Sisters to Cascade Locks
July 26, 2014
Start: Halfmile 2007.5
End: Halfmile 2037.5
Distance: 30.0 Mi
Cumulative: 2,080.0 Mi
Doesn’t feel like I slept in a bed last night. Or like I left town today. It’s weird. Sisters feels like it was days ago. Much to my surprise, I managed to catch 10k in town. I had gained on him, so he waited for me. No rush with the fire closures and all. He admitted that he would’ve hitched, but he knew that I wanted to walk it. We’re gonna do the road walk together. Those kinds of unpleasant experiences are way more fun – or at least slightly less miserable – with friends. At least it’s not 90 miles!
Today was fairly uneventful. I could see smoke from nearby fires and stopped for a while to watch the helicopters ferrying water. I wish I could’ve seen them drop their loads, but the fire was on the other side of a distant ridge. I didn’t take any photos, because they were too far away for my 14 mm lens to capture a good one. I was hoping one would buzz me, but no such luck. I had a snack and inched my way north.
It was mostly a day for wildlife. First, we saw a family with two domestic goats packing their equipment. Frank and James were hardly “wild,” but still. It was cool, different. And convenient. I shoulda thought of that! Speaking of goats, 10k and I later came across what seemed to be a full mountain goat winter coat that had been shed right on the trail. How cool! I hope we get to see some of these guys in Washington. And bighorn sheep. They’re such awesome, majestic animals. Later in the afternoon, we saw tons and tons of baby frogs hopping around and across the trail. I took the time to stop for some photos. They weren’t hard to catch. When I finally lost interest, I had to hike slowly just to avoid squashing them. Where are your parents??!
Tight camping quarters tonight. We’re set up right in the middle of a PCTA work crew. They were kind enough to let us squeeze in, literally. Not much real estate here. (I’m camped in the kitchen!) Mad props to these guys. The corridor looks fantastic! Turned a tight switchback after bushwacking up a climb, then it was like the parting of the Red Sea. So glad I could meet and thank them in person. It’s not the most glamorous trail work, but it’s so appreciated by us hikers.
July 27, 2014
Start: Halfmile 2037.5
End: Logging Unit Fire Re-Route Mile 20.0 (of 26.0)
Distance: 36.0 Mi
Cumulative: 2,116.0 Mi
Hiked 16 miles into Olallie Lake Resort this morning. We’d seen Mt. Jefferson from a distance the day we hiked out of Sisters. It towered above the surrounding landscape, as so many of the southern Cascades do. Beautiful. Then today we hiked right by it. It was like we turned a corner and there it was right in front of us. Even after I passed it, I kept looking back, awe-struck by how close it was. I felt I could reach up and touch the summit. It was my favorite part of Oregon so far. Awesome.
The fire closure and road walk began at Olallie. They had maps of the re-route at the store, which was really helpful, though it didn’t tell us very much about the water situation. Summit Lake was on the map, but there was no information about how far to the split or how far off “trail” the lake was. The woman at the store assured us it was only 12 miles away, so 10k and I left the resort with a quart each. Now we’re dry camping. We’ve covered roughly 20 of the road miles and seen no sign of the lake – or of any water for that matter. We were running dangerously low as sundown approached and had to flag down a car to get more. They had less than a liter among the five of them, but they let us have it to split between the two of us. We’re rationing tonight. Power bars and chips for dinner. Two gulps of water. We’re hoping to reach Clackamas Campground early tomorrow morning. They have faucets.
Alarm set for 330a. Hiking by 4a. The search for water is on!
July 28, 2014
Start: Logging Unit Fire Re-Route Mile 20.0 (of 26.0)
End: Halfmile 2107.5
Distance: 31.5 Mi
Cumulative: 2,147.5 Mi
Got up early and finished up the last six miles or so of the road walk. By dawn, we were filling our water bottles and drinking to our hearts’ content at Clackamas Lake Campground. Another half mile and we were back on the PCT. It was so nice to be back on-trail. The tread was soft and smooth. There was good shade most of the day too, both from the thick tree canopy and the intermittently overcast skies. After lunch, we faced a stout climb up to Timberline, but at least it was over quality tread and under thick shade. Can’t ask for more than that. And there was much Trail Magic en route, as if the scales were being balanced. There was soda at one of the road crossings, then I met a Trail Angel who was out hiking for the day. He gave me a snickers and a sprite as I neared Timberline Lodge. A few minutes later, Mt. Hood burst into view. Staying in the Lodge tonight with 10k. Looking forward to their famous AYCE Breakfast Buffet in the morning. Been looking forward to it since April, actually.
July 29, 2014
Start: Halfmile 2107.5
End: Halfmile 2132.0
Distance: 24.5 Mi
Cumulative: 2,172.0 Mi
Wow, a breakfast buffet to end all breakfast buffets. Fifteen dollars, and worth every penny. Truly amazing. After gorging myself on waffles, quiche, bacon, thick-sliced honey ham, cheesy scrambled eggs, potato mash, fresh fruit, and berry smoothies, I hit the trail with 10k. We left a few minutes before 9a. I was feeling sluggish. How many miles are we going today? I kept belching, able to taste a hint of breakfast with each, always wondering if the next would be full fledged up-chuck. But I pressed on, each step bringing me closer to my Cassie Jane. I never forfeited a wasted calorie, eventually hitting my stride and feeling great, even on the toughest climb in all of Oregon. It was stout. Steep enough to make me wonder whether I’d missed a trail junction and was no longer on the PCT. Oregon is “flat-ish” and “flat-er,” but it is most certainly not “flat.”
There were wide open, stunning views of Mt. Hood around every corner. The snow-capped peak seemed always at our side. And then eventually it wasn’t anymore. There was a wicked-fun river ford early this afternoon. (Too bad I make a better door than window, or you’d be able to see Mt. Hood behind me.) I really like that kind of stuff, even if my trail runners were full of silt afterwards. Totally worth every soggy step. Took the Ramona Falls alternate. It’s a loop that’s the same distance as the PCT. I’d say it must be cooler, and it was certainly easier than the PCT elevation profile looked. Highly recommended. Great spot to camp or have lunch, if your timing is right. Ours was not, so we had a snack and pressed on.
My ankle has been really swollen the last few days. I first noticed it on my way into Olallie. It didn’t really hurt; it was just really tight and uncomfortable in my sock. I figured it wasn’t a sprain or break and that it must just be swelling due to a bug bite. It didn’t affect my pace or performance, so I just kept on keeping on. It’s been a few days, and the swelling has finally subsided. Looks like it’ll be back to normal by tomorrow morning. I can hear it now:
Person: Did you have any injuries or health issues this summer?
Me: Yeah! I got a few blisters and this one time my ankle swelled a little. I don’t know how I made it.
If a little ankle swelling turns out to be my biggest ache or pain this summer, I’d say that’s a win.
July 30, 2014
Start: Halfmile 2132.0
End: Halfmile 2155.0
Distance: 23.0 Mi
Cumulative: 2,195.0 Mi
Town day. Time to crush. Beep, Beep. Up and at ’em. Twenty-three miles to Cascade Locks; twenty-three miles to Cassie. Hiking before 4a this morning.
The Indian Springs Trail was steep. The sun was creeping over the surrounding ridges as we picked our way down. I’d hate to come up this thing, I thought. Mad-props to SOBOs. Saw my first pika of the summer before we reached the Eagle Creek Trail. I’d seen dozens upon dozens of them during my trail season at the Colorado 14ers Initiative, so it was cool to see one here. I heard the characteristic “squeak!” and stopped for five or six minutes until he finally moved and I caught a glimpse of the little guy. They love that scree; prime pika territory.
Tunnel Falls was every bit as epic as I’d remembered. If I thru-hiked the PCT a hundred times, I’d take that alternate a hundred times. I think it’s crazy to miss that experience, even if you’ve had it before. There’s a reason it’s one of the most heavily used trails in the Columbia River Gorge. It’s not only the falls; it’s the myriad of swimming holes along the 12 mile round trip trek. The trail was really crowded even on this, a Wednesday. You can imagine the hordes who visit on weekends. I should’ve taken a dip at Punch Bowl Falls on my way out, but I skipped it. Rookie mistake. Ah well, it’s not going anywhere.
Got to the Locks a little early, so I walked out onto the Bridge of the Gods. Figured I’d tag the Washington line and make it official: I’m done with Oregon! One state now stands between me and Canada. I’m gonna spend the next four or five days in Portland with my lovely lady, then I’ll don my game face and close out this epic journey. Can’t believe I’m so close.
Mad-love to those who sent out care packages to Cascade Locks. Treats, lunch money, words of encouragement. I’ve felt so much love this summer. Thank you: Rob and Jana; Mikey and Bonnie; Curtis; and Kelly. You guys are awesome! For anyone who is interested in sending out a care package or letter, I have one more mail drop in Skykomish.