Day 140: Last Days in Oregon

Today was our last full day of hiking in Oregon. Tomorrow, we hike into Cascade Locks, where we’re going to take two full zeroes before heading across the Bridge of the Gods into Washington. This transition, as you might expect, leaves me reflecting on what Oregon has been like — and on my hopes for the next, and final, chapter of this massive undertaking.

In the last few days — I really noticed it two mornings ago, as we started our thirty-mile day — there have been more and more sections of trail that have practically screamed “Pacific Northwest” to me. Sometimes it’ll be cool, damp, and it’ll seem like everything is green, from the trees to the forest floor, and it’s exactly what I imagine Washington to be like. It’s exciting to me, because I’ve spent almost no time there, and I enjoy that feeling of cool and moist woods immensely. It just feels so different from California’s rocky, dry mountains, and I’m looking forward to being there.

On the other hand…wildfires loom increasingly large in my thoughts of the future. This manifests itself physically from a long ways off: at a viewpoint on the trail today, there are apparently normally spectacular views of — at the same time, from the same place — Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier. These I can imagine must be amazing, but I can only really guess, because the smoke in the air makes everything so hazy that you can only barely make out most of these mountains if you try very hard. Even Mount Hood, whose slopes we’re still basically on, is very hazy from where we are…and we’re not far away at all.

Even more immediately, the PCT is currently closed for fifteen miles just after our first resupply stop in Washington, only about 65 miles in. It’s also effectively closed for nearly the last hundred miles of the trail, up by the Canadian border, too. Both closures are because of wildfires; these things can change quickly, so it’s impossible to know what it’ll be like by the time we get there, but, as we approach, these fires become more of a concern to us. It’s not that we’re in any danger or would ever be in any danger — we’re far too prudent to ever do such a thing — but the question of how much of the remaining trail we’ll be able to actually hike looms large in our minds. I very badly want to make it all the way to Canada without having to break our continuous footpath, but I also know this is beyond my control…so we’ll just have to see what comes.

The woods here continue to be truly beautiful. We wander in and out of sun-dappled forest during the day, spending the majority of the day under really pleasant, shaded tree cover. This morning, we crossed a fairly major stream with the assistance of two gigantic trees that had fallen down…and a long rope someone had bungeed to one of them to help you grab it as you made your way along the other. It was a little nerve-wracking at times, since you were a good twenty feet above the stream, but I made it just fine and wasn’t too freaked out by it at any point.

Tonight, we’re camped at the weirdest campground I’ve been at so far. There are probably a dozen campsites, all hidden among the trees and with picnic tables, with random use trails connecting them and no rhyme or reason to where they are. You just have to keep exploring and following paths, hoping they lead to another flat spot you can camp in, but often discovering that they just peter out instead. It’s an odd place, almost as if it was built and then abandoned. It’s also oddly packed; it seems like every spot is occupied — we were lucky enough to find some fellow through-hikers, Driver and Pitstop, who were nice enough to let us share their campsite.

Tomorrow, we start by descending incredibly quickly…and then come into Cascade Locks for our long-awaited zeroes. Hooray!

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