McNeil Point: July 11, 2019

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Joined: June 25th, 2018, 10:13 am
Location: Portland/Salt Lake City

McNeil Point: July 11, 2019

Post by Brian95 » April 19th, 2020, 7:34 pm

I moved at the end of last summer to Salt Lake City to start my graduate studies, where we are fortunate to still have open trails to hike these days. However, with the Oregon trails being closed for the foreseeable future, I figured I'd at least post some reports from some of the hikes I embarked on last summer's for all you guys to enjoy. This one describes my July 11 excursion from Top Spur to McNeil Point with one of my close friends.

We arrived at the trailhead bright and early at 8:00 on a Thursday morning, and already the trailhead was bustling. It was a foggy, chilly morning, with sweatshirts a necessity as we made our way up Top Spur. It almost felt as though we were walking through a movie, with something waiting to jump out of us through the thick vapor. As we continued, turning counterclockwise the Timberline Trail we reached the Bald Mountain viewpoint, viewless today. Soon, after taking the cutoff over the ridge and turning clockwise on Timberline, the fog started to thin, and I started to feel a touch of warmth on my legs and hands. The sun began to peak through, giving us lovely sunbeams through the fog.
My friend had to be somewhere in the late afternoon, so we continued our jaunt through blooming wildflowers up to the McNeil Point trail junction, skipping the scramble trail in the process. As we started on the trail, the fog had cleared enough to give us the first of our incredible mountain views.
However, the fog decided it wasn't done with us yet. As we continued our climb up the trail, clouds came and went, giving us alternating hazy and clear views. The wind was relentless: bone-chilling yet calming at the same time.
Being early July, we soon came across some snow. After first only making appearances down in the valleys, forming the sources of numerous intermittent creeks, we began to encounter snow on the trail itself. Nearing the tree line, we encountered flowering, stunted conifers, their red blooms serving as a stark contrast against the green of the plants, white of the snow, blue of the sky, and gray of the looming mountain.
Nearing the shelter, the clouds continued to come in waves. Up here, above the trees and exposed, the wind was wicked, especially while the sun was obscured. Fortunately, the cycles were rapid enough that when the sun would come out, we would soak up the rays. The two below photos, taken three minutes apart, give some sense of how quickly the scene was evolving. Somehow, we were the only two humans at the point.
As the sun continued to shine, I removed my sweatshirt, in the process removing my hat. It was at this point that a particularly-strong gust of wind came through, and subsequently I was unable to find my hat! After looking for several minutes, we gave up, thinking it was lost to nature forever. Of course, when I opened up my backpack to take out a snack, I found my hat sitting comfortably inside. Not my finest moment!

We elected to not continue up Cathedral Ridge due to the wind and time constraints. By the time we headed down, the evanescent fog and clouds had completely lifted, presenting even more views of the mountain. On the way down, the multitude of intermittent streams were running faster, heavier, and stronger than before, as the patches snow took in the sun's rays, continuing their slow melt. We took a detour down to Glisan Creek, flowing stronger than ever and providing us a great spot to stop for lunch. As the clouds rolled in again, we realized that was significantly later than we thought; the fun and beauty of the place making us lose track of time!
Briskly heading down the mountain, the trail was packed with people, despite it being a weekday. I wish the USFS would stop closing trails, instead choosing to open some new trails in the area. We all love the mountain, but it's getting loved to death these days.... That's a topic for another time, another place, to which there is no easy solution. Whatever else we can say about our current situation, I'm sure the mountain, and the wildlife, is loving its newly-found solitude.

This being both my and my friend's first time to McNeil point, we remarked on how lucky we are to live in the West, where lands such as these exist and are open to the public. It was truly a day well-spent.

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