My original plan was that my friend Carol would pick me up in Cascade Locks, the day after I arrived. Steve made arrangements otherwise…he would pick me up at Shrek’s, and we would spend the day in town, followed by a night at the Best Western. It was a wonderful way to transition from trail life back home.
We spent quality time sharing bubbly in the park (shh, don’t tell). And then we had a beer or two at Thunder Mountain. Of course, no trip to Cascade Locks is complete without a giant ice cream. And finally, we spent the evening in the hot tub. I felt totally pampered!
The next day, we headed north. It was a bittersweet trip. Cascade Locks is where I began my PCT journey, two years ago. This week, I connected the dots, in a little town that will always hold a piece of my heart.
Only 12 miles today, but it was a long, steep downhill slog, with a net elevation loss of almost 5000 ft. I packed up my slightly drier gear, turned on a podcast, and headed out.
I was still schlepping the extra water, which was good. There were no water sources until near the end of the trail. This is also one of the dings against the main trail (as opposed to the alternate).
I rounded a corner, just before heading down, and suddenly I could hear a train whistle. Civilization kept intruding, little by little. Trains, road noise, airplanes…
The trail became wider, and the tread easier, until I hit the end. Cascade Locks, 2144.
I made my way in to town, passing a fruit stand (ice cold cherries!).
And then I stopped in at Cascade Ale House, where I found Sisyphus, Notion, Animal Lover, Lock, and Caps! It was old home week. I had a burger and a beer, took pictures, hung out, and all kinds of other stuff. I dropped some things in the hiker box, and just had a grand time. Big hat tip to Jules, the proprietor, who shared this picture of the trail registry!
Steve and I ate dinner at the Ale House two years ago. But then I didn’t know anybody. This year, I am part of the hiker community, and the difference is awesome.
After I finished my dinner, I stopped at the grocery store to grab a bag of munchies, and then headed up to Shrek’s.
Shrek is overseas this year, but in his stead Sugar Mama, Strange Bird, MacGyver and Lilypad are holding down the fort. There were maybe 15 hikers there, with tents pitched all over the yard.
I grabbed a small piece of real estate, set up my tent, and went to take a shower. It was fantastic! Shrek had built a small add-on to his house, which included an entry way with a small bed, plus a bathroom with a shower and washer/dryer. Two girls, Zinger and Last Call, were hanging out while they washed their clothes. I hung out and chatted with them, waiting to wash the stench out of my laundry. Steve will never understand how much this simple gesture means to him.
While the majority of the 20-something hikers went down to the bar, I stayed up at Shrek’s and hung out. MacGyver and Lilypad wanted to know my story, so I sat down and told them a bit about me. I guess I’m a touch out of the ordinary, and that’s okay. MacGyver cooked up some chicken wings as well, which tasted incredible. Something about real food…
Steve will be here in the morning…can’t wait! It’s hard to believe that this half of my hike is over. I have learned so much, and pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do.
Today was a long plod. I chatted with my campsite-mates this morning, but the big focus was getting my rain-damp gear put away. It was foggy and damp yesterday, and it’s even more so today.
Indian Springs Campground 2125 is the jumpoff point for the Eagle Creek Alternate trail. This trail starts with a brutal descent before mellowing a bit and winding through several lovely waterfalls. The only beta I’ve had on this is that the first two miles are 1600 ft of loss, over nasty rocks. Because it’s been so foggy, I don’t think I’m going to do the alternate…why punish yourself when you can’t see anything anyway?
So once at Indian Springs, I bit the bullet and stayed on the main trail. Sigh.
A bit later, I came to Wahtum Lake 2128. It took awhile to find a spot to tank up (north end of the lake). I knew I might have no water source between here and Cascade Locks 2144, so I had to really fill up.
Then I took a wrong turn, which cost me maybe half an hour. My GPS is great, though, and it was an easy fix. But my destination for the night was a campsite at 2132, and by the time I’d climbed up the ridge, it was nearly dark.
Apparently, my camp-making fu is strong, because I got everything set up and nobody heard anything, according to reports from the next day.
Got up early, and threw my condensation-laden gear into my pack. Next stop: the Sandy River. It was just around the corner, and my first task was to take the lay of the land…er…river.
Where the trail met the river, there were rocks to cross. But everyone I had talked to said to use the ad hoc bridge made of branches. This was maybe 20 feet long, and made of half a dozen branches, ranging in diameter from 1-2 inches. The bridge wasn’t stable, but it was crossable. And it appeared to be preferable to a ford.
Those of you playing along at home will know that I hate unstable bridges. I have just enough vertigo to make my hikes interesting, and when crossing a river, interesting is the watchword of the day. If I could choose anything about my hiking self that I could change, this would be it. It’s frustrating, sometimes downright embarrassing, and is generally a pain in the neck. It’s probably also designed to keep me humble (sigh).
Anyway, I inched across the bridge, and let out a big sigh of relief on the other side. Meh.
Just up from the river, the PCT has an alternate route, which is a loop near Ramona Falls. It’s a lovely waterfall, light and lacy. This is one of two alternates in northern Oregon, and I’m glad I took the time to see this one.
Immediately after the Ramona Alternate rejoined the trail, I had to cross the Muddy Fork. This is a large stream, and the bridge came down years ago. In its place are two large logs, and while at the beginning you can use the upper log as a handrail, by halfway across you need to use a (slack) line instead. Fairly straightforward, but it helped to have another hiker take my poles and give me a hand up at the end. In turn, I waited until the next guy came along, and took his poles the same way.
As it turned out, the guy I helped is from Ballard. He’s working in web design, and was really interested in the program I’m taking. He also thought it was awesome that my grandma had graduated from Ballard, maybe 85 years before he did!
So tonight’s goal was Salvation Spring 2116. When I arrived, there was one tent set up, with a brother/sister pair about my age, Notion and Sisyphus. Turns out we met briefly at Barlow Pass, as they went on up the hill.
There was a guy from Switzerland, and two women of maybe 60, who were SOBO through Oregon. And the last pair was Lock and Caps, whom I’d had breakfast with at Timberline.
Today was the day! The Timberline breakfast buffet has legendary status among long trail hikers. I believe it’s ranked #1 in on-trail meals, for every long trail across the country. And yes, it deserves it!
Waffles and eggs and sausages and potatoes and coffee and orange juice and pancakes and fruit and…
I shared a table with Lock and his girlfriend Caps. We had some commonalities: she has been involved with Scouts and Venturing as well. Today was her birthday, and they decided to take a zero at the hotel. At $280 per night, this was no small endeavor, but like they said, it was their first zero since Mammoth. Happy birthday Caps!
After a long, relaxing meal, I hit the trail around 11:00. It was more or less downhill, with a few traversals of deep glacial ravines. I ran into Sugar Mama, and found out she’s watching over Shrek’s place while he’s out of the country. So hopefully I’ll see her down the hill.
I had a wonderful bit of serendipity today. As I crested a ridge, I noticed a guy eating his lunch. I opined, “Heck of a view,” and he turned around to smile. Then he looked at me quizzically and asked what my name was. “Rest Step,” I replied. He said, “I know you. From the Dinsmores, last summer.” It was Flash! What are the odds?
Anyway we hugged, and caught up. He’s in the Portland area, and was out for a day hike. We took a picture together, and I left with a big smile.
I decided to stage ahead of the Sandy River, and threw down my tent at a small creekside camp at 2104. As always, I prefer to cross rivers and large creeks first thing in the morning, to give myself whatever advantage that I can get. So my tent is pitched fifteen feet from the creek, guaranteeing a lot of condensation. I’ve seen lots of people go ahead and cross now, but as always, I’m conservative.
From Barlow Pass, it was about a five mile climb up the side of Mt. Hood to reach Timberline Lodge. Especially toward the top, the tread was mostly sand, which slowed me down. But as I stopped to take a break here and there, I looked south to see Jefferson, and the Sisters. It was awesome to see how far I’d come!
I reached Timberline 2095 in the very early afternoon. The trail goes right through a couple of campsites, so I pitched my tent in the lower one, staking it out against the increasing wind. I emptied my pack of all but toiletries, dirty clothes, and my puffy, and headed down the hill.
The first stop was the hiker shower. It’s basically the shower version of a Porta-Potty. There was only a small bottle of shampoo, and of course no hot water. But I made do, rinsing out my shirt as well. I didn’t have a towel, so I just put on my wet clothes and called it good. Everything dried quickly in the dry, hot wind.
I got my resupply at the gift store. Whoever gave me the tip of using fancy duct tape on both your box and your wallet was spot on. All I did was show up, show them my wallet, and somebody said, “I recognize that! I know exactly where it is.” This saved a ton of hassle, and I was able to take my box up to the large patio area to shuffle my resupply.
I sat down next to a couple about my age. One of the women was telling me about their backpacking trips, and I offered to share a few of my excess items: trail mix, and a few extra dinners. The other woman was happy to have the dinners, but she insisted on getting my address so that she could return them once my trip was through. I narrowly escaped that one. We had a great time, chatting about our various trips, until it was time for dinner.
With my new resupply, I headed down to the Blue Ox, the local (small) pub. I had a 12″ pizza and a 12″ salad, while catching up online. Then I headed over to the day lodge to call Steve and keep charging my battery.
I headed up the hill about 8:00. The wind had been increasing, and one of my new campsite mates, Vessica, was having a heck of a time staking down her MSR Hubba Hubba. I couldn’t help her, but the other person, Animal Lover, had a few ideas.
I rechecked all the stakes and guy lines, and brought my umbrella inside the tent. I opened it and anchored it down, providing a good wind block. Hat tip to Jan for the great idea!
Go figure, I was tired this morning! I was dragging a bit, as I followed the ridge above Little Crater Lake. And then…OMG MAGIC! (Yes, it’s actually spelled this way). Some kind camper, probably close at hand, had left a cooler with fresh fruit and soda on ice! Epic!
Buoyed by the magic, I headed down the trail. In about five miles, I crossed an unpaved forest road. There was a man getting into his truck, and when I stopped to talk, he said that he’s doing the trail by nickels and dimes…day hikes, covering as much as he can. Brilliant! And then he gave me a liter of water, out of one of his Nalgenes. This may not seem like much, but when you consider the energy needed to haul 2.2 lbs of water for, say, four miles, it adds up in a hurry. More magic!
The balance of the day was rolling trail, traversing ridges, and the like. Barlow Pass 2089 was 17 miles on the day, and there was a great spot for tents, near a picnic table, privy, and a small parking lot. I ended up sharing with a NOBO (Mighty) and a SOBO (Matt), and being passed by a pair of people about my age. Mighty is friends with Cashmere, whom I met at Olallie.
Today began with two goals in mind. The first was to hike my 500th PCT mile, and the second was to complete my first 20.
At 2059, I celebrated my first goal. The usual way to celebrate is to use whatever is local to create your number. Pine cones fit the bill, and I now have my very own 500 to mark the occasion. I’m mighty proud!
The second goal was reached early this evening. It was the perfect day for it: the tread was gentle and the trail was mostly rolling. So voila! I’ve done a 20!
I’m also planning my ascent to Timberline Lodge. I could do it tomorrow, if I were willing to do another 20, but the uphill to Timberline is incredibly sandy…imagine trying to climb an enormous sand dune. So I think I’ll stay at Barlow Pass, five miles prior, and then head up the next morning.
Oh, and remember the five-day rule? Over the last five days I’ve forded/scrambled Russell Creek, climbed a ridge, descended snow fields, hit 500, and got my first 20. I’m feeling pretty good.
Interesting night. In the middle of the night, I was awakened by loud voices and a bright flashlight. The voices were calling, “Search and Rescue. Riley, Riley, is that you? Riley, Riley.”
It took a minute to get my wits, and then I said, “No, this isn’t Riley.” They asked me to stick my head out for a negative ID, and I signed my name as well. Turns out that somebody passed on a tip (later disproven) that Riley was using an orange tent. I have a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL1, which is definitely orange. The SAR team apologized, and all I could say was, “No apologies needed. Thank you for checking.” Lord have mercy. **
I awoke to sunshine and no wind, with a delightful view across the lake. Love mornings like this.
I headed down to Olallie Store, which was just two downhill miles away. It’s a tiny store, with snacks and resupply items, piped water, and no electricity other than a small generator. It’s a great place to take a break over ice cream and cold drinks. Mmm…ice cream!
I stayed for a couple of hours, talking with different people. I met Cashmere, a woman of about my age, who is another member of the Women of the PCT group.
Before leaving, I attempted to get my hydration system set up. No dice. Chia Seed and her husband Quinoa had a syringe, so I could completely backflush the filter. The filter is working fine, but I can’t get the inline system functioning. So from here on out, my system is two 1.5 L bladders for dirty, and two SmartWater-esque bottles for clean. Not sure if I can fix this at home.
With my second-best hydration system in play, I headed nine miles toward Trooper Spring 2052.
As of the last day, the terrain has changed noticeably. It is much closer to Washington than it is to the lava fields and burns of just a few days ago. Looking at the map, it appears to be more of the same for at least awhile. So tomorrow I’m going to try for my first 20 mile day. It’s a personal goal, and if something crops up I won’t be overly concerned, but it’s a nice-to-have.
** Footnote: As of mid-September, Riley has not been found. The search was called off in early August, and his family has returned home to California. Lord have mercy.
Petra and I headed uphill to Russell Creek, first thing this morning. The creek runs through the bottom of the old glacial bed, which in this case means you have to descend a long, steep scree and boulder slope, ford the creek, find the trail, and climb back out the other side.
The trail down was easy enough, with cautious footing, although one section required a controlled butt slide down to the next set of boulders. Kudos to Purple Rain Adventure Skirts for being tough enough to handle challenging slopes.
The creek itself can best be described using the following phrases: fast, glacial, silty, faster, cold, powerful, and “really effing fast.” Arrange those words how you will. I can’t imagine trying to ford it in peak snowmelt.
At the trail, there were a handful of boulders which looked like a potential rock hop. Unfortunately, there was no way to confirm their stability, and this was not a place I wanted to compromise. So we looked further upstream, for someplace we could ford. I extended my poles and prepared to probe the silty, opaque water.
We made it halfway across, to a little island, and from there we felt for another crossing. Packs were adjusted, poles arranged, and we angled our way across. Success!
A well-deserved hug later, we needed to find the trail. O, trail, where art thou? It couldn’t be seen from where we were at. Petra scrambled up a couple of places, but didn’t have any luck. For anyone who doesn’t understand how easy it is to lose your way, I invite them to do what we were doing.
The third time was the charm. We went downstream, even though we couldn’t see any sign of the trail, and then voila! we found a spot to scramble up.
Our victory lap involved having breakfast half a mile along the trail. Petra threw her pad down, and we had hot tea and munchies for breakfast. Awesome!
We continued up the hill, with me pushing and her holding back. Finally I said that I needed to return to my normal pace, and that I knew she’d need to speed up. With great big hugs, and a hope to hike together some time, we said goodbye. I am *so* glad to have made such a great hiking friend!
Almost immediately after Petra forged ahead, I came to Jefferson Park. It’s a large plain immediately to the north of Mt. Jefferson: full of clear lakes and meadows. I would love to spend several days there, but it was refreshing even to meander along its trails.
After hiking out of Jefferson Park, the trail begins to climb Park Ridge, gaining 1000 ft in 1.6 miles. It was a push, but it felt good.
Part way up the ridge, I met a Search and Rescue team. They were looking for an overdue backpacker named Riley, last seen in Jefferson Park. They gave me a description and showed me a picture, but I hadn’t seen him. I heard lots of helos yesterday, though. Prayers for him and his family, and the rescuers.
I crested the ridge at almost 7000 ft, and began the descent on the north aspect. There were several large snowfields, and as a person who doesn’t boot-ski, it might have been a problem. But there were loads of kicked-in steps, and I added a few more of my own. No problems at all, just a gentle descent and lots of fun.
I continued the descent through glacial rock, and lots of wind. After about five miles, I took a snack break, and it was there that I met the second SAR team, who were searching the perimeter around Riley’s car. We chatted briefly. At this writing, he had been reported missing five days ago.
I reached Upper Lake 2041, in the early evening. I set up camp, rinsed out some clothes, and staked out the tent against the wind. I was tired, and needed a hot drink. And I was very, very proud of myself.
Footnote: KGW, a Portland TV station, had reporters in the area where Riley’s car was located, and in the area I passed through. In their story, they briefly interviewed Petra, who was about 90 minutes ahead of me at that point.
Footnote: Riley’s body was found in August, 2019, in a extremely steep glacial area above Jefferson Park. He was recovered on September 3. His father Robin was there at the trailhead, waiting to take his boy back home.