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Spectacular Cascade Views from the Lunch Counter on Mt Adams

The wildflowers, sunset views, Milky Way, and meteors lessen the sting of a botched summit bid.

By: Jennifer Carr + Save to a List

After a summer spent in flip flops at sea level, we strapped on our boots and loaded packs to attempt to climb Mount Adams, Washington’s second tallest mountain.  Commonly referred to as the perfect peak for beginner mountaineers, Mount Adams is a non-technical climb that takes you to 12,276 feet.  Ambitious hikers attempt this in a day, but I prefer to sleep under the stars.

We began the hike at the Cold Springs Campground, where the parking lot overflowed with people cycling in and out of parking spaces as they arrived and departed.  The trail began at 5,600 feet and our destination for the night was a campsite at 9,400 feet known as the Lunch Counter.

The trail started open, wide, dry, and filled with wildflowers.  Distant views of Mt St Helens and Mt Hood filled the clear blue sky.  As the trail gained elevation it reached a snow field, which was easy to cross on the warm summer day.  The approach to the Lunch Counter is a steep but pleasant 4 mile climb with varied terrain. 

We arrived at the Lunch Counter in the late afternoon and found a football field sized area of campsites clustered throughout the lava field.  Rock walls framed the campsites, protecting tents from the harsh winds.  We chose a site near the water source to make things simple.

As we settled in to camp and I removed my boots, I found blister covered feet and toes that had seen better days.  I knew my summer in flip flops would prevent me from making the summit bid the following morning.  Despite my disappointment, I soaked up the experience as the sunset filled the sky with and orange hue, kissing the surrounding volcanic peaks.  We had a spectacular view of Mt St Helens, Mt Hood, and Mt Jefferson off in the distance. 

With pre-planning, I knew that the Milky Way would make an appearance so I was grateful for the lack of winds and the crystal clear sky.  The Perseids Meteor Shower was almost at peak and we were able to see dozens of shooting stars.  After marveling at the cosmos, we tucked into the tent for the night.  My partner woke early for the summit bid and set off by the light of a headlamp while I caught a few extra hours of sleep.

Dawn was chilly, but clear and I was grateful I had lugged a telephoto lens up the mountain so that I was able to watch the climbers travel up and down the approach to the false summit known as Pikers Peak.

After my partner’s successful summit and return to camp, we packed up for the down climb.  With the beautiful weather we were able to take our time as I hobbled down on battered feet, vowing to take my boots to the beach next summer. 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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