ZigZag Mountain 6/24/17 Trail Report
A great loop hike, but not now. (It’s June 25th as I write this.)
It’s a little too early. There's a piece of this trail that's still under heavy snow pack this year, and it’s nearly impassable.
Road to trailhead
Road 27 is about 20 miles from Sandy on Rt.26 heading toward Government Camp on Mt. Hood. The first half mile is blacktop, then a sharp left on gravel heads uphill. This is Forest Road 270, also called Ziz Zag Mountain Road. It’s about 3 miles to the trailhead. The road is very rough. Don’t even think about going up there in a little, low clearance car. See 23 second Youtube video.
Loop hike 9.5 miles
At the trailhead, walk back down the road about 100’ to trail #789. This will take you 2.3 miles to intersect Zig Zag Mt. Trail 775, (ZZMT#775) which actually runs all the way up to Timberline Trail and the PCT. I added a couple miles to the loop and went down trail #796 to Cast Lake. From the Cast Lake junction another 3/4 mile takes you to the junction with Burnt Lake Trail #767, and going to the right takes you the 3 miles back to the trailhead to complete the 9.5 mile loop or 11.4 miles if you add Cast Lake. The low point is 3310' and the high point is 4894', but with all the ups and downs, total elevation gains are 4775'.
Trail conditions 6/24/17
The first 2.3 miles is a beautiful forest hike, climbing 1300‘ and crossing a couple small streams. The trail is clear all the way. See Youtube video of a few of the stream crossings.
Once you’re on ZZMT#775, there are a few patches of snow and some small trees down, but nothing difficult.
That is, until you get past the junction with Horseshoe Ridge Trail and start traversing the north slope above Cast Lake. That's where I got into trouble. The patches of snow became continuous, and not only that, but the snow dragged down so many alder branches that the trail became very difficult. not seeing any flagging or blaze marks, it wasn't long before I lost the trail. I had to use the ViewRanger GPS app, but under a forest canopy I don't always trust it, so I also checked my topo map and compass. I had to bushwhack for about 20 minutes before finding the trail again. Hard going, through alder brush and up and over packed snow drifts 4-5' high.
They were bad. My trusty mosquito netting for my hat was right where I’d left it - at home. I changed from shorts and T shirt to long pants and long sleeved shirt to conserve my blood supply.
Cast Lake solitude
Part of the mile trail down to Cast Lake was also covered with snow patches, but it wasn’t a problem because you could always see where the trail continued on the other side of the patch. There were some wet areas because of the melting snow, but hey, that snow melt is what brings out the avalanche lilies, which seemed to be at the peak of their bloom, except for one patch I saw where they hadn’t opened up yet.
There is a junction with the Cast Creek Trail. Cast Lake is to the left. (Yogi Berra said “If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”)
Actually, you could go straight a little ways to a couple nice campsites if you’d like a fire. But I opted to go down to the lake and just cook with my ultralite gas stove.
Simple, filling supper
Instead of buying prepackaged freeze dried dinners and pouring boiling water into the bag and waiting 15 minutes, I prefer to buy freeze cried meals in #10 cans. I just put handfuls from the can into a ziplok bag. That way I can bring whatever size portions I want, and it’s cheaper that way. (Those who know me understand my reputation for frugality.) Then I simply throw the meal into a pot, add water, bring it to a boil, and continue to heat it on low for a couple minutes. Almost no waiting.
Sleeping in the woods
When you don’t need a tent, you can throw your sleeping bag down almost anywhere. There’s nothing like sleeping on a soft bed of pine needles or moss, although I always bring a pad in case I decide to sleep on a rocky mountaintop.
Testing phone charger/Review
By 9:30 PM, my phone was down to about 18%power remaining. Now was the test for my new Ventev Powercell 5000 charger. I connected the cable to the phone, turned on the charger and then was soon asleep.
I woke up a couple hours later to brilliant starlight; the Big Dipper almost right overhead. I checked my phone. It read 100% charge, which made me very happy. The Ventec Powercell did what it was supposed to do, and it did it
Sun rising in reverse
I couldn’t see the sun coming up; it was behind a northeast ridge. But I knew it was coming up, (LOL) because the sunlight on the wooded slope across the lake was coming down. If you watch the video on youtube, you can just about see the sunlight move. It’s always amazing to me to see how fast the sun (or the earth, actually) moves when you have something to measure against, as at sunrise and sunset. See Youtube video.
Even simpler breakfast
It’s the same procedure. Bulk rolled oats premixed in a ziplok bag at home, with brown sugar and raisins. Just dump in the pot, add water, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook a couple minutes more. Washed it down with a cup of instant coffee which was also premixed at home with sugar and creamer, just the way I like it.
Zig Zag Mountain
Back to ZZMT775 to continue the loop. Up and over the mountain top. Open trail on most of the top. Full of wildflowers. Great views of Mt. Hood and also you can see Mt.St.Helens and Mt.Adams to the north and Mt.Jefferson to the south.
Junction with Burnt Lake Trail #767
As you continue over the mountain, you’ll come to the junction. Going straight would take you on up to the PCT.
Going left would take you down to Burnt Lake. Going right takes you about 3 miles down to the trailhead. This will be a great hike as soon as that north slope traverse clears up – probably about mid July. Take a 4 wheel drive, mosquito repellent, and a head net. Happy trails to you!
More info on the full length of Zig Zag Mt. Trail, click here