The tent shook and I felt like I was in a washing cycle in a top loader.  The wind would briefly stop, and then it would resume with a roar.  Twice earlier in the evening, people camping nearby, sheltering behind rocks, with whom I had camped in the same area as they the past three nights, told me my tent was leaving, and the second time, we decided to put rocks in it to hold it down.  And then I got in.  

With one gust, that put the side wall horizontal in my face, I didn’t know if even my being in the tent would be enough.  I wasn’t sure if I would be flying downstream or whether the tent would suddenly rip apart.  I thought about moving the tent behind some big rocks, but it was getting dark, and I had too much stuff to move—and to probably blow away as well.  

As I lay there during the brief, quiet times, I thought back to earlier in the day at Cloud Cap, when I needed to find water.  Fortunately, a loudmouth, who announced that he had hiked this trail 26 times and knew every bit of it, said there was water near Tilly Jane Campground, an alternative route rejoining the Timberline Trail. He said it was “there somewhere,”  which was not a great help. I stayed silent and found the water on my own, filtering it. I would need every drop.

The trail up from Tilly Jane (Trail 600A) climbs without break 900 feet in a bit over a mile back to the Timberline Trail (Trail 600) which leaves from Cloud Cap. I would hike 40 steps, stop, try to breathe, and check how much more climbing I had to do.  I would repeat and this time check the straight line distance.  Occasionally, I looked at the big canyon to my west, wishing I could fly over it.  Eventually, I saw people far above me, discouraging when I realized how far I had to go to reach their elevation.  I eventually reached the main Timberline trail, stopping for lunch nearby in the shade of a large rock in the treeless desert.  I still had water, but it was 5 miles to Newton Creek.  

I puffed across the scree between huge rock cairns a couple hundred of meters apart, a piece of cedar sticking up in the center, marking the trail for foggy days.  I reached the high point of the whole hike at 7350 feet and began the long descent to Gnarl Ridge, where I had day hiked the year before.  Then, I was rehabbing my knee.  This time, I was hurting it outright, as I left the ridge on the two mile downhill to Newton Creek.

I stopped along the trail to rest at one point and was startled by a young woman backpacker who came up and passed. I didn’t pass too many on this hike; then again I was twice or maybe thrice the age of most.

Eventually I reached muddy, roaring Newton Creek, where I dropped the pack, looked across the turbulent water, and knew I wasn’t going any further that day.  I went down the sandy bank to a back eddy, ran water through my neckerchief, and filled containers that would have to sit to let some of the dirt settle. I then put my feet in the glacial flow.  It felt great.

That part of the afternoon where I was sitting or lying, pack unpacked, nothing put away, I didn’t want to move.  I knew I should move: the tent had to go up, food organized, cider, coffee, or something needed to be drunk, but I was exceedingly lazy, wondering how I had carried 45 pounds over 3000 total vertical feet and 13 miles in one day.  Eventually, I broke the spell and got moving.

That evening, two women, whom I had passed above Gnarl Ridge, came through to make the river crossing. Glacial streams in the afternoon and evening have all the day’s melt behind them and flows are typically higher.  One woman found the log bridge across and was soon on the other side.  The other woman balked and tried looking for other routes to no avail. Eventually, she went across and as she turned around, I gave her a thumb’s up.  She returned it.

Newton Creek, east side

Mt. Hood, before the wind.

After the wind that night, I slept briefly and woke to calmness at 6, having either not set my alarm or having slept through it. I was worried about the weather, because although the sky had cleared the previous night, it had clouded up again, and when I started the hike, rain had been predicted for the last day. The sooner I finished, the better my chances of avoiding rain near the end, where I would be exposed.  Also, getting well out of Portland before mid-afternoon would also be wise. 

While eating, one of the women from the group that had been with me each of the three nights stopped by.  She commented on my forehead bruise, which I didn’t know I had.  I knew that I had banged my head, but I didn’t feel blood, so I figured it was a scratch. We talked for awhile, and I returned to my eating and packing.

Her husband then came over and asked if I needed help. He had seen the wrap I had on my hand the second night out and thought it was a protective brace until I told him the story.  I had gotten through a full 24 hours since injury without too much difficulty, so I told  him I would be OK.  We began talking, and he spoke of the 15 hour front that had come through the night before, asking if I had noted the change in the wind direction.  I was impressed that he knew so much about the weather pattern.  I had figured the front had gone through, but the wind had been loud and steady from one side as far as I knew.

He was retired a Coast Guard pilot from Kodiak, having had seen some real weather, so  I understood his clinical approach.  He said he had been worried about me the whole night.

We were all packed and ready to move across Newton, the river much lower in the morning.  On the other side, there was a nice quiet campsite with a clean stream present.  I wished I had gone further the day before, but that was In the past.  Like a healthy left hand.  We were 8 miles from Timberline Lodge, and the trail crossed the surprisingly difficult Clark Creek, went through the beautiful Mt. Hood Meadows Ski area (sans neige), down steeply to White River, which was fortunately not too difficult to ford in the morning, and then uphill for a few miles, seeing Timberline Lodge ahead, but having to go around, down and out of Salmon River before arrival.

Waterfall in Mt. Hood Meadows

White River. All of this can flood.

Timberline Lodge parking lot. Note the forehead bruise.

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