I again didn’t set my alarm last night, though I got up around 6:40 today, and didn’t get started hiking for another hour. This was later than I wanted, but given the goal for today was going to be a “short” 20.7 miles to Timberline Lodge, I had plenty of time.
A little warmer than yesterday morning, the trail headed off into the forest, winding its way around the relatively flat east side of Timothy Lake. After passing the lake, the trail began a gradual uphill as it headed towards Mount Hood.
After a road crossing, a post with a sign that had nearly completely fallen off had been graffitied to now be a “Yeti danger” indicator. Apparently today, the danger level is “high”.
My first glimpse of Mount Hood since it first came into view a few days ago came at 11 am. The mountain, was shrouded in smoke from the fires, and was nearly impossible to see: I almost missed it as I was hiking past a gap in the trees.
About 20 minutes later, I got to the trailhead at OR 26, and was pleasantly surprised to find there was trail magic there. Friends of a hiker named Owl (who I’ve never met) had watermelon, grapes, and soda.
My plan had been to go into the town of Government Camp today, but, thanks to the trail magic I’ve gotten over the past week, I have almost enough food to make it to Cascade Locks (only two days further ahead). A town stop now just seemed unnecessary. So, I booked a room at Timberline Lodge, which means today's (and tomorrow’s) logistics are now somewhat simpler, even if now considerably more expensive.
Five miles down the trail, at another trailhead, a trail maintainer, I-Beam, chatted with three of us that were there. Generously, he offered us cans of (diet) root beer. It was a bit warm out, so the sodas were very welcome.
After leaving the trailhead and crossing another highway (that would have taken me into Government Camp), the trail took me uphill in earnest. As the trail steeply climbed Mount Hood, it joined with the Timberline Trail, which circles Mount Hood near its tree line. Climbing above the tree line, the trail changed from being dirt, to being deep sand, like you might find on a beach volleyball court. This made hiking up slow and difficult, as each step required that much more effort as the sand slid away. (Also, it was fully exposed to the sun, which didn’t make things easier.)
There was, however, a mile or so of near-continuous views of Mount Hood. Down in one of the mountain’s canyons, a creek filled with dirt poured over a waterfall and down the canyon, erosion at work.
The trail crosses a short distance behind Timberline Lodge, a hotel on the mountain that primarily caters to ski lodgers, and also serves as a conference center. It also served as the exterior for the hotel in The Shining. (They play the movie every night at one of the bars.) As I arrived, a number of antique cars lined its parking lot (one of them spewing a noxious cloud of exhaust as two people worked on it), and plenty of children were getting off of some sort of ski camp. I checked into my room around 5, and got a shower, which was one of the best I’ve had on the trail.
A bit stiff, I made my way to the lodge’s dining room, where I had dinner. It was expensive, but the food was very good. For some reason, I opted to do a room charge, rather than paying with my credit card. In a first for me, the server asked to see my room key so he could put the correct room number down on the slip. That’s a nice measure to ensure the correct room is charged, and more places should do that, I think, but when most hotels have moved to swipe cards rather than old-fashioned locks and keys, that might be a bit impractical.
The lodge has a guest laundry available free of charge (which was nice, considering how expensive the lodge is), though there is only a single pair of washer and dryer, so there was a small line when I went. As a result, I didn’t bother to wait for the dryer to finish; I just hung my wet clothes up in my room, and hoped they’d dry by morning. (It was a bit warm in my room, so I figured there was a good chance they would.) Worst case, I can always take them to the dryer tomorrow morning.