Timberline Trail 7/11-15, 2018

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scooterRed
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Joined: July 24th, 2018, 2:26 pm

Timberline Trail 7/11-15, 2018

Post by scooterRed » July 24th, 2018, 3:25 pm

My brother and I hiked the trail (for the first time) counterclockwise over five days in mid-July. It was a great adventure and wanted to recap a few things we learned.

Hike duration: Started 9am on Wed, July 11. Finished at noon on Sun, July 15. Hiked 47 miles, averaging 35 pound packs in 75-85 degree heat, which included a few side trips and detours (planned and unplanned).

Trail finding: Somehow, we missed the start of the trail from Timberline Lodge. We followed the guidance of a lodge worker who directed us up a stairway which eventually took us to a service road that switchbacked below the chairlift all the way to the Silcox Hut. That was three miles (roundtrip) and two steep climbs (one up, one down) that we certainly didn't need to do. But we quickly got to 7000' and got to practice hiking with elevation and crossing our first snowfield....though we wish we had left our packs at the REAL trail start.

People: We met great people along the way...some for a simple hello, others for a chat about their experience and tips of things up ahead or behind. We certainly weren't inundated with crowds, especially during the week...averaged seeing 18 other backpackers per day during mid-week and 57/day on weekends. Only encountered 9 backpackers going counterclockwise the entire trip (surely more but we didn't pass each other).

Creek crossings: The toughest for us was Elliot, which we hit at 4:30pm after a HOT 85 degree day when there was a lot of run off. Just as we got to the creek to start making our plan across, a big 2' boulder was dropping down the eastern hillside and landed 30' from us. That made us move quickly to wade across in thigh deep water. Strong current but doable with poles. The harder part was scrambling up the hillside on the west side...it's in bad shape and there's not much to hold on to. I'm not sure how people are making their way down but they must be finding a better way than we did. Other crossings were doable once I realized I was best off crossing with my water shoes and wet feet, and my brother found his footing on logs and rocks.

Wildlife: Saw nearly none (three chipmunks and two frogs) until our last night when we saw three deer and a grouse. Hung our bear bag each night but no sign of any curious critters.

Bugs: I swelled up with 20+ biting fly bites and a bee sting despite triple protection (DEET cream, premethrin spray and treated clothes before we left). My brother got no such souvenirs. The worst of the bugs was from McNeil Point trail to Bald Mountain where the biting flies were relentless.

Campsites: Night 1: South side of Clark Creek, right on the "beach". Night 2: Shortly after Elliot Creek crossing in a burned out clearing with great view of sunrise/sunset. Night 3: Bald Mountain, above the southern ridge trail before it links with the cut-off interchange. Night 4: Paradise Park, above the split rock, just about as far up as we could go before hitting the snow.

Water: We found a few areas that lacked water. We had been counting on getting water at Cloud Cap campground but they removed the spigot due to contamination. Then we were hoping for Elliot Creek but too silty. We did find some after we climbed back up the hill west after crossing the creek but it was a good 1+ hours after crossing Elliot Creek and we had run out. We should have gotten some after we left the Cooper Spur Hut. The other stretch that lacked water was between the McNeil Point trail and Bald Mountain. There were about four miles along the ridge where we didn't find anything...so we had to detour off the Timberline Trail on the Bald Mt loop to a sketchy bog with frogs but little moving water (on the way to the trailhead parking lot...likely dried up by now). Later found that the hike down to Muddy Forks had some very small water sources. In mid-July, there were still several streams up at Paradise Park but not sure how long that will last. We learned to filter when we had access to water.

Snowfields: We crossed about 8 longish snowfields near Lambertson Butte, including a sketchy one that was hard to walk in after a hot day and another that had melted below (but was hard to see from above...we ended up going around it).

Wildflowers: Amazing, especially to the north and south. Likely saw 30 different types, with bear grass, lupine and Indian Paintbrush the most prevalent.

Lunch spots: So many good places to stop for meals but our favorite was the "Troll Den" up on Lambertson Butte (east of the trail, after the great top-of-mountain lookout before you get to the butte itself).

Sidetrips: Enjoyed a field trip to see the now-closed Cloud Cap Inn (dropped packs in campground). Glad we saw Cooper Spur Hut. Did some extra miles finding a great camping spot at Paradise Park. Wish we had more time for other detours.

Route recommendations: Would definitely recommend the Paradise Park option over the PCT. And enjoyed Bald Mountain (not the cut-off), especially the ridge hike with a great view of the mountain as we turned the corner and made our way south toward Muddy Fork.

Hardest slog: Up to Paradise Park from Sandy River. Long continuous hill but luckily in the shade. And then hard going down hill from McNeil Point trail to Bald Mountain where we needed snacks and lots of encouragement to sustain us.

Lost trail: We seemed to find ourselves on a not-very-used side trail as we left Ramona Falls and headed to the Sandy River. Worked okay but didn't see anyone else and it was a bit washed out/covered with vegetation. And missed the Timberline Trail sign to the Zig Zag River as we headed out of Paradise Park on the optional loop trail (#757). Hiked an extra 1 mile each way (wondering why we were going back up but without the confidence to know we'd missed a sign somewhere).

Trail hazards: Ran into about 6-8 large down trees covering the trail but nothing we couldn't climb over, under or around. One very narrow, sketchy area with a deep drop off (think it was between Muddy Fork and Ramona Falls) but passable if you don't look down.

Carpooling: We got a lift to the mountain but hadn't arranged a ride home, knowing we could take the shuttle/max combo which takes 3.5 hours to get back to Portland. Tried for 2.5 hours to hitchhike a ride on a sunny, summer Sunday and no one would take us (a few offers but not toward Sandy/Gresham/Portland). Must have been too dirty. Made for a long trip home but worth every minute based on the adventure.

An amazing backpacking trip...my fourth, my brother's first. We can't wait to do more outdoor adventures.
Last edited by scooterRed on July 24th, 2018, 7:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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retired jerry
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Re: Timberline Trail 7/11-15, 2018

Post by retired jerry » July 24th, 2018, 3:56 pm

"We had been counting on getting water at Cloud Cap campground but they removed the spigot due to contamination."

Bummer. I hate when they shut off water spigots because they're not certified pure. They should just put a sign up saying to treat it.

Sounds like a great trip.

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drm
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Location: The Dalles, OR
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Re: Timberline Trail 7/11-15, 2018

Post by drm » July 24th, 2018, 7:16 pm

Well, next time you do it, you will have the route wired!

You didn't mention bugs, which makes me think they weren't an issue. I guess they still could be now even if they weren't when you were there. I'm thinking of going to Dollar Puddle later this week.

scooterRed
Posts: 3
Joined: July 24th, 2018, 2:26 pm

Re: Timberline Trail 7/11-15, 2018

Post by scooterRed » July 24th, 2018, 7:58 pm

Thanks for the reminder...I just updated the post to include a Bugs reference since I'm still itching from them:

Bugs: I swelled up with 20+ biting fly bites and a bee sting despite triple protection (DEET cream, premethrin spray and treated clothes before we left). My brother got no such souvenirs. The worst of the bugs was from McNeil Point trail to Bald Mountain where the biting flies were relentless.

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