lowe guidebooks call it Inspiration Point) which gives a clear view up to the mountain and the tumbling Coe Glacier. Below, the Coe Branch and Compass Creek come together, with Canon Ball (sp?) Falls a.k.a. Lower Compass Creek Falls plainly visible. (The original Elk Cove Trail came up this valley from the east side of the Eliot Branch and arrived at the ridge crest north of the viewpoint; that was before they put in all the logging roads.)

View to Canon Ball Falls (Lower Compass Creek Falls), Elk Cove Trail.jpg
Mt. Hood from Inspiration Point, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
Fireweed carpet, Elk Cove Trail.jpg

From the viewpoint, I hiked on up to cross Cove Creek and then passed numerous campsites (all empty) before arriving at Elk Cove itself. I took the short jaunt along the Timberline Trail that cuts across the northern reach of Barrett Spur and then dove down the Pinnacle Ridge Trail.

Junction with Timberline Trail, Elk Cove Trail.jpg
Barrett Spur from Elk Cove, Timberline Trail.jpg
Towhead babies, Elk Cove, Timberline Trail.jpg
Passing over Barrett Spur, Timberline Trail.jpg
Small-flowered paintbrush (Castilleja parviflora), Timberline Trail.jpg
Small-flowered paintbrush (pink version), Timberline Trail.jpg
Pink mountain heather, Timberline Trail.jpg

This section of the Pinnacle Ridge Trail is a delight, passing down heather meadows and passing over burbling tributaries of the Clear Branch. Wildflowers are still very much in bloom along the creek verges. The edge of the burn is just south of Pinnacle Meadows, a boggy open space that offers views to Mt. Adams and is now swaying with cottongrass. As usual, the sections of trail near the bogs are a little overgrown; this is a situation that hasn’t changed in decades and I did a bit of snipping here and there as I walked.

Junction with Pinnacle Ridge Trail, Timberline Trail.jpg
Upper end of the Pinnacle Ridge Trail.jpg
Monkey flower, paintbrush, etc., Clear Branch tributary, Pinnacle Ridge Trail.jpg
Cottongrass and The Pinnacle, Pinnacle Meadows, Pinnacle Ridge Trail.jpg
Cottongrass, Pinnacle Meadows, Pinnacle Ridge Trail.jpg

From here on down, it’s all burn. I passed close to The Pinnacle and then traversed below talus outcroppings inhabited by indignant pikas. The trail arrives at the old trailhead and then runs east of the decommissioned road until it gets to the current trailhead. This is about 1 ¾ miles from the Elk Cove Trailhead by narrow gravel road, but only about 700 yards away if you bushwhack down the clearcut slope to FR 2840. (Walk about 250 yards down the road before you cut down the slope – lots of downed trees and debris – to reach 2840, where you turn right to get to the Elk Cove Trailhead.) It would be nice if they just made a connector trail down here some day.

Skeletal forest, Pinnacle Ridge Trail.jpg
Top of The Pinnacle, Pinnacle Ridge Trail.jpg
At the Pinnacle Ridge Trailhead.jpg
On the descent to the Elk Cove Trailhead.jpg
From the off-trail descent to the Elk Cove Trailhead.jpg

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TwoPaw
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Re: Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

Post by TwoPaw » September 2nd, 2020, 10:33 am

I like these two trails - and they always seem quieter than other approaches to the mountain.
One time I did the loop with a bike shuttle - I parked my car at Pinnacle TH, then biked down to Elk Cove TH and hid the bike in the trees, and hiked up from there. When I got back down to Pinnacle TH I got in my car then drove down the hill to Elk Cove TH and retrieved the bike.

A bonafide connector would be awesome - with so many folks hiking around the mtn. these days we need more trails and connections.

Last time I did Elk Cove trail downfall was horrendous. Is it clear now?

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adamschneider
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Re: Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

Post by adamschneider » September 2nd, 2020, 12:31 pm

I took a picture of that same weirdly pink paintbrush two days earlier.

20200829-165552.jpg

How did you not mention the MASSIVE AMOUNT OF HUCKLEBERRIES & BLUEBERRIES on the Pinnacle Ridge Trail? :)

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Chip Down
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Re: Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

Post by Chip Down » September 2nd, 2020, 8:04 pm

It would be nice if they just made a connector trail down here some day.
Just pick up a copy of the National Geographic 2012 Mount Hood Wilderness map, and carry that on your hike. Problem solved! (You may find that some of the "trails" on this map are overgrown and don't show any evidence they ever existed, in which case you can write to Nat Geo, and I'm sure they'll be happy to ignore you.)

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Re: Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

Post by justpeachy » September 3rd, 2020, 6:14 pm

Did you look for the foundation of the old now-gone shelter at Elk Cove? I know it's there somewhere, although I didn't find it during my most recent visit in August. This photo was taken by Tom Kloster:

Image

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drm
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Re: Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

Post by drm » September 3rd, 2020, 7:10 pm

adamschneider wrote:
September 2nd, 2020, 12:31 pm
How did you not mention the MASSIVE AMOUNT OF HUCKLEBERRIES & BLUEBERRIES on the Pinnacle Ridge Trail? :)
He ate them all?

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bobcat
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Re: Elk Cove – Pinnacle Ridge Loop – 8-31-20

Post by bobcat » September 4th, 2020, 8:27 am

TwoPaw wrote:
September 2nd, 2020, 10:33 am
One time I did the loop with a bike shuttle
I did it as a bike shuttle once as well. That was before the fire and before the clearcuts. The clearcuts make the off-trail descent a more enticing proposition since you can see where you're going.
adamschneider wrote:
September 2nd, 2020, 12:31 pm
How did you not mention the MASSIVE AMOUNT OF HUCKLEBERRIES & BLUEBERRIES on the Pinnacle Ridge Trail?
Yes, lots of blueberries around the upper bogs. As for huckleberries, I grabbed a few handfuls but they didn't seem as abundant as you infer, perhaps because of the profligate gluttony of those who preceded me on the trail.
Chip Down wrote:
September 2nd, 2020, 8:04 pm
Just pick up a copy of the National Geographic 2012 Mount Hood Wilderness map, and carry that on your hike.
Haha! I had that map in my pack but I didn't look at it until after the hike. They have both the Elk Cove and Pinnacle Ridge Trails starting down by Laurance Lake. My theory (based on no evidence whatsoever) is that they were making the map around the time of the Dollar Fire and some official told them that the access roads to the trailheads would be permanently closed or something, so they went ahead and inserted the "changes."
justpeachy wrote:
September 3rd, 2020, 6:14 pm
Did you look for the foundation of the old now-gone shelter at Elk Cove?
I remember seeing the foundation probably about 30 years ago. Now I've forgotten where it is and haven't bothered to look for it on many subsequent visits to Elk Cove. A worthy objective when I pass through there again.

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