Long Distance Hiking – Mt. Hood to Mt. Rainier

Joe Jamison first contacted me several months back when he was preparing for a long-distance hike from Mount Hood, in Oregon to Mount Rainier in Washington State.  He saw one of my posts from the Indian Heaven Wilderness area and was trying to pinpoint a good stopping point along his journey at Wood Lake, a secluded camp site which is just off the Pacific Crest Trail but just remote enough for some peace, solitude and privacy.  I gladly shared the GPS coordinates and Joe continued his plans.  I followed him on Facebook and he completed his trip!  He said it was one of the greatest trips of his life so I asked him to share his narration with all of his which he graciously agreed to do.  There are plenty of great pictures and Joe’s narration from his journey.

Joseph Jamison is a Hiketri-cities reader.  Joe served our country in Afghanistan and is in the Army at Ft. Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma.  He came to the great Northwest to enjoy hiking in the Cascade Mountains.

He just finished a dream hike from Mount Hood to Mount Rainier on the Pacific Crest Trail.  Joe contacted me about a good camping spot at Wood Lake (from our scout troops high adventure two summers ago, click here for more on that hike).  Joe covered about 220 miles in 15 days.  Joe reports about 15 miles a day with a full pack.  He also reports the total elevation gain during his journey was 38,727 feet

Here is Joe’s story, enjoy!


Pre-hike preparation:

Pre-hike packing

Pre-hike packing

I have been planning this trip for almost 2 years. When I originally planned this trip I was living in Puyallup WA, then I had to move to Oklahoma last march, but I sill kept my plans to do this hike. This was my final check before getting on the Plane to Fly from Oklahoma to Portland. My Brother did the first 3 days from Timberline to Cascade Locks with me. But he didn’t have any gear, so I brought my extra set on the plane with me.

Day 0 Portland to FSR 23:

My first day in Portland and the day before my trip started I drove to the Trailhead near FSR 23, 15 miles outside of Trout Lake Wa and hid a resupply cache, to save me a trip to Trout Lake off the trail and to keep me from carrying 9 days of food. I took photos and marked it with my GPS for a quick find. I took FS Roads back to Cascade Locks due to Construction outside of Trout Lake. I drove back to Portland to get ready for the next Day.

Day 1 Timberline to LoLo Pass, 17 miles:

My Brother and I woke up at 4am and our Dad drove use to Timberline Lodge So we could get started before 7am. After taking some Photos and final Gear Adjustments, saying goodbye to Dad, we were off.

The views just started coming right away and they didn’t stop. We made our way to the Sandy River. We both knew that it would be a challenge, due to the hiker that was swept away earlier in the week. We got to the Sandy and it was actually an easy Rock Hop. I was Lazy about it and just forded it, which turned out to be a mistake, I had wet feet the rest of the Day.

We had lunch at Ramona Falls, we sat and talked with another hiker that was hiking around Mt. Hood Solo. After Lunch we headed out, we still had 5 miles until LoLo pass and still had to cross muddy fork. We got to Muddy Fork crossed on the log with no issue, talked to a thru-hiker waiting for her husband.  After talking for a few minutes, we headed out and started a 1200ft climb in 2 miles. 

A few more views of Hood and we were on our way to camp at LoLo Pass. We reached LoLo pass dropped our gear and headed to get water for camp and the next day. We were both exhausted after hiking 17 miles our first day.

We got back to camp and a man who was car camping gave us each an ice cold beer, we were both very grateful. It was the best tasting beer I had in years. We setup camp had dinner and crashed.  10498341_10204744297235989_2511938303452653990_o 10504933_10204744284515671_6434013434980915977_o 10514429_10204744287115736_485555116111682082_o 10532320_10204744284955682_1260231384885504877_o 10608553_10204744286795728_2504784063404069704_o 10679708_10204744289435794_3095598839264863200_o 10679916_10204744287315741_2521284571316538309_o photo 1 (4)photo 1 (5) 10679916_10204744287315741_2521284571316538309_o photo 1 (6)photo 2 (7)

Day 2, LoLo Pass to 7 1/2 Mile Camp, 18 miles:

We got to Indian Springs Camp at about 3pm, when we got there we met another hiker named Steve. He was looking for the spring. We looked with him then decided to move on. As we were heading out, he said you need to go that way, pointing the opposite direction towards the the actual PCT. We started heading that way, and after a few steps it didn’t seem right so we turned around and headed back where I felt we should be going. As soon as we were on the trail to Eagle Creek we saw Steve getting water at the spring he was looking for. I explained his error and he apologized. We then named him Wrong Trail Steve.

We got to 7 1/2 mile camp, setup, soaked our feet in Eagle Creek, ate and went to sleep. 18 more miles complete. The next day we would be heading into Cascade Locks.

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Day 3 7 1/2 Mile Camp to Cascade Locks

My Brother and I were both pretty excited to walk through Eagle Creek because this was the first place we went Backpacking together back in 93. We kept looking for our campsite, but couldn’t remember which one it was. We took photos and talked about hiking here in our youth.

After Tunnel Falls, we started picking it up. We both wanted to get to Cascade Locks, because we were hungry and tired. We had both seen Eagle Creek many times, so the novelty had worn off and we just wanted to finish it up. The closer we got to the trail head the slower and fatter the Day Hikers got.

We got to Cascade Locks, I picked up my resupply from the Post Office and we went to Marine Park so I could sort it out. My Brother went to get some food. While I was sorting my supplies my Parents pulled up. They took me to get some things I needed from the Pharmacy in Stevenson then dropped me off at the Hotel so I could shower and do Laundry. Said goodbye and off they went. I was very glad my brother came with me and was very happy he was leaving. I needed some alone time on the trail.

I had a Burger and a Beer Sampler at the Ale House in Cascade Locks then headed to the hotel for a very nice night of sleep.

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Day 4 Cascade Locks to Campsite Dirtroad 18 miles

I woke up around 4am checked out of the hotel and got on the road/trail. I crossed Bridge of the Gods a little after 5am. Scared the crap out of the booth attendant so bad she fell out of her chair. I had already decided to do the road walk through Stevenson and Carson, so I headed down HWY 14, which was a little nerve racking. I started hiking so early because I figured there would be less traffic this early in the morning, and I was right. My intent was to eat breakfast in Stevenson, but when I got there nothing was open yet, so I grabbed a few things at the grocery store and headed out. 

I got to Panther Creek Campground around noon, so I ate lunch, and filled up on water. Where I was staying for the night was only 4 miles away, but a 2200 feet elevation gain. Also there was no water for 10 miles so I had to pack water for camp and half of the next day, so I knew I would be going slow.

Crossed the Bridge and started my climb. Only ran into two hikers on the way up that were going the other way.

Got to the top of the hill, less than 100′ from where I was camping and wouldn’t you know it, there was a damn Water Cache. So I just hauled all that water up the hill for no reason.

So I setup camp and started making dinner. About 5 thru hikers came through getting in a few more miles before dark. A couple of them said there was a sign at the bridge telling them about the water cache. It wasn’t there when I crossed the Bridge so whoever put the Cache there must have been on thier way back down.photo 5 (8) photo 3 (11) photo 2 (11) photo 1 (11)photo 5 (9) photo 4 (10)

Day 5 Dirtroad Camp to Crest Camp 13 Miles

While I was making Breakfast a thru-hiker came by and sat down and had breakfast with me. He already had 4 miles in since he had slept at Panther Creek. He took off after he was finished eating and I finished packing up. I didn’t have many miles to cover, but I did have almost 3000 feet to climb.

On the way up I kept getting little views of Hood and Adams

I had lunch on top of Huckleberry Mountain where I had awesome views of Mt Adams, Hood and the Columbia River. I also had a cell signal, so I called the wife to let her know all was well. It was my last chance to talk to her for about 8 days.

I filled up on Water at the PVC piped spring about 2 miles away from crest camp and then walked through the big lava bed. It was pretty impressive, but for some reason I only took one photo?

Got to Crest Camp around 5pm. A few thru-hikers came through, while I was making dinner. It was nice having a table and a bathroom.photo 1 (12) photo 2 (15) photo 3 (12) photo 5 (12)photo 2 (13) photo 1 (13)photo 4 (12)photo 5 (11)

Day 6 Crest Camp to Wood Lake 13 Miles

I was approaching Indian Heaven, at first I was getting a few views mostly of Hood and Adams.

Then I got my first view of St Helens, then I noticed something to my far right.

If you look real close you can see the very tip of Mount Rainier. 

You can’t see it in this photo, but I could see it with my naked eye, St. Helens and Glimpse of Rainier.

These three photos were taken within a few feet of each other at different view points on the trail. There are not many places where you can see all three of these mountains at the same time.

Entering Indian Heaven

I had Lunch at Blue Lake, because 22 Years Ago, 3 of my closest friends and I had Camped there, so it brought back good memories. Check out how big my pack was back then (The one on the Right).

Lakes, lakes and more lakes. 

I read on another Hikers Blog that there was a good camp site about .5 miles off the PCT at Wood Lake. He was right. I camped in a meadow and enjoyed the solitude.photo 5 (15) photo 2 (15) photo 3 (15) photo 4 (14) photo 5 (13) photo 5 (17)photo 3 (16)photo 3 (13)photo 3 (7)photo 3 (17)photo 1 (15)photo 1 (18)photo 2 (18)photo 5 (16)photo 3 (18)

Day 7, Wood Lake to Trout Lake, 13 Miles:

My day started easy I entered the berry patches that were thick with pickers. It was Friday so I started seeing more and more people. I leap frogged a section hiker by the name of Cow Patty, she was hiking with her dog and appeared more homeless than a hiker. She looked like she had been on the trail for years. Also the whole day I was being chased by the sound of a large group assumed by me to be Boyscouts. When they got close I could hear them so I would pick up the pass until I couldn’t hear them anymore. I wanted silence and solitude.

After lunch at Mosquito creek I came across this cooler on the trail I wonder what magic lies inside.

YES! Ice cold Beer! 

So I enjoyed one and continued on

One more view of Adams before arriving at Trout Lake Creek where I camped for the night. I soaked my feet in the creek, collected water and setup camp.photo 5 (17)photo 1 (19)photo 2 (19) photo 4 (18)photo 1 (20)photo 2 (20)photo 3 (20)

Day 8 Trout Lake Creek to Riley Creek 15 Miles

The last 3 days through Indian Heaven had been pretty easy. That was about to change.  I had more miles and elevation to cover today. I also had to pickup my resupply. So I left early in the morning. I got to FSR 23 at about 10am. I found my cache just like I had left it, I stuffed in in my backpack and got back on the trail, I would sort it out later.

I was now entering the Mount Adams Wilderness Burn Area. I had underestimated how devastating the damage was.

As I got closer to the Mount Adams Alpine area I started getting more and more views of Adams. I also ran into some volunteers doing trail work. I thanked them for all of their hard work. 

I got to the Campsite just before Riley Creek and I walked just a few feet and right around the corner I got this view, that I couldn’t see from the campsite. 

I hadn’t decided to camp there yet because there looked to be better sites in the area I wanted to explore first. As I sat there a thru-hiker named Cheese that I had actually met on my way to Cascade Locks was walking by. We talked for a few Minutes and he caught me up on the 4 days since I had seen him last. Then he was off to do his last 5 miles for the day. A little later a thru-hiker named Scorpion showed up, after I did some campsite exploring.  I had heard about Scorpion from Cheese, but hadn’t met him. I told him I had just seen Cheese and he was maybe 30 minutes behind him. So he took off to catch Cheese. 

I found this nice little campsite just on the backside of Sheep Lake. With a perfect view of Adams. I was really looking forward to Sunrise.photo 1 (22) photo 2 (21) photo 2 (22) photo 2 (23) photo 5 (18) photo 5 (19)photo 3 (22)photo 4 (21)photo 5 (21) photo 5 (20)

Day 9 Riley Creek to Pondside Camp 17 miles

Sunrise over Adams did not disappoint! Soon after sunrise I got going quickly, I had decided the night before to push 17 miles the next two days so I would only have to do 10 miles on day 11, when I would be in the Goat Rocks. I had originally planned to do two 15’s and a 14 through the Goat Rocks. My decision turned out to be the right one, more on that later.

For the rest of the morning I enjoyed the views around the base of Mount Adams, they were just fantastic. I finally had to stop taking pictures, because I had several miles to go that day. I stopped for lunch at Lava Springs, then pushed on. As I got to FSR 5603 I noticed a girl in her 20’s sitting on a rock with her pack at her feet. She looked more the type to be sitting in front of a TV, with a bag of chips and a diet coke watching the Kardashians than hiking. She asked me where the closest cell service was, and I told her Highway 12 about 40 miles away. I asked her if everything was ok. She told me she had started hiking in Oregon, and now she was sick and wanted her parents to come pick her up. Then I asked how long she had been there and if any cars had come by. She told me 3 hours and only 2 cars. My next question was did you flag them down? No she tells me, I figured if they wanted to help they would stop. WTF? I said, no you have to let them know you need help. Right when I said that, a truck started coming by, so I flagged them down and explained that the girl needed help. They offered her a ride to Randle, she hopped in and off they went. 

I had originally planned to camp at Midway Creek, but my new plan had me pushing 2 miles further to a camp by a pond. I arrived at the Pondside Camp, and much to my surprise there was already a couple of hikers there. Frank and Kim, both probably late 50’s with old school frame packs and sitting on bear canisters. I was even more surprised to find out they had started at Snoqualmie Pass and were headed to Ashland. They both bragged about a 26lbs base weight. They were a riot and a lot of fun to talk to. I asked if I could share the site, and they were very welcoming. Even invited me to play scrabble with them. Frank had a lot of opinions, most of which I did not agree with, but his rants were hilarious, so I kept my opinions to myself. photo 1 (24) photo 2 (24) photo 3 (24) photo 4 (22) photo 4 (23)photo 2 (25)

Day 10 Pondside Camp to Cispus River 17 Miles

I woke up early again with lots of miles and elevation to cover. Talked with Frank and Kim while we all packed up and ate breakfast. They were southbound and I was northbound so we said goodbye and went our own ways. The first half of the day was quite miserable. I had to walk through thick brush covered in dew, that soaked me from the waist down.

I got a few glimpses of Mount Rainier for the first time only to be stuck bushwhacking again.

By mid-afternoon it started to open up and I could see Rainier in full view, and started to see the start of the Goat Rocks. At one point I was taking pictures and 3 thru-hikers passed by me and asked what mountain that was. I was a little offended that I had to tell them it was Rainier. 

Finally I was in the Goat Rocks. This was what I had been looking forward to the whole trip.

I found a great campsite with awesome views just past the Cispus River. I setup camp and got ready for the next day.photo 3 (25)photo 1 (31) photo 2 (32) photo 3 (31)

Day 11 Cispus River to Tieton Pass 10 miles

I wasn’t in a real hurry to leave camp, I had all day to do 10 miles. I made my way towards Snowgrass Flats, taking lots of photos.

This Photo is one of my Favorites, Adams, St Helens, Rainier and the Goat Rocks in the same Photo.photo 4 (29)

Once I started leaving the Goat Rocks and started getting back into the forest I was surprised how quickly things got kinda ugly. I saw what looked like a hunters stash, and the Lakes/Ponds were murky, it was such a contrast to just 2 miles before. It felt more like the woods behind Safeway. I got to Tieton Pass, and on the sign someone wrote H20 300′ pointing to a small trail. I followed it, and it lead to a very small stream. I instantly regretted not hauling water from the Goat Rocks. The stream was barely dripping, and took me 20 minutes to fill 2 containers. As I was setting up camp a few thru and section hikers came by, all asking about water, so I broke the news about the pathetic stream. Then Scorpion showed up, looking like death. He had gotten sick and had to zero on the trail back in the Goat Rocks. I invited him to camp with me, and helped him setup. He was pretty much out of food, so I shared mine with him. We both went to bed early with plans of an early morning to get into White Pass before noon.photo 2 (29) photo 1 (26) photo 1 (27) photo 4 (26) photo 4 (25)photo 5 (24)photo 5 (5)photo 2 (27)

Day 12 Tieton Pass to White Pass 10 Miles 

Scorpion and I both woke up about 4am, packed up and got ready to head out, Scorpion beat me out of camp by about 20 min. I planned to eat once the sun came up, so I stuffed my pockets with some food and headed out. 

Once the sun came up I scarfed my breakfast and started the climb up Hogback Mountain passing Horseshoe Lake and Hidden Springs. It was nice to see alpine scenery again. I made the decision to take the chairlift trail as a shortcut, because I had cold beer and pizza on my mind. Turned out to not really be much of a shortcut. It was steep and not really much of a trail. I might have saved distance, but didn’t really save time. 

Got to White Pass Around 11am, picked up my re-supply box and talked to other hikers while we sorted our boxes and traded items. Ate some horrible pizza and shared a 6 pack with Scorpion. 

Once most of the hikers cleared out from the store, I went to my room and started to get ready for the next day. Oh and I enjoyed a few ice cold Men’s Room Reds, that I have missed very much.photo 4 (27)photo 5 (26)photo 5 (25)photo 1 (29)

Day 13 White Pass to Crag Lake 17 Miles

Not a whole lot of scenery today, in fact I didn’t take any photos. The morning was foggy, and nothing but trees. Today was all about getting closer to Mount Rainier. After Lunch I ran into a southbound section hiker that turned out to be a surveyor like me. We talked for a little too long. Then a thru-hiker I had briefly talked to on my way out of White Pass showed up. He turned out to be a retired marine, so hiked with him for about 6 miles until we reached where I was camping for the night. His trail name was Buttercup, as in “Suck it up Buttercup”. Which I heard a lot over 6 miles. I camped in a meadow off the trail, and went over my maps.

Day 14 Crag Lake to Nickel Creek Camp 17 Miles

I got up and packed up right away, I decided to eat breakfast on the Trail, because I had to hike 9 miles to Ohanapecosh Visitor Center to get my Backcountry Permit.

I got to the Laughingwater Creek Trail within only a few minutes of hiking, I guess I camped closer than I thought. Right when I got to the trail junction I could hear an elk calling, and it only got louder and louder as I walked, I started noticing fresh evidence of him, so I knew he was close by. I was about a half mile away from 3 lakes and I could see a clearing through the trees, the closer I got, he came into view a beautiful white bull elk. I scrambled for my camera, then I hear another noise to my south.

Three more elk! Then I looked back and the bull was gone. Damn it. This was the first large wildlife I had seen the whole time. I was pretty excited. 

A few minutes later I got to 3 Lakes Cabin. I had breakfast and signed the registry. Then headed to Ohanapecosh.

I crossed Highway 123, and something strange happened. The trails got really wide. I had to check my map to make sure I wasn’t on I-5. I arrived at Ohanapecosh a little after 10am only to find out the visitor center didn’t open until noon. As I was waiting a lot of car campers and other visitors started to show up to the visitor center waiting for noon. It was Labor Day weekend so there were lots of people around. I started to feel very uncomfortable. People started staring at me like I was homeless. I showered 2 days ago I swear. I guess I looked a lot rougher than I thought I did. They opened I got my permit, and got the hell out of there. 

After climbing up the Cowlitz Divide Trail for what felt like forever I finally made it to the Wonderland. As soon as I got to the Wonderland Trail I ran into hikers. I noticed right away they were hiking much slower than hikers on the PCT and were carrying much heavier packs. I made it to Nickel Creek Camp, got setup, got water and was in bed before dark. I planned to wake up very early so I could be at Paradise by noon to catch my ride. photo 3 (29) photo 5 (27) photo 2 (30)

Day 15 Nickel Creek Camp to Paradise Lodge 10.5 Miles 

I was woken up at about 3am to rain hitting my tent. I laid there hoping it would stop. At 4am when it still hadn’t stopped I packed up inside my tent, for the first time my whole trip. I quickly packed up my tent, and started off in the dark rain a little after 5 am. I got to the Box Canyon parking area and for the first time in my life ate my breakfast in the bathroom. I hung my tent up to dry a little, which didn’t make much difference. Double water-proofed (Ziplocks) dry clothes to change into once I made it to Paradise, then headed out. 

Because it was raining I didn’t take my camera out much. I did get this one photo. Once I got to the Skyline Trail it was so foggy I could barely see the trail. 

I made it to Paradise a little after 11am. 14 Days 4 hours and 11 minutes, 215 miles, 38,727 feet of Elevation Gain. Of course I couldn’t see Mount Rainier, so I went inside and changed to dry clothes and waited for my ride to show up. 

My friend showed up a little before noon and took me out to lunch in Tacoma then dropped me off at the Train Station in Tacoma.

I bought a Business Class Ticket and had a whole car to myself all the way to Portland. Not a bad deal for an extra $15.

Except for rain on the last day, the weather for this whole trip was perfect. This trip ended up being better than I had expected, and I really enjoyed seeing the whole area between Hood and Rainier, it was an experience that I will never forget. I am hooked on long-distance trips now. I am already planning my next one. More than likely it will be the Colorado Trail, hopefully next year.

Alternately, you can go to Joe’s blog by clicking here with a few more pictures and Google Earth GPS tracings.


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