Aug 12
The Northwest face of Mt. Hood. Illumination Rock sticks out on the right skyline, and McNeil Point dominates the left side. You are facing the Sandy Headwall. This photo was about 1 mile from my first campsite.

Timberline Trail around Mt Hood 10AUG2020-13AUG

The Timberline Trail encircles Mt. Hood, and is one of my favorite trails, especially since it is a loop, and you end up right back where you started. The trail has a number of variants as well as recent modifications, so it is a bit challenging to identify the exact length. I did not bring a Garmin unit (except for the inReach mini) and so could not chronicle my own progress. The trail is at least 40 miles long and entails at least 10,000 feet of climbing. People have run the trail in a single day. That was not my cup of tee. I first did this trail somewhere between 1974 and 1975 with Jack Frane, and then in the late 1990s with Kent Dawson. I attempted it recently with Jon (my son) which needed to be aborted, and with Russ Andersen two years ago, which also needed to be aborted early on. This time, I decided to do it entirely solo. I thought long and hard about bringing my real camera along but ultimately opted for simply using my iPhone as I had done on the PCT. I kept my base weight in the pack to about 16 lb., and anticipated 2 nights on the trail, similar to what I’ve done previously, but had enough food for 3 nights, knowing that I wasn’t a spring chicken any longer.

09 August- day 0 – Today I drove down to Vancouver to spend a little time with my brother Gaylon. We went out to eat some Mexican food along the Columbia River and then crashed at Gaylon’s apartment. 

Mt. Hood in the distance with the Columbia River in the foreground
The I-5 Bridge across the Columbia, viewed from our restaurant
Brother Gaylon keeping me in line

10August –  I was up at 6am and after a little coffee, headed out to the mountain. I was able to start the trail at Timberline Lodge at 8:30am and had spectacular weather with not a cloud in the sky. I did the Paradise loop variant, which was totally awesome and stunningly beautiful as compared to the now current standard course of the trail, though it involves a bit more climbing. I’m not sure why this isn’t still the standard course of the trail (followed by both the PCT and Timberline Trail), as it used to be when I hiked the trail in the 1970s. The descent down to the Sandy River was tedious as usual. This time, I had no problems crossing the Sandy River dryly. I arrived at Ramona Falls at 1:30pm, had lunch, and then started up the trail to camp on the Northeast side of the mountain. This was a long tedious climb for the remainder of the day. The Muddy Fork needed to be forded (i.e., needed to get my feet wet) and was a touch precarious. I took the cutoff to the trail; by this, I mean that the trail loops back on itself as it wraps around Bald Mountain, and the trail coming and going are within several hundred feet of each other and a small easy hill climb and descent. Most people will use the cutoff. The reason this loop occurred is that the Muddy Fork variant used to be the standard course for the PCT until the PCT was rerouted. For a number of years, the Muddy Fork trail was closed because of dangers on the trail, so that, when I hiked the trail in the 1990s, it was advised to follow the new PCT route and rejoin the Timberline Trail on the other side of Bald Mountain. For a significant distance, the Timberline Trail past the cutoff was all uphill and no water sources. This is a little bit atypical for the Timberline Trail since water seems to be everywhere around the mountain. My great concern was being able to find a campsite since there were many people on the trail. I have never seen so many people on the trail, as the other times I hiked the trail, you were mostly alone. I found a small tent site about a half mile before the Cairn Basin shelter, next to a couple of guys doing the trail counterclockwise; the campsite was also close to a stream. So had dinner, talked a bit with the guys, and then crashed.

Looking down on Timberline Lodge at the start of the hike
The view of Mt Hood from Timberline Lodge
Huge fields of flowers on the Paradise loop
Looking south to Mt. Jefferson
Mt. Hood on the Paradise Loop
Beginning descent into the Sandy River canyon
Ramona Falls. Not the best lighting for this beautiful falls.
Yes, the Cutoff trail IS official!
Near sunset, looking north
My tent

11August- I slept well, woke up at 5:30, and was on the trail by 6:45. Unlike my time on the PCT, I heated up breakfast, which consisted of oatmeal, hot chocolate, coffee, and a granola bar. The morning hike was greeted by multiple stream crossings, often demanding fording since rock hopping wasn’t possible. There were huge flower meadows around nearly every corner, and views of the mountain were nearly constant. I could see the Sandy headwall (a climb I wish I would have done) and the Sunshine route (a climb that I did), both up the north face of Mt. Hood. For a few years, the Timberline Trail was closed owing to a washout of the trail around Eliot Creek. The diversion that was created was miserable, and in my estimation, still rather dangerous. After a long slog up the Eliot, I finally arrived at Cloud Cap on the northeast side of the mountain. There was a campground here with a road, and I was able to have lunch on picnic tables. By 1 pm, I was off again. The trail now covered the east side of the mountain, ascending high up above the timberline, to form the highest point on the trail. The descent was along Gnarl Ridge and wrapped around Lamberson Butte. Newton Creek ended up being another challenging river crossing, but a side branch of non-silty water formed the site where I had camped twice before.

Mt Hood north side in the morning sun
Flowers everywhere!
In the distance one can see Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams. Nearby, the effects of recent forest fire are seen.
One of many river fords that I needed to do.
It’s still Mt. Hood!
Log to assist in the Eliott River crossing. Descending the loose rock was most challenging. Chris and I loosely hiked much of the day together
Cloud Cap campground
Mt. Adams in the distance. The trail ascends well above the Timberline, and several places, I needed to walk through snow
Highest point on the Timberline Trail
Gnarly trees on Gnarl Ridge, looking down to Lamberson Butte (far left ridgeline)
More Gnarl Ridge. In the distance, I am again seeing Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters
The immense nature of this scene is best seen in person. It is a steep-walled canyon that was carved by the Newton and Clark creeks.

12August-Today was another 6:45 start. It was overcast today with a little bit of mist, making for perfect hiking conditions. I had only 6-7 miles more to go, but knew that there was substantial climbing, and the White River was often the most challenging river to cross. The route was less hilly for a distance when crossing the ski slopes of Mt. Hood Meadows. In summertime, these slopes are massive fields of flowers, punctuated by many small streams cascading down the mountain. There is a substantial drop down to the White River. The challenge was not so much the river crossing, as the need to descend and the reascend the steep cliffs of loose rock cut away by the river. I apparently chose a far less advantageous spot to cross than a couple that I was walking with, who seemed to cross effortlessly. From there, it was 1000 feet of climbing back to Timberline Lodge. The ride home went without problems, with a most happy Wanderer.

Today was cloudy, and less perfect views of the mountain
Lots of small streams lined with flowers. Water wasn’t an issue on this hike.
The beauty remained intense. This is within the Mt. Hood Meadows ski area, a scene that goes unnoticed by skiers
Fields of flowers on a ski slope
Flowers and Mt. Jefferson as well as the Three Sisters are seen in the distance
The challenge of crossing the White River. The loose gravel banks were the greatest problem
Mt. Hood as seen from where I stopped for a brunch – tuna fish sandwich and candy bar
A welcome view of finally seeing the Timberline Lodge, with a large canyon between. The trail went around the top of these canyons.
Last peak at Mt. Hood.

Final thoughts-Of the two round-the-mountain trails that I know of, the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, and the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, the most common characteristic is the nearly constant rise and fall of the trail. The Wonderland Trail has been more effective at avoiding most of the dangerous stream crossings by placing bridges across the major rivers. When I hiked the Timberline Trail in years past, I don’t recall the challenges of a number of difficult stream crossings, which consisted of very rapidly flowing streams and no means of hopping rocks or walking logs to get across. The Timberline Trail is much more challenging than the Wonderland Trail in that regard. Also, more challenging is the many areas of the Timberline Trail, where the bed of the trail was nothing but loose rock or sand. Between fording streams and then walking a sandy trail, my feet became quite frightfully dirty. A positive distinction of the Timberline Trail is its profusion of large fields and patches of flowers. The flower count on the Timberline Trail seems to excel that of nearly every other trail that I’ve hiked. I also noted that the variety of the type of flower was more extensive than other hikes in my memory. If you are into flowers, this is the “must-hike” hike for you. Between the flowers and the constant beauty of the mountain, one cannot fail to reflect on the loving care and the creation God offers for his children. Possibly the least positive aspect of this trail is the number of people doing the trail. There were people everywhere, and I didn’t go for more than ½ mile without seeing at least one group of people on the trail. Interestingly, nearly 100% of those I saw suffered from the Virus Insanity Syndrome. There were also masks littering the trail from poor wanderers who will now surely be stricken by the dreaded Wuhan virus. Is this unique for Oregon? I don’t know.

This will probably be the last time I hike this trail unless somebody eagerly requests that I hike it with them. I doubt that that will happen. I will be content with hiking trails closer to home. Maybe the Wonderland Trail needs to be hiked one last time by me. I’ll decide that in a year or two.

On last observation. You might have noticed that you never see me in any of the photos. That’s what you get when you solo hike. I also don’t like to take selfies.

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One Response to “Timberline Trail 2020”

  1. Bruder dennis says:

    I was gobsmacked by the pictures! You will forgive me if I was so attracted to their beauty and quality that I only glanced quickly over most of the text.

    “Virus Insanity Syndrome”: good name for it – a warm-up exercise in behavioral conditioning for the slave labor camps of FEMA, in cahoots with 269 major US corporations who will be looking for new slave labor when all those jobs return from China. The epidamnic is crashing the economy, putting millions in desperate straits and ready to willingly go to the detention camps to work for subsistence food and housing.

    Black Lives MAGA

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