Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Timberline Trail

After coming home from Rainier, we decided to go out on the Timberline Trail (#600). The Timberline circumnavigates Mt. Hood in a 38 mile loop. As always, when we go to Mt. Hood we try to get up to Yocum Ridge. This side trail turned it into a 48 mile loop by adding the extra 10 miles, out and back. The entire trip took us 5 days (4 full days and 2 halves) and we averaged about 12 on our full days (yes, I promise it is mathematically possible if you count the epic encounter). More than anything, we wanted to see just how far The Barracuda could hike over some difficult terrain.

More and more, our son's appreciation of mountains is becoming apparent. He now knows the order of the Northern and Central Cascades and can identify most by silhouette. He is becoming transfixed with mountains.

Day 1 - Timberline Lodge to Paradise - 4 miles

We had no less than 4 separate tourists take our picture. Apparently there is something very interesting about a dog with a backpack and a family all geared up.

Since we got out later than expected (doesn't that ALWAYS happen?) we didn't arrive and get walking till about 3 in the afternoon or later. We hit the trail, hiked for an hour and a half or so, ate, and hiked another mile to begin looking for a decent campsite. We have begun experimenting with ways to make more milage in the day. By eating and then putting in a few more miles before the end of the day we can add 4 or 5 miles to the day without much issue and stealth camp without the need of food prep. We can't quite tell if we like this yet.

Day 2 - Paradise Park to Yocum Ridge - 11 miles

The Timberline crosses a good 3-5 rivers a day as you work through the gullies and melt waters of the mountain. The Barracuda is becoming quite good with Leki poles and can ford most rivers now by himself with the occasional help of hand through some extreme leaps. Guadalupe, however, HATES water and must be manhandled carried over most rivers. She finds this most undignifying!

Yocum Ridge is one of our favorite places on Mt. Hood. It was discovered by Jules when he did his first hike of the Timberline Trail a year or so before I met him. The 10 mile (total out and back) side trail is a brutal uphill of almost continuous switchbacks, but you are rewarded with a personal alpine meadow and an awe inspiring view.

Day 3 - Yocum Ridge to Carin Basin - 14 miles

Muddy Fork runs through Cathedral Ridge. Before the first snow, we will hopefully take a weekend trip up to the actual ridge line instead of the valley.

We were up and out of camp by 7 and pounding miles. Today brought us past Cathedral Ridge and a new place to explore. Though there is a fondness within us for Yocum, Cathedral's towering rock formations and three beautiful waterfalls surround you from all sides. It has a very different feel from Yocum's expansiveness.

Every real backpacking trip has a moment where you think, "This is completely insane!" It is a commitment moment where you have to decide once and for all, are you in? This river crossing would be it for the Timberline trail. As I watched my son slowly wiggle across three haphazardly strewn (and seemingly flimsy) logs, slip twice due to there being no bark on the logs and a gushing torrent of rocky rapids beneath him, and then reach out trying to grab his father's outstretched hand, I couldn't help but have a moment of "What the hell are we doing?!" To make matters worse, the logs were not tied together so as The Barracuda began walking they shifted to and fro beneath his weight.

Day 4 - Carin Basin to Cloud Cap - 14 miles

The dog was horrified; The Barracuda thought it was beyond awesome!
Click on the link below to see the washout in real time via YouTube.

This was an epic day. All went well until we hit the washout at Elliot Glacier. Everyone on the mountain we met was talking about Elliot: "How are you going to get around Elliot?" "Why aren't they fixing Elliot?" "Aren't they supposed to have a bridge over Elliot by now?" There are stacks of pictures and talk on the Internet about Elliot. Everyone just needs to get over it! In the floods of 2006, the winter here was brutal and Elliot Glacier took out the entire trail. It literally drops off in a sheer vertical down to the river. The vertical is over 150 feet high and requires a cross country (not skis, but unmaintained) backtrail and then a technical scramble down an arete, and then getting to a rope to back down to the water. Once down, we forded the river three or four times, crossed the talus and scree for a good 2 hours, and then tied both Guadalupe and The Barracuda up for the vertical climb (no rope provide this time) up the other side. It was exhausting and got us no closer to Cloud Cap. After some bushwacking and route finding, we discovered an old fire road (thank goodness for the Cloud Cap fire a couple years ago). Another unmaintained vertical climb up a fire slope with only water bars to hold the soil in and a quarter mile walk following the smell of campfires took us to a road. We must have looked like Sasquatch scrambling up to the road from the forest. The road lead to Cloud Cap Campground. Needless to say, taking the dog down and then up scree, talus, and places where she was tied together with climbing webbing wasn't Guadie's favorite activity. Her paws were split open by the end and she was drooling uncontrollably, but she followed through in Stickeen fashion and has now permanently won Jules' love. The Barracuda began to go into sugar shock from lack of solid food (he is extremely blood sugar sensitive) about half way through, but pulled it together enough to make it to camp. There were some sketchy moments and I'm sure we looked horrifying when we stumblied into Cloud Cap by nightfall.

Day 5 - Cloud Cap to White River (10 miles)

Walking around the mountain gives the peak a highly personal experience because you get to see it from every angle. Rather than a veiwpoint and only one side, you see them all and you witness them change from one to another. Though I have grown up watching Mt. Hood, I feel like I didn't really know much about it at all now having walked around it.

Being homeschoolers, the lines of education versus life become very blurry. These learning moments are one of the things we enjoy so much about the homeschooling process and a large part of why we take our son hiking so much at such a young age. There have been many amazing learning moments over the last couple years, but one of the greatest happened going from Cloud Cap through Cooper's Spur. From up that high you can see one of the largest expanses in Oregon, but most interestingly, you can physically watch the rain shadow effect and the tectonic plate line come together. The hilly, green expanse in front of you becomes a ridge and then a flat, brown space on the other side. The mountains of Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, Hood, Jefferson, and the Three Sisters all line up and directly before you the puzzle pieces of the Earth's crust become real. The Barracuda has studied volcanoes, subduction zones, the Ring of Fire, and all that jazz but here he could literally see in front of him how it all worked. I realize I'm a total science geek, but it was pretty rad.

Day 6 - Mitchel Creek to Timberline (3 miles)

The ridgelines of Mt. Hood are one of the predominant features of the Timberline Trail.. There is a combined elevation loss/gain of over 12,000 feet on the Timberline Trail (not including Yocum Ridge) so you are rather constantly either going up or down.

We slept in, woke up low key and were moving by 8. We had been warned by another hiker that it had been washed out to the point she was turning around. The thought of another Elliot Glacier crossing wasn't pleasant, but all that was keeping us from Timberline and we were committed. We hiked down to White River to view the damage, and sure enough, total wash out. Notes were posted of other groups heading back. Much like Elliot, we headed down to a nearby arete and were determined to make our way down. Surprisingly, we caught the trail on lower switchbacks. Apparently all that was washed out was the upper portion of the trail. Less than a 5 minute bushwhack and we were back on track. It was a very quick out, even with Timberline teasing us in the distance while we cairn hopped, hiking uphill through glacial silt. A stop by the gift shop to pick up a patch for The Barracuda and we were driving away to Dairy Queen before 11 o'clock.

It was a great trip and a significant victory for The Barracuda. He can check the first item off of his Life List and solidified his confidence about pulling larger mileage in succession. We knew he could do it, but he needed to know.

When we came home, we were suprised to find out that The Barracuda is the youngest person to have ever finished this hike. Apparently a 7 an a 9 year old boy finished the trip with their family a couple years ago, and had claimed the record until now. Our son doesn't much care about that, all he really wanted was a Blizzard ice cream treat.

3 thoughts:

Mr. H. said...

What an outstanding accomplishment and truly amazing summer for the boy. Such a beautiful place, it must be hard to come back down to civilization after experiencing such incredible sights.

Mel said...

Mmmmm Blizzard.... Rigby always gets his photo taken when we are out, too. People love a dog in a backpack.

Congrats to the Barracuda (and you guys) for such a big trip. I hope my kids grow up to love the mountains that much.

Alice said...

Wow ... just WOW ... congratulations to all, that's amazing (I got goosebumps looking at the picture of the Barracuda on the logs ...)

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