pct Update #9 - The last of Oregon!
This update comes to you from… drumroll… the beautiful state of Washington! Since I last wrote, we’ve wended our way through the stunning northern half of Oregon, enjoyed The long-awaited Decline of the Mosquito, and witnessed the mountains grow ever more imposing, the vistas ever more panoramic.
Bend Town Day(s)!
We made it to Bend for my birthday, which was delightful. Bend is such a change of pace from the typical trail towns we frequent. There were craft breweries, bunch spots, and a board game cafe. This place felt legitimately hip! And you know with a board game cafe, we’re going to have a hard time leaving. We found a copy of Terraforming Mars, which has climbed into the top 10 on boardgamegeek, and which we have been really looking forward to playing. That was a full afternoon commitment, but we really enjoyed it.
Volcanoes and Little Crater Lake
Leaving Bend, or (one of our favorite trail towns so far, if that wasn’t already apparent!), we immediately set out upon several miles of volcanic rock. Hot, exposed, rough on the feetsies, it can feel at times like a different planet. And as I recently learned, nasa actually did some astronaut training during the Apollo program right in this very area1.
By late afternoon we had mostly escaped the difficult volcanic terrain, our shoes and feet a bit worse for the wear, and made it to a lake as stunning as it was tiny - Little Crater Lake. It was named after Crater Lake, which we recently hiked, for their shared deep blue waters. Deep in hue, as well as in physical depth. Little crater lake in particular is interestingly deep - just a tiny little circle of water in the middle of the woods, but it goes 45 feet straight down! And due to being spring-fed, it’s a constant 45 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Wikipedia calls it a geological “oddity.”
As important as the vibrant blue hues and picturesque setting of Little Crater Lake, to us, was the fact that there was a bench right next to it. So we were treated to a luxurious lunch with both a view and seating!
Many hikers stop over for a night in Government Camp, which is a small ski town in northern Oregon. The skiing is on neighboring Mount Hood, which is notable due to its extremely long ski season. I believe it’s the longest ski season in the continental us, thanks to its placement on a glacial field. So even in August, Government Camp is overrun with small kids at summer ski camps.
We only stayed briefly, then found a ride into Portland, where we enjoyed a few days of rest and recovery, along with time to catch up with old friends that I don’t see often enough due to living on opposite sides of the usa (hi Gwen and Kurt!!). We ate too much delicious food from food trucks, ambled aimlessly around Powell’s (a must-do for any book lover! This place is massive), hiked around Multnomah Falls (hiking on town days is great because you don’t have to carry dozens of pounds of backpack), and basically did all the things one is supposed to do when visiting Portland.
Timberline Lodge and Mushrooms
Getting back on trail from Portland/Government Camp entailed hiking a mere eight miles before directly crossing paths with the famed Timberline Lodge. If you thought the exterior of the lodge bore an uncanny resemblance to the exterior of the Overlook Hotel from the movie The Shining, you’d be quite justified! A different hotel, or set, served for the interior shots, but all the exterior shots of the hotel are from Timberline Lodge. They even keep an axe at the front desk with the words “Here’s Johnny!” written on the handle, so visitors can take their picture with it.
But I digress - as we began hiking those eight miles out of Government Camp, we quickly became ensconced in a dense, drizzly rain cloud. In both our heads, I think we were continuously updating our assessment of how much we wanted to stop for a break, versus just make the entire push to Timberline Lodge. Normally we stop for breaks every four miles or so, but if you’ll indulge me for a moment and imagine what it’s like to take a break from hiking, only to sit down in the mud, while it continues to rain on you from above, you can imagine why we got less and less interested in stopping for a break before we got to nice, warm, dry, comfy lodge.
By the time we approached the lodge, it was difficult to spot the enormous building, even from a couple hundred yards away, due to the dense fog. We scouted around the outside until we found a door, and quickly made our way inside. We got a table on the second floor, overlooking the giant fireplace, and doffed our rain gear as we ordered two old fashioneds. There’s something very satisfying about emerging from the wilderness, and immediately availing yourself of the finer things humanity has come up with over the centuries. A chair, climate control, cocktails, prepared food - it all feels so unbelievably decadent!
We had planned to tent outside the lodge, but the rain worsened, and we ended up getting a room for the night. They were booked full, but a last-minute cancellation of an 8-bed dorm room was just the stroke of luck we needed. Not only just the stroke of luck we needed, but the stroke of luck several more hikers needed as well! Having a room with seven extra beds, we began wandering the halls of the spacious lodge, looking for wet, bedraggled hikers and offering them free indoor lodging for the night. We found Chips and Scott! Chips was from New Zealand, and showed me cell phone pictures of his very impressive paintings he did in his spare time. Scott was from “all over the place,” he said, but I think lives in Seattle now. He told us about his theories of little green men in Seattle. He said there were some others who knew about them, but I haven’t been able to turn up any accountings of them on the internet. Guess we’ll just have to look for them when we’re there ourselves!
Continuing north, we’ve been seeing more and more mushrooms. Which I love. They’re so visually varied and distinct, and just offer these little bits of vivid color scattered across the forest floor. Way back in southern California, an older couple on their second time through the pct told us how they would pick, cook, and eat mushrooms all through the Oregon and Washington sections of the hike. I know some are poisonous, so I haven’t (and wouldn’t dare) touched a single one, but I think of that couple often, and wish I had the mycology skills to identify delicious fungus myself! Andy and I both really love mushrooms. Yum. Contrasting these tiny wonders around us are the ever-growing huge wonders - the mountains. Three Sisters, Three-Fingered Jack, Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, Mount Adams, all spectacular glacier-laden sights from a distance, and we get to spend delightful days with each of them. Approaching from a distance, taking in their grandeur from many angles, circling their feet, with towering, sometimes near-sheer faces looking and looming over you, and finally leaving them behing us as we trek away, occasionally turning around to get one more quick peek as they gradually recede into the distance. If you can’t tell, the natural beauty of the pnw is getting to me!
Cascade Locks and Huckleberries
Cascade Locks is a quaint small town on the banks of the Columbia River, which separates Oregon and Washington. We stayed for one short night of showers and town food, hiking out the next morning to cross the bridge of the gods (no, really, that’s it’s name) and begin hiking through Washington. It felt like a momentous event - the last of the three states, and according to many sources, the one with many of the most breathtaking vistas of the entire 2600 mile trail. Minutes into Washington, we were rewarded with something as delicious as it was painful - thorny bushes protruding into the trail, complete with ripe blackberries! Blackberries just happen to be my favorite berry, and the pure joy of finding delicious berries in nature made tired legs forget how tired they were :)
We continued on, eventually coming to a climb of the aptly named Berry Mountain. It’s aptly named because it is nearly covered with huckleberry bushes. Our hands (and probably also tongues) ended up purple from reaching out and plucking huckleberries as we ambled up the mountain. They were so easy to pick the entire way up, which slowed our pace down so much that we ended up camping two miles earlier than planned that night. Whoops!
And that brings us to today’s short five-mile hike, after which we caught the 4x-daily shuttle into the town of Trout Lake. It was raining cats and dogs during all of those 5 miles, and it was downhill, so while we started dry, by the end the trail was a miniature torrential river that we hiked along by straddling it back and forth with each step. By the time we got to the bottom, we were a soggy mess!
With volunteer shuttle service like this from the trailhead, Trout Lake must really value either the sight and smell of hikers, or the thriving Clif bar business they are assuredly running! We plan to hike out in the morning, heading a short 60 miles northward to the next town of Packwood.
Happy trails and until next time (likely somewhere near the Canadian
At that point in humanity’s history, there remained some mystery about the formation and structure of the moon. nasa just didn’t know exactly what to expect on the surface. So, they made their best guess, and sent the astronauts to Central Oregon to train in these very lava fields.