August 5th, 2018
Indian Springs CG mm 2127.5 to Timberline Lodge mm 2097
Distance: 30.5 miles plus 2 miles I mistakenly walked on the Timberline Trail
A popular belief on the trail is that it is flat through Oregon, at least relative to the relief found in WA and CA. This may be true for the most part but today was anything but flat. In 31 miles, I gained over 7000′ and lost over 5000′. And I set my record for longest distance hiked in one day, EVER! My watch says I actually did 33.6 miles and 71,584 steps, which accounts for a costly navigational error I made to the tune of 2 miles.
It was also a fantastic day for views…another record being able to see 5 volcanoes! I started off on a ridge with a perfect gaze looking back at Adams, St Helens, and even Rainier. I’ve been able to see Rainier since Day 11. Now, 20 days later, I think it was finally time to say goodby. Probably to Helens and Adams too. But you never know. Today it was time to get familiar with Mt. Hood.
I walked fast and had a short lunch break at a trailhead with a picnic table…I’m getting spoiled being able to sit and spread my stuff out. I was pretty happy with my progress for the day and it looked as though I could make the 30 miles to the Timberline lodge (a ski resort along the trail) with time to spare. Maybe I could even get my food package before they closed.
I walked up a hill, the first of several big climbs. On the backside, there was a trail junction. I continued on straight, not really paying attention to the signage. I checked my phone and it indicated that I was on trail. The trail seemed to become even wider and more well groomed. There were also tons of day hikers and backpackers. The trail exited the trees for a bit and there were excellent views of Mt Hood.
As I continued on, I became more and more suspicious of this trail. It was supposed to start switchbacking down to the valley yet it kept going straight on a traverse. For several days, my phone had been struggling to get GPS fixes. I kept trying to get an update and when it finally did, I confirmed my suspicion. I was more than a mile off-trail. To be fair, my map still had this trail listed as the PCT but it had been rerouted. I was on the immensely popular Timberline trail around Mt Hood. I could keep going on it and eventually end up at Ramona Falls (a side trail off the PCT), or I could retrace my steps to the PCT. I decided that the latter was the best option and sucked up a wasted 2 miles. At least there were some good views.
Back at the junction, the PCT clearly departed to the southwest. Someone going Northbound would have never made the mistake but it was easy to see how I had gone wrong. I’ll have to be more careful at these trail junctions in popular areas, as all the trails are well traveled and look like the PCT.
Now I was behind my schedule but still took the time to take a side trail to Ramona falls. It was nice but there were too many people, given a Sunday afternoon and perfect weather.
Back on the PCT, I began another huge climb that seemed to never end. I took breaks picking huckleberries. I came upon a woman that was calling to what I assumed was a small dog. She was waiting for it to catch up. I got impatient and began to go around her, then realized that it was a cat she was hailing. He was on a long lease and she had to walk back to pick him up and place him behind her head, on top her pack. I’ve heard of people hiking with cats but this was the first time seeing one. It entertaining me.
The trail went down a ravine where I thought I might pull up early and camp, but the sites along the river were exposed and rocky. It was only another 3 miles to the lodge, but another climb of 1600′. I decided to go for it and plodded my way up. Tired and slow as I was, I was still passing day hikers.
I had started counting backpackers going north at the beginning of the day and stopped at 50 in the early afternoon. Many were section and weekend hikers but there were also a ton of thru-hikers. And the peak is yet to come. Not to mention about as many day hikers. It made me a bit weary encountering so many people today, because there is always a short calculation in who is to give-way and it disrupts any flow or meditation one might have going. But I can’t blame others for wanting to share the same enjoyment of the outdoors.
Finally around 7 pm, I made it to lodge. I didn’t know what to expect but it was huge and bustling. The lodge is perched high on the slopes of Mt Hood, with a commanding view of Mt. Jefferson to the south (my 5th volcano sighting for the day). I cleaned up a bit and was then directed to another building to pick up my box. The gift shop had just closed but I had planned to spend the night nearby and could get my box early the next morning.
I ran into the Strawbridge family repackaging their food and it was so great to see them again. They were the first SOBOs I had seen in days. I wanted to hang out with them and I could have had a big meal and drinks at the lodge that night. But I was more concerned with getting my tent pitched and eating some of my bland food so that I could go to bed before 9 pm. I was exhausted…I wonder why? Maybe I would treat myself to the infamous buffet the following morning.