It was late morning when we returned to the trail in the heart of Deschutes National Forest. The excitement of completing half of the Pacific Crest Trail had worn off and the uncertainty of the second half weighed on me. Were Sean’s shin splints healed or just temporarily feeling better? Do we really have another 1300 miles in us? Just how important is finishing the trail in one season?
But, of course, we resumed walking, and thankfully many of those doubts were quickly put to rest. Over the next four days, we kept our mileage around 20 / day and, to his surprise, the pain in his legs no longer was an issue.
And it truly didn’t take long to remember why we do what we do. Oregon is overflowing with natural gems and attracts outdoor enthusiasts from miles away. We weren’t surprised to see an increase of section hikers and weekend-ers as we entered the Three Sisters Wilderness on a Friday.
We awoke Saturday morning to perfect weather, and I decided to make coffee to kick off my 27th birthday. We began walking around 7 with only 17 miles ahead to McKenzie Pass and a highway that led to Sisters, OR.
We were stoked to exit the above lava field around 2 and immediately stuck out our thumbs to snag a 20 minute ride to nearby Sisters. Thankfully, there was a parking lot and observatory near the trailhead and tourists were coming and going. We quickly found a ride in the back of a pickup and soon were in the small tourist town of Sisters in bumper to bumper traffic. We thanked our ride and continued down the main strip of shops and restaurants on foot.
Morning came all too quickly, and our AirBnB host made us a delightful breakfast. We thanked Paul for the hospitality and went to the grocery store to resupply for the next stretch. We decided to get 6 days of food to get us all the way to Cascade Locks at the Colombia River Gorge where we were getting picked up to visit Portland.
Over the next six days, we kept a steady 25 mile / day average and even had three unexpected trail magic dinners. The first was at Big Lake Youth Camp where the staff was over the top accommodating to thru-hikers. The second was put on by a former thru-hiker, and he had hotdogs, chili, salad, and sodas at a trailhead campsite! The third was at Olallie Lake where a nacho bar awaited us. And this section was oh so beautiful nearing and passing Mt Jefferson and then on to Mt Hood.
From Timberline Lodge, it was about fifty miles to Cascade Locks, and we were very excited for our couple days off in Portland. For the last stretch, we decided to take the Eagle Creek Trail, a very popular alternate to the PCT, to see waterfall after waterfall as we neared Cascade Locks.
We continued walking, taking in all the views as we passed day hiker after day hiker. We estimated crossing at least 150 people if not more. The trail eventually ended at a parking area, and we walked the remaining 2 miles into Cascade Locks.
Our friend, Colin, joined us in Cascade Locks and brought us into Portland where we stayed with him and Amanda for the next two days. They had been babysitting our van since April, and it was strange to suddenly have our own wheels again. And clothes made of cotton! I even had birthday presents at their apartment from my family just waiting for me to open.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time off by making big breakfasts and bloody Mary’s, scoring great deals at happy hour, and just eating all the yummy food Portland has to offer. I freaking love that city.
Our days off were over before we knew it, and Amanda drove us back to Cascade Locks. Now it was on to Washington.
Despite our near 600 mile gap we skipped in central California, it was still quite momentous to cross the Bridge of the Gods and enter Washington. We were 500 miles from Canada and began yet another section of the PCT. I was immediately impressed with the views of Mt Hood to the south, Mt St Helens to the west, and Mt Adams to the east.
We really hit our stride in Washington and were keeping a consistent 25 mile average. We soon came to the tiny town of Trout Lake at the base of Mt Adams where we had a hot dinner and breakfast and did a small resupply for the next stretch. We left town after breakfast and resumed walking in the fog for the day. Thankfully, the clouds parted just as we were leaving Mt Adams.
Well, on we walked through drizzle and fog as we approached Goat Rocks Wilderness, a Washington highlight. We hoped as we walked that the fog would lift so that we could see the unique rock formations and the surrounding mountains. But, unfortunately, we were totally socked in from the precarious ridge line we were walking. We got very occasional glimpses of the area, but this is a section I’d really like to rehike one day.
That evening, we arrived at White Pass, a small ski area a half mile from the trail. We intended to pick up our resupply box and eat some heat lamp food at the convenience store but were bummed when we arrived to a closed store. Sigh. We pitched our tent at a stealth site behind the store and ate a very “bottom of the food bag” type dinner.
Morning came and we binged on coffee while we sorted our resupply package. We packed up our four days of food that would get us to Snoqualmie Pass and were back at it. Of course, today there was beautiful weather which made me resent yesterday’s clouds that covered Goat Rocks, but I did my best to put those feelings to rest and enjoy the day.
The next day was picture perfect as well providing excellent views in Mt Rainier National Park. After our first two hours of hiking, we approached a parking area, and you should’ve heard the excitement in Sean’s voice as he proclaimed “Toilets!” when they came into view. We took a pit stop and scored some leftover French toast, scrambled eggs, and cantaloupe from a Boy Scout Troop that was heading into the woods.
We set our eyes on a 28.5 mile day hoping that the sky would remain clear. After this long but rewarding hike, we arrived at Mark Urich snowmobile cabin that was backed up to a large meadow. We cooked food while watching the sunset and enjoyed seeing two moose chase each other through the tall grass. I set a 12:30 alarm before heading to bed hoping I’d be able to wake up to see the meteor shower. We shared Oreos and stargazed for only a half hour before returning to the tent, but we couldn’t pass up the chance to see the Perseid meteor shower in the middle of nowhere Washington.
We were now within 45 miles of Snoqualmie Pass and were motivated by the hotel room we had booked from the woods.We set out for a 27 mile day leaving 18 miles to get us there. We noticed the trail looked freshly groomed, then turned the corner to see a large group of volunteer trail maintainers, the true angels of the trail, hard at work on a hot day. We said very humble thank yous as we passed hoping these people felt the depth of our gratitude. Soon we came to a dirt road crossing where a sign invited us to lunch! We walked through the camp, which I correctly guessed was the maintainers, and the friendly camp chef began making us stacked deli sandwiches. I don’t remember the last time a sandwich made me that happy. She explained to us that the group was on a four day trip with tools and food provided by the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA).
The next day we were excited for a “short” 18 mile day where our dreams of food, beer, and a comfy bed would come true. By 3, we had arrived in Snoqualmie Pass.
In the past 10 days, we have completed nearly half of Washington leaving us 250 miles to Canada and an additional 590 miles left in California to officially complete the Pacific Crest Trail.
So if you’re keeping track, that’s 1800 done and 850 to go!!!