Sunday, November 02, 2008

Mount Adams - Horseshoe Meadows Tour

We toured this area September 24th. A summertime hike up here would reveal many wildflowers in the meadows and the sometimes open woods. We saw a few late lupines, pearly everlasting, and the foliage of several flowers, such as the evergreen partridge foot. The trail goes through forest and meadow and passes many interesting rugged rock outcrops.

The paucity of flowers was made good by an abundance of fungi, with many types present following the recent rains. By far the showiest is the fly agaric. Most common in the Fall, this forms symbiotic relationships with conifers here and with many species worldwide.

Fly Agaric, Amanita muscari

This is both psychedelic and poisonous. Despite the danger from ingesting too much, it is widely used for its psychoactive properties. More is not better however, and fatalities do occur from time to time. These are not necessarily from recreational users, but rather those who mistake it for an edible. There are species of Amanita which are truly edible, tasty and not psychedelic, but their appearance is exceedingly similar to those which fit no such criteria.

Originally native to most of the Northern Hemisphere, it has moved with nursery plants to most of the Southern Hemisphere too, so it now is truly cosmopolitan. Reports indicate it has new symbionts in the South - Southern beech (Nothofagus), related to the beeches of Eurasia and Eastern North America, and with Eucalyptus which has no relatives in the North.

Somehow this mushroom became associated with Christmas, especially in Europe. I have a pair of inherited antique Christmas ornaments which feature red and white miniature ceramic Amanitas. Their history has been lost but I do know they were considered old by 1950. Perhaps the red recalls old Saint Nick, or their fruiting just before the holidays made for the association.

The goal of this day hike is Horseshoe Meadow. Following the Pacific Crest Trail on a steady climb, in about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) you reach the intersection with the Stagman Ridge Trail. This is another route to this area of the mountain. It starts higher but requires a long rough section of gravel road. Another half mile or so (700 meters) past this junction brings you to the Round The Mountain Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail heads North along with the Round The Mountain Trail. Horseshoe Meadow is just uphill from the junction. Its elevation is about 5900 feet, a little below treeline. The mountain dominates the view.

Horseshoe Meadow and Mount Adams

The picture shows a lenticular cloud atop Adams. These weather clouds result from high winds, peak crossing updrafts and moist air. They form over all the high volcanic peaks of the Northwest. Even with good conditions elsewhere, it will be harsh atop the mountain just under that cap. The cloud forms from very minute water droplets.

The name Round The Mountain Trail is something of a misnomer - it does not fully circle the peak, not passing around the East side, all of which is part of the Yakima Indian Reservation. It does process from the Northwest to the Southwest sides.

Moraine on Mount Adams

The lateral moraine of Avalanche Glacier is a pale brown for the most part, with darker flows marking it. The coloration is the result of the rock being ground up by the glacier. How the dark areas formed I an not certain.

Mount Adams was mostly glacier covered during the last ice age. High up much of it was sheet glaciation, with broad areas covered without deep valley erosion. Sometimes as it flowed downhill the ice would gather itself into valley glaciers, carving deep, steep-sided canyons. One example is between Stagman and Crofton Ridges. The landforms revealed after the glaciers are gone are quite different. The drop down off Crofton Ridge into Cascade Creek Canyon is now over 1600 feet (500 meters). Relief in the sheet glaciated areas may only be 200 feet (60 meters) or less. Commonly this is in cliffs and steep sided hollows.

Glacial striations along the PCT

Moving ice is the defining characteristic of glaciers. Icefields do not move. If they do they cease to be icefields and become glaciers. Rock embedded in that moving ice gouges the bedrock they pass over, leaving easily seen linear features in the stone. These striations are on the sides of a shallow valley, where they were abraded by the sides of the glacier. More often they are found at the bottom once under the glacier’s full mass.

Directions to the trailhead: Take SR 14 to the Trout Lake Turnoff. From Vancouver simply head East on 14. From the Oregon Side take I-5 East to the Hood River Bridge across the Columbia, turning left at the end, then take the first right onto Highway 141 towards Trout Lake.

At the first stop sign, go straight. Go straight (sort of a right) past Trout Lake, turning left soon after onto FS Road 23, This eventually intersects FS Road 521. Turn right and travel a short distance. The Pacific Crest Trail 2000 crosses the road just before a trailer park along this road. Parking is along the left.

You head left here - its easy to want to go right since the Mountain has been in that direction for most of the drive. The spur turns 90 degrees however, and right is now away from Adams.