Timberline Trail section hiking: Cloud Cap to Newton Creek and back 7/20/19

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huckleberries
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Timberline Trail section hiking: Cloud Cap to Newton Creek and back 7/20/19

Post by huckleberries » August 23rd, 2019, 7:53 pm

Timberline hike log for Cloud Cap to Newton Creek and back-- July 20, 2019. This is part 2 of my section hiking of the Timberline Trail this year.

I got an early start, arriving at the Cloud Cap trailhead by 8am after two hours drive. There were already a lot of cars at the parking lot. I did some stretching and filled out the wilderness permit with a destination of Gnarl Ridge, but Newton Creek as my ideal destination. I was happy to have gotten my pack weight under 20 pounds, partly by replacing my Arc'teryx Bora 40 pack with a Deuter ACT, and partly by thinning down some supplies, like not carrying two Nalgene bottles but instead one plus a liter mineral water bottle.

It was a clear sunny day and soon I was heading uphill in the Tilly Jane Creek canyon and already fine views of Mt. Hood could be had. After a short while in some woods I came to a campsite with about half a dozen guys standing around a roaring campfire.
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Mt. Hood
After breaking out into the wide open rocky plain, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful views looking down upon Hood River valley. I checked out the rock shelter which seemed in very good condition. I saw some walkers off in the distance but had not actually run into anyone on the trail yet.
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Rock shelter
While it could have seemed like a long uphill slog, the views just kept getting better and better. Soon Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier came into view to the north. The immediate landscape though was very desolate compared to my recent sojourn between Top Spur and Ramona Falls. The many small snowfields were relatively easy to cross with hiking poles.
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Early in the day, crossing the rocky plain
I arrived at the saddle/high elevation point with mixed feelings. There would be beaucoup elevation loss from here to Newton Creek, which I'd have to regain after my mileage so far exceeded 6-7 miles. But I felt pretty strong and like there was a good chance I could get to Newton Creek and back.
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Mt. Adams and Mt. Rainier
I would have included a long distance shot of Mt. St. Helens and Broken Top but it was a pretty hazy shot and also I ran into that 15 image limit on this post.
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Some Sisters
The route south of the saddle was unclear and there were multiple paths. I choose the middle path and emerged at the main trail exit from the snow thanks to the GPS. After rounding a couple corners, a beautiful vantage point of Mt. Jefferson stopped me in my tracks and I shot a panorama and some single shots. I could see Gnarl Ridge a short distance away and Lamberson Butte. Briefly I regreted that I wouldn't really have time and energy to check out the Butte.
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Just prior to getting to Gnarl Ridge
When I got to the premier high point where the trail turns to descend Gnarl Ridge, there were three runners there talking. Two were continuing on to do the entire Timberline Trail and were saying goodbye to the third who was turning back to Timberline Lodge. After they left I was able to quickly shoot another 360 panorama. From here you could clearly see the runout of Newton Creek and it looked like a dramatic elevation loss.
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Mt. Hood 360 panorama from Gnarl Ridge
The views from Gnarl Ridge were just incredible. I could have spent a lot more time just enjoying the section from 6900' high down to 6600'. As the trail wound around Lamberson Butte, it also got a lot less rocky and I was able to walk a bit faster. There were some sweet pocket meadows in this section, and quite a few wildflowers.
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Lamberson Butte from higher up on Gnarl Ridge
I finally reached the decision point where Gnarl Ridge Trail splits from the Timberline Trail. I decided to keep on going. One incentive was the prospect of better water to filter than I had seen along the way. The descent to Newton Creek was pleasant and fairly quick.
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Newton Creek 360 panorama
I was happy to see Newton Creek -- I'd never been in this upper stretch of it before and there was plenty of cool water. I found a pleasant rocky defilade upstream from the "official" crossing to rest, eat lunch, and filter water. There were dozens of butterflies all around and some colorful wildflowers too. Up to this point I had a fair amount of solitude, having met only half a dozen people on the trail. That would completely reverse on the way back when I saw perhaps 75 to 100 people on the return leg, many of them runners.
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Butterflies at Newton Creek
Very reluctantly I turned around and retraced my steps uphill. Back at the junction with the Gnarl Ridge Trail, I broke into a fresh water bottle that was still cold from having kept it in a cooler in the car. It was so refreshing and I was quite thirsty but I had to nurse it up to the top of Gnarl Ridge. There was a couple here that I would leapfrog all the way up the ridge.
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Mt. Jeff
It was starting to warm up and this stretch of uphill really burned through a lot of energy. Above Lamberson Butte the views of Mt. Hood were like none I had ever seen of the mountain and I stopped once again to shoot 360 panoramas and single shots. There were three people lunching at 6600' so I headed back up to my favorite viewpoint at just below 7000'.
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Mt. Hood 360 panorama from Gnarl Ridge
I passed a huge string of runners as I left Gnarl Ridge. All the snowfields were easy to navigate since I could follow my old track on the GPS. By the time I got back to the saddle, I felt a blister might be developing on my left heel, so I stopped to put on a moleskin. My socks were soaked from the sweaty exertion of the last couple thousand vertical feet. Some guy had camped on the high point of the saddle and was standing there the whole time like a bronze statue.
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Mt. Hood from Gnarl Ridge
I was starting to feel the distance but was buoyed by the fact that most of the way back was downhill. There were so many people in this section that it became more of a social experience than a wilderness experience, and it seemed like some people were tired of saying hello already and didn't say anything.
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Mt. Hood detail
By the time I reached Tilly Jane canyon and the sandy patches, I was really ready to stop moving. I helped a family who was trying to figure out which trail went to the iceberg view, and then a short while later got to the parking lot. I ran into the couple I had leapfrogged on Gnarl Ridge and compared notes. They had just finished the entire Timberline Trail having broken it up by staying at Timberline Lodge.
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In the end, my GPS says I went over 13 miles and 3740 feet of elevation gain. My fitness tracker showed something like 41,000 steps, 38,000 of which were from the hike--leading me to think I took a lot of small steps? Besides seeing so many stratovolcanoes, one of the things I really enjoyed was how many really different perspectives on Mt. Hood I got.
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keithcomess
Posts: 33
Joined: April 24th, 2019, 8:04 pm

Re: Timberline Trail section hiking: Cloud Cap to Newton Creek and back 7/20/19

Post by keithcomess » August 30th, 2019, 5:56 pm

Excellent post and photos. Thanks!

Admittedly it's a value judgement, but the advent of trail running and the seemingly large number of participants somehow detracts from the "wilderness experience", at least for me and from a backpacker's perspective. I wonder if the focused attention to the trail (required to avoid a turned ankle or other injury) permits meaningful enjoyment of the surroundings or rather (as my cynical nature suggests) trail running is simply an "outdoor gym" event.

Submitted with the usual disclaimers,
Keith

Brian95
Posts: 32
Joined: June 25th, 2018, 10:13 am

Re: Timberline Trail section hiking: Cloud Cap to Newton Creek and back 7/20/19

Post by Brian95 » August 31st, 2019, 10:09 am

keithcomess wrote:
August 30th, 2019, 5:56 pm
Admittedly it's a value judgement, but the advent of trail running and the seemingly large number of participants somehow detracts from the "wilderness experience", at least for me and from a backpacker's perspective. I wonder if the focused attention to the trail (required to avoid a turned ankle or other injury) permits meaningful enjoyment of the surroundings or rather (as my cynical nature suggests) trail running is simply an "outdoor gym" event.
I often trail run on out-and-back hikes. I'll hike in and then trail run out, so that I can take in and enjoy the scenery on the way in as with a typical hike, and then get a nice workout on the way out. Two for the price of one :)

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