Sunday, August 21, 2016

Timberline Trail (8/12/16 - 8/14/16)

When Brad's third summer climbing trip was ruined by poor weekend weather, I tried my best to comfort my very disappointed, frustrated mountain-climber husband. I listed a bunch of other epic adventures he could do to replace the North Cascades climbs. He's always wanted to backpack Mount Hood's Timberline Trail - maybe do that! (I sorta thought he'd want to solo)

Brad's long wanted to do the 40-mile circumnavigation, but a 2006 washout closed the Eliot Branch portion of the trail. For the past 10 years, hikers have defied the Forest Service closure and made their way through the moderately dangerous washout. (A fix is finally in the works) After reading lots of trip reports and hearing from friends who made the crossing, Brad decided it was time to give it a try and finally complete this bucket-list trip.

So a few weeks later, we were both loaded in the car with 25-pound packs and headed to Timberline Lodge. (So much for that solo adventure!)

By 12:30 pm Friday, we were signed in at the day lodge, loaded up and ready to find the trail:
Armed with this detailed trip report, we started our clockwise trip around Mount Hood.

It was hot, hot as we made our way to Ramona Falls, our first night's destination.

Our first big descent and ascent: Zigzag Canyon:
Then our first potentially sketchy river crossing - the Sandy River. Fortunately, there was a little bridge, so our boots stayed on for this one!
It took a few minutes to find the trail on the other side of the river. We hooked up with a PCT thru-hiker who was also searching and found the trail together.
And soon we were at Ramona Falls (~10 miles), where we stopped for dinner and regrouping: 
After a rest and some nourishment, we were feeling pretty good and decided to do another few miles and then look for a campsite for the night. We ended up at Muddy Fork, about 13 miles in. Our site was perfect with a view of the summit:
And the sunset:
We both spent a long time swiveling back and forth between the two amazing views as the sun lowered and the sky show continued:
That red dot is Brad taking photos after hanging our food bag:
Our campsite, just below me:
Day 2:

Reports said that most people do this in three nights/four days. We had just two nights and 2.5 days to complete the task, meaning about 13 miles per day. With the heat and elevation gain/loss, that was a bit ambitious. That also meant that we didn't take a ton of photos - too busy moving!

Morning view from the tent - it's washed out because of the lighting, but the summit is right there!
We ate breakfast, packed up and hit the trail for our second push. 
I heard a loud pica bark, searched the rocks next to me and spotted a pica!!
He stood frozen, hoping I wouldn't notice him: 
(does it look like he's smiling???)
We soon had a boots-off river crossing:  
I cannot describe how cold that glacier runoff was and how bad it hurt when we reached the side.
The views kept changing and kept amazing us! 
Burnout from the Dollar Lake Fire: 
After many, many hot, buggy, exhausting hours, we reached the Eliot crossing. When we arrived, a bunch of people had just crossed the river. But they were gone by the time we descended the scree to the water. We spent a lot of time looking for a suitable place to cross. After not finding any good rocks to hop, we found a flat-ish section, changed out of our boots and waded to the other side. SO COLD!
A rope hung on the west side, and we used it to down climb the scree. The east rope was gone, but we're nearly pros at scree climbing (thanks to many, many trips up Mount St. Helens!), and we just slogged up the steep slope: 
The directions were a bit unclear, so we just hiked up Cooper Spur next to the canyon until finding a good place to traverse over to the stone shelter on the Timberline Trail. Looking north, we could see St. Helens, Rainier and Adams: 
And turning around to the beautiful mountain top:
We found a perfect campsite near the stone shelter, ate dinner, Brad took a million sunset photos, and we bedded down for the night. It was so hot that we left off the rain cover and just slept under the bug screen!

Day 3:
The morning view to the north: 
Saturday was extremely hot with tons of elevation. So by now, we were pretty exhausted. Still, we plugged away, ticking off the miles as we neared the end of our journey.

Coming around the side with Jefferson in sight to the south: 
It's amazing how different the mountain top looks as you circle. 
Our hats may look crazy-silly, but we didn't get sunburned!! Also, they helped keep away the biting flies that were horrible on the second day.
With about 5 miles to go, the trial crosses Mount Hood Meadows Ski Area. There were a ton of day hikers in the area, taking photos of the wildflowers. 
By now, we were ready to be done. The trail is almost all either UP or DOWN, in and out of canyons - not much flat or rolling. So our feet hurt pretty bad from the pounding.

The descent into White River Canyon was brutal. But once we finally reached the bottom, it took little time to find a suitable spot to cross the river - with our boots ON! 
With Timberline ski lifts in sight, it was time for the final push up the other side of the canyon to the finish line. I've never been so happy to hike uphill in my life. My feet were DONE with the steep downhills. 

We reached the car with so much relief!!!!! Knowing the end was near, we'd finished our water and were desperate for some liquids. Fortunately, we had car water and salty snacks to ingest!

After some moments of rest and celebration, we went into the day lodge to clean up a bit and change into fresh, dry clothes. 

This was quite the adventure! Because of the heat and short timeline (we finished in just 51 hours), this was very difficult. Also, we knew there was a lot of elevation, but we hadn't researched that to know exactly how much. Looks like it was about 10,000 feet of gain/loss!
No wonder Day 2 was so tough!

I would not do this again on that short timeline. Thirteen miles a day with packs and that elevation was too much. It was all push with little time to enjoy the experience.

Still, it was a great adventure and test of our fitness - both physically and mentally! And a great thing to check off our list :)

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