In typical fashion, we got a late noon start from Timberline Lodge. This time, our goal was to head east on the Timberline Trail #600 from the lodge and get over to Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area where Umbrella Falls is located. To do so, we’d have to drop about 1300 feet down to the White River canyon and back up to roughly the same elevation to Meadows and back again to return to the car. Do the math.
We had great views of Mt. Hood for most of the hike down to the White River Canyon, a wide boulder-strewn valley littered with huge lateral moraines— the ridges of debris piles left by the edges of glaciers. It was only 70 degrees, but the sun was pretty intense on this arid stretch, making it feel much warmer.
Dropping down into the post apocalyptic White River canyon, we recognized the same point to which we had trekked on snowshoes last January. We discovered that hiking this area was much easier when it was covered in snow! There were three river crossings ahead of us before reaching the other side of the canyon. We were glad to have our trekking poles along, but worried that our late start to the day would result in deeper, faster water to cross. The river channels change from day to day, too. Luckily, the crossings weren’t bad at all today.
Some parts of the trail across the canyon are marked by stone cairns, but there are so many footprints throughout the sandy pumice that it’s difficult to figure out where to go. We did manage to go off course for about a half-mile up the canyon, (see the GPS trail at the bottom of this post) having misinterpreted the sign, not consulted the GPS and misread the printed map.
After a lunch break, reconnoitering the map, we scrambled up through loose pumice and rock to find the trail again to begin the long climb up to Mt. Hood Meadows Ski area. As we got higher the trail opened up onto damp wildflower meadows and glorious views to the east and south. Small streams barely a foot wide carved deep channels through the meadow floor.
Due to the lateness of the hour, and fatigue in our legs, we decided to save Umbrella Falls for another trip. Fortunately, the trip across the canyon was much easier and faster, now that we knew where to look for the trail.
On the way out, we’d noticed that the trail was sandy, but didn’t really appreciate just how deep the sandy pumice was until we had to slog through it again on the way back. It’s very much like walking up sand dunes at the beach, which made for slow going. I’m glad I switched from the Montrail Sedona trail shoes which let in tons (okay, tablespoons) of sand on the last hike to a pair of Merrill Moab Ventilators. Much better! We also made a point of taking more breaks, carrying more water and eating an extra bar on the way back.
Sand notwithstanding, the dramatic landscape and views throughout this hike make it a very worthwhile day hike.