(A little taste of beaver)
My wife went to visit the grandkid, it was her second birthday. One morning, while she was there, the herd went for a walk. They came upon an old man with a dog. She said the dog was running all over the place among the acorn trees. The whole time it had its nose to the ground and its tail never stopped wagging. That dog was living in joy.
From the time I hoisted my backpack up onto my back until we completed the Timberline loop, I was just like that acorn dog, basking in joy. If I had one, my tail would have been working overtime. This was my first loop trail and will not be my last. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
We usually find ourselves struggling up a steep slope, putting ourselves in beautiful, torturous places. Timberline is more about walking, and enjoying. While most models walk a catwalk featuring a must have fashion. The Timberline Trail makes us walk around the model, Mount Hood, and we google eye all the highly fashionable views. I cannot recommend this trail enough.
Let’s get started with directions to the trailhead. There a number of ways to access the trail, we started at Timberline Lodge. Here are the directions to the lodge from Redmond Oregon.
We decided to travel counterclockwise. The distance I clocked on alltrails was forty five miles. It’s a bit shorter than that because I kept the tracker on while taking breaks and horsing around. I would say forty one miles is a good estimate for total distance. It has over ten thousand feet of elevation gain, and more than a few creek crossings. We made it a three day, two night trip.
Our decision to go counterclockwise was all about elevation gain. Day one had a pretty good climb to the high point of the trail. We camped at Cloud Camp. Day two, the longest mileage day, was almost all downhill. Day three was a climb from just above Ramona Falls back to Timberline Lodge. As we were high stepping downward during all those day two miles, many people walking the other way looked like they were on some kind of death march. Some would ask how much more uphill was left and when we told them the miles left, their bottom lips would hit the deck. I recommend counterclockwise, although it seems that most people choose clockwise. It's like the sheik thing to do, we prefer the sensible way.
One of the big concerns on the Timberline is creek crossings. I find them to be exciting. The creeks are very loud, and the water is violent as it cuts its way down the mountain. The landscape around the creeks changes every year so it’s an adventure figuring out how to get across. You can hear the rush of the water well before arriving at the cross points and that gets the blood flowing. By the time you stand at the banks, you will feel alive. The blood courses through the veins like the wild rapids. Isn't the saying "to feel alive" kind of weird? Since I was born, I only know what it is like to feel alive. If I didn't feel alive, I'd be dead and feel nothing. Maybe sleep is not feeling alive?
There is an element of danger, a slip into some of the creeks could mean a very nasty ride down steep terrain. The creek crossings were another reason we went counterclockwise. The two most concerning creeks are Elliot and Coe. We were able to cross them early in the day. The water level is lower in the morning. As we crossed, you could see some of the rocks that were wet and had been underwater the day before but were nice dry stepping for us in the morning. I brought sandals to wear for the crossings if dry skipping wasn’t possible, you sure don’t want to get your hiking shoes and socks wet with miles to walk. The first crossing we came to, I played the hero and didn’t change shoes. Aaron took the time to switch into sandals and easily waded. Then stopped and put his hikers back on. I had some steppingstones, but a misstep found me with a soaked shoe. Aaron made sure to tell me about my mental misstep. He became the barefooted hero while I was the soggy bum.
Me and Chris did have some fun with Aarons barefooted bragging. Aaron was behind us and we came upon a few other travelers. We asked if they could make some remark about his barefeet when they saw him. Chris and I continued on just far enough to hide away and watch the interaction. As Aaron approached, the guy said, “You look different with your shoes on.” Aaron stood there with a look of confusion and intrigue.
Me and Chris came out of hiding laughing and cackling about. Only a few miles down the trail and we were living it up.
After that, we came to Mount Hood Meadows ski resort. Walking under the ski lifts gave me the ghost town vibes. It was quiet and still, nobody else around. The wildflowers were filling up the spaces where skiers shoot down the mountain in the winter. The mountain was basking in the summer sun.
The stillness was interrupted by the sound of a small stream. It was here that the ongoing debate me and Aaron have had for years about filtering creek water came up again. We found three women chilling by the creek. After some, “hi how are you’s?” I asked them if they believe in filtering or drinking the native waters untouched by human technology. I have to say that they proved themselves very likable because they all said they filter. It just so happens that is the side of the line I stand on as well. One of them said that you wouldn’t want to drink the water out of that creek because it is called Beaver Creek. It’s not the name given to it on the map but I did like the reasoning she was bringing to the table so I nodded my head in agreement. Aaron was not to be brought down by all of this, he produced his Nalgene, filled it up, and chug a lugged. Before the water could clear his tonsils the woman said, “A little taste of beaver.”
We rolled up and out of there laughing it up again. I must report that Aaron drank heartily from the waters rolling off the side of Mount Hood and had no problems at all. The debate will rage on. We did get the quote of the expedition from the unknown woman and I’m sure I will repeat it many many times when I see Aaron sipping the unfiltered mountain nectar as the years and expeditions come and go. “A little taste of Beaver.”
The Newberg crossing was easy enough. Just as easy as the views of Mount Hood are on the eyes. The most rigorous part of the trail going in our anti clock direction starts after the Newberg crossing. It is pretty relentless but the views make up for the struggle. Making it to the high point of the trail put us in a more alpine setting. It’s a place where you really sense the magnitude of Mount Hood and the smallness of yourself. It’s a place where you get to become part of the mountain. You are part of its vastness. I love the mountains.
We were fortunate that there were some rouge streams in between Newberg and Cloud Cap campground. When you go, make sure to top off your water at Newberg before the climb.
Cloud Cap has water and restrooms. It is a good place to set up camp. There is a fee to stay there and it is first come first served. We secured a spot and it was big enough that other travelers were able to make camp too. We easily fit five tents and more could have fit.
Day two starts off with the Elliot Creek crossing. This is the most difficult of the crossings. The creek itself is pretty easy. We hit it early in the morning and so the level was down. It’s the approach into and out of the little canyon that makes your toes curl up in your boot. It is steep, loose dirt and rock. Take your time, look for the cairns, you’ll be fine. I can’t give you any specifics because it will be totally different by the time you get there. Notice I keep remarking about you hiking the Timberline Trail? Please take these “subtle” hints and plan your own expedition. It is one well worth taking.
We made great time the second day. We made it past Coe creek, through Elk Cove and down to Ramona Falls. I really like this portion of the trail. The views and vegetation give it that back home feeling. I half expected my Aunt Dorothy to pop out from behind a tree and offer us rice crispy bars. That would have been very unsettling, Aunt Dorothy passed away when I was still a teenager. If it did happen, I would have accepted the crispy bar without hesitation. Made with love by my long dead Aunt. Zombie Crispy bars. Can you imagine the crazy conversations we have on the trail? That is one of my favorite parts about this experience. Days meant for walking in beautiful country and talking about anything that came up. Then, once the walking was done for the day, set up camp and chill. What a great experience.
Elk Cove is a great spot to camp if you are going to make this a three nighter. Arrange it so you end up there for one of the nights.
There is a detour, that is well marked, that goes around a section with blown down trees. I think that the detour is going to become a permanent part of the trail. It connects to the Pacific Crest Trail prior to Ramona Falls.
The crowd starts to show up the closer you get to Ramona. In a way it felt like the Timberline Trail ended as we encroached upon the falls. People everywhere. They weren’t the wiry, backpacking type that we ran into up to that point. They were the fresh out of the shower, smelling like an Irish spring, type. It felt like we were back in town. The rest of the trail back to Timberline Lodge is like that.
We camped a mile or so past Ramona.
Day three was a climb back to Timberline Lodge. We were back to the PT Cruiser by lunchtime so we made it in the cool of the morning. Great views of Mount Hood and plenty of water sources to keep the Nalgene full. When we reached the lodge, we ate some really good bbq sandwiches. It was strange how quickly we went from seclusion to hundreds of people milling around. Before we went into the restaurant, we stashed our packs in the PT. As I unlocked it, Aaron remarked how it was sad to be taking off the pack. I agreed. Our time on the Timberline Trail was very enjoyable and now it was done.
We will be back on the trail again next year. For years my saying was, “Mt Whitney when I’m 50.” Aaron joined me on that expedition, and we stood up there together. As we were making our way around Timberline, he said he would like to hike 40 at 40. Since Timberline Trail is around forty miles, he decided it would be good enough. I really have no choice but to repay the favor. So, we are going to hike it all in one day next year. I like how the idea for great adventures happen while on a great adventure.
Thanks to Tanka and Chris for joining me on the Timberline Trail.
If you ever have the opportunity to hike the Timberline trail, take it. Better yet, create it. Call up someone you can handle for a few days and talk them into one of the best ideas you may ever have. This is a long trail, you best prepare for it. Not many people can roll off the lazy barge and float around this one. I hiked over four hundred miles in 2022 to get ready for Timberline and Mount Whitney. It made for a really nice expedition since I had put in the miles to prepare my body for it. The ten thousand feet of elevation gain is a real thing. It's not spread out in a linear fashion. It happens in two separate places if you travel counterclockwise. Take your time and enjoy the great views as you climb up and up. One last note. If you are going to get a little taste of beaver, make sure you are ok with what may happen.
Here are some pictures we took on the Timberline Trail.
Here is a link to our youtube video of this adventure. It’s a mile by mile snapshot.
We have a vinyl sticker with a picture we took of Mount Hood just above the Elliot Creek Crossing. You can purchase one here.
Mount Hood from Timberline Lodge. Let the loop begin!
You're going to cross that creek and many more.
Chris on the trail.
Tanka with the Captain Morgan pose.
The views of Hood are plentiful
You will make your way to the top of the ridge on the right
Making our way up the ridge and the high point of the Trail
Above Elliot Crossing. The beginning of day two.
The views of Mount Hood are very good on day two
Creek crossings are exciting. Be smart, don't slip.
Day Three. Climbing up to the lodge.