Monday, August 31, 2009

Manning Park, Canada

I left the Dinsmores with resignation and tears. I really didn't want to return to the trail but there was no choice. I got a ride to the car show that Mrs. Dinsmore was in charge of and where there would be breakfast available. It was a pretty good breakfast of eggs and biscuits with country gravy for only $3. I ate mine so hungrily they gave me a second plate. I was good to go so I walked down toward the road to hitch up to Steven's Pass and resume my hike.

On the way to the highway I passed Mr. Dinsmore directing car show traffic. He gave me a big bear hug and assured me it would be ok. He knew how much I didn't want to return to the trail. I walked down the highway with tears running down my face.

Before I stuck out my thumb I stopped at the Skykomish ranger station and got a map of the suggested detour around the Glacier Peak trail damage. Bridges had been washed away a few years ago and there was a section of old growth blowdowns. The lady at the ranger station had me pretty convinced the reroute would be wonderful and I was all set to do it.

I got a ride up to the pass and when I got out there, there was not a cloud in the sky. It was sunny and beautiful. I felt actually happy to be out on the trail again.

I passed up Mr. Zip pretty confident I wouldn't have to listen to his stream of consciousness ever again. Whew. Peace and quiet for the rest of my life!

I hiked all day and finally made camp on a small saddle where there was a lot of grass and just one little camp site. It seemed nice. A couple of guys arrived shortly after I set up my tent. They had been at the Dinsmores', too. I felt bad for taking the only nice spot on the saddle, but they went on a ways and found places to camp.

In the middle of the night the mist reappeared and made everything wet and miserable. I had to pack up wet gear in the morning and walk through wet, encroaching brush. Along the way I lost my gloves because I had stuffed them down my jacket when I warmed up and they had fallen out.

I hiked up to a beautiful pass with gorgeous views and found people having lunch so I joined them. My gloves had been seen on the trail but left there. They were key to me keeping warm without an actual jacket, but I figured I could make do with what I still had. Maybe use socks or the arm warmers I had.

The views of Glacier Peak and the craggy mountains were beautiful. The huckleberries along the trail were tasty. It was quite lovely and despite the ability to trust the weather, I felt happy to be out there. I hiked off and on with four people: Icecap, Grateful, Highlander and Gingersnap. Gingersnap was a woman and the rest were men. Icecap was Swiss. Grateful was hiking only the Washington section.

We reached the detour point of no return at the same time and someone said, Well, you gotta die sometime, and we all chose to stick to the PCT. It really came down to a choice of 7 miles of damaged trail on the PCT vs. 50 miles on the reroute of unmaintained trail that most had failed to make it through and of those who did, they were sorry. We were committed now.

Somewhere around then I suggested to the others that although they had absolutely no responsibility toward me and I didn't expect them to do anything at all to help me, that if they didn't mind, I would appreciate it if they would allow me to tag along through the damaged section just so that I didn't have to do it alone. They agreed that would be fine so long as I was there at the same time they were. We had similar hiking speeds so I was pretty certain I would be. They were faster than me but took long breaks and so we would end up doing the same miles each day. A few times I was pretty certain they had gotten far ahead of me and I was now on my own, but then I would catch up again. So I completed the section all the way to Stehekin with the four of them.

The lady at the ranger station had said that most likely the people who had hiked the damaged section of the PCT had said it wasn't so bad because they had felt committed once they started it and so they were minimizing how bad it was. It actually turned out not to be so bad for real.

The first big challenge was Milk Creek. This creek was a glacial melt stream, cold, swift and milky in color. I arrived at it early in the morning. If I hadn't been so drawn to the brand new trail leading right to Milk Creek's brand new bridge I would have been just fine. The creek in the morning was an easy boulder hop. Instead, I crossed on the bridge and once on the other side, was reluctant to cross back. I ended up bushwhacking up the stream back to the trail. I got tangled in branches and ended up with wet feet from the stream anyway. I ended up crossing parts of the stream multiple times. The rocks were slippery and at some point I could see the PCT trail up a hill and decided it couldn't be that hard to walk straight up to it. So that's what I did. I ended up cursing the wet leaves of thorny blackberry and stinging nettles all the way up to the trail. Icecap and Grateful were on the trail just as I reached it.

I followed them into the next challenge which was the 3 miles of blowdowns. These blowdowns were amazing. Old-growth trees. Absolutely huge. I hadn't realized how amazing the trees in this area were until I saw their immensity laying down. The way through was a well-worn path and easy. It was actually kind of fun. The blowdowns mostly ended at another milky glacial stream that had two logs across. I crossed with a certain amount of fear. Icecap and Grateful only waited on the other side just long enough to see me step up to the logs. That was fine with me. I walked gingerly one step at a time and then was safely on the shore.

The final challenge aside from a few more blowdowns was Suiattle River. The bridge was washed out and we had to cross on a log. Icecap and Grateful waited only long enough to see that I found the log. I crossed all alone at 5:30 PM. I have no idea what the river looked like. I never looked at it. I only looked at the log. I walked one step at a time without crossing my feet. I didn't want to lose balance. Trekking poles, right foot, left foot. Trekking poles, right foot, left foot. I talked to the log: Nice log, good, strong log, sturdy log, nice log. I talked to my feet: Good strong feet, good job, you're doing great. Then the bark was loose on the log so I went back to praising the log.

Once I jumped over the root ball at the end of the log to the other side of the river I breathed. I had made it! I felt with the relief and success of crossing that log and in advance, the immense power and success of reaching Canada. I knew I would make it now. There was nothing now between me and the border but easy trail.

The last day before Stehekin was boring. I hiked down to the bus stop hoping I'd make it in time for the 3 PM bus. I did. All during the bus ride we could talk of nothing more than the Stehekin Bakery. I hoped we weren't making it into something more than it was. But it turned out we couldn't have raised our hopes up too high. The bakery was a miracle out in the middle of nowhere, the absolute best bakery I've ever been to. I had huckleberry pie and a sun dried tomato stuffed croissant that weighed about a pound. So good. I planned to return and buy stuff to bring with me on my last section, which I did. Man that was heavy food! I had to eat it quick or die under the weight.

I ended up taking almost 2 days off in Stehekin. Tony wasn't set to drive up for a few days and I didn't want to finish the trail before he got there. The plan was for him to drive up to Manning Park and hike south. We would cross paths somewhere around Harts Pass and then he would hike back to the border with me. So I lollygagged around Stehekin. Fortunately the food at the restaurant was fabulous. I think it was as good as Drakesbad.

I took a late bus back to the trail and hiked only 5 miles in. I camped there and relaxed with my book. The next day I hiked only 20 miles, meeting Flicker along the way. The scenery had changed dramatically. I had to laugh because people said the scenery up here toward the end was the prettiest and so unlike the rest of Washington. To me it looked an awful lot like Southern California!

That night it rained most of the night. Oh god, not more rain! I decided I couldn't sit out here in Washington being rained on. I just wanted out of here. So I poured the coal on and hiked 29 miles, camping on Jim Pass. On the way I bumped into Mathman who I hadn't seen since White Pass at the end of Washington's first section. I told him about meeting Tony and that I wasn't going to let him meet me at Harts Pass. I was going to cut Tony's hike short and hike as far as I could get toward Canada.

It rained briefly at Jim Pass and then the sky was perfectly clear. My tent was never wetter than under this clear sky. I figured this was the day I would meet Tony. So I set out happily expecting to bump into him somewhere around Woody Pass.

When I got to Woody Pass, which was a rocky, dramatic spot way up high in alpine conditions, I stopped to dry out all my things. I expected Tony to come around the bend any minute. I met 3 hikers instead and they had not seen anyone meeting Tony's description. My heart sank. Tony hadn't come. I started to worry. Maybe he was fiddling with his damn fool GPS in the car and had had an accident. Maybe his mom had died and he had to go to the funeral. Maybe traffic had just been bad and he decided just to wait at Manning Park instead of hike. I was disappointed and worried.

After my stuff was all dry I said to myself, Well, let's go to Canada. And off to the border I went.

The trail went way up high to the highest point in Washington. I studied every person I saw to make sure it wasn't Tony. I saw two people up on a ridge and I walked up to the ridge just to make sure neither was Tony.

I walked down, down, down. I met a couple who were just starting out a section hike. We talked for a while about water sources since this final section had long stretches without water. I told them about not meeting Tony and how I'd have to go to the border alone. I asked them if it was far. They told me I was just right before the final four switchbacks. I broke out in tears. I was almost there!

I counted the switchbacks as I went. At number four I suddenly found myself at the monument. How hard I had worked to reach this point! I cried tears of joy. I took pictures of my pack against the terminus marker and pictures of the metal pyramid that marks the border. I tried to take pictures of myself, too. I only had a disposable camera so I wasn't sure if they came out. I walked around to the back of the terminus looking for the sign-in register. It wasn't there. I looked around the area and saw nothing. I pushed against the metal pyramid. That thing felt solid. So I left. (Later I learned the register was inside the pyramid and I'd have to lift the 40lb top off. I don't think I could have done that.)

I camped at the campground .2 miles from the terminus. I hoped someone else would camp there who might take my picture. Nobody did. I relaxed there as the sun set reading my book and worrying about Tony. I could have hiked further but I had worked so hard and struggled so much that I was going to at least spend the night.

In the morning I set off for the final 8 miles to Manning Park. The trail went annoyingly up hill and then steeply down hill. It went on forever. All I could think was that I was done with all this. I never had to climb up to nowhere again. I never had to feel the loss of built-up energy with a long descent again. I was done with all of it.

I arrived at Manning Park and found my way to a celebratory breakfast where I choked down french toast through buckets of tears. The end of the trail was so anticlimactic. It didn't even say PCT on the trail sign at the end. And there was no trailhead parking lot and no register. It was just the end. There was a thru-hiker trying to hitchhike and all during my breakfast he never got a ride. He was like a symbol to me of how people end the trail and then they just leave. Manning Park was no Emerald City. It was simply the end. People just dispersed. Here I was all alone.

I went over to the lodge and met some hikers who had seen Tony out on the trail. I grilled them for more information. We somehow had missed each other. I hoped he would figure out what happened to me. I called his phone and left a message letting him know I was ok. I called the ranger station at Harts Pass to tell them if someone tried to send out a search party there was no need. I was at Manning Park and ok. Then I figured out where the PCT trailhead parking really was and walked down the highway a mile to leave Tony a note on his car, which was there. Nothing to do now but wait.

I was going to sleep in the forest instead of get a room, but then it started pouring rain. So I got a room in their cheap hostel. As I sat in my room worrying about what the marble-sized hail had to be doing to Tony's tent out there on the trail I heard someone call my name in the hall. It was Tony! Oh my God! I exclaimed. I was so surprised. We hugged for a long time.

It turned out Mathman had clued Tony in to what happened to me. It also turned out that when I slept on Jim Pass Tony had been only a mile away. He had found a camp site just below the trail in the trees. I had walked right by and never saw him. We had had an agreement that we'd leave a note on the trail if we left the trail but he had not left a note. If he had, I would have found him.

We went back to the restaurant for a celebratory dinner with Mathman. We had a great time talking about the trail and drinking wine. Tony and I stayed in the lodge instead of the hostel.

The next few days I have had the luxury of unwinding from the trail by driving south and revisiting places I had been. We stopped at Skykomish and helped hikers get to and from the trail. We stopped at Timberline Lodge and stayed at the lodge and had the breakfast again. I got to visit Little Crater Lake which I had passed by but regretted. It was more amazing than I had expected. If you haven't hiked by it yet, be sure to visit. We hiked the Ramona Falls loop. We visited Crater Lake and toured around Lassen. We're back at Piper's Mom's house getting great food and soon I'll be home again, adrift and tasked with finding a job and returning to "normal" life.

The beauty of Washington lingers through the fading haze of my misery. The mosquitoes of Oregon are mostly forgotten as I realize Oregon had some of the best things to visit. California welcomes me, familiar and dry.

If I had signed the register at the border, this is what I would have written:

There are many things in this world that you can do to make it feel like you've lived your life to the fullest. Hiking the PCT has been one of them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Steven's Pass (Hiker Haven)

I left from Snoqualmie Pass and hiked to Steven's Pass, after taking two nights at the Summit Inn at Snoqualmie Pass and two nights in a Motel 6 in Seattle. By the time I returned to the trail, the weather man was talking like there would be no relief in sight for the record high temperatures. That was what I wanted to hear after all that cold rain and near hypothermia.

While in Seattle I bought new shoes and a new hat at REI. The hat has little curtains that come down to shield my ears and neck from mosquitoes. It really works and it works for sun, too. The shoes are street running shoes and I'm not quite sure about them yet. I can't tell if the ache is caused by them or the result of my feet, having outgrown my old shoes, expanding as if they had been bound and now released. As long as the trail isn't too rocky, my feet feel fine.

The trail from Snoqualmie climbed and dropped a lot. The first day was up, across and then down a million tiny little switchbacks. I slept by a washed out bridge in deep, dark forest. The humidity was high and my sleeping bag and tent were damp by morning.

The second day I climbed 2200 feet only to drop to a river and then climb 2600 feet to a high pass near a craggy rock called Cathedral Rock. I made a big mistake and forgot to get water before climbing up to Cathedral Pass. I was down to my last liter and wanting to camp on the pass but there was no water up there so I was forced to hike two more miles down the other side. The creek I slept next to was cold and clear and had really good water. I had been warned by two guys slapping mosquitoes from their necks (wow, my hat works great!) that the mosquitoes were awful. There were a few by the creek where I slept but they weren't too bad at all.

These climbs of only 2000 feet or so would take me from thick, dark montane forest to sub-alpine conditions. It is like the world is condensed in Washington. I walked by lots of sparkling, dark blue lakes. I think I've seen more lakes now than the average Minnesotan. I don't really care for lakes since I don't like to drink from them. Who knows how many DEET-encrusted, deoderant wearing, dirty people have swum in them? What I really like are creeks. My favorite thing is to stop at a spring-like creek and drink a pint right then and there. Maybe put a little lemonade in it. Refreshing.

In the morning I had to cross a potentially dangerous creek. It was a pussy cat. I could have kept my feet dry all the way across if I hadn't wanted to see how cold the water was. Described as icy cold, it was actually a little warm.

The heat and humidity was nearly unbearable at times. I have been wearing a polyester turtleneck with my desert shirt over it and long pants plus my magic hat. It's too much but I feel shell-shocked from my experience with mosquitoes in Oregon and kept expecting to be swarmed at any moment. Only they never came. The mosquitoes were quite tolerable. Still, I'm used to the heat and kept on all my layers anyway. I don't have anything else to wear.

On my third day of hiking, the trail decided to climb up to a 5000+ crest five times, each time dropping at least 500 feet or so in between. It was exhausting. But I made the 25 miles left to Steven's Pass before 5pm, which was pretty amazing since I had stopped to talk with scores of people all along the way. One guy said I'd never make the 25 miles--I'd have to walk with my headlamp on. It's a mental block to think it can't be done. It can and I did it and have been doing it for months now.

I met Dicentra on the trail. She's very nice. She has a great web site called One Pan Wonders. She has great recipes for backpacking food. I used her site to get ideas for how to eat better on the trail. It's a great resource. I enjoyed meeting her on the trail.

When I arrived at Steven's Pass, where there is nothing but a closed ski resort, I found a cardboard box with ice and sodas. I drank one and then walked out to the highway and stuck out my thumb. My ride was a hiker, too, and a schoolteacher who had been backpacking around the area. It was a wild ride about 20 miles too far west. When I finally said it really seemed we went too far, he stopped and got out a map and sure enough we had. He turned the car around and dropped me off not at Skykomish but at Baring instead. They were serving dinner when I arrived so I sat down and had a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with delicious side dishes. I tried to call the Dinsmores but was having no luck. Then the lady I was seated next to pointed to the other table where the Dinsmores were also having dinner. What a coincidence!

Mr. Zip, who I had met in the rain before arriving at Snoqualmie Pass, had returned to the trail two days before I did. While I was shopping and resting in Seattle, he had been hiking. I caught up to him today with about 5 miles left to the highway. Both of us are staying at the Hiker Haven in Baring, WA. It's basically the garage with rollaway beds and a porta-potti. I washed up with a hose well enough to sleep. Showers will be available tomorrow when we get rides back to Skykomish where their real house is.

I don't know when I will be able to update this journal next. All I have left is to hike from Steven's Pass to Stehekin and from Stehekin to the end of the trail. The next section is supposed to be very difficult with a washed out bridge or two over dangerous rivers. I've been a bit nervous and even considered skipping it completely. But as Mrs. Dinsmore says, a 10 year old girl did it so don't be a wuss. Okey-dokey. The final section is supposed to be the most beautiful. So far Washington underwhelms me. But the last section is supposed to deliver the goods.

Tony plans to hike with me at the end. I'm sure when I see him, and when I see that darn post in the clear cut we're all working so darned hard for, I will fall apart with joy, relief and sadness. It'll be over and I will be able to go home. I can't tell you how often I have thought of our beautiful Santa Barbara backcountry. The sunlight here has taken on an orangey hue and a few times the scenery has been just right to make me think of hiking Lost Valley Trail or White Ledge near the Magician's Cave. We are lucky here in Santa Barbara.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Snoqualmie Pass, WA

It rained all through the night, either from the sky or from the trees or both. Eventually it was raining inside my tent. I felt completely exposed laying there in the dark with water falling on my face. I could not sleep.

After a while it seemed like maybe the sun was coming up somewhere in the world. At least I could see things inside my tent now. I packed up with my headlamp on and managed to get going in the dark of the clouded forest around 6am.

It was raining while I packed. I thought I would see if wearing a plastic bag over myself like a vest would help. I folded up my soggy tent. It had a small puddle in one corner and the rest was just soaking wet. I tried to squeeze out the muddy water but ended up putting the 5lb blob in the back pocket of my pack and then sealing in the moisture with the garbage bag pack cover I had made. As I hiked I stopped a couple of times and let out the pool of muddy water that formed in the bottom of the bag as the tent drained.

I hiked on into the worst part of the trail so far. There was nothing to say positive about it. I spent most of my time pushing my way through shoulder high or higher soaking wet plants. Very quickly I was completely drenched and did everything I could to keep my body temperature up so I wouldn't get hypothermia. I wore a hat, a hooded windbreaker, my desert shirt, my turtleneck, my gloves, the plastic bag, shorts and rainpants. I didn't wear my pant legs because they would just get wet and cold.

As I waded for 30 miles in the wet brush, cursing the stupid trail that made me climb up every single hill just to see more wet leaves, I suddenly got my PCT epiphany:

It's nice to know there are people out there willing to push their way through wet brush for 500 miles of Washington rain, with feet that are never dry, with shoes and socks that are visibly rotting daily, and sleep in tents that rain on the inside, and climb mountains in the rain with nothing to see but wet plants--all this just to see a post in the middle of a clearcut. I am not one of these people.

I couldn't understand why people said I would love Washington. So far I had pushed my way through about 250 miles of wet brush--either ankle high or higher--and had had soaking wet feet every day except one. I felt completely finished with it. I hated it. It was no fun at all.

I went to Snoqualmie as fast as I could. I didn't get there until 6pm. The trail was rugged and difficult to walk on for the last 10 miles.

I met some people trying to warm up by a fire next to a lake. I unleashed all my frustrations from the last 100 miles on them. I told them how I had stood in the middle of head high wet plants and screamed at the top of my lungs, "F**K YOU! I hate you, Washington!" It hadn't helped. They laughed and said it was 8 more miles of wet leaves to Snoqualmie Pass. I sighed in relief. Only 8 more miles! They looked at me oddly and said it had taken them all day to walk those 8 miles and they were exhausted. They invited me to warm up by their fire. Three big strong young guys. I said no thanks, I was pulling a 30 miler today, just like yesterday, just to get the heck out of this weather. If I stopped to warm up, I'd just go out and get cold and wet in the wet leaves again. They were surprised someone could walk so far. I was sure part of it was not carrying heavy gear. The rest was sheer desperation.

I hurried on, but my feet were failing, tender and sore from 7 days of being wet and 2 days of walking too far. I really wished I was a young strong guy and not an old lady and that 30 miles could feel easy. I walked slower and slower over sharp and slippery rocks. I could feel every painful rock bruising my feet. I struggled and frequently failed to prevent myself from stubbing my toes on the rocks. You CAN stub your toes with shoes on, especially when your toes are pushing over the edges of your shoes like mine are, my feet having become wide to ridiculous, unshoddable proportions.

The trail was so leached out from the obviously constant rain that falls here that it was like either walking in a creek bed or else all the slipery wet roots from all the trees lay in wait to trip me up.

I emerged in a clearing and could see the red roof of the hotel I was going to stay in. I could not find the trail. I just walked straight down through a ski area.

I stopped to let out another cup of muddy water from inside my pack cover and then proceeded to check in to the hotel. I showered and went down to the Family Pancake House in my socks for dinner, wearing only my windbreaker and my skirt (pinned at the waist since now it was two inches too big) since I had nothing else to wear that didn't smell like rotten, wet socks. I had two pork chops, baked potato, vegetables, soup and hot chocolate. There was apple pie filling to put on the pork chops. It was good. I watched a family of 300 pounders eating. How different we were, and how similar. I could have eaten their dinners, too.

After dinner I felt a little better and a lot warmer. I called Tony and we had a nice chat. Santa Barbara is on fire once again. A map of the fires in the last 2 years shows about 1/2 the county has burned now. At least the weather is almost the same as here in Washington so I wasn't missing much.

I fell asleep in a cloud of dryness and softness and woke up in the middle of the night sweating.

The next morning I showered again and went down and ate 2 breakfasts. Finally I felt almost human again. Human enough to start crying. This trail is very hard. It is not fun. It is not a vacation. There was not a moment in the past 4 days that was worth any of the effort. I had hated every single minute of it. The only thing that had been good in this whole state had been Goat Rocks which I had seen 5 days past, the only thing I hadn't had rain for. It had been the highlight of the entire PCT, actually, an exciting knife-edge walk while bracing myself against the winds trying to blow me off, stunning sub-alpine beauty below me. Nothing could top it. I had seen all there was worth seeing, as far as I was concerned

I turned on the TV. The weather report was for an end to the rain and a gradual warming into the next week. I was surprised to see the high temps were in the 40s in places. That was probably what it had been for me. I burst into tears because I did not want to return to the trail. The rain had given me an excuse to quit. I didn't trust the rain to stay away. One nice day and I'd feel obligated to return to the trail and then for sure it would rain and I would suffer again. I wanted no more of this.

I had forged a plan to figure out a way to get to Seattle. I would shop at the big REI, buy some new shoes and socks. Hang out and eat seafood and drink coffee until I exploded. Then take a bus to Skykomish and hang out at the Dinsmores. Then return to Seattle and take a bus to Stehekin. If the weather was nice then, I'd finish the hike. If not, there were only 16 miles of wet brush I'd be willing to hike: the 8 miles from Manning Park to the post in the middle of the clearcut and the 8 miles back. I no longer felt that it was worth it, or valuable, or important or even meaningful to hike every mile of the trail.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Stevenson, WA

I have to skip some entries otherwise I'll be in this cafe all day and I really want to get going again.

The executive summary up to here is that I walked by Mt. Jefferson, crossed its glacier streams before reading how dangerous the streams could be. I guess that after swimming the rivers in Yosemite fast, milky streams up to my crotch didn't seem so bad.

After I passed out of the alpine beauty of Mt. Jefferson, climbing and descending a mountain pass that reminded me a lot of the High Sierra with the snow fields and all, I descended into some mighty flat forested country.

I looked forward to a visit at Ollalie Lake, but the store there was closed and had been for two years. I got the special California treatment from a man there who insulted me. I was starting to realize that Oregonians don't like people from California.

I motored along for my longest day yet: 36 miles. I spent the night near Timothy Lake, a great car-camping lake with a trail that goes all around the lake. People mountain biked, jogged and hiked. People boated and fished on the lake. I could hear young people having a great time below my isolated camp site. I wished I could be like them instead of on this excruciating lonely journey. At least the mosquitoes seemed to be seriously waning.

The following day I planeed to try to reach Government Camp and the post office. It was a Saturday so I hoped I could go 15 miles super quickly. I got to the road at noon, made an attempt to hitchhike but didn't get a ride, so I decided to skip it and just go on to Timerberline Lodge.

The trail from Barlow Pass to Timberline Lodge was probably the hardest 5 miles of the hike. It was very steep and I was very out of food and starving. A section hiker really really wanted to talk ultralight gear with me but I wasn't a human being anymore. I was just a cranky, thirsty, hungry, achey, tired zombie stomach lurching down the trail. I lurched my way up through viewless forest until I reached an opening and suddenly saw that I was ON Mt. Hood. The above-treeline peak was right in front of me. I was shocked.

I could see Timerline Lodge a ways away. The promised land. I struggled through sand dunes to reach it. I washed up a little in the glacial stream, then went to the Lodge for food. I ate at the Blue Ox and had a pizza and some beer. I felt much better. I washed up as well as possible in the ladies room since they would not sell me a shower at the Lodge. I made camp on a hill below the Lodge.

The next morning I went to Government Camp and did laundry and washed my hair with my pocket shower. I made camp in a vacant lot in a stand of trees and hung out for a relaxing zero day. On Monday morning I took care of my post office business, forwarding my package on to Cascade Locks. For some reason I had thought it was another 150 miles to Cascade Locks but it was only 50. I was so happy when I learned this. I could live without the things in my bounce box for 2 more days. The guy at the post office gave me the business about forwarding my box. He said he'd do it, but I wasn't allowed. I asked if there were special rules in Oregon because other post offices had even suggested to me that I could forward my packages unopened for free. I was thinking maybe I was getting the California treatment again and worried my box would never arrive at Cascade Locks.

I set off to Cascade Locks. The trail was pleasant and there were few mosquitoes. I took a detour to visit Ramona Falls. I think that fall is on many motivational posters and calendars. After visiting, I reached the first river I could not ford: Milky Fork. I tried but the bottom was unstable and the water very deep even though the creek did not look very big. I wandered around and found a sign that pointed to a hiker bridge. I had to backtrack up the Ramona Falls trail to find the bridge. It was a giant log with a handrail nailed to it. It bounced like the suspension bridges of Nepal.

I hiked on, climbing and climbing until I reached a junction with the Timberline Trail. The guide book was full of lies. First lie was that the trail would be mostly down from here. It was mostly up or level for at least 10 more miles after he said that.

Then the trail plunged down into the Columbia River Gorge. I took the Eagle Creek trail and got to walk behind the giant Tunnel Falls through a tunnel blasted in the cliff. That was exciting. The trail went down hill for about 20 miles almost to sea level at the river.

The guide book and reality bore absolutely no resemblence when I reached the trailhead parking, so I just walked out to the freeway, looked at the signs on the freeway to decide which direction to walk, and walked along a bike path that took me right to the Bridge of the Gods.

I didn't cross the bridge, though. Instead I spent the night and all the next day and another night at Cascade Locks in the campground. They let me stay for free and there were hot showers. My first shower since Elk Lake, about 10 days or so ago. It felt wonderful.

I did all my grocery shopping from the store in Cascade Locks. That was a mistake. Their selection was not very good so I will be disappointed with my food for all of Washington. I prepared boxes of food in the blasting wind of the Gorge and then mailed them out. The gorge was so windy but the wind was warm and moist. It must be very cold in winter. The place was noisy with the sound of the river, the trains on both sides running constantly, the highway and all the other noises of industrial society. It was difficult to sleep, but my second night there the wind died a little bit and I fell asleep at about 6pm and slept for 12 hours.

I walked across the bridge after breakfast. It was thrilling because it was a metal grate and you could see through to the river. The railing on the side was low. I feared the traffic would make me walk too close to the end. I was feeling a touch of vertigo.

Finally I was out of Oregon and into Washington. I learned there was a shortcut that cut off about 21 miles if I didn't mind walking on roads. I didn't mind at all. I walked to Stevenson and wished I had shopped there instead. Their store had more of the things I liked. I bought a few things, updated my journal just a little, and headed out.

I have to admit that my feet really hurt a lot lately. I am hoping they can make it the 500 miles left to go. I really want to succeed. It's close enough to taste and I really really want to go home, but not without reaching the end.