Mt. Hood To The Columbia River (Summer 2007)
In July of 2007 I went for a section of the PCT I hadn’t done before: to walk from Mt. Hood to The Columbia River, at Bridge of The Gods.
There was 5 of us, staring up at Mt. Hood that Thursday morning. We had driven above the clouds into blinding sun. There was me, Hoosierdaddy (who I hike with often, Steve), Mugs (we hiked together on the PCT in 2006), Yippykido (from Texas) and Ben2World (from California).
More than anything, the photos tell more of the story. We covered miles, watching the Mountain get smaller as we went farther North…heading to The Columbia River. We took 4 days and 3 nights for this trip. And I loved it. How could I not?
Leaving Timberline Lodge parking lot, heading for Mt. Hood:
It was warm, and stayed that way during the hike –
The cruelest part about this section is how fast you walk away from Mt. Hood as you head Northbound. With every dried up stream bed, you see less of the mountain and it quickly disappears.
Dropping from alpine to subalpine to into trees, the trail is mostly downhill in the first miles.
This section wowed me – you realize that unlike say Rainier, Hood is a lot of bare rock, that is constantly falling apart.
Streams popped up here and there as we dropped down, but all were easily crossed.
As we dropped even faster, I looked up and suddenly Hood looked so different. Helped there was a lush green ridge in front….
More volcanoes in the far distance.
This section cut down a very dry and dirty section of hillside. Not a real trail, just carved into a moraine that is pounded every year by rain. Crossed a stream bed at the bottom, then back up.
The lushness here brought out bugs, but we had a light breeze. I realized here that what I had expected the PCT to be here…well it wasn’t exactly what I had thought it was to be.
The trail came to an abrupt overlook.
It was pretty eye opening to realize we had come that far in a few hours.
Standing in front of Mt. Hood. Why exactly I picked baby blue trekking pants to wear, I still have no idea…..
Then the trail shot down quickly, into forest. The trail dumps out at the Sandy River rather abruptly, right onto the river rock, as Rushing Water Creek empties into the River on your left.
That year there was 3 channels to ford. The middle was the strongest and widest. The rocks were rolling loudly. It wasn’t something to be excited over.
Steve grabbed a shot of me wasting time before I did the ford. In the end, Mugs came back over and walked us ladies over, arm in arm. I appreciated it very much. The current was very strong, and worse, being a late afternoon crossing, it was at height. With a tall man giving balance, it wasn’t as hard nor scary. I was very glad though when we were done.
Across the Sandy River sits an old guard station cabin, or as I dubbed it….the Hanta Virus Hut.
The rock side of the cabin.
We walked over to Ramona Falls, since we were not far away, it was dark and cool in the woods. We back tracked a bit, and found a camp area above the river, near where we crossed. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was safe and bug free – and we had water access. I remember we had a pair of brother in laws camping nearby as well.
Everyone on this trip had an Ursack bear bag. With all the models, we had quite a variety 😉
Ben and Mugs in camp, making dinner.
Steve, doing what a lightweight backpacker does best…..
In the morning we got back on the PCT, and looked till we found the bridged crossing of the second crossing of the Sandy River (it was much farther away, across a peninsula of land between. I also went to put my pants on (remember those stupid baby blue pants?) and the zipper broke. On the second day of wearing them. Oh, and extra clothing? Nope. I walked the many miles after that with my pants open….
It wasn’t well marked, but I found said side trail to the bridge. This crossing was a huge mess of downed trees. Where the PCT officially crosses is the horse ford. But since Ramona Falls is here, and a trailhead is near for it, it is often bridged.
The hiking changed here on Day 2, with a long climb out of the river valley. There isn’t any water to be had once you leave the river, and it’s a very long haul up the hill to Lolo Pass. We got lucky and encountered a family who offered us water from icy cold water tank in their car. Not long after Lolo Pass there is a spring. The day was hot, we took a long lunch in the shade at Lolo. The nice part though was open forest.
And then you look and see Mt. Hood where it looks so different…and wait, we came that far? Down low in the photo is the FS road to Ramona Falls.
After Lolo Pass, the trail shifted back and forth, sometimes even with wonderful shade.
And the mountain kept getting smaller and smaller – and looking like the Hood you see from Portland.
And one gets to see how much of the area is actively or recently logged as well.
Night 2 we spent at a spring/wet soggy area just off the trail, past the turn off to the trail that goes downhill to a “resort” (just don’t do it. It isn’t worth it!)
I was rocking a Anti-Gravity Gear tarp tent that year that I was horrible at pitching. Totally ultralight I can tell you though. I still have it!
Morning came early, and with the level of bugs/heat, I took off before everyone else. I ran into an older gent, Dave, who was 54 years old and who was solo section hiking Oregon. I started walking with him. The miles went fast as we chatted. The hike followed above Bull Run Lake, which is a watershed for Portland.
It was quite pretty, and the open forest had the miles going by, even if it all felt uphill…..
And then you look back and Mt. Hood really, really looks like you expect it to – with the wizard’s hook on its hat…..
Then the trail just open up to an open area, a long ago forest fire that took out everything. What you get is a fake alpine experience. No complaints.
Suddenly Mt. Adams is ahead of you and honestly…you start dreaming you could do those miles and how hard is it to walk home?
A little farther we came to the abandoned Indian Springs campground and spent the night there. It was a nice camp, even if very windy. It had a full range of car campsites, with picnic tables and an old privy to choose from. We camped with the man I had met and I some other hikers who came in very late.
In the morning we deviated from the PCT and turned down Indian Springs Trail #435, to connect with the Eagle Creek Trail. If you want to do this route, take Indian Springs Trail, not the connectors farther North. This was a fine trail, well taken care of, although good and steep (2,000 feet in 2 miles). The top part was open, but we had woken to clouds and cool weather (oh darn). A lot of thru-hikers go this route, partially because of water sources, but also it’s simply way prettier.
The trail goes down, down and down quickly. It comes out to Eagle Creek Trail (with a nice campsite right before). I had hiked Eagle Creek before, and it is a very, very busy trail – but also if you hate narrow trails with drop offs, you want to avoid this one. In dry weather it is actually quite nice (I’ve done it in rain). The majority of the trail was blasted out of the creek walls and so is very narrow, often with 100 feet of vertical drop, but most sections have wire to hold on to in the first 7 or so miles. The best part of the trail is tunnel falls:
Look above, about 1/4 of the way up – that is the trail cutting behind.
Looking across, waiting for the group – the trail goes behind the waterfall, it is an amazing experience.
After that, camera went away – as this is where the trail gets busy. And for a hike where we saw nearly no one the entire way, the last 5 miles was a near traffic jam of casual dayhikers. But it is pretty, one waterfall after another.
Waited for our ride, had pizza, said goodbye…and then a long drive home. And with that….my first section of Oregon was done.