My second Oregon PCT segment was excellent, the weather was what you would expect and the scenery was as good as it gets.
Unfortunately when it ended and I returned to the cellular world at the Eagle Creek Trailhead I found out that my beloved old backpacking canine companion, Abby, had died the night before. It was good that I had another 2.5 miles before I got to Cascade Locks, I needed the time to shed tears and reflect on our years together. I am so glad that we got to travel back to Oregon together. Australian Shepherds are incredible dogs and Abby was one of the best.
Back to the Hood to Gorge review. My wife and I spent the night before I departed at Timberline Lodge. Weather was perfect as were the IPAs we consumed in the adirondack chairs observing Mt. Hood. We could see Mt. Jefferson to the South initially but the view faded away into a smoky haze from the fires in southern Oregon.
I departed on July 9th in beautiful weather with no deadlines, just a destination. The PCT from Timberline takes you into the Paradise Park area which is all about majestic views of Mt. Hood. You feel very small underneath the mountain. An afternoon thunder storm brought needed moisture but also motivated me to seek a campsite. A heavy fog moved in which essentially equated to rain all night long. The following day offered more amazing Paradise Park views. This is fairly rugged trail that skirts the many snow melt streams from Hood. The main goal was to have a relaxing lunch at Ramona Falls, however, crossing the headwaters of the Sandy river to get there always presents a challenge.
So when I came out of the forest to greet the Sandy it was obvious that I was not crossing that high volume stream at this PCT designated trail point. When looking for a crossing you head upstream and look for perfectly positioned rocks or hopefully a log assisted crossing.
I found the log/stick crossing that had been thrown together, and although it was a bit scary it turned out to be more then adequate. The reward for the challenging stream crossing is a glorious view of Mt. Hood.
Then on to the ultimate reward of Ramona Falls and I was not disappointed. The sunlight through the trees creates unique highlights of this cascading waterfall.
I needed to put in a few more miles so taking the PCT Ramona Falls alternate trail to the Muddy Fork Junction was a perfect climax to my second day. However, crossing fast flowing stream on a couple of logs was interesting. But more interesting to watch were a couple of endurance runners cross the stream on foot.
The next day, Saturday, was a bit dreary weather wise, but that was OK since it kept down the day hiker population. It was a tough day for distance and vertical, 10 miles of 3000 ft up and about 1500 down. When I passed Lolo Pass I was thinking about putting a long sleeve shirt on which made me wonder about the 4 teenagers who were heading up to Bald Mtn. in shorts and tank tops.
Sunday ushered in a lifting fog which made for an eerie beautiful trail. The body felt good as I was knocking off more vertical before the inevitable drop. I had passed Devil’s Pulpit and Preachers Peak so I was in the mood for a wilderness church setting. About 10:00 am I noticed a side trail which lead to Buck Peak. The trail was OK but narrow and overgrown enough to mean that condensation from the vegetation was going to be soaking. But I sensed its call and a half mile up I was rewarded with His majestic throne’s view of Mt. Hood and Lost Lake. The church service was excellent.
The trail began the inevitable elevation decline to the gorge and with it came an abundance of ripe berries. I had a wonderful afternoon taking my time enjoying the spectacular view of the Eagle Creek canyon and eating plenty of ripe Huckleberries. After arriving at the Indian Springs abandoned campground I opted to continue on another 3 miles to Wahtum Lake. Definitely the right call as the lake campsite was beautiful and the trail there and then on to rejoin the Eagle Creek alternate PCT trail was a more gradual vertical decline complete with beautiful lush waterfall strewn scenery. Oh yes, and plenty of Thimbleberries, a tasty relative of the raspberry.
I knew I was in for a treat from the Eagle Creek canyon trail but little did I know how amazing it would be. My daughter and I hiked up this trail about 10 years ago but stopped short of the really great landmarks. So the ultimate goal is Tunnel Falls, which totally lives up to the hype. Actually the entire Eagle Creek Trail is awesome with many serious waterfalls, good swimming holes, precarious cliff carved trail and great campsites. But Tunnel Falls, Wow.
I knew that my trip would end the next day so I kept looking for the ultimate campsite, but I was getting tired.
Thankfully I kept seeking a better site and ended up with a primo campsite just below 4-Mile Bridge next to this 30+ foot waterfall, Skoonichuk Falls. But it made for a perfect last night on the trail where I was spared the heartbreak of knowing what was happening at the time with my dog, Abby.
The final day took me past High Bridge and Punchbowl Falls, plus greeting about a hundred, mostly day hikers, many with the goal to make it the 6 miles to Tunnel Falls. After receiving the news about Abby I hiked the Columbia River Highway State Trail up to Cascade Locks which provides a very nice view of Bridge of The Gods over to Washington. My wife and daughter were at the PCT Trailhead park by the bridge waiting for me. It was a gorgeous day for a burger and beer as we mourned the loss of our family dog.
I will blame not posting on my transition between jobs but I find myself in a hotel room in Rock Springs, WY on my way across America with some time for reflections. I am driving my beloved car from Oregon to Missouri via Denver where I will take in the ELI Conference on the 4-6. This Western half of the trip brings back many memories for me.
Leaving the Portland area through the Columbia River Gorge reminded me of the trip I took in the opposite direction in 2004 when I came to Oregon and George Fox University. What a dramatic portal it provides to the Northwest. I was extremely thankful that my trip east on a good highway was so much easier then Lewis & Clark had to deal with. I reference this concern because my entire trip in the heart of winter is a bit precarious in an Acura RSX that looks more like a snow drift to the trucks and snow plows that I have been dodging. Yes the Blue Mountains with snow packed roads kept me a bit tense. As I approached Salt Lake City with a plan to work my way down to I-70 for rendezvous with colleagues in Grand Junction, I had to abort due to a pesky storm hitting the area. Luckily diverting to I-80 worked out well and allowed me to reminisce about my earlier life in Mine Engineering and Electric Power Generating out of NW Colorado.
Rock Spring, WY, an oasis for coal miners in one of the harshest environments in the US. It is about 30 F and the wind is blowing 40 mph as it typically does. But there is coal in these parts and rivers to set power plants next to. Now they have added wind powered generators so there is plenty of electricity flowing out of this desolate place helping to light the cities of the West. Tomorrow I hope to make it to Steamboat Springs, assuming their recent 2 feet of snow does not stop me. There are still good friends and lots of memories there.
Update: I tried to get to Steamboat Springs but turned around at the Continental Divide on the road to Baggs, WY. Glare ice, 40 mph wind and big trucks caused me to reevaluate the risk/reward and decided to drive to Denver via I-80. The next day I did get to go Fly fishing on the head waters of the South Platte near Decker, CO. And yes, I caught a nice trout.
Final update, I did make it to Rolla. Bought a house the first day, love S&T and Rolla, MO.