7 miles of hiking • 2000' elevation gain •
It was an interesting drive to the Thunder Mountain Trailhead. After leaving the Clackamas River area, we headed up forest service roads, winding our way up to the trailhead. Past trip reports stated the road being suitable for passenger vehicles, and it MOSTLY was. Lots of trees were down across the road, but luckily it looked like someone had recently gone through with a chain saw and made a path just wide enough for a car for each one down. Same with a few landslides, the rocks were moved just enough for a car to pass through. The last mile to the trailhead was very overgrown. Fans of your car paint job beware.
The road seemed to run out, and we saw the unmarked pullout for our start.
The second we stepped out of our vehicles, the swarm came. The most vicious awful vile kind of pest, the mosquito. I was grateful I had finally purchased a bug net for my head, but I might have to invest in the full body version. They were relentless.
Eager to get moving, we started our ascent. It was relatively short and mild up to the junction between Thunder and Skookum Lake. The day was still cloudy/drizzly so we decided to save the summit of Thunder for our way back as the skies were expected to clear up later in the day.
We began our descent down to Skookum Lake, passing a burn zone with a narrow path trying to qualify as a proper trail. Beware, a fall here would not end well. However, this is the only sort of sketchy section of trail, and as the switchbacks came, the trail widened a bit and had less of a drop off. We passed numerous giant ant mounds, and stood in awe as the little guys went about their work.
The trail was faint at times, overgrown, and could definitely benefit from more boots on the ground. Eventually we came to a perfect snack spot, complete with strange and interesting mossy rock formations. More switchbacks to follow.
We scouted the turn-off for Baty, finding the trail where it faintly began past the meadow. We continued down to the lake, where the sun was now shining, and the mosquitoes gave us a bit of a break. A nice long rest was had, as we mulled over whether we had time to try for the scramble up Baty. We decided we should have gotten an earlier start, as the path was likely going to involve bushwhacking, so it was scrapped for another day.
Kat had walked the entire length of the wildwood by herself on her birthday earlier in the week, and my other hiking partner was carrying 9 liters of water in his pack for training, so I lead us back up at a leisurely pace. We made it to the top of Thunder, and could see Jefferson and the Three Sisters waving to us. Most of the other peaks were obscured by stubborn clouds. I'll have to make it up on a clearer day. One of the best views was actually had at a spur off of the junction of 542/543, where you can scramble out on the ridge.
In all, a pleasant day, despite the best efforts of the evil skeeters.