The Book. The Mountain. Everything in between.

Off we go

A month ago, I kicked off this web site and blog with a post about why I was doing it. It’s for the book and for the mountain, primarily.

But part of the reason I kicked it off when I did was also because I could then be a part of the 2011 WordCount Blogathon, a 31-day blogging marathon run by an editor of mine, Michelle Rafter.  The goal is to blog every day in the month of May. It’s not easy to do, but with a little discipline, a little hard work, and some easy, photo-only posts, it can be done.

Something close to 200 bloggers signed up for it this year, and while I’m not sure how many made it the entire month, I can officially say that, with this post, I did.

To end the Blogathon and officially shift into book promo mode, I thought I’d offer up another brief excerpt of the book, this one about the start of our 41-mile epic trip on the Timberline Trail. Thanks for reading . . .

Amy and Oliver approaching Newton Creek on the Timberline Trail, 2005.

Misty here at 6,000 feet on the south side of Mount Hood. Very misty. In fact, come to think of it, this isn’t mist anymore at all. It’s real rain and the drops are engorging by the minute. Isn’t this August, one of the months it’s supposed to be safe to venture outside in Oregon?

The parking lot here at Timberline Lodge is empty for good reason, but here we are, Amy and I, and our trail hound, Oliver, setting out to tread the Timberline Trail in its entirety. The 41-mile loop encircles the mountain, covers close to 10,000 feet of total elevation gain, tops out at 7,300 feet on the north side, crosses countless streams and rivers, offers views of at least five major Cascade peaks, and attracts thousands of hikers each and every year. And it’s been around since 1938. So in more ways than one, this is the hike to do on Mount Hood.

Although most people knock off the Timberline Trail in three days, I’ve just been laid off from my reporting gig at a Portland newspaper, freed from work obligations for the time being, and Amy and I like to enjoy ourselves on the trail, so we’ve budgeted just enough Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker for four evening cocktail hours.

By then, August 2005, we’d lived in Portland for eight years and had backpacked all over Oregon and Washington. Mount Hood had become an obvious go-to favorite for us because we lived just an hour’s drive away. We’d already spent countless days and nights hiking and camping at places like Burnt Lake, McNeil Point, Elk Meadows, Elk Cove, Cooper Spur, Ramona Falls, Zigzag Mountain, and so on. Last-minute escapes to the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River or Lost Lake were always a weekend option (still are).

Our original plan for this trip had been to head up to Washington’s North Cascades, but logistics and unknowns had made it seem more stressful than such an outing should be. We considered other options too: back to the Wallowas in eastern Oregon, the Three Sisters near Bend, the redwoods. Everywhere, it seemed, but fifty miles east of home.

Amy refocused, however—saw the trees for the forest, if you will—and suggested we give the Timberline Trail a go. Perfect.

Except for this rain, which has soaked us damn near through before we even step off the pavement. Even Oliver, who’s usually delighted and indifferent to the elements, seems dejected already, droplets beading off his Labrador blackness and drenching his overloaded pack. (I think Amy’s stashed her hooch inside it.) But what are you going to do? When else will you have five days off— and then some—to devote to one of the most classic backpacking trails around? This is what we are here to do, the Timberline Trail. And goddamn, we are going to do it.

The mountain is hidden. The day is soggy, blowing. The massive, seventy-year-old lodge looks quaint and so inviting. I’m sure fires are burning warm and bright within its giant stone fireplaces and hot soup is heating the innards of guests looking out at us through big, bowing windows and thinking, What in the hell are those people doing out there?

Off we go.

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