Timberline (Day 2: Cairn Basin)

cairn_basinDay two began with breakfast at Ramona Falls: my customary bowl of oatmeal and two cups of hot chocolate. It was cool and calm beside the falls and a great way to start the day. We talked over our route for the day. It was decided that we’d deviate from the Timberline trail and head down the Ramona Falls loop to the PCT, then follow that up to Bald Mountain. This would let us avoid an unpleasant water crossing, so we packed up and started out.

The trail from the falls was a leisurely downhill, passing along an impressive cliff. We were in good spirits, as we often are in the morning. The flies hadn’t woken up yet and we hadn’t started our long uphill. When we met up with the PCT, there was a river crossing using a pair of fallen trees. We both made sure that we had all the water we could carry before we crossed and started our uphill.

It was a long stretch of climbing up to Bald Mountain. The forest was beautiful and there were rhododendrons everywhere. Sadly as the climbed, so did the temperature, which meant that soon the flies were back out in force. Again, they made stopping a torture almost on par with pushing on without rest. We climbed and climbed. I used my poles to propel myself up the mountain.

Hiking along Bald Mountain was familiar territory again, as we were up there a couple years ago on a trip up to McNeil Point. We’d barely seen any people all morning, but now the trail was starting to get busy. We stopped here and there to take pictures and enjoy the views of Mt. Hood, but mostly we pushed on.

I stopped to eat lunch beside a pond in one of the high meadows. Last time I had been there the pond was still sporting a fair amount of snow, but this time it was nearly dried out. It was still nice to sit and absorb the view while I ate. The flies were present, but bearable.

After that it wasn’t too much farther to Cairn Basin, though we still had more climbing left. When we did arrive, we were disheartened to discover that almost all of the good campsites were burnt in the Dollar Lake fire that swept through the area a few years ago. They were all clear and usable, but neither of us really wanted to camp among the dead husks. Luckily we found a secluded spot just before Ladd Creek, so we had privacy and water.

Even after what had felt like a long day of hiking, we had hours to go before the sun would set. We hid in our tents until the day cooled and the flies went back to sleep, then I explored the area and took pictures. We had though of staying up late enough to see the stars and maybe try our hand at some night photography, but the sky stayed luminous until well after my expiration.

We had a hard day’s hike planned for the next day and it would turn out to be the hardest day of hiking we’d ever had.

 

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