Paradise Park to Cairn Basin
Second day promised to be as beautiful as the first! The trail started high in alpine/sub-alpine meadows; the wild flower bloom was over but I can imagine it would be stunning.
I passed many excellent tent sites so if you go, hike a half mile or so past the creek if you are looking to stay the night. After a bit the trail joined back up with the PCT and started a long 4 mile descent down to Sandy River. The descent was through a beautiful rhododendron forest…I can imagine what it looked like in bloom! There was this one shrub that I could not id. Just one, I looked around for more but there wasn’t any more.
At the bottom of the hill came the Sandy River. The crossing for this was listed as challenging and I imagine it can be early season but it was easy today especially since this is on the pct and a mock bridge has been built by hikers. Right after the crossing was cairns that I thought were leading the way. Up river a few hundred feet by those trees in the picture was a bunch of cairns and footprints leading that way so that is the way I went. There was a youngish couple up there that told me the trail was the other way. I mentioned that all the cairns might lead hikers to think it was that way and he said that several hikers had indeed come that way. He let me know he was just decorating his camp…
I went back down river and relocated the trail and went up a small hill to where there was signage. I decided to take the Ramona Falls alternative.
The falls were nice and there were several day hikers enjoying the views including a couple of horsepeople (both a horseman and a horsewoman so that makes them horsepeople, right?). Directly after the falls I had to make a choice…the trail immediately back to the pct or the “old” pct/timberline trail. There was a sign stating that while open there was erosion and washouts making the trail difficult and that caution needs to be taken if choosing that trail. Of course I went that way! In my opinion the trail was fine and I had no issues with the two or three erosion areas where the trail narrowed but was still intact nor with the water crossings along the way.
This old trail reconnected with the newer version at the junction where the (new) pct and the Timberline go their separate ways. The trail notes I was using (Oregonhikers.org) told me to take the signed cutoff trail…I listened and went the suggest route taking the cutoff. From there I had some uphill to take care of which went quickly through a beautiful forested area. I crossed paths with a man hiking with an Airedale named Abe. Abe was a great dog, made me miss Miranda even more than normal. Sucks that our hiking dog friends get old.
I decided to do the McNeil point loop up to the shelter. This spur trail is/was unmarked on this side due to the steepness/need to use your hands nature of the trail. The official trail is about a mile further on the Timberline. But Abe’s person had used his ice ax (?) to carve into two trees arrows and the word “steep”. I have no words.
The views from the shelter area were excellent. I could see Adams, St. Helens, and Rainier as well as the results of the Dollar Lake burn back in 2012. The mountains are difficult to see in the above picture due to the Portland pollution haze that was present each day. The shelter had a corner fireplace but was small and not somewhere I would sleep (mice, years of human use) but there were some rock windbreak shelters that would be excellent locations to stay the night at. Although very tempting I still had a little ways to go.
There were many trails in the meadows and I was not sure what was the loop trail so I just chose one and went for it. It was about 6:30 and I was trying to go to Cairn Basin for the night. The trail reached a junction and was signed that the Timberline Trail was down the hill but there was a good trail leading in the direction of the basin so I went that way. I passed a couple I had been sharing the trail with and they were at an awesome campsite. If they were not there I would have taken that one. There were others nearby but I wanted to not stay quite so close to others so I kept going on this old trail. I knew I was about 750 ft away from the Cairn Basin and the Timberline trail but had to cross a river and since it was getting dark I started looking for a flat spot to put my tent. I went toward a grouping of larger trees and was quite happy to find an old campsite complete with a fire ring. I don’t usually have fires (and didn’t this night) but it was nice to find an established cleared and flat spot to stay at.
I pitched the tent and went off a distance to make dinner and hang my ursack while enjoying the sunset.