After enjoying a bit of city life in Portland, we were headed to the wilderness for what would become another life-changing experience. As we drove toward Mt. Hood, it was at my first glimpse of the mountain that I started getting butterflies. They were a mix of excitement and nerves; the same I had felt before backpacking into the Grand Canyon. Our first stop was at the Zig Zag Rangers station to speak to ranger and get feedback on trail conditions.
Our destination was Yocum Ridge. After researching places to backpack at Mt. Hood, we had decided on Yocum Ridge for it’s distance, what we thought to be a moderate difficulty, and the sheer beauty I read about from others who’d been there. With our packs readied, we parked our car and started out on Sandy River Trail #770; the start of what would be the hardest thing we’ve done yet.
The Sandy River trail is a popular trail and was filled with families and day hikers. It was certainly a good warm-up for what was to come. The trail comes to a bridge after about a mile from parking, which crosses over the Sandy River, and provides a stunning view of Mt. Hood. After about .3 miles, the trail splits between Ramona Falls Trail #797 and the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT); the two form a loop that merge again at the Falls. We took the Ramona Falls Trail, which was still populated with day hikers and equestrians. The trail is a bit rocky, and elevation goes up about 1000 feet on this 3.5 mile stretch.
We stopped at Ramona Falls for lunch, which was filled with several other groups of backpackers, day hikers, and families. Ramona Falls is sort of the dividing line where the families end, and the more serious hikers begin.
After eating lunch and hydrating, it was time to continue on. From Ramona Falls, we began a .6 mile hike on the PCT (also called the Timberline trail #600 on the map), to reach the Yocum Ridge trailhead.
This part of the trail would be the most challenging. The rising elevation made it feel longer than we’d expected. We’d known the distance of the trail, but hadn’t fully grasped the difficulty. The incline and weight of our packs continued to challenge us with every step. Just when we’d think we were close with the sight of a clearing, we weaved through more woods, and as we got higher, we encountered clearings of rock and beautiful meadows full of wildflowers.
Arriving at Yocum Ridge was a relief. We had just completed our longest backpack to date and were in a beautiful paradise.
Our second day was spent just relaxing and taking in the beautiful paradise we had worked so hard to get to the day before. We took about a mile hike down to a stream, where we collected more water. There were a ton of flies near the stream. We had bug spray, but it was no match. We collected water as quickly as we could before heading back to camp.