Tag Archives: Timberline Trail

Backpacking the White River, 15 & 16-Jan-2021

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Friday and Saturday, January 15th and 16th, 2021



I’d planned on hiking up to Elk Meadows again… since at this point Elk is basically my go-to locale whenever I don’t really know where to go.

I love that, by the way. I really enjoy having a “spot”, somewhere that I know I can just escape to, that doesn’t involve significant planning or thought. It’s just… “hey, I want to get out of town. How about I just go to the place, and do the thing? I can pack the stuff that I always pack!”

Anyways I didn’t go to Elk Meadows.


Since it’s winter, the main trailhead for Elk Meadows is a bit… snow covered. And by “a bit”, I mean that there’s roughly 6-8 ft of snow filling the little turnout that I’d normally go to. The last few times I hiked Elk, I parked at the Nordic Center for Mt. Hood Meadows, but that was just a single day… so to be paranoid, I’d called ahead to confirm that I could park overnight, and learned that overnight parking was absolutely not allowed.

I needed a new plan.

Thankfully, one of the Nordic Center folks who I spoke to recommended hiking the White River – I’d always just assumed that it was a small snow-park used for day sledding, but looking into it there was a nice trail that would connect me to the timberline trail… which would be perfect for the small outing that I was aiming for. I’d already had all the basics packed, so I was on the road as soon as the car was packed.

The ride out was pretty simple, and involved picking up a bagel sandwich for brunch… which turned out to be way more of a pastry than a sandwich, but… I’m not going to complain right before backpacking.



The hike in was beautiful – the parking lot was more full than I’d have seen at Elk, but the crowds were purely focused on sledding, and stayed within maybe a quarter mile of the parking lot. I didn’t see anyone after half a mile in, and was able to enjoy the cold and the quiet just as well as if I’d been heading toward my original destination.

By the time I was ready to set up camp I’d passed my intended turnout point, and instead found a perfect little campsite that had been set up by someone else sometime recently – a little flat spot partway up a steep hill in the trees, with a small area for cooking and a tent spot just the right size for my little shelter. I set up, hiked around a little bit, made dinner, and stared up at the sky as the sun set and the stars came out. Soon enough the air had that beautiful cutting edge to it, and so I curled into my sleeping bag and tucked myself in for some reading before drifting off to sleep.

The morning came bright and clear, with my Grey Jay friends (or family members of my friends) joining me for a light breakfast as I watched the sun light up the mountain.

People had started coming by pretty early in the morning, but even at the densest crowds, there were very few people this high up on the river – I think the most people I saw was a ski rescue group practicing avalanche testing… maybe 12 people or so?

I had a nice breakfast, relaxed, packed up, and then set off for what I’d planned on being a quick little walk up the glacier before heading back down.

Instead, I kept going as high as the snow would take me – extremely cautiously, though. Strangely, my concern wasn’t anything to do with crowds or avalanche or anything, but was instead the light. Not something you think about often in the winter, but with the bright sun and clean snow, the glare was intense. Really intense, intense enough that I was quite worried about sunburn or hurting my unshielded eyes.

Thankfully, some light clouds rolled in right before I was about to turn around, and the shade was enough that I was confident that continuing onward wouldn’t be any major risk. I mean, I was pretty sure I’d come out of it with a tan or light sunburn, but the bigger worry was my eyes, and since I kept checking in with myself every 10min or so, I felt pretty happy about forging upward.

It was worth it.

The views kept getting better as better as I ascended higher and higher – Realistically, I don’t think I got any higher than 5,000ft elevation, but the views were unparalleled as I looked North to the summit, and South to the rest of the cascade range. The sun shining through the fishscale clouds…

<muah>. Perfect.

I met a few folks on the walk, but aside from the views there’s not really much to talk about. It was beautiful, I loved not carrying a pack (since I’d left it back at camp), and I felt amazing. You know how you can smell the cold, and how snow gives that crisp taste to the air? Well, this had that in abundance, and I loved every second of it.


After I got back to my gear, I hefted the pack and started back toward the car.

The crowds thickened as I got closer and closer to the parking lot, to the point that I masked up after a little bit, as people were becoming unavoidable. There were families sledding, grills set up, and just this massive sense of happiness and excitement from the yells of people sliding down the snow.

I saw a few back country skiers too, some having descended from where I was, and some from as far away as the Timberline Lodge. I was definitely a bit jealous, I admit, but I still loved the chance to be hiking on the snow.

Absolutely worth every step.

The Start of the Summer – Hiking, dining, and sleeping on Mt. Hood

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Friday and Saturday, 19 & 20-June-2020

 

Well.

2020 has been a year, hasn’t it?

 

It started in Scotland, then dove into a global pandemic, then protests across the United States. Now, when COVID cases are starting to rise again, Oregon has decided to re-open itself.

Well, I can’t do anything about that. I can’t really do anything about any of those things… but what I can do is keep distancing myself, keep wearing a mask, and keep active. And maybe take advantage of the re-opening as best I can.

Today, I went hiking on Hood for the first time in recent memory.

From the Timberline Lodge, the Timberline Trail circumnavigates the whole mountain – to the West, there’s ZigZag Canyon and the beautiful paradise park. Perfect day-hike destinations. So I went East instead, where no one else generally goes. I saw not a single person on the trail, but had what seemed like the entire side of the mountain to myself.

It.

Was.

Perfect.

Warm weather, a good breeze, and bright sunlight. The mountain was in full glory, peaking above the treeline at almost every turn of the trail.

I went all the way down to the White River – not far, by any means, but something like a 5mile round trip. I felt good… for a starter hike, trying to regain my legs after nearly three months of COVID-related staying at home, I felt strong. I felt tired, but I’m proud of myself for pushing through and hiking at a fairly strong pace the whole time.

After the trail dropped me back off at my car, I treated myself. I’ve been trying to eat a bit healthier, after the stressful and sedentary recent months, but today I’d hiked at altitude, and had skipped lunch. And, I’d parked at the Timberline Lodge, which was still open for dinner.

I walked in 10 minutes before they closed – I was going to head back to the car to cook up a mountain house, but the waiter insisted that I should sit down anyways. We chatted a bit, I ordered, and that’s how I found myself sitting by the window, watching the sun set on the Southern face of Mt. Hood, with a pastrami sandwich, two cups of hot cocoa, and a full cup of whipped cream topped with chocolate and caramel.

The crazy thing is – I only ordered the sandwich. The cocoa? I saw the waiter walking by with them, and asked what they were. See, I love the cocoa at Timberline, but I hadn’t noticed it on the menu… so when I saw him carrying them, I needed to find out more. It turns out that they were mistakes – and he was carrying them back to the kitchen to be thrown out. Well, he offered, and I couldn’t say no! When he brought over the cup of toppings, I lost it.

I’ve had a bad year. It’s been unpleasant, challenging, and just simply a not good year. I recognize that many people have had it far, far worse than I have, and I’m infinitely thankful for everything I have in life. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been hard.

The gift of two cups of cocoa, after my first hike, right before camping out on my own, was exactly what I needed.

Now, as I sit in my camp chair typing this up, I feel good. I’m tired, but it’s a good tired. A well-earned tired.

I can’t say I’m doing great. But sitting here, looking at the mountain, I can say that I’m doing well.

Post Thanksgiving adventures – Mirror Lake and Mt Hood… And a huge pretzel!

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Saturday, 30-Nov-2019

 

After Thanksgiving this year, we went hiking!  Two days afterward, we hiked out to Mirror Lake, and then did a few quick steps on Mt. Hood, before relaxing in the Timberline Lodge with cocoa and a huge warm pretzel.

It was excellent.

 

Our first objective was Mirror Lake, on the Tom Dick and Harry trail to the South West of Mt. Hood.  We’d hiked here before, a few times if I recall, but hiking in the snow is always a new experience… the Sun coming through, the snow levels, how much ice and how much melt… it all ties together into making a unique winter wonderland for us to enjoy.

More importantly makes for a wonderland for Ollie to enjoy, since I think the sheer exultation that she felt after we got out of the car was more than both Sarah and I combined.

Before we could get started though, we earned a bit of good Karma – When parking, we ended up parking next to a rather large camper-van vehicle.  One of those pickup campers, where there’s a camper placed into the bed of a standard pickup truck?  Yeah, that.

As we packed up to start hiking, it became readily apparent that the family staying in the camper was having a bit of trouble.  The Dad had the hood open, was trying to turn the engine over, the whole nine yards.  We offered to help, of course, and ended up trying a few things to get them up and running.  After a ton of battling, a simple jump-start was all they needed – We got their engine turned over and making happy noises, all before their kids even realized that anything out of the ordinary was happening.

 

After that quite auspicious start, we headed into the woods and had a glorious time crunching through the ice and snow.  The tree canopy kept the sun pretty dispersed, but every so often we’d get a beautiful beam of light cutting through – it was beautiful, in a very calm and collected sort of way.

There’s not much to be said about the hike aside from that… it was lovely, Ollie spent the whole time sprinting around, and Sarah and I had a great time.  We hiked, we rested at Mirror Lake, and then we hiked back.  It was excellent!

 

After Mirror Lake we were tired, but not quite tired enough to head back to the house just yet… so we headed to Mt. Hood to do a bit more exploring.  The weather on Hood was a far sight from Mirror Lake – without the tree cover, the wind was doing its best to blast us off the side of the mountain and the clouds were at just the right level to cut off most of the direct light from the sun.  The whole scene had this interesting diffused light, painting everything into a beautifully bleak and desolate scene.

We didn’t last too long, thanks to the harsh wing slinging snow and sand at us, combined with the quite chilly temperature.  Thankfully, we’d already tired ourselves out pretty well on Mirror Lake, so we didn’t feel too bad turning around after an hour or so.  Ollie didn’t even seem to mind too much… but then again, we’ve found that it takes at least a day and a half of solid hiking to really tire her out.

 

We headed back to the car, stashed our gear, bundled Ollie up in her blankets, and grabbed a quick snack at the Timberline Lodge.  A cup of cocoa, a mug of coffee, and a huge pretzel kept us company while sitting and reading by the fire – we didn’t stay for too long, since the sun was getting close to setting, but we had an amazing time nonetheless.  A very good ending to a very lovely day.