RT part 7: Traveling South and the Timberline Trail

9/17 Portland, OR

From the Abbotsford hotel room we were only about 2 miles from the US border and a few hundred from the car that we left at White Pass in Washington. I figured nobody would pick up hitchhikers crossing the border so we just walked through. Sara forgot her passport so that made it a little interesting but no problem, they let her back in. In Sumas, WA we put our thumbs out and had a ride right away. Neal, a senior games gold medal swimmer, picked us up and drove us about an hour to Bellingham. Instead of hitching all day we rented a car here(for a quarter of the price than in Abbotsford) and drove 4 hours to pick up the car at White Pass. It was another 3 hours to Portland, OR where we dropped off the rental then met up with our friend Tami for pizza. Catching up with Tami was fun, we picked her brain about hiking the Hayduke and other adventures she’s got coming up. Plus she lent me her bear canister that should come in handy next week. And we parked the rolling bedroom outside her house for the night.

9/18 Mt Hood

What a perfect day to walk around a city and eat food. Right away we went to the coffee shop near Tami’s house and used the internet for awhile(I’ve had pretty limited service the last couple weeks so it was nice to get caught up on what’s going on). Sara took care of the laundry and came back with Blue Star Donuts, what a treat. We went to the REI downtown to get a few little necessities. I broke my sunglasses about a week ago and I’ve been walking around with duct tape barely holding them onto my face, so it was nice to get a new pair. We walked around downtown getting overwhelmed at how awesome Powell’s Bookstore is and then went to the food trucks. I ate some Vietnamese dumplings before getting some spicy pork dish from a Korean truck.

Tomorrow we’re planning on running the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood so on our way there we stopped in a PCT town, Cascade Locks for ice cream then went to the supermarket in Hood River.

From Hood River we drove an hour south and uphill to the Timberline Lodge(from The Shining) where we’ll start our run in the am. There’s a huge parking lot here that you can park at overnight and that’s exactly what we did.

Sept 19 Timberline Trail

The Timberline Trail goes 44 miles around Mt Hood(there’s some discrepancies with the mileage but Sara’s Strava clocked it at 44 miles). From Timberline Lodge going clockwise it coincides with the PCT for about a dozen miles to Ramona falls. Five miles later it intersects with the PCT again then splits off to the east going all the way around and finally joining back up to the PCT a mile+ south of the lodge. Besides the distance it’s relatively easy, there’s only about 11,000 feet of elevation gain and a lot of the trail is very runnable.

Our alarms went off around 5 but after dragging ass and dilly dallying for a little we were on trail by 5:50. 5 minutes later I realized I forgot my sunglasses, too late now. But Dammit! I just got them yesterday, and I depend on these things, oh well. We wore headlamps for the first 45 minutes and I kept my eyes peeled for Timberline Tigers(this area’s version of the mountain lion). Running clockwise around the mountain it starts off with a pretty long downhill so before long we had some good miles under our belts. We did what we could running this thing, trying to run the downhills and flats and hike the uphills. It proved to be a solid strategy as I think we made good time. I’ve hiked this section of the PCT twice so some of the miles were pretty familiar to me, but the views of Mt Hood don’t get old. Once we got past Ramona Falls and were on the north side of the mountain it was all new to me and it was awesome, especially on a beautiful clear and sunny day. We got to the Cloud Cap Trailhead on the northeast side of the mountain around 1:30 and ate some ham and cheese subs that we’d lugged out there while we battled a long uphill.

Over on the east side of the trail is where we got the highest, around 7300 feet, and could see way out into the Eastern Oregon desert. We ran through Mt Hood Meadows ski resort and from there it was only a few more miles back to the lodge and the car. A few more rivers to cross and we’d be just about done. The hardest part of this trail is getting across these rocky rivers of snow melt. You have to drop way down to get to the river, pick your way across it with varying levels of difficulty, then climb back up to the trail. I kept my feet dry all day, Sara wasn’t so lucky.

Once back on the PCT you can see the lodge from far away but it’s a bit of an illusion as you have to go way up and down a couple times to get to it, we both knew this though and enjoyed the last mile as we were happy to be finishing a great day. We got to the lodge just after 6 for a total of a little over 12 hours. 10 out of 10 would do it again and recommend. After we finished we drove an hour or two south and parked at a rest area near Smith Rock for the night.

Sept 20 Redding, CA

Our plan is to start the Sierra High Route on Saturday in California’s Sierra Nevadas so our main objective today was to get a chunk of the driving done and rest these legs.

First we had to check some stuff out. The rest area we slept at was right next to a ravine 300 feet deep containing the Deschutes River. As far as rest areas go, this was a good one. Then we noticed we were only about 10 minutes from Smith Rock State Park. This place is a haven for rock climbers and also looked like it had some nice trails. I wish I had good legs this morning because I would have loved to run around the park but settled for just taking it all in from the parking lot.

We followed 97 south through Bend for a couple hours then went west for about an hour to the Umpqua Hot Springs. Such a relaxing place to soak. About a quarter mile walk from the parking area there’s 8 pools ranging from body temperature to wicked hot. They sit kind of high above the Umpqua river and as much as I wanted to jump in and out of the cold river and back into the hot springs it looked like a major chore to climb down and I was ill equipped. Either way still very relaxing, clean, easy to find, and not too crowded for hot springs.

We got back on the road after a few hours of laying around in hot water absorbing all kinds minerals and positive energy. In Klamath Falls, pretty much the last town in Oregon, we stopped for supper at a BBQ joint and got some delicious ribs and then on our way out of town grabbed a couple tacos at a Mexican food truck. Who would have though Klamath Falls was such a culinary hot spot. Shortly after that we were in California and had views of the massive and prominent Mt Shasta. I remember when hiking the PCT in ‘15 how much this beefcake dominated the Northern California landscape and it’s still doing that.

We joined I-5 near Weed, CA then dropped way down to the Central Valley where there weren’t many opportunities for free camping. We ended up finding a parking spot in the overnight lot at the Win River Casino in Redding. Casinos, like Walmart’s, let you park for free overnight. I think. I stayed outside of one in Colorado or Utah one time.

9/21 King’s Canyon National Park

The ride from Redding to Fresno is super boring. Just straight and flat for 300 miles. In a way it’s like driving across Kansas. Fresno is the closest city to King’s Canyon, where we’ll be starting our hike tomorrow. It’s only about 200 feet above sea level and today’s a hot one, about 95 degrees.

A few days ago we ordered new sneakers online and had them shipped general delivery to a Fresno PO(sneakers are so much cheaper online). This is a common practice while hiking the long trails but I guess the guys at this particular post office never dealt with it before. They were flabbergasted. “You can’t do that you know! You have to send them to the other post office! We almost sent these back!” one of guys threatened us. To the other guy he says, “we finally found Sara!” The package was literally there for one day. I told them, “we are so sorry, it will never happen again.” Then walked out of the post office with our new shoes in our general delivery package. Were we in the wrong here? We fedexed something to the PO, marked it general delivery so we could pick it up and these guys acted like I mistook a corner of their building for a urinal.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resupplying at a Grocery Outlet(best store ever) then a Walmart, and stopped at a Planet Fitness for our weekly showers.

From Fresno we drove east on 180 towards King’s Canyon National Park and stopped at Twin Valleys in Dunlap for a big pre trail meal. BBQ again tonight and again it was very good. Back on the road we got detoured because of a fire or something and had to take this super steep and winding road for the next hour. Sara was driving and did a good job but I still felt like I was about to vom and I usually don’t get car sick. We got to Convict Flat CG in Sequoia National Forest and called it a night. A much better free campsite than a parking lot at a Redding casino.

2 thoughts on “RT part 7: Traveling South and the Timberline Trail

  1. Awesome! I live in Eugene and have been to all the Oregon places you mentioned. Umpqua Hot Springs is especially great in the winter. Question for you: what sneakers do you wear on your hikes? I’m in the market for some new ones. I wore Asics for the Portland Marathon a few years back and they have since been my hiking shoes, but they are beginning to fall apart. Have fun on your next adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

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