I spent the past weekend with 18 strangers (friends of a friend who I’d now call friends) at the Tilly Jane A-Frame up on Mount Hood. Built in 1939 and with no modern amenities, the recommendation is to pack for a backpacking trip minus the tent. You’re given a roof, a wood stove, and not much else. This is apparently an annual trip for these folks, but for me and the friend it was kind of spur of the moment as spots opened up last minute. Luckily we both had most of what we needed and REI was able to provide the rest.
We set off early Friday morning from town. The RAV4 was the chariot of choice so I had to take it out of enclosed pickup truck mode by installing seats for passengers. Note to self: Don’t do that the morning of next time… Almost had a serious issue. As expected, the old girl performed flawlessly. Upon arriving at the trailhead we donned our stuffed packs, cold weather clothing, and trekking poles. The snow wasn’t too slick so despite a few concerning spots, we managed to make our way up with only boots (had snowshoes in case). The trip up is 2.6 miles and 2000ft of climbing. With a full pack and the 50mph sideways sleet we faced, it was far from an easy hike. Apparently there are amazing views on the way up, but they’re missed when your head is down in an attempt to shield your eyeballs from ice pebbles.
Upon arrival to the cabin, we got to work firing up the wood stove. I believe the temperature inside was 37? We would eventually reach 59 before the weekend was out with some serious stoking efforts despite the outdoor temperature dropping to the low 20s. Keeping the place warm was kind of the main focus of the weekend because fire, and well, people tended to congregate around the only heat source.
Sleeping was in the upstairs loft. Basically, pick a dry section of floor and lay your sleeping bag down. This was tricky because the dry spots weren’t always the same throughout the night. I ended up having to move when I felt a trickle on my toes, but others dealt with worse. Prior to the trip I bought a nice new bag that was rated to 18. It turned out to be overkill and I ended up leaving the feet unzipped all weekend, but I’m glad I’ve got a super cold bag now and it was on a monster clearance.
The Saturday forecast appeared to be pretty rough with the risk of us not getting outside at all. Early in the day I went for a solo snowshoe with no destination in mind to make sure I got out. Well, the toilet (half a mile away) was actually the first goal, but from there anything went. It wasn’t snowing profusely, you eventually run into trail markings wherever you go, and it’s easy enough to retrace your steps so I kind of lost myself in a wander, intersected the main trail, and made my way back to the cabin.
Later Saturday the weather broke. Folks got outside for sledding and my friend, Jackie, and I made our way up to the Cloud Cap Inn to take in some amazing views of the mountain. Winds up there were absolutely insane and there was a near vertical section, but it was well worth the trip. After some time we made our way back down to the cabin to get warm again.
Sunday morning we arose fairly early, packed it all up, and made our way back to the car. Whereas the hike up would take nearly two hours, the hike down was barely an hour, but damn if I don’t feel the way down in my calves two days later. With the colder temperatures later in the weekend the snow had iced up a good bit so I ended up snowshoeing all the way down.
Overall, an awesome weekend and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. Next time I’ll put a bit more planning into my diet (ended up eating entirely freeze-dried camp food, but others made some fresher stuff with light/high calorie foods that made me a bit jelly), but otherwise I’d change nothing. Made a lot of new friends, saw some amazing sights, revived the sinus infection I’ve been battling for a month, and had a blast of a time.
No, I don’t know who Tilly Jane is.