This is a continuation of my Timberline Trail trip report, covering Cairn Basin to Tilly Jane Campground in a clockwise direction. To start from the beginning, including information about the overall trail as well as river crossing conditions, please check out the report for Day 1: Timberline Lodge to Sandy River.
Timberline Trail Day Day 3: Cairn Basin to Tilly Jane Campground
10.4 miles, 2400 ft gain, 2300 ft loss
This was one of my favorite days on the trail. It included massive quantities of wildflowers, eating wild huckleberries, some interesting river crossings, and a historic campground.
Within a quarter mile of leaving our campsite, we encoutered our first river crossing of the day, Ladd Creek. All of the river crossings we faced this day (other than Eliot) were similar. While enough scouting would reveal rocks or logs to hop across, wading across was just simpler. I spent most of the day with wet feet.
The north side of Mount Hood was exploding with wildflowers and wild huckleberries. We dipped into different colorful meadows such as Wy’east Basin and Elk Cove, with views of Mount Hood popping out from time to time.
I didn’t know what to expect at the Eliot River crossing. Polling hikers going the opposite direction, it sounded like there was a solid log crossing, but conditions can change quickly. The trail was recently rerouted, and the new bridge had already washed out. We were all a bit nervous knowing that we faced this crossing later in the day.
The new trail switchbacks down over 500 ft to a crossing point above a small waterfall. Getting down the washed out riverbanks to the actual crossing point was the most challenging part of the river for me, but some pink ribbon marked a somewhat decent use trail down the loose slope.
We found a very solid log with a bit of water sloshing over one end. I was comfortable crossing, but it’s all relative. We watched a group shimmy on their butts, another person almost ran across, and I just walked it. Despite the log being solid, the booming reverberations of rapidly rushing water and the dropoff just below the log was enough to make anyone understandably uncomfortable.
I didn’t get many pictures of the crossing since I had tucked my phone away into a waterpoof pouch for this crossing.
Once safely across the Eliot River we had to climb back up the 500 ft we had just lost. It was sunny and hot, and at the top we popped out into the Cloud Cap campground. A small campground with no water, we chose to hike on to the next campground, Tilly Jane.
Tilly Jane was an interesting spot. It also had no piped water, but a stream ran nearby that we were able to filter our water from. Recently, a fire came through that left the campground looking rather rough, with a lot of downed trees and recent cuts. We were the only people in the campground when we showed up around 4 pm.
Several historic structures dating back to the 1920s and 30s surrounded the campground, and we had fun wandering around. When we got back to camp we saw another Timberline Trail group of backpackers had showed up. Throughout the evening a few more hikers arrived, making this a car campground that was solely populated by backpackers this night!
There is more information available about the historic Tilly Jane area from the Oregon Nordic Club.
This trip report is continued at Day 4-5: Tilly Jane Campground to Timberline Lodge