July 26, 2016
Timberline Lodge Junction (mile 2094.4) to Muddy Fork (mile 2106.4)
Our total miles: 1700.1
Laurie woke up to her alarm at 5:10am. She tried to go back to sleep but her mind was racing. Towns do this to her.
She gets anxious and has trouble just being. We both hoped this trail would help change that, and maybe it has, but old tendencies still surface.
Since she couldn’t sleep, she got up, got dressed and went to watch the sunrise. Mt Jefferson stood proudly above the clouds, turning a pale pink when kissed by the morning sun.
When Andy woke up we packed up most of our things but left our food bags hanging so curious critters wouldn’t chew through our tent. We headed down to the lodge around 6:45 to charge our electronics before the breakfast buffet opened at 7:30.
We had heard wonderful things about the Timberline Lodge breakfast buffet from day hikers and thru hikers. If it were only from thru hikers we would have been skeptical since the word buffet holds more value than the food itself. But since the myth was validated by day hikers we chose to check it out.
Breakfast was good and we ate lots.
Eggs, sausage, potatoes, smoothies and pastries for Andy and whipped cream for Laurie. We left content but not overly full.
We spent the next few hours talking with friends and family. We chatted with Cakes, a woman we last saw around Chester (mile 1335) and Coke, a German man we met descending Mt Whitney. Once again the trail has an amazing way of bringing people together.
With 2.5 days to walk 50 miles we felt no sense of urgency. Apparently the lack of urgency leads to slow going. Originally we had planned to be hiking by noon but that quickly transitioned to 1pm.
We finally shouldered our packs around 1:15pm and headed north once again. It was hard to gain momentum since we were stopped every 3 minutes to yield to hikers walking uphill towards us.
We saw all types of backpackers today – overnighters, section hikers and a few SOBOs (southbound PCT’ers). We saw people carrying dogs, lawn chairs and tiny backpacks.
The trail felt like a highway. We stopped to talk with one woman, Debbie, who was coming back from 2 nights out with her granddaughter. She asked to take our picture and said she was so impressed by us.
It is strange and funny that people treat us like celebrities. We feel like it is a priveledge to be out here. We are no more special than a grandmother and granddaughter finishing a 3 day journey around Mt Hood.
We crossed Zigzag creek by walking on two planks of wood- one much more stable than the other, then descended some more.
The trail dropped a total of 1000 feet. We took Debbie’s suggestion and veered to the right at the Paradise Park junction. With a name like that how can one resist?
Our maps showed the junctions with Paradise Park Loop trail and PCT but not the trail itself. It didn’t matter though, we were up for the adventure.
We switchbacked out of the forest into a sea of greenery. Paintbrush, daisies, cat’s ears and other small white flowers lined the trail.
At a junction we took a narrow trail up towards the base of Mt Hood. Laurie, like her mother, likes to hike uphill and rarely turns down an opportunity to do so. The trail was steep but neither of us could resist the temptation of hiking up for a nice view.
We stopped partway up the Paradise Park trail, not knowing how far the trail went, and recognizing we still had miles to make before daylight faded. We paused for a few moments to take some pictures and cool off in the wind before heading down. The day was warm and with all the uphill walking we were both drenched in sweat.
We headed back down to the loop trail and eventually back to the PCT. We walked past many more wildflowers, streams and awesome looking campsites. This little detour was amazing and we were so glad we hiked it!
Once back on the PCT we continued to descend. Laurie turned to her audiobook for distraction and Andy took the lead.
We popped out of the trees overlooking a very large and deep valley around Sandy Creek. Suddenly our very well groomed trail turned to sand. We were walking on a foot wide flat spot on the edge of a 1000 ft drop off. There were footprints and no other trail in sight. We both gripped onto the evergreen trees and Laurie avoided looking down.
This can’t be the PCT we remarked to one another. But where did we go wrong?
Rather than turning around and walking back up the sketchy sandy ridge, we kept going down. We pushed our way through bushes following a very narrow sandy path. We looked at our gps which confirmed we were off the PCT but only by 150 ft.
We bushwhacked our way back to the trail, stepping over logs and pushing back branches.
After 10 minutes Andy spotted the familiar 18 inches of dirt. Thank goodness! Our familiar friend- the PCT!
We happily continued down the trail, dropping another 2000 feet before reaching the Sandy Creek crossing. We managed to keep our feet dry by walking on a pile of logs.
Less than a mile later we turned right onto the Ramona Falls Alternate. The trail (which used to be the official PCT) led us slightly up and then down to the beautiful Ramona Falls. We arrived around 5:30pm and had the place to ourselves. Laurie bathed in the water and Andy washed his face and feet.
Water poured over the dark and mossy rocks. It smelled like wet earth and provided a nice coolness to the hot evening. Another worthwhile detour!
After leaving the falls we crossed the river on several bridges comprised of singular logs and one handrail.
Around 7 pm we joined back with the PCT and immediately saw tents. Golden Horse and Ben were on one side of the trail and Lois and Paul on the other. We had planned on hiking further but given the time and need to catch up on blogging we opted to stop.
We set up the tent, chatted with everyone and ate dinner. Surrounding us was a carpet of green. As the sun set we were cozy in our tent. The air was warm and we admired the tall trees through the mesh of our tent.
Tonight we are grateful for opportunities to talk with friends and family and the willingness to take risks and diverge off of the PCT.