Monday, December 27, 2010

Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge

Trail magic! It was so early in the morning, I
even needed a flash to get this photo.
August 24: It only took an hour of hiking, if that, to reach Highway 26 where I found a cooler and stopped to read the register and drink a Coke. It wasn't a pleasant place to stop for a break, though, since road construction was happening on the highway. The huge road machines, those guys have.

I hoofed it up the rest of the way to Timberline Lodge by lunchtime. Along the way, Wyoming and Otter caught up with me during a short snack break. Wyoming, I hadn't seen since I saw her hiking southbound near Lake Tahoe, but Otter I had never met before. I wasn't entirely surprised to see them--I knew they were ahead of me from a southbound hiker I had met the day before. So I knew they were close, but I couldn't predict exactly when I would cross paths with them.

We compared notes about the fire closure. Wyoming seemed extremely annoyed about the detour, even now that it was behind her, saying that the road really wore her out. They took alternate route #1 the whole distance. I told them about my little shortcut through the woods that cut the detour in half. I think Wyoming was a little disappointed she didn't think to do that herself. Otter just seemed happy to be alive. I could imagine him wearing a tie-die T-shirt and smoking pot (not that I saw him do either--he just had that laid-back, hippie kind of feel to him). Wyoming said that best as they could tell, they were the first ones who had to walk around the detour. Best as I could tell, they created the footprints I followed out to Highway 42.

The trail followed alongside Barlow Road,
the first road built over the Cascade Range.
I went on ahead to Timberline Lodge. The last part of the trail went through thick layers of sand, and it was like walking on a sand dune. Very difficult, and sand poured into every hole in my shoe. The shoes were seriously falling apart by this point with enormous holes in the sides of them. Two day hikers who saw me couldn't believe I was actually hiking in them. "Don't worry," I assured them, "they just have to get me another mile or two further up the trail. I have new shoes waiting for me at Timberline." =) I thought the shoes would last, but it would have been easier to walk had they not been filling up with sand with every footstep. The shoes were already about a hundred miles past their expiration date by my judgment.

As I came in from the backside of Timberline Lodge, I passed multiple people wearing ski gear, finished with skiing for the day. It's still hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that people are skiing in the last half of August. I could see little black dots racing down the ski slopes high up the mountain. Yep, they were skiing!

I saw four thru-hikers getting back on the trail as I was getting off: the Walking Sisters, Boat, and the last guy looked familiar but I couldn't think of his name. I was a little surprised to see them--I thought they were still behind me. The Walking Sisters seemed to make a habit of showing up along the trail unexpectedly. I think they're magic. I'm not sure exactly what their magic power is, but it's the only logical explanation I could think of.

Bears inhabit these woods, so I was a little surprised to find
this mess at one of the trailheads. It was a regular garbage
can, which does nothing to keep out animals. I don't know
if a bear is responsible for this carnage, though. Could
have been a racoon or something for all I know. But still,
I would have expected animal-proof trash cans around here!
I asked how they got around the fire closure, and they told me that they got a ride from a friend of a friend of a friend or something like that out of Sisters. They had heard about the fire and just skipped the entire section, saying that they planned to go back after reaching Canada and complete the section they missed. Perhaps they did, but I'm always a little suspicious about people who claim they are going to return to parts they missed. Some hikers I'm sure do, but I strongly suspect that the majority of them never do. It's rather a hassle. And in the end, the detour wasn't that big of a deal. An extra 15 miles of hiking involved, and not particularly fun hiking either, but the road walk in Southern California was a heck of a lot worse. And what if the fire damaged the trail so badly that it doesn't reopen again for hikers until next year? Would they still come back to hike the section they miss and end up having to do the detour anyhow?

It certainly explains how they caught up with me so easily, though--they skipped about a hundred miles.

I headed to the Wy'East Store, where my maildrops were waiting. The shoes were critical. I seriously needed new shoes, and they had arrived just fine. I also picked up the food I sent myself from Sisters. My shoes were still filled with sand, so I went outside with the maildrops to empty my shoes of the sand, pouring it out into a big pile. It looked like the sand added at least a full pound to my shoes. Astonishing how much sand managed to get into them.

Mount Hood, up close and personal!
I didn't put on my new shoes just yet--I put on my camp shoes and repacked all of the food into my pack. While repacking everything, I chatted with a section hiker with his dog who had started at the Three Sisters Wilderness and was now waiting for his dad to pick him up right there. Wyoming showed up at about then as well, asking if I had seen Otter. "Sorry, but no. Wanna go for lunch?" =)

Wyoming was good for lunch but had a maildrop to pick up as well. I pointed out where the store was and threw my old shoes in a nearby trash can and waited for her to catch up. Then we headed into Timberline Lodge to find some lunch.

Timberline Lodge you might recognize from The Shining. At least the exterior of the hotel you'd recognize. I don't know where the interior shots were taken. Probably some soundstage in Hollywood or something. But the exterior shots are Timberline Lodge. It's a beautiful building, built during the Great Depression. FDR made the trip out in 1937 to dedicate the new hotel, but much of it today was covered with scaffolding. Seventy-three years after it was built, $4.3 million of the stimulus fund was dedicated to renovating the lodge, once again providing jobs during times of economic hardship.

Looking south, I could see Mount Jefferson and smoke from the fire that
forced me into a detour. It was definitely still burning! I could see another
fire burning far to the west (probably the Bull of the Woods Wilderness)
and a heck of a lot of smoke to the east from an otherwise unseen fire.
Fires burning everywhere!
We settled on the Ram's Head Bar on the top floor. All of the tables were crowded with people, so we took our seats at the bar and chatted with the Austrian bartender for a great deal of the time. I ordered the meatloaf sandwich, which was good, but a little expensive. Actually, everything seemed a little expensive. You have to pay a little extra for the "ambiance." =)

After we finished, I put on my new shoes and we headed back to the trail. Miles to do. Canada wasn't getting any closer!

We parted ways on the trail. I hiked at a faster pace than Wyoming did, and we chose to hike at our own comfortable pace. I caught up with Otter talking with a couple of day hikers on the trail and passed him by as well.

Between Timberline Lodge and Cascade Locks, there are several routes available. The first decision point was to head to Paradise Park or not. Horses aren't allowed at Paradise Park so the official PCT skips it. The detour is a bit longer, but so much more spectacular, and so I chose the Paradise Park route. From the park, I saw my first good views of Mount Saint Helens and even Mount Rainier far in the distance. Washington was just around the corner!

These shoes went about a hundred miles more than
they should have, but I'd never wear them again.
Notice the large hole in the side where the stitching
came out?  (You can see the clean, new shoes
peeking out in the background.)
The next decision point came at Ramona Falls. The official PCT doesn't actually go to Ramona Falls, a tragedy I can only imagine happened because horses aren't allowed at the falls. It's about the same distance as the official PCT, however, and I think most thru-hikers choose to take the falls route. I chose that route.

I would have been happy to camp right at the falls--it was getting late in the afternoon by the time I arrived--but camping there wasn't allowed (even though I did see a few backpackers--not thru-hikers!--camped nearby), so I just took a short break. I filled up with water at the base and checked up on a letterbox I left there nine years ago. It has the first rubber stamp I ever carved in it and the original logbook. And nine years later, the box is still alive and kicking, getting--on average--one or two visitors per year. Actually, a few of the people who logged in were on their own thru-hikes of the PCT as well. Maybe I should have started the clues from the Mexican border instead. =)

I followed the trail another quarter mile or so away from the falls and set up camp on a slight hill bare of trees. It wasn't a very big clearing, but it gave me a small view of the night time sky in this otherwise heavily forested terrain. I didn't see Wyoming or Otter again. I wasn't sure if we had somehow passed each other and didn't realize it--perhaps taking different routes around Paradise Park and/or Ramona Falls. So I couldn't be sure anymore if they were ahead of or behind me. Well, it didn't matter. I'm sure I'd cross paths with them again somewhere along the way. =)

Wyoming poses in front of Timberline Lodge. The scaffolding is part
of a renovation project paid for by your stimulus dollars. Once again,
the government is using this lodge to stimulate the economy.

The Magic Mile ski lift is one of the oldest ski lifts in America, and at the time it was
originally built, the longest in the world. And you can ski all year long!

Look at that beard on me!

See those two hikers coming down the trail? I passed them just up on their side of the river a minute or so
after taking this photo. While going around them on the trail, my foot seemed to have gone a bit too
far out, and I slid several feet down the slope. Hurt like hell and I scraped up my arm a bit!
Over the noise of the river, though, those two hikers didn't even realize that I almost fell completely
off and into the river. =) Ultimately, it didn't turn out to be a big deal, but it's surprising how
quickly a serious injury can strike with little or no notice! I certainly didn't think I'd draw
any blood less than a minute after taking this photo, but I did!

Paradise Park--well named!

This waterfall is HUGE--but looks so tiny compared to Mount Hood....

Sandy River certainly seemed well named, but the bridge
across it looked a little sketchy....

My flash caught the spray from the Ramona Falls, in case you were wondering
what those little dots in the photo are.

One of the few videos I took with my camera. I had trouble getting all of Ramona Falls into a single photo, so I figured a video where I could pan around might work better. You decide! =)


Anonymous said...

I love these photos!


Okie Dog said...

That Paradise Park is gorgeous, and I love that you chose to video the falls, great added treat...
What the heck! that pic of those holes on the trail, with the black ground looks really evil, looks as if, if you took a misstep there too you would go, well, some place not pleasant, sheesh, creepy...
enjoyed the whole chapter, thanks..OD

Unknown said...

Clues starting from the Mexico border? That'd be cruel!


veganf said...

Gorgeous spot! Gotta add that to my to-do list.

sarcasmo said...

Paradise Park is my next Bucket List location. What a beautiful alpine meadow and hills and that waterfall. I'm so jealous.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the video -- love the sound of the waterfall... can almost feel the spray on my face!


P.S. (Glad you posted a shot of Timberline Lodge. I stayed there with my family around 1965, when I was 3 or 4. I remember flirting with the gentlemen in the pool... or was it a hot tub? And their enormous (to me) St. Bernard, Brunhilda. I was small enough to sit on her back like I was riding a pony. Good times. I wonder if I can get my hubby to take us all there...)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow! Mt. Hood is a seriously intimidating volcano. Seeing it up close through your photos proves it's a force not be reckoned with for sure.
In the Paradise Park photos you really captured and showcased the extreme differences between the lush, green wildflower meadows below to the stark, grey, rocky, dismal, volcano above.

I wonder when the volcano does explode if Timberline Lodge will just disappear beneath the ash, lava and debris?
And I wonder if the population of Portland, only about 50 miles away, will be annihilated?
Your photos will be an amazing piece of history and memories when it happens, that's for sure.

Hike On!
~Twinville Trekkers