Today we finished our hiking journey! Can you believe it? I can’t. It’s incredible. In the past year we have done 52 hikes. Remember, before this time, I had done two hikes ever….in my entire life. I enjoyed them, I did, but not like this. Hiking is my thing. I adore it. I made plans last week with the beautiful Lacey Wroblewski to hike 162.5 miles of the John Muir Trail next summer. That is happening. I have a lot of training to do, especially since the baby elevation on today’s hike nearly killed me and I will be up much, much higher on the JMT, but I’m doing it. That is actually, really happening.
I read about the hike from Timberline to Meadows last summer. I didn’t think we could handle it. Then I decided to save it. I knew it was going to be our last hike for a long time now. I wanted our last to be epic. It was!
We drove up to Timberline, a place we’ve both been many times as we learned to ski there, and hit the trail. It starts right behind the lodge. The first section is also the Pacific Crest Trail. I love seeing PCT hikers because they make me happy. My friend Jeremy Wedell just finished an over 400 mile section of the PCT last Monday. Amazing!
We knew going in it was going to be a butt kicker. It’s a 9 mile hike with 2320 feet of elevation gain, but that’s not why we knew it would be hard. It’s a saddle hike. You hike down then up both ways. We get really tired on the second half of our hikes and ending with ascents is really really hard, especially for me. You gotta go out with a bang though, right?
We started our descent into White River Canyon and it could not have been more epic. We had NO idea how beautiful this hike was going to be. We have never seen anything like it. Besides the constant, up-close view of majestic Mt. Hood, there were so many gorgeous wildflowers in bloom. It was by far the most beautiful display of color we have seen in our adventures. As we descended we had many conversations about how this ascent wouldn’t be too bad. It wasn’t super steep….famous last words.
As we worked our way into the canyon, we knew we had a river crossing ahead of us. Neither of us had ever done a river crossing before and I think secretly we were both freaking out a little bit. I was hoping that it was low since we have had so little water in Oregon. I also, aloud, gave us permission to not cross it and head back. It would still have been an amazing 4 mile hike.
When we eventually got down to the river, we knew we could do it, and we would probably stay dry! We had to cross it three times because the water braids its way through the valley. As we were scouting our first crossing, the bank crumbled beneath Jessie. In a moment of shear brilliance, she grabbed my arm with all her strength. Both of her feet went in but her body did not. We were able to stop her. Wet feet suck. When we talked about it later she said, “It might have been refreshing. Who knows?” That girl, I’ll tell ya.
Once we crossed the river, we started our first ascent. It was very steep switchbacks. I had a lot of trouble with hyper-ventilating. I have breathing issues. I always have. I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time in ENT doctors offices and sometimes just have to succumb to some gross mouth-breathing. It’s just the way I’m made. When I’m in higher elevations, it is exacerbated. I definitely struggled up the multiple switchbacks.
Eventually you emerge from the forest at the meadow. Holy cow. You can’t even imagine it. My pics do not do it justice. It is so incredibly beautiful. It took our breath away. We continued to wind on mostly flat mud trails through small streams to our stopping point, the junction with Umbrella Falls.
There were black flies everywhere on this side of the river. However, there were fewer on the gravel road just in the distance. We sat in the shade and enjoyed our lunch. Then we headed back.
The downhill part was easy peasy. On our second crossing of the river, of course, we noticed piles of rocks that marked the easy crossing points. This made the journey much less of an adventure and much more normal. Then we started our second ascent. It kicked my ass. I could only walk like 300 feet at a time before I had to stop and rest. Not only was I hyperventilating, but I was also dizzy and nauseous. My sister was very patient with a pace I started calling shamble pace. We were climbing in sand the whole ascent which increases the difficulty. I was shambling. It wasn’t even real steps, but I kept going. Two awesome lady PCT hikers passed us (we almost never get passed anymore) and the second one said, “Hiking in sand is no joke, huh?” Eventually we made it though. I think I was really really dehydrated. We stopped in Govy and got Gatorade on the way home. I felt so much better.
Today we spent a lot of time talking about how my body doesn’t work right. It was not interesting conversation. The highlight was definitely my sister singing almost the whole hike. We have a new fear of what we call “nature.” This basically means we don’t want to see a bear again. As we were descending into the canyon the first time, we spooked a giant bird and its quick departure made us both jump. We sometimes don’t talk when we are hiking. She decided the best way to resolve this problem, the problem of sneaking up on nature, was to sing to nature. She made up all sorts of songs as we walked. I wish I had some lyrics, but they were kind of like the song in that apocalypse episode of Family Guy with Randy Newman. One time when she was far ahead of me on a steep trail, I saw her jump and she said loudly, “Hello, Nature.” It was really funny.
We finished. We’re done. So what’s next for us? People always ask what are you going to do when you reach 52. We have spent a lot of time talking about this. We decided we need to hike. We just need to. So next… we will do hike 53. Stay tuned, or not. We really don’t care 🙂
Ok, we kind of do.
For information about the Timberline to Mt. Hood Meadows hike click here.