I can see the land of state sales tax across the Columbia River from where I sit. The sight is glorious.
Elena and I began the second half of Oregon from where we took Labor Day off at the beginning of the Mt. Washington Wilderness at McKenzie Pass. The trail followed miles of lava beds, thankfully solid lava, as we wound our way around Mt. Washington.
We set up camp early as we saw some ominous looking clouds float towards us. The weather still hadn’t cleared up, or struck, by the time we commenced our northward movement the next day. As we came around Three Fingered Jack, we were only able to make out one of the fingers. I cannot speak to whether the other two fingers are still there or not, since the view was obstructed by low clouds. Our progress that day was slowed by the abundance of huckleberries alongside the trail. By mid afternoon the visibility was limited to half a small lake and the gods were going to war in the clouds where they were creating frightening booming and crackling noises.
Soon enough the heavens opened and dip ‘n dots, blueberries, and marbles of ice were flying horizontally. Bright flashes filled the sky a few times every minute accompanied by loud thunder. Visibility increased enough for us to realize that we were hiking along an exposed ridge. We quickly hurried off of the trail so as to not become human lightning rods.
Once the storm calmed down we trudged on northwards in what had been newly transformed into the Pacific Crest Puddle. Finally we found a dry area to set up camp. Our campsite had a beautiful open view of Mt. Jefferson, or so we liked to imagine since our visibility was nil. At around midnight the rain began to splatter on our tents. The rain did not cease until ten the following morning when we broke down our soggy camp. We meandered through Jefferson Park in the clouds all day. Although we were still unable behold Mt. Jefferson, the heavy fog made us feel as if we were traveling through a woodland wonderland. Green was everywhere we looked; ferns, trees, bushes, and moss. Little glacial creeks would appear out of nowhere and descend into the cloudy nothingness. If a forest nymph or fairy had appeared out of the trees, it would have fit in perfectly and would not have been a surprise at all.
As soon as we exited Jeff Park the skies cleared. Never have I ever been so relieved to see blue skies. I was beginning to think that most of world had disappeared and all that was left was a little trail and the forest. As always, the stormy weather gave us a better appreciation of the sunshine and blue skies. During our two-days in Jeff Park this is the best picture I took of Mt. Jefferson. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
From the edge of Jeff Park the trail descended into a vast ocean of trees until it reached the timberline of Mt. Hood. This section of hiking was physically the easiest. The trail on the forest floor was relatively flat and made of soft dirt. Nevertheless, this section was one of the toughest mentally. The lack of views, ascents and descents, and excitement made us feel lethargic and uninspired. We joked that if anyone wanted to find out why we wanted to hike the trail we would need a time machine because we, ourselves, had forgotten why we wanted to do it. Up until then I had never thought about how much one’s surroundings affect a person. I think all surroundings, including the environment, people, and culture, can shape how one thinks, feels, and acts. As we were nearing Timberline we met a couple who had been day hiking all day. Let me tell you, a person gets very, very hungry after a full day of hiking, but this couple gave us their Subway sandwiches (I’m sure they had been fantasizing about them all day) and insisted that we take them. It’s acts of kindness like this that make the Pacific Crest Trail worth hiking. If someone were considering hiking the PCT, I would recommend it because it allows one to experience the warmth and compassion that all humans are capable of. Being on the receiving end of trail magic or any other beneficence inspires us to do acts of good will ourselves. Kindness is a chain-reaction.
An exquisite breakfast buffet of fresh fruit, waffles, and French toast awaited us at the historic Timberline Lodge. Once we felt sickly full, as usual after getting a resupply, we began the long descent to the Columbia River Gorge.
Oregon did not let us leave without excitement. We had to cross many fiercely flowing glacial rivers which radiate from Mt. Hood. I waded up to my waist multiple times and nearly lost my poles in the racing current. Elena was more strategic and found alternative crossings where she stayed drier and safer.
At one point before the final descent we came around a ridge and saw what we have been eagerly anticipating all trip; a panoramic view of Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Adams, in a perfect line across the horizon. Boom, boom, boom. Then the trail dropped a whopping 2,000 feet in 2 miles to Eagle Creek. Eagle Creek is nature’s version of Disneyland, except it is free and there are not even any lines. Pretty cool, right? Innumerable waterfalls and swimming holes are strewn along the creek. At one point the trail goes through a tunnel behind a waterfall. Needless to say, it felt pretty dang cool.
The creek spits you out at the little town of Cascade Locks which is across The Bridge of the Gods from Washington. I am fairly certain that it is called The Bridge of the Gods because we are about to enter heaven (the heaven of the trail, at least). Two states crossed and one to go. It is good to see you Washington. Man, how I have missed you.