It’s 4:20 pm Friday and Mount Hood is stretched out in front of me like a well-melted ice cream cone that beckons a few licks. After 22 days on the trail — seven in our final phase — it finally seems like the Washington border, our goal, is within reach.
We’ve done 20 miles today from the Warm Springs River and, just three miles shy of Highway 26, will try for another five of six to make Saturday’s steep climb to Timberline Lodge a bit easier. What awaits us there is not only real food — my Cheez-Its have been tossed around in the pack so much that they look like Tang — but the Duck game on TV. That’s one reason we’re averaging much more than we planned to — about 22 miles a day instead of 15-17: it suddenly dawned on me that if we picked up a day we could possibly see it in the lounge –‘if they’ll let us in. We’re, uh, pretty ripe and I look like psychotic French fur trapper who never washes. Here is what I wrote for Thursday. More tomorrow, now that we’re back in cell range.
As I write this Thursday night, we just completed 20 miles from Olallie Lake to the Warm Springs River. The trail was smooth, wide and gently sloping. In other words, unlike most of the rest of the Pacific Crest Trail. That’s been my biggest surprise: how rugged and roller coaster-like it is. It’s Space Mountain done really, really slowly. Rarely do you walk on anything flat. And just when you don’t think it can go any higher it does.
The trail seems to have a mind all its own. You think: “surely it can’t go across this steep-pitched mass of shale” and moments later you’re walking across rocks the size of bricks. It goes across streams — often with no bridge — and through lava beds and, like today, in forests of old firs, huckleberries and vine maple.
I uses to think of a hiking trail as dirt and pine needles. But dozens of miles of the Oregon PTC are rock. After 375 miles in 21 days, I’ve walked on dirt, rocks, sand, gravel, tree bark, shale, creek beds, wooden bridges, snow, ice, mud, lava and dust; at times you’ll encounter half a dozen different substances in a single day’s hike. It’s an amazing thing, this trail.
Sorry I havent filed more blog entries but cell coverage has been sparse. The wilderness doesn’t much care whether people stay in touch — and who can blame it? When you do reach some civilization, like Thursday night at Olallie Lake, don’t get your hopes up. Yes, there’s a store but it runs on a generator. Cell coverage? “You might get some two miles down the trail beneath the power lines –‘or in the bathroom of the equestrian center,” a young woman working at the store tells you.
“Men’s or women’s?” I ask.
“there’s only one,” she says.
Why, of course, that’s the PTC, where people don’t rule, the trail does.
Notes: have hardly seen a mosquito since Elk Lake … Weather turned good again after cold Wednesday … We are full day ahead of sked. May try to get to Timberline Lodge Saturday instead of Sunday. Might be able to catch the Ducks on TV instead of on satellite radio…if they’ll let two guys who haven’t showered in nearly a week into the lounge.