4 nights and days to ramble the north side of Mt Hood following either PCT or Timberline trail at the same time as last year’s ‘Loop Hike’ … the plan was fairly simple: Timberline Trail full north (east / west) side (including Cooper and Barrett spurs) and PCT from Timberline to Whatum Lake.

Plans need ‘on the ground’ clues to improve based on actual conditions – a riff on the original plan. What changed? A) the PCT north of Lolo Pass is boring and the black-flies were biting; B) all the day hikers I met were going to McNeill Point, and C) Elliott and Coe Creeks were raging and I did not want to cross either after noon (original plan had crossing them late afternoon 2nd time).

The actual hike went like this:

Day 1 – Leave car at Top Spur Trailhead, hike up Timberline Trail to Cooper Spur and then to Cloud Cap for camp

Day 2 – Cloud Cap on Timberline to PCT to Romona Falls for camp

Day 3 – Romona Falls on PCT past Lost Lake and then down to Lost Lake for camp

Day 4 – Lost Lake on PCT to Timberline to McNeill Point and to Cairn Basin for camp

Summary: North side of Mt Hood is spectacular the last week of July. Wildflowers, blowdowns, creek crossings and great people are the key take-aways from this year. Compared to last year, there were materially less people and I only saw 2 trail runners (PCT) the entire time. Wildflowers were close to peak, the glaciers were melting fast all day and the creeks raging from 10-11am, and the Labor Day 2020 windstorm created blowdowns on every trail with some closed.

People on both PCT and Timberline had a hard time understanding my hiking plans – Rambles; however, once they took the time to listen and understand, they were mostly jealous of my freedom to take hikes / destinations with limited constraints (time, energy and food). I absolutely love the north side, but on PCT once to Lolo Pass going north, turn around and spend the time on Hood.

Trail Fairy Story: I fell and broke a trekking pole first thing day 2 (crossing Elliot). I tried to fix with wood and rocks and duct tape but it didn’t work. An hour later, i met a group and explained my pole story. One guy had a pole he found at campsite and gave to me thinking it was a full functioning pole – alas, it was broken too. BUT … it was same mfg and i took apart and fixed mine as the gifted pole also had a supply of duct tape unused. With this insert and duct tape, I was able to have a functional trekking pole pair for the remaining 60 miles – the trail fairies were kind to me!

Day 1 – Left the car at Top Spur TH, and hit the trail by 7:30am. The first section to PCT / Timberline junction is just typical OR cascade climb up thru the trees. At the junction, things got interesting, as the above closure and re-route was the opposite direction, but the blowdowns on Bald Mountain (TImberline Trail) were terrible on Monday. At least 1 mile of climbing over, thru and going around massive blowdowns. Once thru this puzzle, the higher elevation scenes unfolded … and the wildflowers!

Once past McNeill Point junction, heading into Cairn Basin, more of the WA cascades open up. These were teasers

Crossing Ladd Creek was easy, and getting around to Coe at 11:00 made that not bad but the water was over my knees. At Elliot 1pm was raging and wide; water was almost to my knee but wide and COLD! I had to stop after to let my feet warm up. This is when I decided that crossing these 2 creeks after noon was NOT a good idea. It was between these creeks that I met a father / daughter (~12 yr) with a mid-sized dog; dad made 6 crossings at Elliot to get gear, dog and daughter across – i could imagine how cold and anxious he was.

Rounding over to Cloud Cap and Cooper Spur helped warm up with better WA and Hood views.

Arriving first at Cloud Cap and finding running water was a joy! I quickly ate lunch and headed up Cooper Spur and everything just opens up

Once up ~8000 ft, it’s Hood that takes breath away with its size and ice. After a short break, it was back down the hill to spend the night at Cloud Cap.

Day 2 – The day started dark with a big setting moon, but the dirty sky bloomed as soon as the sun rose

Quickly packed and headed out to get across Elliot at 6:00. Just in case you don’t realize Elliot’s power … the log area is where I waded across.

I covered most of the ground from the day before and then headed down the long switch-back decline to the Sandy River (tho I was heading to Romona Falls, and on the way, a scene reminded me that Hood has waterfalls!

I camped just west of Romona Falls on RF Trail all by my lonesome (5 minute walk to falls) beside the creek with its music singing all night long.

Day 3 – Back up the long climb from the Sandy valley on the PCT and straight out towards Lost Lake.

This section is very boring and yet filled with blowdowns (hard ones). For me, it was a 20 mile day and I got down into Lost Lake ready to camp, swim and rest.

Day 4 – The last real hiking day was another long day and almost all uphill – Lost Lake to McNeill Point. I broke camp with my headlamp and was on the PCT as the sun crested. I also grabbed 10 miles of spiderwebs as the first hiker; when i finally met someone coming the other way, he described my hat / face as covered with spiderwebs from a horror movie – they kept the flies out of my eyes!

Going around Hood from PCT Junction on Timberline was the third time i covered that ground this week – no new pictures until the McNeill Point junction and then I headed up. Once there, the views back down to Sandy and Lost Lake really showed the ground covered.

Night found me back at Cairn Basin to camp again the only one there. This is a special place – magical – the once-alive spring died to save this grove from the surrounding fire (my theory).

Day 5 – Leaving Cairn Basin on the last day was bitter sweet as all last days are. A great hike, but time to go home … Hood left me w/some amazing memories.

Basic Map of Routes


GaisGPS Statistics

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Gear Review -simple version – bring, carry and use duct tape – it’s the best! REI zippers are poor quality, and I have now had 3 different zipper issues with 3 different products. I am calling REI tomorrow. My 10,000kh battery pack kept my iPhone SE and AppleWatch charged the full time with 50% left at return.

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