Cooks Meadow Trail to Lookout Mountain 7-14-22

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bobcat
Posts: 2535
Joined: August 1st, 2011, 7:51 am
Location: SW Portland

Cooks Meadow Trail to Lookout Mountain 7-14-22

Post by bobcat » July 16th, 2022, 7:51 am

The Cooks Meadow Trail runs about 8 ½ miles from FR 44 up to High Prairie. The trail has been repurposed as a mountain bike route, almost never used by hikers, with looping curves replacing switchbacks. I took my hybrid bike (not suitable for the trail) and left it at the High Prairie Trailhead before starting the hike at the pullout on FR 44 where the Cooks Meadow Trail crosses it.

The trail is in two equal segments, the lower segment forming the western boundary of The Dalles Watershed, with No Trespassing signs popping up now and then. It doesn’t enter Cooks Meadow, which is a little east of the trail but not much of a meadow any more. The only trail users I saw on this day were three bikers coming down this lower segment, which winds up through a mixed conifer forest, occasionally passing through open glades and clearcuts that have reverted to meadows. Wildflowers were at their prime and insects (no mosquitoes) were busy everywhere, either pollinating or consuming pollinators. There had been a ladybird irruption, and these colorful little beetles were delightedly snagging small invertebrates that came to the blooms. (The ladybirds, I was disappointed to note, were all seven-spots, a non-native species imported to deal with aphid infestations.) A flower spider camouflaging on a silvercrown was sucking the life juices out of a flower fly.

Trail sign at FR 44, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
The Dalles Watershed sign, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Glaucus penstemon (Penstemon euglaucus), Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Mountain hemlock forest, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Spotted coralroot (Corallorhiza maculata) and aphids, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Starry Solomon plume (Maianthemum stellatum), Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Puffballs, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Seven-spotted ladybird beetles on lupine, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Spruce forest, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Pinewoods horkelia (Horkelia fusca), Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Spreading stickseed (Hackelia diffusa), Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Flower spider and victim, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg

The trail passes the summit of Point 5388, an open rocky prominence with a view to Lookout Mountain and, through the trees, to Mt. Hood. The summit area was a carpet of sunflowers, penstemon, and goldenrod just budding out.

Sunflowers on Point 5388, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Mt. Hood through the trees, Point 5388, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg

After the trail crosses FR 4410, it hugs the western rim of the ridge and dips below the rim to pass through a series of colorful wildflower meadows offering great views to the east side of Hood and along the ridge to Gunsight Butte. Then there’s a long section winding up through montane forest with more glades and a couple of rocky viewpoints looking west. The trail ends at FR 3550 near the junction with FR 4410.

Wildflowers and Gunsight Butte, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Skyrocket, lupine, buckwheat, Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Oregon catchfly (Silene oregana), Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Sulphur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum), Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Mt. Hood from the Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg
Subalpine daisy (Erigeron peregrinus), Cooks Meadow Trail.jpg

I walked over to the High Prairie Trailhead, checked that my bike was still there, and commenced the loop up to Lookout Mountain, doing it anticlockwise. There were great views from the summit ridge – Mt. Rainier to the Three Sisters. The east side of the loop goes down the old lookout road, which actually hasn’t been logged out although the blowdown was easily passable. There were a few big snow patches lingering here. The Dog River begins as a trickle in High Prairie, and the shooting stars and cinquefoil decorated the meadows.

Trailhead for the High Prairie Trail.jpg
Tall mountain shooting star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi), High Prairie Trail.jpg
Through the meadows, High Prairie Trail.jpg
Mt. Hood from the High Prairie Trail.jpg
Rainier and Adams from Lookout Mountain, High Prairie Trail.jpg
Subalpine fir young cones, Lookout Mountain.jpg
Mt. Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, Three Sisters, Lookout Mountain.jpg
Male cones, whitebark pine, Lookout Mountain.jpg
View to the summit, Lookout Mountain.jpg
Lookout road, High Prairie Trail.jpg
Adams and Rainier from the High Prairie Trail.jpg
Beginning of the Dog River, High Prairie Trail.jpg

I picked up my bike and started down FR 4410. The washboards I hadn’t really noticed driving here in the Subaru were amplified by a factor of 10 on the bike, so it was a shuddering, skiddy ride on loose gravel. It was only a mile or so back to the car once I reached paved FR 44.

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Don Nelsen
Posts: 4183
Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
Location: Vancouver, WA

Re: Cooks Meadow Trail to Lookout Mountain 7-14-22

Post by Don Nelsen » July 18th, 2022, 10:01 am

Thanks for the report and the photos. Looks like a fun hike.

I know what you mean about washboard roads on a bike! Difficult to say the least. I've noticed that with a car, the faster you go, the better it gets but you can't go fast enough on a bike.
"Everything works in the planning stage".

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