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Posts Tagged ‘Timberline Trail’

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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