News from August 2005

Timberline Trail, Day 0

Occurred August 05, 2005 (Permalink)

Early Friday morning, I was jolted out of bed by the sound of my alarm going off. It was 6:15; everyone would be congregating at my house in 45 minutes! We were planning to get an early start towards Mt. Hood, have a protein breakfast at Calamity Jane's off US26, and try to start our day as early as humanly possible. We wanted to make the most of our first day on the Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood, as there were forty miles to cover, and we only had five days to get it done. I was waiting for the usual suspects: Dave, Lara, Lara's friend Michell from Utah, Eliza, Justin and Ana. Actually, Justin and Ana were being "self-sufficient" by bringing their own stuff and told us to meet them at breakfast. The rest of us decided to pool and share equipment--I brought a lot of food as usual; the rest carried various pieces of tents and pots in addition to whatever else we wanted.

Some time around 8:15, Lara's truck and my car pulled out of my driveway headed eastward. We foolishly chose to follow Burnside all the way to Gresham instead of taking I-84, which gave me the chance to reflect on the morning... and notice that I'd forgotten my camera. After a few phone calls I decided that it was in everybody's best interest to go back for it (via the freeway), which was quite a superb idea, since I'd left my hiking boots in my living room! Calamity Jane's was closed, it turned out, so those in Lara's truck searched for a breakfast place while Eliza and I tore down the road in my car trying to make up for some lost time. Eventually, they discovered the Alpine Inn and deemed it sufficient for protein food.

We arrived at Timberline Lodge some time around ten o'clock and began slathering sunscreen all over ourselves; it was not a smell that I would be missing at all for the next four days. We strapped all of our loot into our packs and trudged out onto the gravelly Pacific Crest Trail/Timberline Trail, heading westward. I should note at this point that the views between the Lodge and Zigzag Canyon were substantively unchanged from my day trip with Steph last summer; please refer to last year's Hood pictures until the next picture link. The actual Timberline Trail pictures start around (P7310022).

There was, regrettably, very little snow along the trail. The only place where we found low-altitude (~6,000 feet) snow was on the northeast side of Mt. Hood; everywhere else was as dry as a bone! That meant that we'd be unable to engage in snowball fights (P7310029) to cool ourselves off. We passed the Timberline ski lifts (P7310027); those would prove to be quite a welcome sight on our way back on Monday! Proceeding westward, we passed quite a few trees, meadows, and wildflowers before reaching Little Zigzag Canyon (P7310032 - 38). It turned out that I was the only one among the seven of us who'd actually ever seen this part of the trail; since they'd heard all sort of horror stories about Zigzag Canyon being huge, they kept asking with each successively larger canyon if we'd gotten there.

At last, we reached a familiar-looking dropoff point: Zigzag Canyon (P7310058). This year, there was no ice at all, which turns out was quite a good thing, as it was an indication that the creek flows would be lower than they usually are, which would make our trek less dangerous. Last year, Steph and I made it out to the ridge overlooking Zigzag Canyon before turning back; today, the seven of us began the rather rapid descent into Zigzag Canyon. This is also where the new photos begin; hereafter all pictures are found among the Day 0 Pictures.

(a8050164) is the view looking southwesterly down Zigzag Canyon. Note the increased greenery and the rather pathetic creek; had this been a year with normal snowfall, the rocky areas would likely be underwater. Instead, we sat on the big boulders, collecting water, cooling various body parts, and taking a quick rest, waiting for everyone in the group to catch up. That set the pace for the rest of the trip--the quick among us would take off down the trail and stop at the next major trail intersection or stream to wait for the others to catch up.

The rest of the day was an adventure in zigzagging up and down all sorts of switchbacks. I managed to capture a still shot of a dragonfly that stopped on a rock for a split second (a8050180) and pictures of a whole lot of canyons and trees (a8050181 - 88). The rocky bed of Zigzag Creek (a8050176 - 77) was notable mostly in that it was exemplary of the river and creek crossings that we were going to face repeatedly in the next few days. At about the seven o'clock position on the mountain, the PCT/Timberline Trail forks; to the right, there is a trail heading off into a series of meadows and pictureseque vistas collectively known as Paradise Park, while the PCT/Timberline Trail provides a shorter and straighter bypass for those interested only in speed.

Being the first day, we were not all that tired and figured that the side trip to Paradise Park ought to be worth the effort. So, up we went (a8050188 - 198) to the Park! We made a pretty long stop (a8050189 - 90) in a meadow full of bugs and blue wildflowers among various trees (a8050191 - 194). Further on in the park, I noticed a rather strange rock formation that had cracked enough to allow trees to grow out of it (a8050195) and got a few good shots of hillsides (a8050197) and a clump of trees (a8050198) before we rejoined the PCT/Timberline Trail to head down towards Ramona Falls, which was the place we wanted to reach before dark.

Unfortunately, at this point I became rather confused as to where exactly we were on the trail. We had started among the rocks and gravel at Timberline Lodge (~6,000 feet) and had been descending pretty much all day; by the end of the Paradise Park excursion, we'd dropped to about 5,300 feet, and the remainder of the trail to Ramona Falls was a fairly quick decline to 3,200 feet. The trail runs through a big thicket of trees, rendering it rather difficult to figure out precisely where one is; all of the sudden, we came upon a canyon that was descending to the right. That perplexed me greatly, as one would expect the canyons to descend to the left while making a clockwise traversal of Mt. Hood. In any case, the pictures (a8050210 - 18) are of this "backwards" sloping canyon; what I think might have happened was that we passed through the top of the canyon and had been switchbacking down the western side of it for long enough to make me forget that the canyon was even there.

The trail continued its long plunge towards the Sandy River. By this time, I had become rather thirsty and, seeing water, I naturally flew down the trail, trying to find a good place to filter myself some more water. Lo and behold, both trail and clear water creek were on a race to see which could lose more altitude; the trail did not actually reach the creekbed until it dumped into the Sandy River (a8050219 - 24). By this point I think we had gone somewhere around nine miles; I sat there in the river junction for quite some time pumping water for people before the others showed up and began to ponder the question of how to get ourselves across the river.

Being fairly late in the afternoon, much of the day's snowpack meltings were now coursing down the river towards town. Unfortunately, this means that the creek and rivers are trickier to cross in the late afternoon than they would be in, say, the morning. I tried to find a convenient place to rock-top downriver; Lara and Ana tried to find a similar place upriver. Justin tried to convince several boulders and trees to become a bridge; Dave simply walked across a log, balancing himself with a longish stick that he'd picked up along the trail. At varying points, the rest of us decided that the stick seemed the least dangerous, so Dave helped us to cross (a8050225 - 26). Great picture of Dave helping Lara cross!

At last, we reached Ramona Falls and decided to set up camp (a8050227). Having covered nearly 10.9 miles, we were quite tired and decided to get dinner cooked as soon as possible. It was perhaps 19:30 when we stopped for the night, which gave us nearly forty-five minutes of daylight to finish whatever cooking tasks we had; when all was said and done, we had pasta with tomato sauce, bread, and cheese. Spicy jack cheese went well with the bread (and nearly everything else that I ate it with) for two days until my supply gave out :() The bugs began to attack (they were relentless until the middle of the third day) and so we all decided to go to sleep. But not before Lara asked about the title that was on the main page of this site--"The World's Best Cottage Cheese". For those of you wondering, it's a reference to something that Jason (offsite) said when I was in San Diego in June.

Timberline Trail, Day 1

Occurred August 06, 2005 (Permalink)

Today's story picks up at Ramona Falls, where we had set up camp the previous night. We were approximately five hundred feet from Ramona Falls, which afforded us access to the falls in the early morning. The last time that we had been here was last September to look for mushrooms; it was a slightly soggy experience, since it had begun to drizzle by the time we got to Ramona Falls. Luckily, this time it was early August, and so it was dry the entire time. I captured pictures (a8060228 - 38) before we ate breakfast, broke camp, and headed off on the second day's trek.

Climbing out of Ramona Falls, (a8060239) the Pacific Crest Trail branches leftward away from the Timberline Trail as the latter begins a rather lengthy northwestern jog out and around some hill on the climb up to the Muddy River crossing. Regrettably, this jog adds several miles to the trek in the wrong direction, but to hikers laden down with thirty pound packs, a less steep trail isn't quite so bad. This day was Saturday; it was around this point that we began to encounter other groups of people on the trails. It turns out that there are several other (almost) road-accessible points on the Timberline Trail: Ramona Falls, Cloud Cap, and Bald Mountain; this makes the west side of the mountain idyllic for hikers wanting short weekend trips and day hikes. In our travels, we encountered a young man who was hiking from Timberline Lodge all the way to the Columbia Gorge, a couple of young women doing a four-day trip in the opposite direction, and a group of joggers who were attempting to run the whole trail in twelve hours(!) Certainly not the sort of thing that I'd like to do. However, we did encounter a few couples that had a different strategy--bring lighter packs and go fast. Since we were shuffling down the road with heavier packs, I started to wonder if that might not be a bad idea.

Returning to our story, we saw some wild berries (a8060240) and whole lot of trees. Like the latter half of yesterday's hike, pretty much all of today's walking was done through forests. I have enough tree pictures to last a lifetime; those who keep count of pictures will undoubtedly notice that the number of pictures taken per day varied with the elevation. :) Anyway, the trail reached the end of the first jog and began to head upwards and back towards the Muddy River.

The Muddy River is at about the ten o'clock position around Mt. Hood. It (and the Sandy River) derive their names from the high rock flour content of the glacier water as it rushes down the mountain. This gives the water the look of heavily diluted chocolate milk and makes it rather undesirable for filtering, as the suspended minerals block the filter mesh quite easily. The first riverbed we came across (a8060251) was devoid of water but had a great number of boulders in it. According to Dave, the heavy snow of 1996, followed by warm weather, caused enough snow to melt as to create a huge flood that tore its way down the valley, toppling trees and shoving boulders along all over the valley. From the river we could see Bald Mountain (a8060257), views of Mt. Hood's west face (a8060260) and a pretty waterfall (a8060263) high on the mountain. I mused to several people in the group, "Doesn't this look perfect enough to be a movie set?" We crossed the south fork of the Muddy River then stopped (a8060261) between the two forks of the river for a pow-wow, enabling me to shoot more pictures of the area (a8060262 - 68).

Now it was time to cross a third river (a8060265-7 and 69); to pull off this maneuver, we had to enlist the use of a horizontal log and Dave's stick to get across. The seven of us scrambled up the bank of that river (a8060271) and stopped for lunch. Regrettably, this is where bad things started to happen--Michelle chose not to pursue the Trail any further, and Lara had to drop out to get her friend back to Portland. Thus we became five, as the two of them returned to Ramona Falls and (presumably) hitchhiked back to Lara's truck at Timberline Lodge the next day. The remainder of our group sat around for a rather lengthy lunch, and I took pictures of where we'd just come from (a8060273) and took a picture of Dave with his pack (a8060275) to prove that he'd been there.

The rest of the afternoon was uneventful--a straight march along a second jog out to Bald Mountain through the trees until I reached a vista point. From there, I was able to photograph most of the Muddy River Valley (a8060276 - 88), including the river crossings where we'd left Michelle and Lara behind (a8060282), the usual views of Mt. Hood (a8060278, 81, 85) and westward back at Portland (a8060287 - 88). Eventually the trail intersected with the Bald Mountain trail (a8060289 - 90); there was very little to photograph from this point until the next vista point at about 5,900 feet.

Further up the mountain, we came to a lookout below McNeil Point. By that point we were rather exhausted (and I had a nosebleed), so we stopped there for a pretty long time too. I repeated most of the shots that I'd gotten earlier, including a close-up of the summit (a8060297), the valley where we'd lunched (a8060296), and the usual valley shots. We had hoped to make it all the way to about the twenty-mile mark to camp that night, but the extra long lunch (and my physical infirmity) meant that we stopped a lot closer to the eighteen mile mark, just below McNeil Point (a8060295). Justin scouted the area around the McNeil Point spur trail and found us a lovely little circle of trees (a8060301) right atop the spur trail that afforded us a fire pit, ample shelter, a stream (a8060302), and some excellent photo-taking opportunities!

Dinner that night consisted of minestrone soup and leftover pasta from the night before. Michelle and Lara's departure made the food situation a tad awkward, because they unloaded all but a day's worth of food upon the three of us (Eliza, Dave and myself) since Ana and Justin were maintaining their self-sufficiency. We had planned to feed the five of us for four days, and now we had way more food than we'd actually need. This meant that the minestrone soup and pasta lasted well into the final day of the trip. In any case, I ventured around the campsite around sunset, hoping to get some good shots, and i was roundly rewarded!

I squeezed off a few decent silhouettes of the sun setting between the trees (a8060305 - 06). At this point, I was standing out in the middle of a rather cold creek, swinging back and forth, trying to capture the sunset in progress. Pictures (a8060308 - 12) captured the view up and downstream at dusk when the sun was still shining a golden color; later, when the sun was orange, I went back for shots (a8060316 - 24). Finally, I went risking CCD damage by taking a picture straight into the huge glowing orb as it finally sank below the horizon (a8060325 - 27). Had that small tree not gotten in the way, it would have been a particularly spectacular uninterrupted shot just like the sunsets that I used to watch in La Jolla ages ago. After that, it was bedtime...

...for everyone else. It was a clear night and we were far from any other light sources, so I figured that it was a good opportunity for some night photography! Those who have seen the pictures from Mt. Jefferson know that night pictures are one of the cooler things ways in which I like to stretch my photography skills, as I tend to get lazy and use the automatic features of the camera during the day. In this album, all the photos required post-processing in Gimp before I could post them; these images have "-01" between the picture serial number and the ".jpg" extension. In any case, I shot straight upwards in (a8060328-01 and 329-01) to capture a rather unremarkable series of stars; (a8060331-01, 332-01 and 334-01) were my attempts to get the Big Dipper; lacking a tripod, I had to lean against a large boulder and hold the camera steady for fifteen seconds for some blurry pictures. Next big trip, I'll find a way to bring a tripod (Steven/Woodley?). Finally, I noticed that due to the new moon, I could see the yellow city lights reflecting all the way from Portland; since I'd never tried night photography that close to a city, I thought that worth capturing; (a8060338-01 - 342-01) were the results from that effort. I think the last one of that set is the most spectacular, as one can plainly see the yellowness invading behind the trees. Keep in mind, however, that the brightness has been turned up quite a lot on these pictures.

Timberline Trail, Day 2

Occurred August 07, 2005 (Permalink)

Ahh, daybreak! We awoke to the bright cool morning camped beneath McNeil Point, enjoyed our spartan breakfasts (granola bars forever!) and broke camp. We set out expecting a moderately difficult hike today--we were at mile marker 18 and wanted to get to the Cloud Cap area (mile 28) by the end of the day to make camp; this involved passing through a lot of below-glacier country (think: creeks and rivers), a less-than-temporary river bypass (i.e. glacier country) and a fair amount of high-altitude hiking. The reward? Great vistas.

Ladd Glacier was the first below-glacier area that we passed through. Truthfully, this album starts a bit prematurely; (a8070343 and 344) are pictures of what I think are McNeil Point and the northwest face of Mt. Hood, respectively, from our campsite. Once we got moving, we took a wrong turn and saw McGee creek and meadow twice (a8070345) and started turning sharply to the right so that we were travelling roughly easterly along the northern edge of Mt. Hood.

What a sight! (a8070347) is a perfect example of the vistas that we saw for the rest of the trip of foreground trees giving way to a backdrop of rows and rows of mountains. From the north side of Mt. Hood, one can see the peaks of the various Cascade peaks in Washington state such as Mt. Adams (a8070348), Mt. Rainier (a8070349) and everyone's favorite, Mt. St. Helens (a8070351). Regrettably, the names of most of the meadows and streams that we crossed escape me, since they weren't marked on the trail and the USGS map that we had only pointed out larger streams of water such as creeks and rivers. In any case, I stopped at a convenient lookout point to shoot pictures (a8070352 - 56), which eventually became the enormous 180-degree panorama found in (some_meadow). Amusingly enough, it seems that the panorama neatly captured all four of the others in our party: Justin and Ana on the left and Dave and Eliza in the far right.

All of the sudden, there it was: the first of many streams that we'd be crossing today (a8070357). Nearly all of today's watercrossings were quite pleasant and tame: at most a few inches deep, lots of flat rocks with which a clever hiker could get across without getting anything wet, and lots of greenery and flowers all around to lighten the dread. There's not much to say about them, other than the fact that I've never seen so many streams in my life (a8070359 - 63, 68 - 69, 71 - 78). For the most part, they're not terribly distinct or worth writing about.

However, the Ladd Glacier area did produce a few other good shots: as I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of wildflowers! There were some funny flowers that were flaming red and spiky (a8070365), some more conventionally shaped pink ones (a8070366), and some really odd weed-like yellow and blue prickly plants (a8070379) in the area. We also saw a climber's shelter (a8070370). They appear to have been built fairly recently, featuring walls made of stone with a fairly standard cement-like mortar, and some sort of mud roof. Dave said that having them isn't such a big deal nowadays with modern communications devices, but in the old days, having these shelters periodically was literally a life-saver, as one could trudge into one from the snow and stay warm long enough to devise a way off the mountain. I stopped again a short time after that to shoot pictures (a807080 - 84) so that I could have a wide shot of the three big peaks (Helens, Rainier, Adams), the nearby forests of Mt. Hood in the foreground, and the Hood River farming community sandwiched in between.

At some arbitrary point, we left the Ladd Glacier area and ended up below Coe Glacier. Geographically, the most significant difference was in the face that Mt. Hood showed us (a8070386, 399 - 401, 406)--now we were looking squarely at the northern face of the mountain and the "Hump" that one can see from downtown Portland. The clouds cooperated with my camera most graciously today; as one can see from the (elk_cove) panorama, the clouds' radial streaks across the sky from the mountain made the experience all the more exhilarating. I'm particularly proud of (a8070399 - 400) not only because of the richness of the colors of the rocks on Mt. Hood itself, but also the fact that the clouds seemed to be arcing out of the top of the mountain like a gigantic puffy lightning bolt across the sky!

Around lunch time, Justin pointed out a funny looking plant (a8070403 - 05). One part of the stem has a small pointed red flower, and the other part has a rather strange looking green hairball. I'm not really sure what purpose the hairball serves, other than giving the plant an odd aura. I suppose it's possible that the leaf structure of this ... thing is on the same level as a pine tree, but the plants themselves were too short not to be buried under the snow every winter. Perhaps the needle-y parts are supposed to protect something underneath?

The creek by which we ate lunch (a8070407) had a big rusty tree (a8070408) next to it. Having seen nothing but grey and green for 2.5 days (a8070412), the red dead tree was quite a color relief to us; there it was, providing a dashing contrast to everything around it. Quite the rebel, that tree. There was also a bony dead tree (a8070410), but leafless dead trees aren't interesting. To the distant east, we also got the first glimpse of the Oregon desert (a8070424). Apparently Oregon is actually a rather dry and desert-like state; although most people in Portland think of Oregon as a wet place of trees, that description really only goes as far east as The Dalles; barren, beautiful brown lies beyond.

It should not come as a huge shock to readers that Coe Creek was by far the largest and strongest of the creeks that fed off Coe Glacier. This creek was perhaps one of the trickiest crossings that we had to do this afternoon--not only was it wide, voluminous and raging angrily against the rocks, but the only "viable" crossing near the trail (a8070413) was just plain ridiculous. While the others pumped water, first I and later Dave went scampering upcreek to find the group an easy was across. Well, we eventually found a couple of stable-looking logs (a8070422) that I paused on long enough for a portrait. Later, I went back for pictures of how the water had blasted the volcanic rock into many smaller slivers and fragments that barely held themselves together (a8070427) while the water itself certainly didn't seem to have a problem with being blasted nearly a foot above the waterline (a8070426). We were about at milepost twenty-five.

East of Coe Creek, the trail starts to turn southward to complete the circle. One of the first truly northeastern views is (a8070432); one can see the tip of the farming community on the left of the picture, and the beginnings of desert in the distance on the right. As we were leaving the Coe glacier area, we saw the narrow creek depicted in (a8070433 - 34). Note all the dwarf trees by the side of the creek; we were at approximately 6,000 feet.

Eliot Creek was the third major glacial area that we were to pass below this day. Eliot Creek itself gained some notoriety several years ago when a large flood came roaring down the canyon and tore out enough of the Timberline Trail and creek crossing that the trail's maintainers created a long, steep and unpleasant bypass. But enough about that for now; (a8070435) is a close-up that I shot of Mt. Rainier, and we saw the first creek with ice in it in photos (a8070436 - 44). (a8070442) was the first time that we had come within five hundred feet of actual snow pack; it wouldn't be the last time. That ice sits opposite a large waterfall (a8070440) that proceeds down the mountain (a8070438) to the northeast (a8070437). A couple of creek crossings later (a8070448 - 56), we reached the Eliot Creek bypass.

Some time around 1999, there had been a huge flood that came crashing down the Eliot Creek valley, tearing out whatever vegetation was there, rearranging huge boulders, and turning the old Timberline Trail crossing into a hazardous mess. The "temporary" reroute takes one straight up one of the climber's ridges that people use when aiming themselves at the summit; (a8070457) shows just how steep these climbing trails are. Literally, the trail takes right turn and gains probably about three or four hundred feet in less than half a mile. Since we're pretty close to the timberline at this point, the upward view is one of rocks and desolation (a8070459) and not much to look at. Mt. Hood itself becomes a pointy summit amid a whole lot of rocks (a8070462), which is quite a different view from what we're used to seeing on the western side; the rocks here set the mood for the remainder of the trip: great vistas, greenery nearby, and a whole lot of rocks.

After the huge ascent, the bypass forks away from the climber's trail and dips down into the Eliot Creek canyon. We saw first Mt. Adams peeking out from beyond the rubble pile (a8070463) and then the new bridge crossing: a wooden bridge bolted to two big rocks (a8070464). As far as water crossings go, this was (except for the high elevation gain) one of the better of the trip, if only because the bridge, rickety as it looks, was quite stable. Anyhow, we scrambled up the other side of the canyon towards the Cloud Cap Inn and discovered that a second climber's trail going up the ridge was the intended method of descent back to the Timberline Trail. Notice the "temporary sign" in (a8070468) and the amount of wet rot that the post has taken in the past six years. When we rejoined the trail, a signpost (a8070471) greeted us. I did not get a shot of the trail bypass map, because some bastard stole the one on the eastern side of the bypass. We continued along the trail until we found a rather gravelly stream-equipped valley to perch in for the night.

Twenty-eight miles in, and the sun was going down again. Justin and I took off among the rocks up a nearby bluff to capture more sunset pictures Our base camp was at about 6,400 feet; by my estimate, the particular place that we picked was somewhere around 200 feet above that. The view from that point was positively spectacular! One could see just about anything to the northeast of the northwest-southeast tangent line: the western sky was lit up with brilliant orange, yellow and blue patterns (a8070474) while the eastern desert was tinted a heavy pink color (a8070477). For the first time in my life, I tried to take some silhouettes and actually got awesome results without having to tweak the results (a8070473 - 75)! For the most part, I simply stood way up there admiring the sunset and taking pictures of the surrounding view; the (sunset) panorama that I stitched together demonstrates the huge range of sky views that I had this evening. I also decided to take a few close-up pictures of the same three peaks that I'd been seeing all day: St. Helens (a8070485), Rainier (a8070492 - 93) and Mt. Adams (a8070495 - 96) and some new ones: the darkening desert (a8070504). For the curious, I was standing on the eastern ridge of the Eliot Creek canyon; from above, it looks like (a8070507). As the sky grew darker, I took more and more pictures, finally stopping when I realized that I could see the moon (a8070515 - 16) setting in the western sky again.

At that point, I signed "HI" with my flashlight (much to Dave and Justin's amusement) and began my descent back to camp for dinner: minestrone soup and pasta. The encampment that we'd picked would have been an excellent place for taking pictures of the stars, but as the astute reader noticed in the sunset pictures, there were wispy cloud formations all over the place; at sundown they make for rather good scenes; at night, they blocked out most of the stars. Add general exhaustion to that, and I turned in for an early night. Funny how when we went to Mt. Jefferson we were easily able to stay up past midnight, but on Hood we regularly went to sleep around ten.

Timberline Trail, Day 3

Occurred August 08, 2005 (Permalink)

Day No. 4 finds us slumbering in a gravelly canyon at the 28.3 mile point. That means that before the day ends, we hope to hike the remaining twelve miles all the way back to Timberline Lodge. This involves climbing up Lamberson Spur, down Gnarl Ridge, through a whole lot of forest, across several nasty rivers, underneath the ski lifts that are southeast of Mt. Hood, through a final canyon, and then a huge climb all the way back to the Lodge and my car. "Surely we can do that! All we have to do is wake up early enough!" shouted the group.

Err... yeah. Thus we broke camp for the last time and began the slow trek up the Spur to the point of the highest altitude on the entire trail. Camp had been built at 6,400 feet; the top of the Spur was 7,300 feet and at most 2 miles up the trail. The morning's trek was quite notable for the consistency of that upon which we walked--up to this point the trails were largely compacted dirt. Now, they were gravel trails graded roughly horizontal by thousands of feet. As the slightly white line in the center of (a8080517) indicates, the path was at times difficult to find. I captured some pictures of the gnarled trees and dwarf-bushes that grow at this altitude (a8080518), but in truth not a whole lot can grow up at these altitudes.

After switchbacking upwards for quite some time, we came across the first major topological significance: the intersection of the Timberline Trail with the Tilly Jane/Cooper Spur Trail. This was a rough demarcation of the twenty-ninth mile marker and our ascension to 6,600 feet. We met an elderly couple coming up the Tilly Jane trail; apparently, they were intent upon hiking to the top the trail (~8,500 feet) and going straight back down. Sort of an odd thing to do, since the gentleman confessed that he was actually quite afraid of heights. Perhaps vertigo has more to do with evidence of height that you can see nearby. In any case, they took a group photograph (a8080524) with the northeastern face of Mt. Hood in the background. Several other landmarks were easily locatable from this intersection: depicted in (a8080521) are the farms to the south of Hood River and northeast of Hood and (a8080525) is yet another climber's shelter that we found on the mountain. (a8080522 and 26) are both pictures of the faces of Mt. Hood--check out the detail on the ice that one can see in the daytime!

By this time, the trail had curved around some more and we were heading in a southward direction on the east side of Mt. Hood. The canyons ran in long black ruts down the side of the mountain, as (a8080528 - 27, oregon_desert) and many other pictures point out. Way up high, the lack of trees opens up the mountain for some fabulous photography: (a8080531) looks out southeasterly towards Bend and the Three Sisters area and (a8080530) is of the desert to the East. Furthermore, the rocks that we were seeing that morning were quite fascinating--nearly all of them are volcanic rock, and most of them are pitted at a high frequency that roughly matches the gravel on the ground. Picture (a8080532) shows the rock itself, while (a8080533) gives one an idea of just how steep the climb was in that area. We actually didn't end up climbing on any of those rocks because we passed just under a rather impressive-looking hump on the east side of the mountain.

Hidden in the afternoon shadows of this hump was snow (a8080535)! As I mentioned the first day, I had expected that there could be snow still lying across various parts of the trail despite the relatively warm, dry winter that we just had. Thus far, we hadn't seen anything, yet all of the sudden Nature pulled a new trick out of her hat and *bam* there was ice that we had to cross (a8080537 - 38). This late in the year, the snow was coated with a thin layer of rock dirt and had a strange brown tinge to the outside. The relevant eastern (a8080539 - 40) and western (a8080541) views remained; I thought it a bit prudent to capture the last image of Mt. Adams as it slowly fell behind us (a8080543).

To anybody who hikes out and around Lamberson Spur I have a warning: be prepared for a major let-down. This (a8080547) is it: a big pile of rocks with NO MARKINGS at 7,300 feet. While it's infinitely cool to say that now I've hiked to that altitude twice without dropping dead, the second time was probably more anticlimactic than the first. I didn't even realize that I'd reached the top until a quarter of a mile later, when I noticed that the trail had begun a long descent. Though the local maxmimum itelf is quite boring, just beyond that place by a quarter of a mile is a big meadow (a8080549 - 57) maybe fifty feet off (and up from) the main trail. At this point one can see Mt. Jefferson quite plainly (a8080550) and the Sisters; the meadow itself is a fairly uninteresting amalgamation of grasses, weeds and trees. I must confess, however, that to a somewhat weary hiker, it made a rather pleasant stop. The (lamberson_meadow) panorama, I think, captures this area quite nicely. After this point, the Timberline Trail begins a long descent from Lamberson Spur on the way down Gnarl Ridge; the steep rock faces (a8080558 - 59) are positively amazing!

On the way to Gnarl Ridge, we encountered a patch of lavender blue wildflowers (a8080560 - 63), which proved a marvelous relief from the green and grey that we had been looking at all morning. There was a large rock (a8080567) that had been cleaved in half at some point in the past. I'm unsure if that huge gap developed because of freezing water that had seeped inside a crack or if the rock had simply been sheared apart by movements of ice floes. Either way, a cool demonstration of the power of Nature.

Gnarl Ridge itself is best explained by the (gnarl_ridge) panorama. The ridge (and the trail) run along the northern edge of the huge canyon created by Newton Creek. Not surprisingly, then, the huge patch of ice seen in the panorama is Newton Glacier, but the requisite crossing will be treated later. The area atop the ridge is very dry and is very prone to being sandblasted by westbound air blowing in from Eastern Oregon. Consequently, any land that's not immediately adjacent to any sort of water source quickly dries up and blows away, leaving the land desolate and gray, pockmarked with occasional bits of greenery like the sort shown in (a8080587). The gnarled hunks of wood up on the ridge was also quite impressive; Justin pointed out a chunk (a8080588) that resembled a rhinoceros!

From above, Newton Creek looks like it's pretty darn small (a8080573 - 74). Naturally, this perception is magnified by the huge elevation drop between the ridge on the top and the creek below; if you peer quite closely at the photos, note that any foliage that can be distinctly identified is tiny! The view of the Cascade range to the east and south was quite spectacular (a8080575), though nothing makes one feel small like peering down and out the canyon and realizing that those rock formations, though they seem quite small, are in fact about a thousand feet high (a8080577 - 85). Ah, the tricks the camera plays! I also noted a pretty cool cloud formation (a8080586) because this particular canyon was good for that sort of thing.

After this point, the trail curves away from the edge of the ridge and begins a rather steep descent down and around the side to meet Newton Creek around 5,400 feet. This part of the trail was pretty much uneventful and boring, as it took us through heavily wooded areas like the ones we'd seen on the other side of Mt. Hood. When we arrived at Newton Creek, I took a picture straight up the canyon (a8080591) at the places where we had been, the enormous boulders (a8080594, 95) on the riverbank, and the rock face promenading out from the side of the canyon (a8080596 - 98) as if they were armaments on a castle. The last picture in this set, (a8080600), captures the key elements of the crossing: clouds, boulders and trees.

Unfortunately, Newton Creek was without a doubt the most difficult crossing of the entire trip. There were no convenient rocks to bounce across, no stumps, logs or other debris to use as a bridge, and the river was running too swiftly and deeply to walk across unassisted. I sealed my camera in a plastic bag early on, hence (a8080601) is the only picture that I got of the actual creek. Dave and Justin attempted to hew a fallen tree trunk into a makeshift bridge, but we couldn't find any good anchor points for it; eventually, we resorted to stripping off our boots and wading across in flipflops with a rope and Dave's stick for balance. Dave was fortunate to find fairly big rocks to step on in the river and only went in knee-deep; I overestimated the rock count and fell in up to my waist. This meant that I spent the rest of the day wearing shorts, fearing bugs and hauling pants around like Jar-Jar Binks' ears. I was none too pleased, and we ate lunch as soon as everybody else had made the crossing. We filtered water in rock-flour heavy water, which clogged the water filter and annoyed most everyone.

We were approximately at the 32-mile mark. According to the topographical map, the next six miles were supposed to be fairly flat. Compared to what we'd just hiked, it was, but there were quite a few small creek valleys to get through along the way. The first of these was a clean creek about twenty feet from Newton Creek. The second was a pretty green valley with lots of trees and underbrush that made it a bit more welcoming (a8080603) and provided us with a good view of Mt. Hood's southeastern face (a8080604). The next was another gray gravelly valley with lots of rocks in it (a8080605 - 07); Dave went pretty far up the creek on a reconaissance mission to find us a good place to cross. The third evened the green/gray score and gave us a series of very pretty waterfalls to look at while we strode across some logs (a8080608 - 13).

Directly southeast of Mt. Hood there's a huge ski resort with many lifts going up the mountain. I had thought that Timberline Lodge took the cake with lifts going both 3,000 feet down the mountain back to Government Camp and 2,000 up the mountain to the funny lodge at 8,000 feet where climbers set out. This one compensated for size with sheer quantity--there were lifts everywhere (a8080614, 18). Those two pictures aside, I chose to focus on the plant life in the area; since it was all ski land, there were large swaths of treeless grooves cut into the side of the mountain. During the winter these chasms turn to snowy ski paths; in August, however, they were meadows full of strange cotton-like plants (a8080615, 16), occasional trees (a8080623) and purple flowers (a8080624). There were a few good vistas from this part of the mountain too: SE Mt. Hood (a8080617), Mt. Jefferson to the south (a8080621), and outwards towards Bend (a8080622). For some reason, the miles seemed to fly past at a surprisingly rapid pace between the 33 and 38 miles markers. Our desire to get home (or at least get to a nice protein-rich dinner) after four days of camping food might have had something to do with that!

Going clockwise on the trail, White River is the last major crossing that one makes on the way back to Timberline Lodge. This is the time for hikers to be assembling the last wind of the day, for the river canyon is plenty deep and wide, and the river forks like mad in certain parts. Images (a8080625 - 27) were taken about halfway down the descent when I could finally get a good angle on the river valley. Once at the bottom of the valley the view becomes a bit more humane: the tiny trees that get washed out with winter floods seem a bit more numerous (a8080629) and taller (a8080630) than they did way up there, and the cliff overlooking the area doesn't seem quite so high (a8080631 - 32).

Surprise! The tree lined area is subsumed by the usual collection of water polished boulders and gravel about fifty feet into the canyon. The trail snakes back and forth through the rocks all over the place, undoubtedly the after effects of a wishy-washy river that changes course early and often! The scene in (a8080634 - 35) is particularly indicative of this phenomenon; it's as if the mountain somehow knew to throw this bit in as a final "Ha ha! Here's a reminder that you're climbing around a mountain!" reminder. Dave takes the lead at this point, and the rest of us follow him, carroming between orange flags and rock piles as if we're participants in some twisted life-sized pinball machine.

Within due time, we arrive the river. Or at least we think we have--we can't see any obvious water flows, but we sure can hear it! It turns out that this river is especially good at turning tricks at us. From what we can tell, on this day there were three forks of the river with actual water in them and a couple more that were (and would hopefully remain) dry. Beneath our feet is a rather dusty aggregate of rocks of all sizes--rock flour, sand, gravel, rocks, and of course a motley assortment of white rocks. The looseness of this area means only one thing--each fork of the river is hidden at the bottom of a six foot depression... and we have to get through all of them. The high count of airborne dust particles convinces me to wrap up my camera, so there are pretty much no pictures.

Gingerly, we climb down the first embankment and take a look at the river. One fortunate thing about having three forks is that with each fork we have on average one-third of the amount of river with which to contend. While this does enable a crossing via rock-topping, there's also about a foot of level space between the embankment and the river itself. Hoisting ourselves up a nearly vertical six foot wall is quite a tricky effort, because there aren't very many good footholds and the ground is marginally more stable than Jell-o. I picked a very bad place to climb up after the second fork: the first rock collapsed under my weight, leaving me to cling on to a rock at the top and reposition my feet. My arms aren't terrifically buff, and the second rock I chose as a foothold also began to slide downward. I decided to make a go for it and jumped, barely making it far enough onto the plateau to land on my elbows (ow!) and waist, and drag the rest of me over the top. We repeated this exercise two more times until we finally reached greenery again (a8080637) and began the climb back to Timberline Lodge. Eliza collected blueberries in a cup since they were readily available, while the rest of us trudged upwards through the gravel. 39 miles!

Around the time the sun began to set, I got back into the mood for taking pictures again. The trail dead-ends into the Pacific Crest Trail right after climbing out of the canyon; fortunately for us that means that the trail became wider, flatter, and (aside from horse crap) a better maintained surface to walk upon. Tonight's sunset didn't have quite the range of red, orange and yellow's of yesterday's, but the golden sunlight illuminating the nearby mountains was quite beautiful. (a8080638) is the view looking southeast at the rest of the Cascade range towards the intersection of US26 and OR35. (a8080639) was taken straight southward at Mt. Jefferson, and (a8080640) was shot looking directly eastward. (a8080642) and (a8080643) are the views of Mt. Hood and the meadow that we were crossing through, respectively. In the fading light, I captured a pretty good vista of the White River canyon that we had just crossed (a8080644). The trail emerged from the patch of trees just to the left of the big slide area to the right of the center of the picture, crossed the river diagonally going upriver, then jerked back upwards through the trees on the opposite side of the bank.

As the sun continued to set, I turned back into the idiot photographer-tourist that I am and annoyed everyone else by my constant stopping for: Mt. Jefferson when the sky turned red and blue (a8080646), a silhouette of Timberline Lodge (a8080647), a generic southwest view of bumps along the horizon (a8080648), close-ups of the red light reflecting off Mt. Hood (a8080650 - 51), the upper part of the White River canyon (a8080652), and a parting shot of Mt. Jefferson. By this time the lighting was poor enough to confuse the autofocus in the camera, so I put it away until the very end of the trek. We thought that sighting Timberline Lodge was synonymous with the end of the trail, and were we ever wrong!

It turns out that the trail cannot go straight to Timberline Lodge because of the huge canyon created by the last little creek. This canyon can be seen from the parking lot at the lodge, but it's not obvious that one has to climb some distance above the lodge, arc around the top of the canyon, and only then does one drop back down to the Lodge. The trail is lined with maddeningly squishy gravel all the way, and towards the end I developed a very strong urge to call out "Are we there yet?" every time I saw a marker post. But hey, it was very late in the day, we'd gone 11.5 miles, and I was tired. I shot pictures of first the moon (a8080655), the very last creek that we crossed (a8080657) and a sign identifying us as being on the Timberline/PCT trail (a8080658).

Then the inevitable happened--we reached the lodge! The trek was over! We strolled into the lodge, looking strangely appropriate for the lodge and inappropriate next to the dapper retired folks strolling around the lodge looking for dinner. A few of us took biobreaks, but then we went back outside, cheered a bit, and went back to the cars to disassemble our packs. We'd started with a grandiose plan for a huge celebratory dinner after coming off the trail, but at 22:00 on a non-football Monday, there's not much to have in Portland. Our celebration consisted of junk food and cookies from a 7-11.

5K Challenge

Occurred August 12, 2005 (Permalink)

Upon arriving at work today, I was immediately accosted by my boss, Pat: "Are you running the 5K?" Me: "What 5K?". We proceeded to spend the next several minutes debating whether or not I should or even could run a 5K. Seriously, I was dressed in slacks, a dress shirt, and my reasonably comfortable shoes, but that was a far cry from Pat, who was clad in a t-shirt, running shoes, and jogging shorts. In any case, Pat and I continue our friendly little banter until Alexis comes over...

"Are you running? Nah, you don't look like you could do it."

The gauntlet has been thrown down! After a statement like that, how could I possibly decline without losing face? No matter what, I was trapped into running a 5K in the wrong clothes and without much more of a warmup aside from shuffling off to work on my bicycle. So I go out to the starting line and AJ gives me a mildly disbelieving stare and asks "You're really running the 5K?". After I assure him that it's only because of the ladies' challenges, he goes into the pre-race talk, lines us up, and off we go!

I had never seen the entirety of the running track around the Nike campus. In actuality, it's only about 3.5K; the remaining distance was added by running the long way around the old Sequent campus to Nike's. That first part through Sequent was pretty harsh--running on cement is quite stiff on the joints! I positioned myself ahead of Alexis and Pat, trotting quite nicely along Hien, an engineer from another group. Unfortunately, the monster that is insufficient lung capacity soon reared its ugly head--about 2 kilometers into the run, I began to run out of steam! The Nike track is not at all flat--though it is paved with soft wood chips, it has to go over several roads, and the climb made me rather tired. I began a rather frustrating habit of jogging up to one of these bridges, slowing to a walk, and just as Alexis and Pat came within earshot, I would take off jogging again.

To those behind me, this was one of the more irritating aspects of my running performance--they'd almost catch up, and then I'd run away again. This pattern kept up for the remainder of the race back to the IBM parking lot, with a bit of a problem--the recharges were starting to take longer than the discharges! Worse yet, the route had been marked with black electrical tape... which is invisible on the black asphalt of the parking lot. By this time Pat had fallen quite far behind, but Alexis was still chasing me, and using my confusion to her full advantage.

Well, the inevitable happened: Alexis saw her chance, decided to make a beeline for the finish line, and passed me. What else could I do? I couldn't very well maintain a lead over a challenger for 80% of a race only to conk out on the home stretch! "Damn my lungs!" I sputtered as I roared up to full speed and charged after her. 200 feet and I was still behind. 100 and I was getting pretty close. 50 feet and we're neck and neck. Finally it comes down to the last ten feet. I decide that it's time for the can of whoop-ass and push myself even faster, and beat Alexis by mere inches. Woo, I survived a 5K in office clothing and beat everyone who challenged me!

The Portland Bridge Pedal

Occurred August 14, 2005 (Permalink)

Sunday, 6:15AM: I get up, shove some cookies down my gullet, grab my bicycle and go roaring off to catch the 6:30 MAX towards downtown. Why? This day was the annual Portland Bridge Pedal! I chose the hardest of the three courses-- thirty-eight miles and ten bridges. Hey, if I can hike the Timberline Trail and run a 5K in the same week, I can surely add mad cycling to the list! The registration line downtown was enormous and the crowd numbered more than twenty thousand! I left my camera at home, but Eliza has posted a photolog (offsite) of her ride (the abridged version of my ride).

Those of us going on the long trek (10 bridges) lined up beneath Morrison Bridge, awaiting the start of the race. At 7:15, we set off in small groups, crossing the bridges Morrison, Sellwood, Hawthorne, Ross Island, Marquam, Burnside, Broadway, Fremont, St. John's and finally the Steel Bridge. The most difficult part of the ride was getting all the way out to the St. John's bridge and then having to pedal all the way up the steep bridge approach! Aside from that, the crowds were a bit too big, leading to huge traffic jams on the Springwater Corridor and the Marquam and Hawthorne bridges.

Cheryl and Jonquil went on the same 38-mile ride as I did, and even started out at approximately the same time as I. Unfortunately, I never saw them and only caught up to them much later in the day when we all congregated at the Virginia Cafe after the ride. Lara, her friend Benita, Eliza and CJ went on a shorter ride that started quite a bit later than I, so I ran into Lara shortly after crossing the St. John's bridge. Apparently a few of my coworkers were there too, though they started out even later and I never saw them. Anyhow, now I can claim that I've done the full bridge pedal, so now I never have to do it again. Seriously, except for the freeway bridges, one can ride a bicycle across the other eight at any time.

Beavers Baseball and Goings-On at a Sushi Bar

Occurred August 19, 2005 (Permalink)

For the first time ever, I went to a Beavers baseball game! Hanna told me that she was meeting some people she knew at PGE park, so I asked if she minded if I went along. She said that was fine, so I rode my bicycle out to the ballpark and got a ticket: $12 for the nice seats. Little did I know that this group included a large quantity of gay men! Amusingly, most of them were not terribly familiar with the game of baseball, so I ended up explaining most of the game to them while it was ongoing. First time I've gone to a game and been the baseball geek.

After the game, the menfolk wanted to go someplace for drinks and a bite to eat. At this juncture, the ladies took their leave and the rest of us went into a sushi bar for some grub. Actually, the group of men made quite interesting company--they were pretty well educated and could talk at length about various subjects. The gent I was sitting next to is a professor of philosophy in Toronto, and we chatted for quite a long time. However, sitting at a table with a group of obviously gay men, I wondered how long it would be before the young women at the bar would start to notice me and wonder. Sure enough, as I cruised around the place, several of them came up and slurred a 'hello'. Mildly amusing, but it's surprisingly difficult to maintain a conversation with someone who's drunk.

Later, when we got up to leave, I put my bike helmet on and a dark-haired woman in a red dress with white flowers on it came over, leading approximately to the following exchange (cleaned up with the slur-filter): "Wow, you have a bike helmet! I work at the Alberta bike co-op, and I have a helmet just like yours!" "Uh... cool! Do yo--" "Can I take a swin--" and with that, she puts her hands on my helmet, hikes up her legs and pivots around me like one of those executive paperweights that my grandfather has. After a few rounds of gyrating, she slid off and ran out of the joint, leaving me confused and bewildered to what had just happened.


Last Thursday, Repeated

Occurred August 25, 2005 (Permalink)

I went to the monthly Last Thursday street party on Alberta tonight. The last time that I'd been was in August 2004; since then, a great number of ethnic restaurants have opened: French, British (fish and chips), Mexican, Japanese, thus transforming the block into a really cool place to go. True, there still is the ugly burned out building at NE 21st and Alberta, but the place was really jumping that night! Partly I think it was the warm summer evening, but in truth it seemed as if there was just a lot more going on this time around! There were so many people there that I had to walk a block away to recover from the sensory overload; while on that jog, a neighborhood woman spotted me and called "Where are all these cars coming from?" Seriously, I thought I had the wrong block until I stumbled into the same light shop that I went to last year and set myself straight.


Occurred August 26, 2005 (Permalink)

This month's installment of the MiPL Friday Night Supper Club takes us to Patanegra, a Spanish tapas restaurant way up at the north end of NW 23rd Place. The food sounded creative and interesting, but I thought that the meat in the smaller dishes tasted a tad bit burnt at times. However, both the meat and seafood paella dishes were excellent. Those two were definitely the best food that we had that evening. I also had a glass of sangria just to find out what it tastes like--it's really sweet wine the color of blood.

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