I was a bit nervous starting out on the Timberline Trail. I had previously hiked in Oregon but had not taken on anything like I was reading the Timberline Trail would be. Descriptions I read discussed sections of rocky trail (flashbacks to Pennsylvania on the AT), river crossings (the worst aspect of hiking for me), and snowy sections (this actually wasn’t a big concern). Overall, I was doubting my abilities however, I was willing to give it a go.
Our first day we headed out clockwise on the Timberline Trail (which is actually part of the Pacific Crest Trail too). We left a lodge full of hikers charging their electronics with electricity and their bodies with caffeine, for a mostly deserted trail. Darwin reflected on the last time he had traveled this same way during his thru-hike and I let him fill the few feet of trail distance between us, with stories. As I listened I was surprised to find my legs eager to hike carrying me swiftly over the trail, and my breath traveled through my lungs easily.
We hiked over trail terrain that felt to me like a children’s roller coaster, gentle ups, and downs accompanied by views of Mount Hood always to our right. The hours and miles easily slipped by on this gradual terrain. We stopped to take in the views and stopped to chat with a few fellow Timberline Hikers heading counter-clockwise. I was noting our progress by the changing views of Mount Hood. The magic of this trail seemed to be the fact of seeing every face of the mountain. Instead of just hiking by it, we were seeing all aspects of it; a unique characteristic that not every mountain will share.
We lunched at a trail intersection where the PCT and Timberline first part ways. Our lunch break was splendid, shaded by the sun, feeling proud of myself that I had accomplished a few river crossings without any incident, and jamming my face full of food I would never allow myself to eat off-trail; life was good.
Post lunch we hiked past Ramona Falls and followed the trail along a few ridges and traveled upwards. The last two miles of the day brought me back to long days on the AT. I was getting a little hangry for more than just a snack, and after fighting with my water filter, I found myself longing for the shelter (old habits die hard). After about 18 miles, I was glad to call it quits for the day feeling good to have put my body up to a challenge and coming out feeling tired but not completely beat down. I set up my tent next to a pretty meadow and snuggled into my quilt and my own personal tent. I rested well to the sounds that were brought on with the breeze of the night.
I woke early and had broken down my tent before Darwin had even immerged from his. I set and ate my breakfast and drank coffee watching him pack up. The day greeted us with a river crossing, then another, then another. Just when my feet were somewhat dry I would take notice of the distant roar of yet another rushing river. At the first sounds of the river, my stomach would squeeze. At the first sight of the river, my face would get hot, and sweat would bead on back, along with another squeeze of the intestines. Did I mention I’m terrified of river crossings? After each successful crossing, I would shake off the icky dread feeling and spend the next few minutes telling the trees how much I hated river crossings.
I lost myself in the glory of Mount Hood and spent a good solid twenty minutes trying to become apart of the grasses and wildflowers around me, as I watched a stream gurgle down cold glacier water from the mountain’s peak. I looked for fairies and other magical creatures numerous times, following the trail through places that were surely enchanted.
We traveled above treeline for several miles towards the end of the day following rock cairns and crossing patches of snow that felt as someone had turned on the air conditioning full blast as we crossed. We stopped and turned at the sound of a plane overhead only to realize we were hearing an avalanche start towards the mountain’s peak. We watched as plumes of dirt and snow rose up as the back face of Hood shifted and would discuss the event later with a few other hikers who had different views of the event.
We finished the day descending again into a river crossing. Being forewarned about this specific crossing I was very hesitant to cross but found the river still mild and the way to cross no more treacherous than the rest. Darwin and I camped close to a stream and devised a plan to catch the breakfast buffet at the lodge in the morning.
We started hiking with the night still lingering and the sun just peaking into the sky. As we hiked I recounted the different faces of Mount Hood and how incredible it was to be able to hike around it; to get to know this mountain in such a way. With only a handful of miles to finish, we took notice of more trail signs and intersections. We hiked under several dormant ski lifts and I pondered what this same overgrown green area would look like in just a few months.
We came down from our final ridge and crossed our final river to start our final big climb up a trail of beach sand. There were no rocks or dirt, only sand that someone had clearly delivered by helicopter. I grumbled and griped about the stupidity of this inconveniently placed sand and complained about how it was eating up all my energy and filling my shoes with every step. Finally, at the top, I stopped to catch my breath and gazed up one final time at Mount Hood as the sweat rolled down into my eyes and down my back and chest. I whispered a farewell to the great mountain on my right and peeled my eyes away from its majesty and focused then on the breakfast buffet.
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