135. August 23: Mile 2136.13 Campsite to Mile 2144.10 Cascade Locks, OR
It was all down hill to Cascade Locks today. About eight miles of downhill, actually. Coming from a cycling background, it’s been hard to rewire my brain to understand that going downhill does not really enable you to go any faster. If anything you’re going to go slower than if it was flat due to the constant pounding of the knees or having to navigate rocks and debris so you won’t trip. But other than that, it still has the same allure due to its complete opposite nature of hiking uphill. Combine that with the notion of going into town and the ecstasy of finishing Oregon and beginning Washington and I’m sure you can begin to imagine the elation I, well, both of us, felt when we woke up.
It’s certainly surreal approaching the end of this section and beginning the final one in Washington. The desert seems so long ago, yet everything in between seems like a blur. I still have mixed feelings about skipping the Sierras. It was the section I was most looking forward to and really was hoping to tackle head on given the extreme conditions. I just wanted to be able to walk away from this and say, “Yeah, I thru hiked the PCT in 2017 and made it through the Sierras.” But, I suppose it just wasn’t meant to be. My contracting HAPE and with Glowworm saying how miserable the next few days were certainly made it an easier pill to swallow with having to skip, but it still pains me to reflect on what could have been. We made the right decision, though. We were entering the Sierras at the worst possible time. It was in the middle of a massive heat wave through central California so instead of having snow bridges over the rivers if we had entered earlier or calm river fords after the initial melt, it would have been raging white water crossings. I’m fine with mitigated risk. Of course, risk is relative. What I consider an acceptable risk and what you consider acceptable are probably very difficult, but nonetheless, the Sierras given the circumstances weren’t an acceptable risk. For the longest time, we had planned to go back upon reaching Canada, but we soon realized that the miles we would have to make would just sap that fun right out of the whole hike and that defeats the purpose of this entire experience.
Oregon is a different story. August is not only the month where PCT thru hikers hike through, but it’s also the main month for fires. Fires are simply unavoidable. They happen every year, everyone who’s ever hiked this trail has dealt with them so it’s rather easy to skip them. It still sucks, but it’s not like there was a choice to take a big risk or skip; the trail is closed, end of story. There’s often a road walk reroute, but I didn’t come here to walk on roads. Despite missing nearly the entire Sierra section and half of Oregon, I’m proud and satisfied with what Glowworm and I have accomplished. We can always go back to the Sierras (which we will, hopefully in the coming year or so), but more importantly we can arrive in Manning Park, BC victorious. We didn’t quit; we’re still here.
I think Cascade Locks has become one of my favorite towns we’ve stopped in along the trail. Once we got into town we went straight to the Eastwind Drive Thru where I had a salmon burger and the biggest, baddest, tastiest, tallest, grandest, most delicious monstrosity of an ice cream cone you could ever imagine. It was a foot tall tower of soft serve perched on top of a small sugar cone. They gave you a cup to put the thing in, assuming you’re reasonable enough of a human being to not eat the damn thing like a normal ice cream cone. Well, I ate it like a normal ice cream cone. To ensure that the whole skyscraper of unhealthiness wouldn’t topple over on me, I took massive chomps from the top of it, but it didn’t take long for it to begin melting not only all over my hand, but all over the ground below. Of course, since I’ve been described as a blonde Forrest Gump, it was all in my beard and mustache as well. Probably the greatest moment of my life, let’s be honest.
After downing my calorie bomb, we checked into our hotel for Glowworm to relax and for me to recover. We chilled out there for the rest of the afternoon and milked everything we could out of our last bed until Canada. I was able to try on my new pants that I ordered since the weather is beginning to get cooler and we’ll likely flirt with winter when we get to northern Washington.
It wasn’t long after my body felt able to mildly function again that we went to the Ale House the next block over for dinner. We ordered the Hiker Trash Special which is a child’s pepperoni pizza with not one, but two hamburger patties smushed together on top, cheese, bacon, and an additional child’s pepperoni pizza on top of that to make a sandwich. I may be moving to Canada after this trip (more on that in a future post if you’re just now hearing this), but God bless America. Oh, it also came with chips which I thought was cute.
While we were at the Ale House, Glowworm ran into her friends from high school that are also doing the PCT, Chill Step and Crimson. They have been behind us since we started, but had caught us and were also in Cascade Locks. So we joined their table with the two other hikers that they’ve been hiking with for some time for dinner and it was a ton of fun. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to just hang out with other hikers beyond ourselves.
After dinner at the Ale House we went down to the edge of the river to the Thunder Island Brewery with Crimson and his friend Payless. This Brewery has a pay it forward program for thru hikers where customers can pay for a thru hikers beer and then write on a coaster a little message. It’s really cool and a lot more meaningful than when it’s just a beer on the house. Not that I will ever deny free beer regardless of how it’s done. Overall it was an excellent day and a really enjoyable evening hanging out and cutting up with friends over a pint. Looking forward to crossing over Bridge of the Gods tomorrow into Washington!