Scott and Rachel's Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike journal: Cascade Locks, Mile 2150, Aug 25

Trail Angel's House in Portland - While Olallie Lakes Resort had not been the oasis that we had hoped it would be in the inclement weather, it was still hard to leave it the following morning. We had hoped that we would wake up to clear skies and that we would be back into our normal routine, but our hopes were not realized. We woke to the same overcast, threatening skies that had stayed with us much of the previous day. It left us thinking that at any minute the skies could open up on us again and leave us drenched. Nonetheless, we got up just before 6 AM and began to pack up our gear in preparation for another day on the trail. It took significantly longer than usual to get ready to go as everything was still wet and now it was dirty, covered with wet fir needles and such. We busied ourselves doing the things that needed to be done (like walking over to the outhouse - what a treat to have a seat to sit on first thing in the morning) and it wasn't until about 7:30 AM that we were ready to leave. We finally said goodbye to Gene who was just starting to rise, and then we set off.

We had been told that once we leave Olallie Lake the trail would become a cake-walk through a tunnel of trees and we soon found that the description wasn't too far off. While no hiking is a "cake-walk" the trail can definitely be easier or harder and we soon found ourselves cruising along an easier stretch. We made our way along, past the few remaining lakes in the area and then down towards Lemiti Creek in Lemiti Meadow. We stopped for breakfast of cold oatmeal and granola there and then realized that we had already hiked 10 miles. For getting such a late start in the day there was still hope for us.

After breakfast we began a gradual climb up and around North and South Pinhead Buttes and it was as we were rounding the northern one of the two that we came upon Greg and Jenny finishing up their lunch break on the side of the trail. The sun had finally won the battle of the day and had cleared off most of the clouds so Greg and Jenny had stopped to spread their belongings out across the lava flow hillside to dry out. When we arrived, at about 1 PM, we decided to do the same thing. As they packed up their belongings we spread our out to dry off and then we enjoyed a lunch of peanut better sandwiches and cookies.

After lunch we began a long gradual descent through the tunnel of trees towards Warm Spring River, another 5 miles away. (It was just before reaching the river that we crossed the 45th Parallel, half way between the equator and the north pole and for some reason it felt like an important milestone to us. Only 4 more degrees to go before we reach the 49th parallel and the Canadian border.) We reached the river at about 4 PM and met two equestrians taking a break before heading back the 8 miles to their camp. We chatted with them for a while and then after they left we referred to the map to see where we were going to camp that night. We had already hiked about 21 miles and we wanted to do another 4 or 5 before making camp, but after looking at the map we realized that we were heading into a dry stretch with no trailside water for another 7 miles. Scott was confident that we could make it that far, despite the lateness of the day, and he was certain that a late night would be better than carrying extra water with us to camp with. So, at about 4:30 PM we left Warm Springs Camp to hike another 7 or so miles to Clackamas Lake Campground.

Upon leaving the river we began a steady climb up and around the flanks of Summit Butte. We remained in the trees most of the way but it was still a hot and sweaty climb in thee humidity of the day. We finally reached the top and then began our steady descent back down the other side towards Clackamas Lake. We were beginning to slow down and feel the miles of the day building up, but we still had four miles to go before reaching the campground and water so we kept plodding along. As we were coming down we me a hiker coming in the opposite direction, Hugo, a.k.a. Goggles, our first southbound thru-hiker. We have met many hikers going south, but to thru-hike the PCT in a southbound direction is quite a feat because the snow does not melt form the northern Cascades until quite late in the season, significantly shortening the amount of time that one has to complete the hike before the high Sierras and lower San Jacinto mountains become snow packed. We talked with Hugo for a few minutes, exchanging stories of what is to come, and then we bid him good luck as we each ventured off in search of our nights resting spot.

We still had another couple miles to go before the turn off to the campground and we were starting to lag. Despite being tired we actually picked up the pace, determined to get the day over with and make it to camp so that we could get off our feet. Hiking along the dusty, equestrian beat up trail, Scott was being bothered by rocks and pebbles making it inside his shoes, and Rachel was feeling a strange new blister developing on the sole of her foot, underneath her heel. At last we reached the trail junction and hobbled the remaining 0.3 miles to the first campsite within the grounds. We quickly set up the tent and gathered water so that we could climb inside the tent get off our feet. It was about 7:30 PM when we pulled in and nearing 8 PM by the time we were settled, so darkness came upon us quickly and then we weren't long before putting our heads to rest. It had ended up being one of our longest days, 29.3 trail miles, and while we were tired and suffering from a couple of new blisters, we were in good shape.

One has to wonder if doing 29 miles one day has an effect on our bodies (especially since we aren't used to that kind of mileage) and impacts how much mileage we are capable of the next day. While we didn't feel any effects of the long days hike it is notable that for the following two days our mileage was below average, in the 22 mile range. While it could be our bodies rebelling it could also be attributed to other factors, so we aren't entirely sure how we react to that kind of increase in our daily mileage.

The following day we got up and moving at our usual time and began to make our way through the next basin of lakes with much larger Timothy Lake, also with a couple of campground along its banks, near by. The morning started off well with the mileage coming easier, but then our conversation turned toward a topic that caused some dissention between us and before long we were having an argument. Arguing takes energy and when you have an argument on the trail energy is channeled away from hiking to the emotional turmoil of the situation. Our pace slowed as we bickered and walked, and at one point we even came to a stop for a while to really have it out. While the argument only really lasted for an hour or so it did effect us for another couple of hours since afterwards. Both of us were in a blue mood and busy with our own thoughts and frustrations which impacted our hiking speeds and our motivation. At last we stopped for something to eat which helped to break our blue moods.

After stopping for breakfast we began our next climb away from the lake basin and up towards Wapinitia Pass and Highway 26. Once again we encountered rough trail conditions with many blow downs and obstacles to navigate along the way which slowed us and did their best to deplete our recently recovered spirits. Noticing that Rachel was starting to lag and get depressed again Scott suggested a lunch stop. We dropped our packs along the trail where we had a nice view ahead towards Mt. Hood and then sat down to put a little more food into us. For the second time that day, food had brought more than just nutritional energy, but it served to lift our spirits and put a little spring back in our step.

While we were stopped for lunch a couple of day hikers came along. They informed us that Greg and Jenny were not much more than a mile ahead of us, so after we finished eating and chatting we got up with renewed motivation and went after them. It is amazing, however, that one mile can keep us separated from other people for so long. Two days later we still haven't seen Greg and Jenny. It just goes to show that when we are all moving along the trail in the same direction at approximately the same speed very little mileage can keep us apart for a long time.

We hustled over the rest of the hill and dropped back down to Wapinitia Pass, crossed Hwy 26 and then began the next climb up and over the ridge to Barlow Pass and Highway 35, 5 miles further down the trail. Barlow Pass was the end of Section F of the Oregon / Washington guidebook and we were just about ready to push on across the road and tackle the five mile climb up the south flanks of Mt. Hood to Timberline Lodge when we saw some hikers coming down the road towards us. At first we couldn't believe our eyes, but sure enough it was none other than Ken and Cindy with their dog Buster. We hadn't seen Ken and Cindy since leaving Kennedy Meadows on June 2 to head into the High Sierra, and as recently as two days previously Eric (Skypilot) had informed us that they had had to pull off the trail to return back to Colorado because the forest fires there were threatening their home. Once the immediate threat of the fire was gone they decided to return to the trail but to finish off in a southbound direction so as to minimize the threat of snow in the late season. By doing so they were crossing paths with all of the hikers whom they had traveled with south of the Sierras, and what a treat it was for us to bump into them so unexpectedly. The four of us sat down at the side of the road and spent the next hour catching up on all of our news. We were sure to exchange contact information before departing as this time we are sure that we will not cross paths again.

By the time we were getting ready to push our way up the hill towards Timberline Lodge it was after 5 PM and we still had 5 miles and 1600 feet to climb. We set off at a good strong pace, chewing up the trail without hardly breaking a sweat, but by the time we were 2.7 miles up and crossing our first creek with a campsite it was nearing 6:30 PM. We both wanted to push on and reach Timberline Lodge that night (especially since we had heard that Don and Leslie were headed there as well as Greg and Jenny) but we realized that the reality of the situation was that we were still another hour way from making the lodge and then once we got there we would have stuff to do and then we would end up trying to find somewhere nearby to camp in the dark. We also knew that the store that we wanted to purchase batteries at would be closed and therefore we began to question whether we should bother pushing on. At last we decided that it would be better to stop early than to push on and end up searching for a camp in the dark as we were already at a comfortable camp with water. A little depressed to have fallen 2.5 miles shy of our daily mileage objective as well as our desired destination we set up camp and ended up having a very pleasant evening.

The following morning we got up shortly after 6 AM and hit the trail by 6:35. The first of those last two miles up towards Timberline Lodge was nice duff trail, but with a mile and a bit to go we came out of the trees and up onto the ridge where we encountered great views of the majestic mountain above us, but we also hit deep soft sand on our uphill slog. We had to slow right down in order to make the most efficient forward progress and it wasn't until almost 8 AM that we arrived at the lodge.

What an impressive building that Timberline Lodge is. We walked inside and were amazed at the size of the fireplace in the front lobby and then the gothic type hallways and arches throughout. We took a little time out to place a couple of important phone calls and to pick up some batteries at the gift shop before pushing on again. Even though we had tried to keep our stay at the Lodge relatively short it was well over an hour before we managed to extract ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the place (they were getting ready for a big Hood to Coast relay running race that day).

Back on the trail we walked underneath the ski lift that was busy carrying snowboarders up the hill to the small patch that was still being skied on (it's August!! and they are still skiing!!). We then entered into the Mt. Hood Wilderness and soon began our series of climbs and descents in and out of the glacial river drainages. All of a sudden we were faced with steep climbs again after a month of flatter terrain and easy going. It came as a shock to our systems as we labored our way up and down the slopes. We worked our way around the south side of the mountain and then around the western flanks before facing one last "moderate - to - steep, major, switch backing ascent up Bald Mountain Trail 784 to a ridge". While the climb was not as bad as we had expected that it might be, it did hit us hard mid way through our day when we were having such a hard time getting going and we were amazed at how low our mileage had been. It was 3 PM and we were only half way up the ridge when we decided to stop for lunch. We plopped ourselves down right there in the middle of the trail hoping that putting peanut butter sandwiches and cookies into us would help to speed us up the hill. It worked to a certain extent, but maybe the trail just leveled off a little more as we got closer to the top.

Once we regained the crest we traversed along it for 1.5 miles before beginning a 1.5 mile drop down to Lolo Pass Road. The descent had been a little rocky which slowed us right down again and we were beginning to feel a little desperate about the lack of mileage we had been making. We stopped at a nearby creek to refill our water bottle and quench our thirst before referring to the guidebook to see where we were going to shoot for that night. Four miles further there was going to be a little spring just off the trail, and then there wouldn't be any water again for another 5 miles after that. Without much consideration we made that our objective and hoped that we would bump into either Don and Leslie or Greg and Jenny there.

True to all of the mileage that we had done that day, we labored along feeling every step and wishing that it was our last before reaching camp. The trail was relatively easy and flat through that last section but regardless we were dragging our feet (maybe doing that 29 mile day really did take a toll on us) and we finally arrived at the spur trail to the spring and camp just before 6:30 PM. As we descended down the trail to the spring we say a tarp shelter set up in the clearing and we had the hope that it was Greg and Jenny, but as we got closer we realized that it was not them but a segment hiker named Ed. We pitched our tent in the small clearing while we swatted at mosquitoes trying to suck our blood. Once inside the safe confines of the mesh tent we quickly settled into our routine and prepared for a good nights sleep.

It was just after midnight on the morning of August 24th when Scott heard the horrible noise of raindrops hitting the side of the tent. Fortunately we had the fly on this night, but nonetheless he woke up Rachel so that she could zip closed her vestibule. We then lay there in the tent listening to the sporadic pitter and patter of the drops hitting the fly, wishing that they would cease before daybreak. All we could think about was that at least it was another town day and even if it did pour down on us again that we would be able to dry out once we reached Cascade Locks and made our way to Portland. As luck would have it though, the drops never developed into a rain shower and we were able to drift back off to sleep in relative silence.

We woke to clear skies at 5:30 AM and then began to pack up camp in preparation for our last day of hiking before finishing Oregon. It was a day that we had both been looking forward to since the beginning of the trip because we would be taking the preferred alternate route down Eagle Creek and behind Tunnel Falls. We set off on the trail shortly after 6:30 AM and began our hike along the ridgeline. We made our way along the ridge enjoying the views of the valleys far below and then after a while we came out along the point of Indian Mountain from which we had expansive views north and were able to see Mt. St. Helens, Mt Rainier and Mt. Adams. Unfortunately, however the air was a little hazy to see those next three peaks clearly, but regardless it gave us a real sense of satisfaction to see those far off peaks and to think that in a few short days we would be making northward progress past them on our way home.

Once we rounded Indian Mountain we took an alternate route down towards the Eagle Creek Trail. This alternate route was a shortcut that shaved 2.7 miles off our otherwise round about journey, but the price of it came in it's steepness. Once again we found ourselves thankful to have the use of our trekking poles as we made our way down the knee-jarring overgrown trail, but by the time we were reunited with the gentler Eagle Creek Trail our knees were aching and our thighs were burning. Back on the more well traveled path we stopped for lunch at an overlook of the Eagle Creek canyon far below. We were disappointed that we hadn't yet caught a glimpse of the broad Columbia River below and as it turned out we didn't even see until we were on the road headed towards Portland as we were in tree cover the whole way down.

After lunch we made our way south for a couple of miles before we could switchback north and make headway towards the river. As soon as we rounded that bend to turn north we began to encounter day hikers in increasing numbers. The closer we got to Tunnel Falls the more hikers we came across until we finally reached the falls and then we had them in drones. Tunnel Falls itself was very cool. The water fall was about 100 feet high and half way down there was a tunnel going behind it through which the trail passed. We stopped to check it out and take a few pictures with each of us walking back and forth through the tunnel getting a little wetter each time we passes through. We didn't dawdle too long as the number of day hikers were increasing and we were eager to get down and finish the last 6.5 miles of the trail.

We left tunnel falls and maintained a good steady pace down the trail towards the trailhead. We came cruising up behind group after group of day hikers making their way down the trail and each group had to step aside to let us pass. We imagined how we looked to the hikers that we cruised by as they would see us with our big packs on our backs yet we were walking so much faster than them. We also wondered how we smelt to the day hikers as we passed by as we had become acutely aware of the fresh and clean smells that they all had. If we could smell them because they were so clean, could they smell how dirty we were? After all, it had been since Cascade Summit (9 days) since we had had a shower. We were about 2 miles from the end of the trail when two day hikers called out after us "are you guys PCT Thru-hikers?" When we confirmed to them that we were they said that they thought we might be but then thought that we were too clean... go figure! Maybe we weren't that smelly after all.

We reached the Eagle Creek trailhead parking lot at about 4:30 PM and we set our packs down and prepared to relax for an hour or so until we were met by Lara and Roger, two of our readers from Portland who had offered us accommodation during our lay over. We talked to a group of day hikers for a while and then shortly after they left two individuals walked up to us and asked if we were Scott and Rachel; it was Lara and Roger come to meet us. We quickly loaded our packs into the back of their Subaru and then piled in for the 40 mile drive into Portland. Once we arrived at their apartment and were met by Roger's wife Bonnie and since then our three hosts have done everything in their power to make us feel comfortable and at home. Lara and Roger have aspirations of thru-hiking the PCT next season and after reading our journal and web site they decided to put us up for a night or two and use the opportunity to glean as much information from us as possible about the trail. Talking about our experiences so far along the trail is something that we are more than happy to do so it has worked out as a good arrangement for all involved.

Roger, Bonnie and Lara have treated us like royalty since we have been here. Last night they barbecued us a huge steak and offered us any of four different kinds of desert. There was a batch of Nestle Tollhouse cookies waiting for us when we arrived along with a towel and set of clean clothes to change into after a badly needed shower each. We have done our laundry, accessed the internet (we finally got to see the latest batch of photos), and have had a good nights sleep and now we have a little time left to relax before returning to Cascade Locks tomorrow morning to collect our re-supply box from the Post Office and then hit the trail to get started on the last 550 miles of this trail. We haven't yet stepped foot into Washington, but we are sure that when we do it will be a great moment. One more state to go; 550 miles; a little under one month and we will be home.