Timberline Trail section hiking: Topspur-Bald Mountain-Cairn Basin-Wyeast Basin-Elk Cove and back 8/4/20

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huckleberries
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Timberline Trail section hiking: Topspur-Bald Mountain-Cairn Basin-Wyeast Basin-Elk Cove and back 8/4/20

Post by huckleberries » March 20th, 2021, 11:49 am

Timberline hike log -- August 4th, 2020. This is part 4 of my section hiking of the Timberline Trail.

See this post for part 3:
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=29021&p=214215
See this post for part 2:
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=28480&p=210450
See this post for part 1:
viewtopic.php?f=8&t=28310&p=209322

View map showing all 360º panoramas I've shot around Mt. Hood (there's 64 at the moment):
https://www.vrlog.com/catalog/mt-hood-n ... t-map.html

In prior years I had done segments Timberline Lodge to Paradise Park (2013), and Cloud Cap to Elk Meadows (2016), but not posted a hike log for them. This segment comprised the most miles and most elevation gain of any to date.

Prologue: a big difference from previous year's Timberline segment hikes is the pandemic put a crimp on hiking, so I had months to prepare for this one excursion. I wanted to do more but the fire season put an end to that idea. The only time I've spent this much time planning a hike was for ten day backpack trips. By doing an analysis of every single thing I carried last year, I reduced my pack weight from 20 pounds down to 16 pounds. An unexpected side-effect was my pack ended up being slightly too large and it seemed I probably could have saved even more weight with a lighter, smaller pack. While 16 pounds probably sounds like a lot of weight for a dayhike, I needed to carry 64 ounces of water, which accounts for over four pounds; and I was determined to take a DSLR camera, a decision that costs four pounds all by itself. A phone can be OK for quick shots but I have found it inadequate for quality 360 panoramas. The day of the hike had been forecast to be in the sixties a week or more prior, but eventually the forecast kept inching up and the actual high was above 70.

Driving to the Top Spur trailhead, I took the shorter route from Lolo Pass via road 1828/118, which was open to traffic when I got there at 6:55 or so. I saw no one along the way and got to the trailhead at 7:10 where there were about eight cars parked. There were no people, and I assembled my gear, zero'ed out my GPS, and put on my boots. I headed up the trail at 7:20am and quickly settled into a slow steady pace up the hill. I saw a couple ripe huckleberries and some patches of Devil's Claw. I was thankful for the clear blue sky day.

I quickly reached the intersection of the Pacific Crest Trail and the Timberline Trail. There's something about this crossroads of two iconic trails which appeals to me, so I shot a quick-and-dirty panorama with my phone and filled out a wilderness permit.


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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/timberline-tr ... r-topspur/

I headed east on the shaded trail and enjoyed the sections that had some forest duff. The number of spider webs that I brushed into led me to believe I was the first down the trail that day. After about a mile I came across a group of three who were resting alongside the trail, all without masks.

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As the trail got higher on the ridge, suddenly it broke out into the open and a there was fine view of Mt. Hood as well as the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River. Two people and a dog hung out in a tent off the trail that had an amazing view of the mountain. I stopped to shoot a couple panoramas using my hiking stick converted into a monopod.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/bald-mountain-ridge-nr-1/

It was a weighty decision whether to bring the hardware to mount a DSLR on a monopod at a 90 degree angle, but as I shot 16 or so frames, it seemed worthwhile as I could tell the camera was steadier than if I handheld it. And the panoramas were easier to stitch as well.

Image

View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/bald-mountain-ridge-nr-2/

It's a long uphill stretch along the north side of Bald Mountain and about 1,300 feet of elevation gain from Top Spur to the first junction to McNeil Point. I came to some switchbacks and then some impressive rock strewn slopes below McNeil Point. The trail entered a delightful zone of small ponds with more than fine views of Mt. Hood.

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There were enough beargrass flowers to perhaps call it a "mass bloom." I shot a panorama at a pond and wished I could have spent more time here, but I was planning on getting to Elk Cove and didn't feel like I had lots of extra time.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/mcgee-creek-area-nr-1/

I kept going along the line of ponds looking for another view, maybe with a reflection of the mountain? There was something compelling about this spot, with multiple perspective lines all pointing towards the mountain which I had to capture.

Image

View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/mcgee-creek-area-nr-2/

Finally the trail left the ponds and started twisting around on the side of a ridge. It didn't feel right and at some point I had gotten off the Timberline and onto a sidetrail to the Mazama trail, although I never saw a sign. The GPS proved valuable here as I don't think the map by itself would been as clear where I was. I backtracked and with relief got back on the Timberline Trail.
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I emerged at a small rise with trail on both sides and shot a panorama with Vista Ridge on one side and Cathedral Ridge on the other. I heard someone in the distance but never saw them. While Mt. Hood towered above everything on this day, practically the entire way so far McNeil Point was a secondary feature of the landscape.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/timberline-ne ... -junction/

The next stretch dropped down and up across two creek canyons.

As I arrived at Eden Park, I was blown away by the wildflowers. A giant field of them called out for a panorama. Somehow I didn't see the shelter here.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/cairn-basin/

There were multiple tributaries of Ladd Creek to cross and one of them was the most challenging of all the stream crossings of the day. It took me awhile to discover the most robust rock hopping path across. There was no one else here, which was a relief as I had read stories of 40 people waiting to cross the Sandy River.

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Going from Cairn Basin to the upper reaches of Wy'east Basin was a bit of a slog. The view of Mt. Adams was getting better and better -- it's such a beautiful mountain.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/timberline-tr ... dge-trail/

The next stretch skirted the edges of the 2011 Dollar Fire and soon I came around a ridge where Elk Cove area came into view, my destination.

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At Elk Cove my GPS registered 8.2 miles, so I knew it was going to be just less than 16.4 miles due to the detour back at the Mazama trail. From this end of Elk Cove, Barrett Spur blocks much of the view of Mt. Hood. However there was a distant view of Mt. Adams as a consolation.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/elk-cove-by-stream/

I sat along the stream away from the trail and soaked up the luxuriant wildflowers along the Coe Branch as I ate lunch. Some people went by in the distance. Every part of the territory between the Top Spur junction with the PCT and this spot was new to me. I recognized Elk Cove scenery from my last hike to here from Cloud Cap in 2013. Only that year there were few wildflowers and clouds obscured the mountain. I shot two panoramas using my monopod and reluctantly headed back.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/elk-cove-view-of-mt-adams/

In the midday sun, heading up out of Elk Cove, I had plenty of time to see the patchwork nature of the edge of the Dollar Fire. I felt a little daunted by knowing I still had eight miles to go and a non-trivial amount of elevation gain within the thinner air of over a mile-high baseline elevation. While I was seeing the same views I had in the morning, the lighting was frequently much different and the views did help with motivation.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this stretch:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/wyeast-basin-wildflowers/

On the return leg I encountered a lot more people, although the total for the day was no more than 50 or so. By afternoon Ladd Creek crossing had become a chokepoint. I saw a big group using the crossing and as the trail was narrow I stepped off the trail and up the hillside a few feet. I was surprised that all the ten people in this group seemed not to notice me standing there, as they all had their heads down.

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I managed to spot the Cairn Basin shelter on the way back and it was a good place to rest.

Keeping my supply of water tanked up was a bit of a challenge, not because there wasn't any water but because of forward momentum and mosquitoes. Once you get into a groove of steady movement, a kind of inertia resists stopping. That and the knowledge that mosquitoes will be clouding around once you stop. For some reason they were not an issue in the morning, but by afternoon were getting troublesome when stopped.

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As I retraced my steps past the Vista Ridge trail intersection, I was trying to decide whether to detour over to McNeil Point which I had never been to. By the time I got to the trail that headed up there, it was clear that I didn't have enough time or energy to add another 2.6 miles and thousand feet. And so I simply retraced my steps down Bald Mountain ridge, but stopped at the viewpoints as the lighting was so different from the morning.

Image

View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/bald-mountain-ridge-nr-3/

Image

View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/bald-mountain-ridge-nr-4/

Instead of the McNeil Point detour, I did a much smaller detour over to the south side of Bald Mountain using the shortcut trail. I conserved my water along Bald Mountain ridge where I shot more panoramas from the open viewpoints. I drank my last water at the Bald Mountain overlook knowing it was a short distance downhill to the trailhead.

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View immersive 360 VR photo panorama from this location:
https://www.vrlog.com/360/bald-mountain-overlook-nr-5/

I saw few people on this stretch from Bald Mountain overlook to Topspur trailhead. However for some reason I noticed more huckleberries than I had in the morning.

The cold drinks in the car were so refreshing. In the end I clocked over 16 miles and a hair over 4000 feet of elevation change.

Photographic sidebar: I shot more 360 panoramas on this segment than any of the previous segments. There were a lot of grand viewpoints, but also I started out earlier so I had a bit more time for all the photography, and my lens choice favored wide-angle scenes. That followed another weighty decision to bring a single 20mm prime lens instead of the zoom lens I used on all the previous segments. The 20mm fixed lens is lighter, optically superior, and takes less space; but left me without the ability to zoom in on distant details. My main regret was not having a full-frame DSLR to use all the 20mm lens glass.

I used the "little earth" thumbnails of the panoramas because I wanted to clearly distinguish the virtual reality 360 panoramas from the static photos, which I also took quite a few of.
Last edited by huckleberries on March 22nd, 2021, 7:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Charley
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Re: Timberline Trail section hiking: Topspur-Bald Mountain-Cairn Basin-Wyeast Basin-Elk Cove and back 8/4/20

Post by Charley » March 20th, 2021, 5:12 pm

That's trippy! What a beautiful hike, eh?

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Openminded2
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Re: Timberline Trail section hiking: Topspur-Bald Mountain-Cairn Basin-Wyeast Basin-Elk Cove and back 8/4/20

Post by Openminded2 » March 21st, 2021, 9:25 pm

Just a week after this I got sidetracked to Mazama just like you. The trail description has since been updated on OH, but clearly, “go right” at the ancient sign saying not to camp in the meadow.

Lovely pictures!
It can’t be anything that a cup of tea won’t help

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huckleberries
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Re: Timberline Trail section hiking: Topspur-Bald Mountain-Cairn Basin-Wyeast Basin-Elk Cove and back 8/4/20

Post by huckleberries » March 22nd, 2021, 4:35 am

I have to admit I was pretty distracted at the meadow, lining up my next panorama. But then when the "Timberline Trail" I thought I was on turned into little more than a cowpath, something seemed way off.

Thank you!
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