This is a continuation of my Timberline Trail trip report, covering the Sandy River crossing to Cairn Basin 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 2: Sandy River to Cairn Basin
11.9 miles, 4200 foot gain, 2100 foot loss
This was probably my least favorite day of the trip, despite being a gorgeous stretch of trail. It was really hot outside and the black flies swarmed us for the hottest, steepest part of the day. I think all three of us were happy to wrap up the day a little early in Cairn Basin.
Crossing the Sandy River early in the morning was relatively simple. We looked for the pink flags tied on the far riverbank to show where the trail was, then followed some giant cairns to a place in the river where we could cross on a log. The water was clearly lower than it gets throughout the day since we could see the high water mark from the previous day on the banks.
Our next interesting spot along the trail was Ramona Falls. Despite being a popular dayhike destination, we had the place to ourselves on this Tuesday morning.
Ascending out of Ramona Falls, we contoured around Yocum Ridge to our first challenging river crossing of the trip: the Muddy River. We made it far more complicated than it should have been by trying to cross on a narrow log instead of simply wading across and getting our feet a bit wet. On the second fork we just walked right through, an approach we would take for the remainder of the hike.
My hiking partners were smart enough to bring water shoes, and taking some time to change in and out of them at every river crossing is extra time to be budgeted when planning a Timberline Trail hike. I neglected to bring water shoes, so I just hiked right on through and dealt with wet feet most days. Luckily I don’t have feet prone to blistering and discomfort as long as it stays warm and dry outside. (Which was the forecast for the duration of our hike).
The climb from the Muddy River to Cairn Basin was rough. This was the hottest day of the trip and it’s a long uphill climb. Although the grade is relatively comfortable, the hot sun and interminable swarming of black flies made it miserable. I ran out of water, which is something that never happens to me.
Fortunately, there are some nice breaks along the ridge with some incredible views towards the mountain and the Sandy Glacier.
As we crossed the 5000 ft elevation mark the wildflowers started popping again and the flies dissipated. My mood was improving the higher we got, but by the time we reached Cairn Basin around 3:30 we were all ready to call it a day.
After some wandering, we found a beautiful campsite in Cairn Basin and began to set up. Water is scarce in the actual camp area of the basin, so we had to hike back approximately 1/4 mile to fill up at Ladd Creek.
I think we all went to sleep a little anxious about Day 3 and the multiple river crossings ahead.
This trip report is continued at Day 3: Cairn Basin to Tilly Jane Campground