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.

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