41 miles of hiking • 8000' elevation gain • 3 nights
Day 1: Timberline Lodge to Ramona Falls We got a little bit later start than we planned but still made good time. We were on the PCT all day and came across 8 thru-hikers, including 2 SOBO and 6 NOBO. One of the first we met was Hiker Box Special and we chatted a bit with him. The rest weren't too chatty and in a hurry to get their miles in. The trail descended 2500' and even though Mt. Hood was obscured by low clouds most of the day, we did have some spectacular views. We also gorged ourselves on huckleberries. The Sandy River crossing sucked. Mostly because it's so silty, you can't see the bottom, so you have to feel your way with your feet and hope you aren't stepping wrong. My hiking partner had never been to Ramona Falls, so we decided to camp there for the night.
Day 2: Ramona Falls to Elk Cove The day started out with us making some tough decisions about the route. We were both interested in seeing if we would run into any other PCT thru-hikers, so we decided to take the #797 trail back to the PCT and then connect with the Timberline Trail to Cairn Basin and beyond. We had a creek crossing at Muddy Fork that involved two rather large logs but was much easier than having to change shoes and wade through silty water, so we were thankful. We headed up and up through various switchbacks through the forest, hoping it wouldn't really rain much, stopping often to snack on bushes and bushes of huckleberries (this was a theme of our trip!). Once we reached the intersection to reconnect with the Timberline Trail, we took a short break and then continued on our upward travel, hoping to catch some views of Mt. Hood. Unfortunately, the mountain had other plans for us that day and we saw a lot of low-lying clouds and not much else. We continued our climb upwards, only to have a nice rain storm hit us pretty hard. While crossing Ladd Creek, my hiking partner got her feet wet, so we started looking for the Cairn Basin shelter to take refuge and dry off. We found it easily and waited out the rain for about fifteen minutes, changing out socks, grabbing a snack and then heading out to get to Elk Cove. The weather held long enough for us to get to Elk Cove, get our tent/hammock setup, and get water before it started raining again. I made dinner quickly and retired to my hammock. My hiking partner decided to eat a power bar and call it a night. About an hour later, a group of five showed up at our campsite in dire need of ending their day. We shared our small campsite with four more tents and found out one of their people was showing early signs of hypothermia. They got their tents set up quickly and did their best to dry out and put warm clothes on. It was a long night for everyone I think. I had to adjust my tarp on my hammock to keep my underquilt dry, and I was a little worried about our new trail friends.
Day 3: Elk Cove to Newton Creek The rain the previous day sucked a lot of my motivation and we got a late start. Our trail friends were all doing much better this morning after a good night's sleep. Hypothermia was averted, food was eaten, hot beverages consumed and conversations flowed with everyone. We had our first really difficult crossings today. Coe Creek was quite a challenge but we made it across eventually. Then we continued along to get to the Eliot Creek crossing. Fortunately, we had talked with a lot of people doing the trail counter-clockwise, so we knew where to find the area most people have been crossing. When you get to the "Trail Closed" sign you will see a well-worn trail to the right. Follow this up the hill, through a small campsite and onto the ridgeline. Start looking for cairns which will eventually lead you to a white rope. Use the rope to get down the hill, then start looking for a place to cross Eliot Creek. Be sure to follow the cairns once you get across Eliot to the red rope which will get you up the hill to another trail which will take you to the top of the ridgeline on the other side. You can follow this ridgeline to the end, then there will be a trail that will cut down and up to the Cooper Spur shelter where you can reconnect with the Timberline Trail. We took a late lunch break at the shelter and continued on our way. We stopped to talk with a Crag Rat out doing trail maintenance and continued up to Gnarl Ridge where I swear to God we were going to get blown off the ridge! We made it to Newton Creek later than I would have liked but were able to get camp set up and eat dinner before it got too dark. Newton Creek crossing was the first one where we didn't have to take our shoes off to cross...a luxury!
Day 4: Newton Creek to Timberline Lodge This was a shorter day, with a bit of elevation gain, but overall a pleasant change from the previous days. It was my first time at Mt. Hood Meadows and now I know where it gets its name. The meadows of wildflowers were beautiful and we enjoyed the peace and quiet of being on the trail the whole day. I think our favorite crossing was at White River. It was so expansive and we even sneaked in some decent views of Mt. Hood. The huckleberry bushes along the way slowed us down a bit and I'd be lying if I told you my fingers weren't slightly purple from all the berries I ate. We made good time to Timberline Lodge and had a celebratory beer and sandwich in the Lodge before heading home.