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Posts Tagged ‘Mt. Hood’

Mt. Hood and extending ridges.

I thought Mt. Hood was pretty neat from the south side, but from the Timberline Trail and the north side, I found myself stopping and just staring at the mountain in utter awe.  The gigantic ridges that sprang from the bases of glaciers shot out all around it, making Mt. Hood oddly resemble a spider with a central part of mosquito-eating awesomeness with huge legs extending outward.  To get to the Timberline Trail, we had climbed up on of those leg-like ridges to the Lodge.

Built in the 1930s as a CCC project, the architecture was something so admirable, even someone who knew very little on the subject had to stop and say “wow.”  Huge full, old growth trees made wide pillars supporting the structure surrounded by incredibly intricate carvings on banisters, railings, the ceiling and everywhere.  This is where we hung out while the wind ravaged the trees and the rain obscured our view of the beauty surrounding us.  The weather did clear somewhat in the late afternoon, but the wind refused to die which made the air temperature very uncomfortable.  When we heard about a bunk room deal, a “chalet” that the employee’s all seemed to call formally, we took it and it averaged out to be $15/person with five people sleeping in it.

So, we drank more beer, ate more buffets, hot tubbed, and relaxed at the end of our ten mile day.  We hikers took over the hot tub after dinner and only three other people stayed in, probably because they thought we were all crazy and they found us amusing.  At least the feeling was mutual because two of them, a father-son duo, told us all they had plans to climb Mt. Hood in the morning and found it weird that the company had second thoughts about renting them gear.  We had reservations as well, which we voiced very vocally and making sure they had enough sense to figure out when they were completely over their heads and needed to turn around.  We also tried to hammer into their heads that there was no shame in turning around.  Neither of them had ever done any mountaineering or even handled an ice axe.  They kept asking us where the route went up the mountain since they had not though to pick up a map or even do internet research of the various summit routes.  They worried me.

In the morning, we had a lazy start eating buffet breakfast, sleeping in, packing and repacking.  It helped that we had to vacate the

Into the Tunnel

room by 11am so once again we had to return to vagrant status of bumming space in the open lounge near the bar.  Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I examined the maps and decided that despite leaving around noon-30, we still had time to slackpack 18 miles and meet Dead at the next road crossing where we hoped to find a small spot to camp for the night.

We set off into a beautiful arena of blue skies and sharp mountain lines and excellent photographic moments.  It seemed as though we never had enough time to take a picture of Mt. Hood from each angle possible.  We realized quickly that we would have to keep moving to make it to Dead’s car and the rest of our stuff at a decent hour.  The terrain did not seem too terribly difficult on the elevation profile but in reality, going down off of one ridge, crossing a large stream, then going up the next ridge and repeating that over and over got tiring.  Some of the ups and downs were 1000+ feet each drop and climb.  The glacial melt water that came down off of Mt. Hood also presented interesting challenges.  Quite a few of them stopped us for a few moments to assess the best way across without a.) getting wet, b.) getting swept down stream over large rocks, and c.) getting to a spot on the other side where we could move toward the trail since some possible ways across would end in a small 10 ft vertical cliff that we couldn’t shimmy up.  The Zigzag river was the worst of those instances.

After several exhausting climbs, we went down, down, down, and took a short alternate that went to Ramona Falls.  It was a 2.1 mile swap for 2.1 miles of PCT with roughly the same elevation gain and loss, so we deemed it a worthwhile adventure.  It most certainly was magical in essence.  The falls themselves covered an entire wall that loomed above us and the water thinly cascaded down, almost vertically making a sheen that glimmered in the light that poked through the trees.  The area was visually water-rich and was completely green save for the water itself.  Moss grew everywhere and in so many varieties that both Hop-a-long and I stopped several times to examine certain strains we hadn’t seen before.  The moisture held in the air and we breathed in the freshness that emanated from the moss.

Getting back to the trail, we had another adventure.  We had to cross the muddy river that stretched wide and full of glacial melt water.  Supposedly, we would hit a horse ford first and had the option of going upstream a quarter-mile to where a bridge might or might not still exist.  We trekked up a bit, but saw no signs of anything promising except for two very large trees spanning the width of the river.  Relatively easily crossing them like balance beams, we got almost to the other side, but we found no fantastic way around the large root system that came up with the larger of the two trees except to scale some of them and pass between two large roots.

Once we escaped the roots, we had a sharp 1000 foot climb and then down to Lolo Pass where Dead waited patiently for us.  The climb had switchbacks, but after climbing over all the ridges, it seemed more difficult than it actually was.  Apparently, people tend to cut the switchbacks there because we saw giant signs saying “PLEASE DO NOT CUT SWITCHBACKS” at their beginning and end.

We found Dead Animal and Tahoe drinking beer at Lolo Pass and Hop-a-long and I immediately jumped on dinner preparations since the climbs had sucked all our energy and fat stores right out.  Drinking some good old PBRs and double stuff Oreos held the hunger off while we sautéed up some onions and peppers with soy chorizo and crammed all in tortillas.  Then ate two a piece.

Tunnel Falls

Looking at the maps, we saw we could do a 30 mile day into Cascade Locks, the last town on the Oregon/Washington border if we took the Eagle Creek Alternate (which we fully intended to do anyway).  We set our alarms for an early 5:00am and set off by 6am.  We grumbled because it was cold and dark, but we moved to stay warm and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

The first 14 miles blew by, pun intended.  We reached a high point where supposedly, we should have gotten a fantastic view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer, and Mt. St. Helens, but the wind whipped up something fierce there and it was all either Hop-a-long or I could do to walk straight and half-run, half-get-blown down the trail to the trees where we could breathe and walk straight.  So much for that view!

Luckily, that meant we had just about reached the Indian Springs “Campground” where the alternate began.  We finally took a decent sized break…more than five minutes and searched for the trail.  The abandoned campground was blatantly obvious, but the side trail was not obvious in the slightest.  We re-read and re-read Yogi’s characteristic two paragraphs of directions and eventually we stumbled up the stream she mentions and blocked by a considerable amount of foliage was the sign we were looking for.

We crashed down the “trail” which really was a hiker-user trail that was not maintained to link the PCT with the Eagle Creek Trail.  I had to slow down considerably due to the steepness and not wanting my knees to give out on me.  Hop-a-long bombed down and waited for me at the first waterfall.  I was not about to have sore knees at the beginning of a 4,000 foot decent to the Columbia River.  The connector trail took out 2000 feet of it in just under two miles, then the Eagle Creek Trail (heavily used and very popular due to close proximity to Portland) took us down another 2,000 feet over several miles past a large array of waterfalls.

The entire trail was constructed with dynamite and had lines to hold onto since it ran the side of a gorge and the side dropped anywhere from 30-70 feet.  Tunnel Falls was the most neat; it had a hole dynamited out and we walked through it, behind the waterfall.

The best part: Dead Animal came hiking up with two pizzas (right side up in one hand) for Hop-a-long and I.  We were so hungry, we sat and ate it right there.  The three of us then meandered down to his car and then over to Shrek’s where we met some usual characters and some unexpected ones.

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Thoroughly debating the state of Cookie Monster’s burned foot, we decided to press on right after a brief chat with Splinter.

“Where have you been?” Hop-a-long asked since he should have been only a few miles behind us.

“Ya know,” he sighed, “I was trying to get way further than I was but then I hit Russel Creek and I heard the water rushing quite quickly underneath all that snow and ice at night and I didn’t feel safe crossing it, so I set up camp right then and there.”

“Safe decision,” I said thinking about how glad I was we hit that in the daytime and properly assessed it.

We trotted onward and upward and away from the very expensive Ollalie Lake Resort.

Then we ran into a worried woman and her teenage daughter both complete with large weekend packs that went over their heads.

“You guys know it’s hunting season, right?” she stammered.

“Oh, no. Huh.” Cookie said unconcerned.

“Well you’ll be fine once you hit the Indian Reservation because there’s no hunting over there,” she mentioned.

After she left we thought about what she said and how worried she was.  “Then why is she hiking south, away from the reservation?” Cookie asked me.

“She also had no blaze orange on either,” I pondered.  It was one of those “Huh.” moments where that’s all you can say without acting like a rude smart mouth.

We pushed on, into the night contouring up the side of one hill, then another, and then another.  Eventually, we camped in Pinhead Saddle where Hop-a-long had found a fantastically flat campsite.  Cookie crashed out immediately, Hop-a-long sewed up her skirt, and I read some Game of Thrones on my phone.

Timothy Lake

In the morning, we got moving early and pushed for a long day.  Cookie’s foot wasn’t any better and he was simply trying not to think about it.  He kept it wrapped to avoid infection and pulled an amazing feat of mind-over-matter and ignored it for the 30 mile day we logged.  The terrain did not present too many challenges, so the walking seemed pleasant and flowing.  We had a hearty lunch and a little whiskey near Timothy Lake which looked like it would have great swimming if the weather had been warmer.  I almost lamented the utter hot obnoxious weather of California which pushed me to swim every chance I got just to get the sweat off of me, then I remembered my eyeballs sweating and that thought shot straight out of my mind.

The trail followed the lake for several miles of beauty until it dipped over to begin contouring up another hill and we found ourselves back in the Doctor Seuss trees with their glow in the dark looking moss.  Unfortunately, it did not glow in the dark, but I did imagine a million different Halloween wig styles that one could create with the moss.

We had a slight water gap where we had to find a seeping spring for which Yogi gave several paragraphs of information on how to find it.  In actuality, a wood plant with “water” written on it and an arrow pointed almost directly to it.  We just had to climb over one blowdown to get there.  Out of exhaustion, we almost camped there that night since it was only a few minutes until dark and our bodies were going on the “screw you, I’m tired” mode while the mind told it “only a few more miles…”

Plugging on, we walked into the darkness and contoured a large ridge going up, then cruising around it until we hit hwy 26/35 which could take us directly to Portland.  We signed a register, then noticed a note that said there was a picnic table and a privy right across the street.  Done and done.  Hop-a-long, Cookie Monster and I took over that picnic table and camped right there after enjoying tasty whiskey beverages.

Right before bed, Splinter and Inspector Gadget passed by.  They wanted to make sure to get buffet breakfast at Timberline Lodge.  Admirable goal considering we have all heard about the breakfast and lunch buffets at Timberline Lodge for hundreds of miles.  Not to mention you can stare at the beautiful Mt. Hood in the process.

I woke up to a light rain on my tent.  Just enough that it would drive me nuts and just enough that I had to have a jacket on due to the wind and colder temperature.  I packed up as quickly as possible noticing that Hop-a-long had mysteriously already got up and left, probably in food desperation as she was down to a cliff bar or two for the last ten miles and I knew she was still hungry going to bed.  Eventually, I found where Cookie Monster had ensconced himself in trees and made sure he woke up, then I began heading up Mt. Hood toward Timberline.

There was one large hill to go up and over, then a sharp 2,000 ft climb up to the Timberline Trail that the PCT followed for a ways around treeline.  The weather was miserable.  As long as I stayed moving, I stayed decently warm and ok, but I, too, was running incredibly low on food and had gotten particularly hungry through this stretch.  I think some of it had to do with the fact that I had no extra body fat stored on me to kick into gear.  I took about a 10 minute break to guzzle some water and stuff a cliff bar to the face before I became wicked cold and had to almost jog up the first half of the 2,000ft climb to warm up.  It was the first time I had been able to keep my shell on while climbing and not end up drenched in sweat.  Of course by the time I reached the Timberline Trail, I had already burned though the 240 calories of the cliff bar and my stomach made its hungry state known by growling loudly at me.  To make matters worse, the last mile up was all sand!  With every step up, I slid back down a bit.  My stomach certainly was not pleased then.

Timberline Lodge

Once I made it to Timberline Lodge, I beelined for it thinking only of how hungry I was when I ran into Dead Animal who had driven up to hang out and do some more slackpacking for us.  We went inside to find Hop-a-long, Splinter, Inspector Gadget, Tickled Pink, Last on the Bus, Blood Bank, Panorama and Xana.  Cookie rolled in not too much longer than that and thus began our waiting out of the weather.  We got to wait it out in the best spot possible: Timberline Lodge, location of filming of the movie The Shining.

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2,000 Miles Down!

We collected Cookie Monster at Santiam Pass, where my Mom dropped Hop-a-long and I off around 1pm.  He managed to get away from his real job for five days in order to hike 100 miles with us to Timberline Lodge.  We were both super excited to see him.  He brought his usual large pack full of goodies and his constant supply of Swedish fish (except they weren’t exactly Swedish, they came from a gas station on the route).

After we drank a few remaining beers that my Mom had gotten and my Dad so graciously paid for, we set off in the surprisingly hot afternoon weather.  The burned terrain offered little to no shade and the threat of having to walk through the lava rocks loomed over us for miles.  Due to so many volcanoes in the vicinity, this did not surprise us, but our feet told us they did not wish more torture.  I had just switched sandals again, which seemed to instantly make my feet feel better as well as my knees.  I believe the foam had decreased so much that I had no padding in the second pair of best-sandals-ever, Tevas.  They lasted 1000 miles, just like the first pair, but the time had come to retire them.

This section, unlike the last, had far more elevation change, albeit nice grades.  We climbed for almost 8 miles and above 6,000 feet on the west side of Three Fingered Jack.  Upon getting a clear view of Three Fingered Jack, it did appear as though some guy, presumably named Jack, had raised his hand in the air and had somehow lost his ring finger leaving the pointer, middle, and pinky fingers.  Contouring the side of the mountain gave us all kinds of views of Jack’s hand and missing finger.

At the north end of our contour, we looked out at the taller Mt. Jefferson from Porcupine Rock.  By now, the sun had seeped all extra moisture from our bodies as if wringing out a sponge, while our livers began demanding the extra liquid to process the beer we had drunk at the trailhead.  Result: headache.  Not horrible though.

In true PCT fashion, we went down around 1,000 feet, only to climb back up 1,000 feet.  The downhills always seem way shorter even if the distance is, in fact, longer–all much to my chagrin.  Our final ascent back above 6,000 feet we did at dusk.  We reached Rockpile Lake with headlamps and it took us a few extra minutes to sort out our surroundings.  We first came across a small, gross, unmarked pond with a marshy area around it which did not provide great camping.  However, upon further investigation, we stumbled upon the actual lake, which was less gross and actually had a spur trail around it leading to various great, flat, cleared campsites.  We were thrilled!

Hop-a-long and I set up our tents in the biggest flat spot while Cookie Monster set up his hammock in some nearby trees.  We all cooked dinner together and listened to the luxury of the speakers Cookie had packed out.  His iPod on shuffle changed genres and generations more often than Lady Gaga changes her fashion statements.

In the morning, we had the most relaxed on trail start that I remembered.  We did not leave until 8:30 am after sleeping in until just past 7am.  Crazy!  We bounced around on contours and ridge lines for quite some time, chatting, snacking, and laughing before plunging down to around 4,000 feet to cross Milk Creek, which was indeed Milky and one of many milk creeks to come.  It meant we would begin to climb up the side of Mt. Jefferson to contour around with fantastic views like the other volcanoes.

The climb, however, was about 3,000 feet of elevation gain over about 8 miles and was separated into three sections of roughly

Left: Old Sandals, Right: New Sandals

1,000 feet.  We managed the first two sections, then stopped to eat dinner at what looked like the last water source on the map. We sat in what the map called “Jefferson Park” and it definitely seemed like a park; a wide, lake filled plateau stretched out around us with small streams feeding various lakes and quaint tree clumps.

After dinner, we had the final 1,000 foot push up and over the last ridge we would climb and then enter Mt. Hood Wilderness.  It was also the steepest and took us a bit of extra time since we were tired at the end of the day.  A man, base camped somewhere in Jefferson Park, had gone off on a day hike with his two misbehaved dogs who growled and barked and ran at us.  Really dude?

We reached the top of the ridge right at dark and had to turn on our headlamps, only to see the biggest snow field we had seen yet on the PCT in 2012.  It stretched on well past where our headlamps could reach, so we examined the map and regrouped.  We had to make a sharp right angle turn, which we found without snow, but then the trail plunged downhill into the snow abyss.  Dirty footprints marked the way for a wee bit until they started contouring when we knew we were not supposed to contour, but rather, go uncharacteristically straight down the slope.  We found a cairn and then the dirty footprints disappeared.  Despite knowing we did not want to contour more, we did just that to get onto rocks and layer up to figure out a way down.  The warmth had gone away with the sun and we had just our headlamps and the stars to guide our way.  We went back to the cairn and broke apart there.  I stood at the cairn so we would have the last point of trail, Cookie went down slowly, and Hop went back over the footprints a bit.  We did not go far apart so we could all still communicate.

“It’s down here!” Cookie yelled when he hit rocks again and found a cairn where we suspected the trail hid underneath the snow.  Hop-a-long and I made our way down to him and we repeated the process two more times before reaching a marked campsite near some ponds which was really not a campsite, but it worked.  Unfortunately, there were no trees, so Cookie had to bivy instead of setting up his hammock.

We jammed out to Cookie’s iPod with speakers while eating dinner, gazing at the very star-filled sky and staying warm.  I went to lay down and try to sleep earlier, but all of a sudden I heard,

“Oh hey look!” Cookie said, “a headlamp coming down.”

“I bet it’s Splinter!” Hop-a-long said excitedly.  She began using her headlamp to signal the single headlamp down to the trail.

“I bet it’s Inspector Gadget,” I said from inside my cozy tent and warm sleeping bag.

About 10 minutes later, the headlamp came close and it was indeed Inspector Gadget who thanked her for the headlamp signal since he did not have hardly any tread left on his shoes or hiking poles to steady himself in the snow.  He went a few more miles to get to Olallie Lake Resort for lunch.

We got a little bit better start the next morning, but still not early.  We continued downward a bit, then the trail undulated in a general downward trend until we hit Olallie Lake.  The “resort” was a handful of small cabins without electricity or running water, a collection of picnic tables, and an exorbitantly expensive “store.”  I broke down and bought a $6 bag of chips since I had run out of chips and craved the salt as well as a coke for the caffeine factor.

Hop-a-long, Cookie Monster and I commandeered a picnic table and cooked ourselves lunch so we did not have to cook dinner.  Cookie’s iPod and speakers came out blasting Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” among other crazy selections.  Then, the unexpected happened.

A large fly bug thing landed on Cookie’s hand, startling him into spilling freshly boiled water out of his jetboil right down into his right sock.  He instantly took the shoe and sock off and hobbled to the lake to cool off the burn while I cleaned up the spilled pasta and dug through my med kit for the burn dressing I had.  Hop-a-long went back into the store to find more burn cream so we could make a larger dressing with a large gaze pad.  When Cookie got back from the soaking, the top part of his foot oozed clear fluid.  Luckily, the wool sock he had on, protected his foot somewhat by absorbing the liquid, but it was still a bad burn.  We dressed it all up and assessed our options.

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