Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

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Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by poppacouch » July 19th, 2020, 4:03 pm

Timberline Trail - CCW in a day
Friday: July 17, 2020
Amazing experience to share with my wife and was a huge accomplishment for us!

Summary in Numbers
Miles: 40.54
Total Time: 15:39
Ascent: 8,977 ft
Avg Speed: 2.6 mph
Moving Speed: 2.8 mph
Pace: 23:10 min/mile
Moving Time: 14:26
Stopped Time: 1:13
*Stats per Gaia iphone.

Random notes

Method: Steady, fast walking. We jogged at most 1 mile downhill. The rest was just keeping it moving forward…

River crossings: none required getting wet. A few required a bit of agility leaping across rocks, but most had logs which made it fairly easy.

Other hikers: first 1/4 of the day saw very few people. But it picked up and the last 3/4 we saw a lot of other hikers.

Snow: Lot more snow on trail than I anticipated. Nothing was troublesome or required traction, but of course take it easy on the steep glaciers. These snow banks did require slowing down a bit to find good footing though…

Blowdown: As others have noted, still a lot of trees down on the trail. Not too bad for us with small daypacks on, but could be annoying with bigger, heavier pack. Often there was an easy step over or even worn path around.

Biggest surprise: upon rounding a bend and seeing other hikers coming towards us, about 90% would pull masks on and many went to great effort to turn their head away to the side. I don't think I'll ever get used to the idea of masks in the wilderness… We were always careful to give space - no blatant breathing on anyone - but it all seems a bit over-the-top when passing by so quickly outside. Don't want this to get political, so will stop here :)

Wildlife: limited to birds and chipmunks… I'm not always the best at spotting wildlife and on this trip, the priority was speed on the trail and much of the time my eyes were down.

Provisions: UD 16L 'adventure vest' (first use and it was great) and an REI Flash 22L. We both had 700ml bottles for clean water and one 700ml for dirty to filter with Sawyer Squeeze. Various Green Belly bars as primary calorie source, plus chocolate mangos, jerky, bananas, snickers. I added nuun electrolyte tabs to my water in attempt to prevent cramping. Puffy vests (I never used mine), zip-off pants, spare socks, Altra shoes (love them - keep out grit and have wide toe box), spare tshirt (unused), long and short sleeve shirts. After the cold start, I zipped off my pant legs and long sleeve and never put them on again. Had battery pack and chargers for iphone/watch (my watch made it the whole day without charge. 5% left at finish). Med-kit (used ibuprofen and bandaids as preventative for toe blisters). Hiking poles - a must for the up-hill! Headlamps.

Detailed Report

My wife and I set ourselves a challenging goal to do the Timberline Trail about a year ago (after I backpacked it over 3 days). It was an audacious goal, but one that we saw as attainable assuming we prepared properly. We are not normally into endurance events and do little running, but do get in a lot of walking and active exercise. We've been consistently walking 3-15 miles a day for the last year, with most days being 5-7 miles and occasional weekend 15 miler. Lucky to have such nice urban trails in our neighborhood!

4:00 am. Woke up at Timberline Lodge. First time staying here. Found it very nice, but on the expensive side when really just looking for a place to sleep… Need to be creative with options here next time.

4:30 am. On the trail! Dark, but not too cold. Moon only a small crescent, but clear and expecting a very pleasant day for mid-July. Forecast called for 60's and sun! Took our starting picture and headed off. After a brief mis-direction getting out of the lodge area, we made our way down the trail towards the short ridge before dropping down to White river.


5:04 am. We were able to cross the White river under the light of our headlamps, but without any trouble. The sun would be with us soon as dusk was just starting to give way. I started with hat and gloves and had the gloves put away after not too long. Love how quickly the body warms up once I get moving!


We made our way through Mt. Hood Meadows and then to Heather Falls. I was feeling as sense of urgency and pushed us to jog the some downhills, trying to be careful to avoid twisting an ankle. This was about the only jogging we did the rest of the day.


6:27 am. We paused for a photo at Heather Falls. One of MANY beautiful falls along this trail! 5 minutes later, we were at the Clark Creek crossing. We found a few large boulders and leapt across. We would manage to keep our feet dry all day!

7:01 am. We crossed Newton creek using a collection of logs nicely arranged to make it easy. And now begins the first big climb of the day: Up Gnarl Ridge to and around to the high point of our trip. As we worked around Lamberson Butte, we were passed by a pair of guys also doing the loop in a day. We would not see them again… After getting a look and a few pictures of Newton Creek falls and the deep canyon, we headed north into the arid, but still snowy section.


8:36 am. We passed the high point of our trip. There were several snowfields to cross in this section. Much more than I recall last summer when I did the trip the last weekend of July. This was prove true throughout the trail. Snow drifts were plentiful and while they didn't prove a big problem, it did often require slowing down a bit.
We did a bit more jogging downhill as we headed towards Cloud Cap.
I had planned to show my wife our previous years campsites, but in my haste to keep moving, I managed to miss BOTH of them. In each case I was thinking about them in the area, but then must have been talking, gawking, or just had my eyes down on the trail and walked right past. Was surprising…

9:40 am. Didn't take any pictures between high point and reaching the Eliot Branch. We stopped and filled up our waters for the first time of the day. Crossing Newton prove easy thanks to a large, dead log. After scrambling up the loose face and using GAIA to work our way back to the trail - the only part of the trail this was really necessary - we started our next climb. This is another decent climb and offers a new perspective walking through much of the dead trees from a fire some years ago.


10:30 am. We filled up water at Compass Creek.

11:20 am. We crossed Coe Creek using a 3-wide log bridge. Thanks again to whomever gets these setup as they sure make the water crossings so much easier to stay dry! We then worked our way through this beautiful part of the mountain. I love the all the amazing meadows, filled with flowers and gurgling streams between whole section from Wy'East Basin, Eden Park and Cairn Basin.


12:12 pm. We stopped for a short break in Wy'East Basin. I was feeling off - low blood sugar? Had been eating and drinking along the way. Took shoes and socks off to check feet for blisters. My wife was worried about blisters, but instead found she had blown her big toes through both of her socks! She was prepared with a clean pair. We ate and drank up. I took a few Ibuprofen as preventative against potential inflammation. I soaked my feet in the frigid waters of a little creek. Not sure it really felt good, but seemed like a good idea. Could only stand it for short bursts. As we got up to go, felt much better.


1:36 pm. After passing my other campsite from last year near McNeil Point, without noticing it, and without getting any good views to the north because of low clouds/fog, we made it to bluffs looking down into Muddy Fork Canyon. The clouds obscured full view of the summit, but we still got good views of the Yocum ridge across and the many waterfalls. Gorgeous spot. With the low clouds, it is even a bit mystical, something like out of Jurassic Park.


This was the start to easiest part of the day. Going CCW results in a long, gradual downhill from around McNeil Point all the way to the low point at the Sandy River. We made very good time and found it enjoyable.

2:36 pm. Muddy Fork crossing(s). Logs made each of these pretty easy. And more beautiful views of the waterfalls coming down all over the Yocum Ridge area.

More downhill. Wonderful walking through the very wet side of the mountain. This part of the trail is wide makes for easy progress.

3:41 pm. Made it to Romana Falls. I'd been looking forward to my wife seeing this for the first time. It never disappoints. There were probably 20-30 people in small groups enjoying the falls. We opted to take a quick photo and keep moving. We were hoping to make it back to Timberline before 9pm when the last dinner seating would be open… We knew were close to that timeline, but couldn't waste much time with the imposing climbs ahead.

4:02 pm. Sandy River crossing proved easy. But the big 3500 Ft climb was ahead… I had warned my wife that this would be the toughest part of our day and unfortunately I was correct. We loaded up our water at Rushing River creek at the base of the climb. And then began the slog up… and up… and up… It proved to be as challenging as predicted. 30 miles in, I begin getting odd cramps just behind my middle toes near the pad of my left foot.

5:04 pm. After climbing around 1300', we made it to the lookout for Paradise Branch falls. Somewhere about 1/3 of the way up this climb a few ladies made the comment, 'You're almost there!'. I was dubious, but at this point eager to hear such good news! However, the comments proved to be either a really mean spirited lie or their idea of 'almost there' was very different… We must have climbed another 1000' after they made that declaration. It was actually a bit dumbfounding…

5:26 pm. Made it to the split for Paradise Park. I wanted to take this because I had missed it last year and heard it was something to see. Unfortunately this meant even more climbing, but at least It allows bypassing the Lost Creek canyon on the main PCT trail.

5:50 pm. Walked below Split Rock in Paradise Park. Didn't have the energy to have a look, despite never being there before. Save it for another trip! At this point, we were both exhausted and it was a mental game to just keep pushing onward. I knew we had one big climb left in ZigZag canyon. But first I relished checking out all the campsites in Paradise Park. There were a LOT of folks already setup and we'd see many more heading up on our way back to the lodge. This being a Friday evening, and seeing the views, I understand why and will certainly be back. I even believe I can find a way to hammock camp (the only way I want to camp).



6:40 pm. Made it to the bottom of ZigZag canyon. This proved to be one of the toughest crossings for my wife. It required a long leap, across a tight funnel where the water raged through. After taking her time to ponder if this was the best route on weary and unsteady legs, she successfully made the leap! Now the last major climb up and out. This one seemed to last forever… This was a mentally draining slog. Every time I felt we'd be hitting the top, another corner and more climbing.

7:51 pm. Kruser snow run of Timberline Ski resort. Finally made it to the top!!! There weren't any pictures between ZigZag River and this point. We were running on fumes. We appreciated encouragement from several hikers, starting their adventures fresh into the Friday evening.

8:10 pm. We stopped our GPS tracks on the back patio of Timberline Lodge. We put our face masks on and dragged ourselves back to the front of the lodge for the 'finish picture'. We were barely moving at this point. Feet killing. I didn't feel very good. Not nauseous, but just not hungry. My wife was ready for a big burger and since that always sounds good to me (under usual circumstances) I figured I'd be ready to eat by the time we sat down.


We made our way to the Cascade Dinning hall and confirmed we could get a table until 9pm. We had made it with time to spare - affording us a chance to shower before sitting down for dinner. After we threw our gear down and showered, I was ready to just go straight to bed, but my wife convinced me to head for dinner - that I should eat and would feel better after. Felt like a very backwards situation, her encouraging ME to eat? We were seated and then told to use our phone for a menu. For some reason, that was working and when the paper menus came we found… no burger??? Really??? I guess the menus are really condensed due to Covid. So, to my astonishment we both opted for a salad (at least it had bacon). I just wasn't feeling hungry at all, so a $50 steak seemed it would be a waste.

We were blessed that friends agreed to watch our kids for 2 nights, so we had another night in the lodge for recovery. Ahhh, a LONG night of sleep ahead.
Unfortunately, my body was so sore (hip and feet primarily) that sleep wasn't that easy. It hurt to roll over, or to get up. I did sleep a good stretch, but then awoke at 4:30am. My wife stirred and we both were awake until we went to breakfast around 8:30… This was really unexpected, but I guess our bodies wanted to stick with our normal 5am wake time.

We were guesstimating we would finish around 16 hours. At home we average 15mins/mile while doing our daily exercise which includes regular significant elevation changes. So, we figured if we could average about 20 mins/mile and add some stoppages, then 16 hours was reasonable. We finished in 15 hours 40 minutes, well before sundown! An AMAZING experience and accomplishment. Think I need a few days to rest before deciding if we should do that again… Feet are still a bit tender and recovering this 2 days later.

Have heard of starting around Ramona Falls, going CCW. This way you get all the tough climbing done at the start when fresh and finish with the relatively easy long downhill from McNeil Point. I love this idea, but then there are logistsics with start/stop at Ramona. Need to camp and pack it out when done, or maybe recruit some support crew to help…?

I have so many more pictures and just grabbed a few real quick for this post (which has taken MUCH longer than I planned). Can add more if anyone's curious.

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by huckleberries » July 19th, 2020, 4:22 pm

Wow! Thank you for sharing what it's like to do the whole trail in a day, and details on conditions as well. Would be great to see more photos. I have never gotten that close to 40 miles in a day, so I'm in awe.
Re-entering the Stone Ephemera of Codex Monolithiopia

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by Paul2 » July 19th, 2020, 5:33 pm

Nice work! I've been thinking about doing this. Its a little daunting! I took 4 days last time.
I've been wandering early and late, from New York City to the Golden Gate, and it don't look like I'll ever stop my wandering.
-James Taylor

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by mjirving » July 20th, 2020, 5:33 am

Nice work. I did that same route with similar plan/time a few years back. That climb from the Sandy is a long on at the end of the day! I’m surprised the snow was low enough for this, this early in the summer as I thought you might get slowed down due to some tricky snow patch crossings still. Nice work!

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by MarkInTheDark » July 20th, 2020, 5:52 am

Cool, thanks for the motivating report!

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by BeaverDawg » July 20th, 2020, 3:02 pm

Wow...very impressive accomplishment. Thanks for the trip report!

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by xrp » July 20th, 2020, 4:49 pm

What a challenge and accomplishment!

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by Titogoeshiking3 » July 20th, 2020, 6:09 pm

Very impressive! Congratulations! That is a trip you will remember forever.

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by janeymc » July 21st, 2020, 8:10 am

This is amazing!! Well done to both of you. And an awesome trip report. Really appreciate the updates on conditions (especially re crossings) and the pictures are great too.

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Re: Timberline Trail Loop in a day - July 17, 2020

Post by tschalpi » August 1st, 2020, 10:37 am

Nice work! I remember we crossed you folks on our LolliHood journey: https://www.christofteuscher.com/aagaa/ ... lihood-fkt

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