Day 1 of our Pacific Crest Trail Backpacking trip began up on Mt. Hood at Timberline Lodge. Originally, we planned to start the Pacific Crest Trail backpacking trip at Timberline Lodge, however, two weeks prior, Paula and I went on a reconnaissance mission up to Mt. Hood to check the snow levels, and found the trail completely buried by at least 2 to 4 feet of snow. Beyond the ski area, the trail was unrecognizable, so we planned to take the Paradise Park Trail #778 up the mountain to meet the PCT below Paradise Park. We planned on checking out Timberline Lodge anyway before starting the journey, and when we arrived, we were very surprised to find the trail was almost totally clear. As a result, we made a game-time decision to start the trip from the original spot.
At this point, the PCT was crossing ground that is generally buried in snow above the treeline, so there was not a ton of vegetation around, and it seemed the volcanic rock and ash were radiating the sun’s heat. The weather was warm with a cold wind coming down the mountain from the summit making the temperature very bearable. The air was a little hazy, and in the picture above, you could see Mt. Jefferson to the south and the Three Sisters beyond. We snapped this picture as we crossed Sand Canyon.
Here is a picture of Dan as we worked our way in and out of the canyons along Mt. Hood’s southwestern face. This section of the Pacific Crest Trail also overlaps with the Timberline Trail, that goes all the way around Mt. Hood.
We crossed several canyons along Mt. Hood’s western face, often stopping to take photos of the summit from where we were. We had lots of photography equipment of varying degrees of sophistication. Brian had his digital camera plus Stick-Pic, Dan had along a digital camcorder, and I had a disposable camera plus my trusty iphone camera.
The Zigzag Canyon was the first major canyon we needed to cross. The Zigzag Glacier is up at the top of the canyon. This was at about 6000 feet.
Down below, you can see the Zigzag River, fueled by the summer temperatures and melting snowpack. The PCT would take us down and around a switchback or two where we would eventually need to cross the Zigzag River.
We reached the floor of the Zigzag Canyon and reached the icy-cold Zigzag River. Dan and I looked around for a convenient crossing and leapt across the river, while Brian stripped off his boots to wade across. Once across the Zigzag, we began our ascent to Paradise Park.
The ascent up the other side of the Zigzag Canyon from the Zigzag River was very steep, and by the time we crossed Lost Creek, I was running out of energy. We were already at 5 miles for the day, so we stopped for a tasty lunch of Peanut Butter and Jelly Pita Sandwiches, which hit the spot. Brian also hooked up his water purification system for the first time of the trip, and we got some very cold and refreshing water from Lost Creek. From here, we took the PCT below Paradise Park, which was where the Paradise Park Trail #778 would have met up, if we did not start at Timberline. After the physically draining Zigzag ascent, I was a little relieved that we started at Timberline after all.
After another two miles, we crossed the Rushingwater Creek and got to see a waterfall on the Sandy River. We would be descending the mountain for about 3 more miles to the Sandy River crossing.
From our numerous vantage points on Mount Hood, we were able to see Mount St. Helens to the northwest and Mount Adams to the northeast. This photo was a disposable camera developed to digital, and as you can see, the quality is not very good. I’ll update this post to include some of the higher-quality digital pictures once Brian posts his. I broke out the iPhone for the higher quality pictures, and used the disposable for the rest, the idea was to conserve iPhone battery. But for next time, I’m going to skip the disposable camera and just do it right, and maybe I’ll find a better solar charging solution for the iPhone camera.
We passed another backpacker who started at Cascade Locks and was ending at Timberline who warned us that the Sandy River crossing was a little hairy, so I looked for and found a nice long and sturdy hiking stick that I could use to balance with for the crossing. When we reached the Sandy River, we were tired and had racked up 10.4 miles for the day, so we opted not to cross the river until morning. The river was probably higher from the snowmelt during the day, so we wanted to try to cross in the early morning after the snow had a chance to refreeze during the night.
We camped at a nice little campsite on the edge of Rushingwater Creek, and set up camp. Naturally, once we had our camp set up, we found an even better campsite. We decided to build a fire and have dinner at the other campsite. Using my c3po Unican stove to prepare it, I enjoyed a tasty cranberry chicken meal that Brian had mixed up in the week prior to the trip. On this trip, I learned that he is quite the freezer-bag cooking gourmet chef. I still had a few tricks up my sleeve, as my Rough ‘n’ Ready beef jerky also made it’s backpacking debut on this trip, and it was also a big hit!
Dan hung the remaining food in the bear bag and then we called it a night in Brian’s trusty backpacking tarp tent. The picture above was my view of the world after waking up the next morning at Rushingwater Creek. It was a very peaceful sleep after hiking many miles and sleeping next to the creek.
Here is the Day 1 Google Map track of the trip from Timberline Lodge around to the Sandy River.