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 Post subject: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 8th, 2017, 7:47 pm 
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Joined: July 9th, 2017, 12:18 pm
Posts: 30
There are already great trip reports about the Timberline Trail this year, but I thought I’d add one from the viewpoint of a beginner to backpacking for any other beginners who are planning to try this trail. I have been hiking in earnest for about 4 years, and before this trip I took one 15-mile overnight trip in the Columbia Gorge last year. Knowing that I have very little experience, I trained steadily for months to build my strength and endurance, losing about 40 pounds in the process, which I know helped me out there. I hiked with my husband who is a bit more experienced than me.

In a nutshell, it was harder than we thought it would be, primarily because of the water crossings. I knew those would be hard, but at 5’3”, my legs just weren’t long enough to make the leaps between rocks that other people just stepped or hopped between. I also am still quite heavy for my height which means balance is not a strength of mine. I was very thankful there were people around to help me across the Coe and the Eliot, and I changed into water shoes and waded across about half of the others.

We started out at Timberline Lodge, grabbed a few geocaches on the trail close to the lodge, and headed toward the Zigzag Canyon and Paradise Park, camping at Ramona falls the first night. The day before we left, a ranger at the Zigzag station had told us the trail was completely impassable at Paradise Park because of blow down and really discouraged us from going. We knew from reading here that there were workaround trails, and sure enough this was not a true problem. We had to crawl on hands and knees a few times, and though technically I guess the official trail is impassable, the workaround trails are clear and as safe as any other part of the trail. The flowers were phenomenal! However, the flies were everywhere. We found the 20% Picaridin spray to be the best at stopping the biting flies, but they still swarmed and if we stopped at all in this section of the trail, we easily had 100 flies all around and on us. They provided good motivation to keep on moving. The campsites at Ramona are amazing and we pulled in early (around 3:45) and decided to just enjoy the area and stop for the day.

ImageBlow down on trail
ImageBlow down with eroding trail
Imageflowers and view

On day two we went from Ramona Falls to Dollar Lake. By this point, we had a few groups of hikers who were following basically the same route and schedule as us and we enjoyed caching up with them at various places along the way. The best word for this section is “more.” I got more blisters on my feet from hiking downhill in sand, it had more uphill, more water crossings, and far more beauty and amazing views! The flowers in the Dollar Lake burn area made the most stunning contrast to the burnt trees, and I found this to be even more beautiful than Paradise Park. We ended up being the only people camping at Dollar Lake, which must be the best kept secret on the mountain because the sites are wonderful and the views are amazing. Whoever took the time to build the stone oven and lay out those sites above the lake did an amazing job. On this day, I found the Muddy Fork Crossing to be the most difficult because of all the climbing on and around boulders that has to be done between crossings. It just wore me out. We ended up on a wrong trail a couple times, but with a map, compass, and GPS, we were able to find our way back pretty easily. By the end of the day, my feet were done. I was shocked that I had so many blisters since I didn’t get any when I was training, but I think the sustained incline sections in sand combined with some wet feet from crossings were what did me in. I became well acquainted and very appreciative of duct tape for the next day.

ImageDollar Lake Fire area
ImageWildflowers
ImageView by scramble path to McNeil Point
Imagefrom campsite by Dollar Lake
ImageSunset from campsite at Dollar Lake

On day three we went from Dollar Lake to Newton Creek. This day was the hardest because of the distance (and the amount of uphill) and also the water crossings. It started with crossing the Coe (the 2nd hardest crossing for me of the whole trip), followed immediately by a climb up from the river where I managed to walk smack-dab into a dead tree so hard I saw spots. Fortunately there was a lovely shaded place to sit and let some Excedrin do its thing before we moved on. The views of St. Helens and Adams along this stretch are wonderful, even with the smoke that made them a bit harder to see. The new trail down to the Eliot is long, sandy, and steep, and the river was raging even at noon, so fording in my water shoes was not an option. There were logs across, but it is a dicey crossing regardless. Thankfully my husband made it across ahead of me and held one of my poles to steady me for the last bit. From that crossing, it is so much uphill – first to Cloud Cap and then beyond toward Cooper Spur. I had to go slower than I wanted because of my blistered feet, and this section was hard. We got to the snowfields in mid-afternoon, so they were slushy, which made for a few scary slips. We also learned that just because all the footprints cross at a certain spot doesn’t mean it is the best spot for finding the trail on the other side! By the time we got through Gnarl Ridge, which has its own type of stark beauty, we were ready to stop for the night, but there were not good campsites that weren’t already occupied so we pushed on to Newton Creek. We found an amazing site right at the river surrounded on three sides by stone and were too exhausted to even make all of our dinner before passing out for the night.

ImageTimberline: St. Helens
Imageflowers
ImageMt. Hood
Imagethe Coe Crossing
Imagethe Eliot Crossing
ImageCampsite on the Newton

The final day we crossed Newton Creek first thing on an amazing log bridge. It was one of the most comfortable crossings for me the entire loop, and I found it even easier than the Clark after it. By this point, I had a knee that was done, so the descent to the White River was hard but the crossing was super easy walking through an ankle-deep section on both forks. We were familiar with Mt. Hood Meadows and enjoyed seeing some familiar sights, but I really was worn out. I underestimated how much water I needed each day and by this point I was dehydrated to the point of feeling nauseated. Even though I drank non-stop all day, it wasn’t enough to catch up. The last ascent to the Timberline after the White River was one of the hardest sections of the trail because of the state I was in and the fact that the trail is deep sand the whole way. It took us two hours longer this last day than we expected it to this last day, but the first view of the Lodge is glorious and motivating!

When we finished, I made a bee-line to a cold Dr. Pepper and got some “you smell awful” looks from tourists that made me feel like a real backpacker. As awful as I felt 45 minutes before, when I sat down with my drink waiting for a ride down the mountain, I knew it was worth it and I am sure I will be doing more trips in the future – just as soon as my blisters heal!

ImageNewton Creek Crossing
ImageSmokey view between Newton and Clark crossings
ImageMt. Hood Meadows
ImageFinished!


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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 8th, 2017, 9:53 pm 
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Joined: March 2nd, 2014, 11:02 pm
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Great info and report! We are doing it for the first time next week!

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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 9th, 2017, 5:57 am 
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Joined: May 28th, 2008, 10:03 pm
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Great report, thanks

Every time I do this it's a really great trip. Good to see people discovering it.

Now you got to do Three Sisters. Or include the trail between Middle and South Sister.


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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 9th, 2017, 6:51 pm 
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Congratulations on the trip and all the hard work you put in leading up to it. It really is quite an accomplishment.


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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 9th, 2017, 7:41 pm 
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Joined: August 9th, 2017, 7:27 pm
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Nice work and hugely motivating! I want to try for this next week but in two day. Were the biting flies that bad throughout the whole trip or just the paradise park section?

I have an above-average propensity to swell!


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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 10th, 2017, 7:43 pm 
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Joined: July 9th, 2017, 12:18 pm
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Purplengold wrote:
Were the biting flies that bad throughout the whole trip or just the paradise park section?

I have an above-average propensity to swell!


The flies were only bad on the south and west/northwest sides of the mountain. The north and east sides did not have the same problem. Once we got past Eden Park, it was not much of an issue.

I don't think I could have done a 2-day trek. Maybe once I lose the last 50 pounds I have and get even stronger, but certainly not where I am now. I am actually wanting to go ahead and make a plan for the next backpacking trip as a goal to shoot for, though!

Have fun!


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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 14th, 2017, 7:07 am 
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Joined: July 25th, 2014, 5:52 am
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Great post! My wife and I did this trek about 3 years ago. It was our first big trip. We did Sister's the following year and loved it.

We've talked about doing the Timberline Trail again now that Elliott's been repaired. Hood continues to be our favorite.


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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 14th, 2017, 3:45 pm 
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Congratulations! Great report.
Ann

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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: August 25th, 2017, 8:47 am 
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Footwear can make a big difference in the blister department. Since switching to trail runners a decade ago I have had zero blisters, even on long distance hikes of 80 - 100 miles. The added benefit is less weight on your feet, which in turn makes the miles go by much easier.


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 Post subject: Re: A Beginner's Thoughts on the Timberline Trail (8/3-8/6)
 Post Posted: September 10th, 2017, 4:39 pm 
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alpinista55 wrote:
Footwear can make a big difference in the blister department. Since switching to trail runners a decade ago I have had zero blisters, even on long distance hikes of 80 - 100 miles. The added benefit is less weight on your feet, which in turn makes the miles go by much easier.


It is so interesting that you said this because I wear trail runners and have been experimenting with some boots. I think my feet need more support. I am just now getting to the end of all the peeling my feet did after this hike! It is crazy! I also got turned on to a book called Fix Your Feet that I am reading through. I will be better prepared next time for sure.


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