August 6, 2017
Total daily miles: 15.5 miles
Total PCT miles: 1692.7
Start: mile 2084
End: mile 2099.6
Total elevation gain/loss: 3482.9/2044.9 ft
We were up and hiking before the sun was up this morning. Normally, I wouldn’t be thrilled about the prospect of starting my hiking day with the aid of a headlamp. But today wasn’t a normal day. Today, I knew that every minute I hiked in the dark was an extra minute to enjoy the Timberline Lodge buffet breakfast!
We had just over ten miles until the Timberline Lodge. But of course, just to make things more challenging, we also had about a 2000 foot elevation gain over the last five miles. Fun! As I set off in the dark, I was grateful that the path seemed wide and well-defined. It was much easier to navigate and walk quickly than some of the night hiking we’ve done along steep hillsides. We largely stayed in the trees, although since it was dark for the first couple of miles I guess I wouldn’t know if I missed a great view anyway.
Despite yesterday’s big day, I felt really strong this morning. Maybe it was because I was hiking towards a defined goal and there was actually an obvious payoff to hiking quickly. It was fun to power through the miles!
It was fairly hazy this morning, so when I did get a view it was partially obscured. At a certain point, I switched from my audio book to music to help me power up the mountain. It helped… until I hit the base of Mt. Hood. The lovely dirt-packed trail suddenly turned to sand. Ugh. I hate sand. Who doesn’t, really? I’d already had thoughts of breakfast swirling in my head and now I found myself slogging through the deep, soft sand. Not cool Mt. Hood. Not cool. Finally, I could make out Timberline Lodge. All that stood between me and the lodge was a huge patch of snow. I opted to walk around the snow, which is probably a good thing because I didn’t realize that it was actually the end of a ski run until a skier came swooping down at full speed!
I’d made it to the Lodge by 8:30! I stopped outside the lodge to take off my shoes and then slipped into a downstairs restroom to change shirts and wash off my legs. The place looked fancy and most of the patrons looked (and smelled) like they’d recently showered! Soon, I found myself gazing at the buffet line. Where to start? I grabbed a fruit smoothie and loaded my plate with pancakes, berries, whipped cream, and a mini-quiche. Yum! Here’s where I make a sad confession though… I’m a horrible thru-hiker. After almost 1700 miles I still can’t eat a massive amount at one time. As I attempted to finish my first plate Michael showed up and dug into his first. He was already on his second plate by the time I went back for a light second plate. This was why I knew that I’d need lots of time at the buffet — because otherwise I wouldn’t have time to get hungry enough to eat more than one plate! Our waiter was super nice and repeated that we could hang out as long as we’d like and that he would warn us when they were about to clear the buffet.
We finally rolled out of the dining room at about 11am. Michael set off to find our resupply package, while I checked out the updates for the upcoming fire in the Eagle Creek area. It looks like the Eagle Creek alternate is still closed, but that we can still hike the official PCT into Cascade Locks so long as we don’t camp at a couple of specified camp spots.
We camped out on some of the comfy couches in the main lobby area of the lodge to sort through our resupply and use the wifi. Between our resupply package and the extra food that we have from the prior section, we clearly have too much food. We offloaded some of it on a few other thru-hikers hanging out nearby. Otherwise, we expect that we’ll need additional food for the section after Cascade Locks, so we’ll hold onto it for now. Before heading out again, we decided to check out the second floor bar and its view of Mt. Hood (there are people still skiing it!). I treated myself to the hot chocolate, since it seems to be on of the specialties here. So good and fancy looking!
We did not eat the buffet lunch, but it looked really good. I couldn’t help but eye the platter of mozzarella and roasted veggies, as well as the large selection of desserts. It may have been good enough that we should have taken it easy and timed our arrival for lunch rather than breakfast. Maybe.
We finally hit the trail again at about 4pm. It’s always so hard to get going again after a “town” stop, even if it’s a shortish one like today (and not really a town). The saving grace this afternoon is that the first few miles were almost all downhill! I’d been a little worried about the crossing at ZigZag River based on comments on the Guthook app, but luckily it ended up being a fairly straightforward rock hop. Yay! Of course, having crossed the river it was now time to go uphill again.
Little did I know, but the main challenge this afternoon would be the blow downs. The trees were huge! Climbing over trees that were taller than me (while wearing a pack) wasn’t always an option, especially when they were stacked three high! So I ended up having to do some big bushwhacks… only to discover that the trail switchbacked and I would essentially have to get over the same tree a second time. Grrr! I have no idea how a horse could get through this section (not that I saw one, but in theory the trail is supposed to be equestrian friendly).
Michael’s Note: around these blow downs I ended up hiking near Sam and Tam from Switzerland. We all took a wrong turn and climbed over several extra blow downs. Then Sam and Tam realized we went the wrong way, so we want back over those trees.
Our maps suggested that there would be limited camping options for the next few miles, so when we got to Lost Creek I was bummed to see that the flat camping spot already had several tents and hammocks squished into. I followed a use trail up the hill above the trail in hopes of finding a spot only to find a spot with a great view… that was already taken. One of the women mentioned that there was another spot just a further north along the trail, so I was relieved to see a few minutes later that the area had space for several tents (and only one woman there so far). I’m feeling pretty tired this evening and walking another few miles was not something that I wanted to do!
While waiting for our dinner to cook this evening, I looked ahead to tomorrow’s trail. It looks like our ideal camping spot is within the fire closure area. Go figure. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to find a camping spot that’s not listed on Guthooks, otherwise we’ll be forced to stop well short of our target mileage or put in a long day. Neither is an attractive option. It feels like we’re always a few steps behind on the mileage planning, but I guess we’ll see how things pan out tomorrow.
Elizabeth: sore left shoulder
Michael: sore feet.