All Paths Lead Nowhere

In the Fall of 2006, I was a freshman at Reed College. I though that I wanted to be a philosophy major, and despite a pronounced lack of experience, I considered myself a competent outdoorsman. With ambition blind to my own abilities, I talked two dorm friends into attempting the Timberline Trail around Mt Hood. At 41 miles in length, and with significant elevation gain, Outside Magazine had hooked me by calling it “the hardest day-hike in America”.

At that time, my idea of lightweight was an underloaded 60L pack, with a small tent, and only one (!) stove for the 3 of us. We didn’t plan to bivy, but goddammit, we were prepared to if it came down to it. And it did. As Yvon Chouinard famously said, if you bring bivy gear, you will bivy. A scant eight miles into the loop, under a drizzle slowly turning to early October snow, we were unable to find the continuation of the trail after it crossed Clark Canyon, a glacial moraine divided by a snowmelt river. We not only bivied there in the tent for a few hours, but subsequently retreated to the nearby ski resort, Mt Hood Meadows, where we spent hours in the abandoned lodge drying our clothing with hand dryers and cooking oatmeal on the floor.

Newton Creek

The Newton Creek trail traces the precipitous edge of the moraine.

While I still have a considerable amount to learn about mountain travel, it’s fun to look back at myself and see, if nothing else, the power of unbridled enthusiasm, and to appreciate the experiences that I’ve had since that which have changed my perspective and my competency in the mountains. Read on →