Saturday, September 1, 2012

Thielsen Creek

The last time I had hiked the Thielsen Creek Trail, it was the out leg on a lengthy hike that started out on Tipsoo Peak. What I remember about the Thielsen Creek portion of that trek was that it was dry, dusty, and singularly uninteresting as it rambled through a dull lodgepole forest. Actually using the term "dull" with "lodgepole forest" is kind of redundant, kind of like "angry" and "wife" and I had one of those too after the hike.

My view for the next 6 miles
So what would be the point of reliving that forgettable hike? Why, to get close to Mount Thielsen, of course.  I could have gone on the Mount Thielsen Trail along with all the other hordes of hikers and climbers but on the Thielsen Creek Trail, I saw one other person all day. I do like my wilderness with an extra helping of solitude, thank you.

On the Howlock Mountain Trail

This is not the main attraction
Starting at the Howlock Mountain Trailhead at Diamond Lake, the trail quickly crossed under busy Highway 138 as Maggie the Hiking Dog and I headed uphill through the lodgepole. Maybe the mood was right, seeing as I was just starting out, but the trail was not nearly as dusty as I remembered. The lodgepole forest was still kind of dull, though.

Lodgepole pine will grow where no other tree will and the porous pumice soil around Crater Lake was full of them. Since they grow in poor soils, the trees tend to be spindly, scrawny, and full of dead trees. A healthy lodgepole forest always seems sickly at best.

Lodgepole beetle is killing the
trees and the down side is...?
The forest here was infested with the lodgepole pine beetle, making the forest sicklier than normal. Or maybe this is the new normal as the beetle is laying waste to huge tracts of lodgepole here on the east side of the Cascades. In researching the beetles on the Internet, I found a picture of a beetle larva with the caption "Note the anal shields" and all I could think of was "Anal shields? Where can I get some?" But I digress.

Timothy Meadows

After three miles or so of steady climbing, the Thielsen Creek Trail crossed its small namesake creek, intersected with the Howlock Mountain Trail, and peered down into Timothy Meadows. After hiking to Whitehorse Meadows several days prior, I even hate to use the word "meadow" when describing the grass growing under the trees at Timothy Meadows, it just didn't seem very meadowy.

Mount Thielsen makes an appearance
After Timothy Meadows, the trail got a little bit steeper as it stayed above the creek. The trees were healthier too and Douglas fir made an appearance. Also making an appearance was Mount Thielsen, our current raison d'ĂȘtre, the tip of the peak making intermittent appearances at small breaks in the forest.

Thielsen Creek
At the 6 mile mark, the trail simultaneously intersected the Pacific Crest Trail, Thielsen Creek, and the base of Mount Thielsen. From afar, Mount Thielsen appears slender and graceful but up close looks rather squat, just like me.  
A million little bits of Mount Thielsen
The weather and elements have been chipping away at Mount Thielsen for millenia and the avalanche basin was full of rocky chippings which called for future exploration. I may put on a backpack and go cross country to the trailless east side of the mountain at some future date. Lathrop Glacier, or the remnant thereof, was draped around Thielsen's neck like a tattered stole of ice and snow. And of course, crystal clear Thielsen Creek burbled merrily like a just-fed infant through the barren and rocky pumice track.  

It was time for an extended lunch and view soak while the canine half of our expedition frolicked in the icy creek. After a delightful hour-long lollygag, it was time to head back as the shadows lengthened in the afternoon sun. I enjoyed this hike and can't quite recall why I didn't enjoy Thielsen Creek the last time I hiked this trail. I'm betting Mrs. O'Neill still remembers, though.   

Moss carpet
For more pictures of this hike, please visit the photo album in Flickr.

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