Let’s celebrate the glorious 3-day weekend. And perhaps start a movement to make all summer weekends last that long? Please?
With weeks of temperatures hovering just below 100 degrees here in Portland, we desperately wanted to head to the mountains and do some swimming for the Fourth of July. But I figured everyone else would have the same idea, so I spent a little time scrolling through Google Maps, looking for alpine lakes not accessible by car. And that’s how I stumbled upon Twin Lakes in Mount Hood National Forest.
You have to hike into the lakes (2 miles from the parking area), which made me think it would be slightly less crowded than all of the other lakes nearby. (Crowd haters, party of 2.) There are two lakes (Lower Twin and Upper Twin), a mile’s hike from one another. We set up camp at Lower Twin Lake, a gorgeous area with towering trees and a bunch of campsites with views of the lake. Perfect.
Now, what’s the best way to put a damper on a holiday weekend? Get injured within an hour of arriving at the campsite. After setting up camp and changing into our swimsuits to enjoy a leisurely swim in Lower Twin Lake (the summer dream), we walked down to the water. And somehow, I got a stick lodged between my toe and toenail. And if you know anything about me, it’s that my pain tolerance is about a level 1. As with any injury involving blood, I immediately experienced the “I’m going to throw up or pass out” feeling that I’ve come to love. So I just sat down in the dirt while Dr. Eric came to my rescue and pulled out the stick with the handy splinter kit that happened to be in my day hiker’s first-aid pouch. We figured I probably shouldn’t enter the water for a swim with an open wound, so, rather than swimming, I just floated in my tube and read a magazine, while keeping my bandaged toe out of the water. It worked out pretty nicely.
Eric actually got to do some swimming, and said the water was clear enough to see the bottom all the way across the lake. And it’s not terribly deep, except, I’m assuming, in the area where there’s a rope swing into the water. There’s not enough thrill-seeker in me to try a rope swing, but everyone using it seemed to be having a blast.
After a bit of floating, we hiked a mile up to Upper Twin Lake, where we got this nice view of Mount Hood peeking over the trees. Upper Twin Lake appeared to be quite a bit shallower than Lower Twin Lake, but we did see someone swimming in it. We walked all the way around the lake, and if you’re looking for a quiet camping spot, I’d recommend one of the 3 we saw there.
What’s happening in the photo below might have been the highlight of the trip. Just two guys playing with light sabers in the middle of the forest. Glorious.
A few other great things about Twin Lakes? No mosquitoes! We didn’t have to use bug spray at all. I don’t know if all the bugs were just celebrating the holiday weekend elsewhere, but it was so glorious and bug-free (other than the dragonflies, which were all over us in the water). And despite the holiday weekend, the lake wasn’t terribly crowded, and we only passed a handful of people on the trails while hiking.
Despite the small crowds, it was not a quiet night at the campsite, thanks to one rowdy group of folks who kept me awake well past midnight (note to self: remember to pack ear plugs for the next camping trip). And we were awoken around 4:30 am by the folks packing up their camp next to us. But at least that got me out of the tent in time to see some sunrise colors over the lake.
After a leisurely breakfast, we went for a 6-mile (round trip) hike to Palmateer Point, which had this lovely view of Mount Hood. The viewpoint is an open, rocky area with great views all around (and one spot for camping, which would be SPECTACULAR).
To get to Twin Lakes, follow Highway 26 east of Portland, about 7 miles east of Government Camp to the Frog Lake Sno-Park. Northwest Forest Pass required. Bathrooms at the trail head. It’s a 2-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail to Lower Twin Lake. All of the trails in the area are very well marked with distances and directions.