Day 129 – Table Mountain to Panther Creek, 36kms

PC and I (Quiz) attempted our first cowboy camp since Hat Creek Rim last night without success. At 2am I woke to light rain on my face so we quickly pitched the tent in the dark, light rain continued off and on for the rest of the night. Poor PC couldn’t get back to sleep and even though I did our morning alarm was still a rude shock. 

Mist and swirling rainy cloud was everywhere when we got up. It had been such nice weather the day before it’s always a bit of a shock. We packed up and set off in the dark noting that it’s getting light later and later now. It was cold and windy and it felt like we had been walking forever when I found PC stopped by the side of the trail having breakfast. I joined her and later Mushy arrived and we made coffee. We had gone 2 miles but it felt like at least 4, these packs full of 150miles/240kms of food weigh a ton.

Wet mossy Washington

Thankfully it was all downhill for a few miles after breakfast and we could cruise through forest to Rock Creek, our first water source for 11 miles which is strange considering how wet and green and full of mossy gullies Washington has been so far. Rock Creek had an excellent swimming hole but it was way too cold to even consider it, what a waste!

It was a ten by ten day – I saw ten slugs by ten am

We started our only climb for the day up Mowich Butte right after the creek. I am one for long climbs and quite enjoy them but the others who are down hill folk complained, but only a little. It seemed as soon as we started climbing the sun finally cleared up the mist and started beating down on us instead. By the time I had reached the top of the steady 5 mile climb I was covered in sweat. We snatched a few obscured views of Ranier but the mountain is doing a good job of being elusive, it’s just teasing us and building apprehension I guess. At the top I took a poop break and waited for the others, Mushy rocked up and we chatted for a while before we realised PC was in front of him and must have powered past ages ago. We set off down the other side but never managed to catch her, by the time we arrived at Trout Creek for lunch PC had swam and done her laundry. A SOBO Hiker offered us his dates while we were eating lunch but he said ‘who would like a date’ and PC thought he was cute and immediately answered yes!

PC is just disguised as a human

With only 5 miles left after lunch we all took it pretty leisurely at our own pace. I stopped at Wind River for a swim because I was hot and it just looked too inviting. We walked next to some paddocks briefly and through forested rolling foothills till we reached the side road to Panther Creek Campground. With the eclipse so near its unlikely they had a spot for us, which was true, but they did have potable water so we cameled up for our dry section tomorrow and made do with some flattish space right next to the trail by the bridge. PC and I had another wash and we are now all having a lil nap nap before dinner. Ah the good life!

Swam here

Cool old water well pump

Day 128 – Casacade Lock to Table – 22km

Today has been rather emotional with folks a comin and goin. We all woke a little on the seedy side after drinks last night at Tiffany and Kim’s RV. We get our things together and amble to the Bridgeside Diner for breakfast. Queso, Digs, Amethyst, Eric, Mushy, Quiz and I had a slightly solemn breakfast, knowing we were all about to go separate ways. It’s been such a pleasant time in Oregon with a solid hiking crew, all helping to entertain each other through the monotony and the beauty. We say goodbye at the Bridge of the Gods, Queso and Digs are off to Portland for a couple of days,and Amethyst is finishing her section hike in Cascade Locks to go to film school in Montana! Good luck guys! 
We head out at 11am. Walking over the bridge is frightening and I grab the hand rail for support. The bridge of the Gods is a whopping 77 feet above sea level. Lots of climbing today. You can see the Columbia River rushing away underneath, as we walk on a see through mental grate. Washington, the last state for us NOBO hikers, we are finally here. 506 miles to Canada!

Mixed emotions were felt on the 3000ft climb that occupied a majority of today’s walking. I have just been off trail for 8 days, which is my longest break yet. Thoughts of friends in Aus and Boston filled my head, impatient to look for a new job and know what future holds. These thoughts were eventually replaced with thoughts of walking, skipping rocks and tree roots. What will life be like after finishing? Did I get a glimpse of it? It was ok but it’s definitely not as good as hiking. I was itching to come back to the trail. 

Feelings of endings welled up in me all day, thinking about Crystals and friends being off trail. 500 miles left. That was Mexico to Casa De Luna. I remember that first 500 miles taking an eternity. Now 500 miles seems too short.

Today ended on a beautiful ridge line with views of Mt Hood, Mt Adams and Mt St Helens, with its iconic side blown out. So far Washington looks hilly and beautiful! We cowboy camp high on a ridge and the mist rolls in. 

Day 127 – Cascade Locks, 0kms

PC returned today, yay! I realised that Mushy and I had both missed her as we talked about her lots while she was road tripping. I slept in and I was glorious. The gang then went out to breakfast at the local diner which actually had decent wifi, so I stayed much later downloading podcasts, uploading blogs posts and drinking heaps of coffee. 

At midday PC and her buddy a Loren rolled in and we went for a walk on Thunder Island in the middle of the Colombia River. Loren brought his sketch book and did lots of drawing. I left them to loafing around after a while and walked to Shreks to do laundry and have a shower. Shrek is the local trail angel who has a shed full of everything hikers need, he also lets you camp on his property. While waiting for the laundry to finish I found out Shrek wasn’t around because he is getting married today, at his house, at 7pm. Some of the other hiker were making decorations and setting up the yard, but no one had met him. I helped out and planned on coming back for the wedding but ended up getting side tracked by drink later on. 

Next level filthy, I have already rinsed these a few times when this photo was taken

On my way home I waited in a huge line for some ice cream from Eastwind, it has huge and delicious! The small was about 15 cm tall. Back at the Marina, jobs done, I drank some beers with the gang who had befriended Kim and Tiffany from the nearest RV. Tiffany walked 800miles of the trail while Kim trail Angeled earlier this year, after injury caused Tiffany to get off trail they drove to Alaska, neato! After a few brews I went back to the store and brought more beer and everything for spaghetti bolognese. Using K and T’s cooking stuff PC and I cooked everyone dinner and chocked the sauce full of veges, it was delicious. We all got quite drunk and stayed up chatting and being roudy, it was a really fun evening!

Day 126 – Buck Peak to Cascade Locks, 42kms

Our final day of walking in Oregon did not disappoint! But it did start off much like yesterday, I woke very early much to my sleepy brains protest and started to pack up my stuff. It was cold, dark windy and still raining but under the trees the drops fell heavy and intermittent. I did not want to do the tent shuffle out into the world but we had a long day ahead of us and an excellent reward at the end of friends and town luxuries. Mushy definitely did not want to get up so I hiked out alone with my head torch lighting up the swirling mist and steady rain.

Hallelujah the mist is lifting


Being out and about before other sane soles does have its benefits though, I came upon a coyote walking up the trail and followed it stealthy for ten minutes. When I came around a sharp corner the coyote was right in front of me busy rubbing its butt on the ground. We locked eyes for ages, it was my most intense connection to a wild animal to date, before it ran off down the trail and out of sight. 

Some of the trail was still dank and dirty

As the sun rose streams of light pierced the mist coming through the trees. It was magical and uplifting and between the sun and the coyote I was feeling fine despite my 2 day old wet feet. The sun started to lift the mist and slowly the world around the ridge I was walking on came into view. I got excellent views of Mt Hood, crystal clear, no smoke in sight! The ridge was too exposed and cold to stop for breakfast and clouds of mist would roll in every now and again. The undergrowth was wet and ultimately so were my shoes and pants. After 8 miles, 5 of my tummy complaining I stopped for breakfast in the most beautiful location. I sat upon large flat rocks at the edge of a spur looking at Washington and 3 big snowy volcanoes, I cannot wait to get there!

Mysterious Hood

Mt StHelens, Mt Rainier, Mt Adams

Breakfast gave me a new lease on life and I hiked on back into forest to Walparu Lake. On the way I passed the turn off to the Eagle Creek alternate, which is very sadly closed due to fire. This means I can’t walk behind Eagle Falls and down the Eagle Creek gully something I have been looking forward to since I first found out about the trail. Damn it! But I guess I’ll have to come back and do it all again in an ‘easy’ year. 

Grey grim and beautiful

After collecting water at the lake I started my final climb for Oregon. This was all in forest and I listened to podcasts as my body was feeling tired. At the top a small side trail led to a rocky outcrop with more excellent Hood views and I stopped for lunch even though it was not quite 12. I yard saled my tent and sleeping bag and ate some tortillas with salami and cheese. This combo has been satisfying me for ages but recently it has been harder to stomach…and I have packed it into all my resupplies for Washington. Options are limited though as tuna is also unpalatable.

Our goal

Sleepyhead Mushy caught me half way through lunch and we walked the long 1km descent to Cascade Locks. The path was steep and I’m glad I wasn’t going up. The forest got lusher and lusher as we got lower and became full of ferns very similar to ones that grow everywhere in the Australian Alps. We got some excellent views of the Colombia Gorge and the Bridge of the Gods, our portal into Washington.
Cascade Locks is a tiny cute town right on trail. We made a b-line to the Marine Park where our friends were staying and were handed a beer as soon as we got in. Queso and Amethyst are here as well as Yeti and Flytrap, which is a nice surprise. After a shower we all trooped off to the brewery for dinner, but after a free pint (thanks Sally!) and some nachos I found I was vague and rather incoherent so I went straight to bed.

Day 125 – Zigzag Creek to Buck Peak, 34kms

The thunderstorm predicted overnight never came to be but there was a good dose of rain. The clouds that had started to move in yesterday were thick and low by the time I emerged from my tent. I have been borrowing Mushy’s old one person tent while PC is off trail and he got rid of it for a reason. The zips no longer work so he has taped them together and then cut a hole in the floor that you shimmy in and out of. It means that in the rain you get wet hopping in and out of the tent, rain and ground water can come through the floor hole, you can’t peg the tent out properly and the fly had a huge hole in it that is taped up with strapping tape that doesn’t like the rain. After only a few short instances of rain all trail I thought I could get away with it but since PC left it has rained every night. Damn.

So it rained all day and we had reception yesterday and knew that this was likely to happen but it doesn’t make it any easier to face the wet wet world. The forest did smell extremely good though, fresh like a cucumber tastes and i had many strong urges to find one and eat it. We hiked up ridges through thick tasty old tall forest and then back into ravines like Zigzag Creek. It was cold up on the mountain and what we expected to be great views were only while whirling screens.
Upon turning into our third ravine of the morning we saw a bunch on orange clad men in the distance. As we got closer we realised they were loading a wrapped body into a sled which they then started to pull up the path towards us. We rock scrambled off the path allowing them to pass and letting what we had just seen sink in. Above the creek at the bottom of the gully was a line in the sandy gully wall where I suspect the person had fallen. I was glad that we hadn’t come earlier. We climbed out of the gully and stopped in the next dense patch of trees out of the misty rain to make coffee, we had the whole day to talk about what we had seen and we both were in a reflective mood. Hiking in the continuing mist and rain seemed to make the day into a solemn march.
We continued on and the sandy trail became hard to follow as there were many side trails leading in all directions. Following previous footsteps I took a trail down a steep hill that led to a lookout point on top of a sandy cliff. The trail then followed edge of the cliff down occasionally zigzaging, it wasn’t till I was some way down that I realised I was not on the true PCT although many had walked this path before me. When the path got sketchy traveling right along the edge of a sandy unsupported cliff I thought of the body I had seen earlier and cut inland through very wet undergrowth back to the PCT. When I hit trail I waited for Mushy who was some ways behind but he had been having the same thoughts as me and had begun cooee-ing me before I saw him. We both agreed that was too close a call.

These are the sandy cliffs in question

Safely further down the trail we took an alternate route to Ramona Falls, a silvery glinting delicate stranded mega waterfall. It was really pretty but also full of dayhikers despite the rain. The Falls were in a gully with moss covered cliff walls, moss covered ground and logs, it was very green. At the bottom of the gully we crossed a large stream on 2 logs that were lying on top of eachother across the stream. You could hold on to the top one and inch along the bottom one but it was pretty scary as you couldn’t see you feet and it was a 3 meter drop into the water below.

Ramona Falls

I fell behind Mushy on the climb before lunch and when I arrived at our agreed upon stream he had set up the fly of his tent again so we could sit out of the rain. This really made my day! Due to the cold shitty weather we hadn’t really taken any breaks and the terrain had been steep, but this allowed us to sit and eat and drink more coffee in peace. Thanks Mushy!

The afternoon climb was through more misty forest with elusive views. We passed a lot of Southbounders all of whom where asking about the fire closure and the Timberline buffet. We got into camp, quickly ate dinner and then got into bed by 6pm. I don’t plan to leave my warm bed till tomorrow morning and I will pee in a ziplock if I have to! We got a text from Amethyst and she is waiting for us in Cascade Locks, I’m so happy I’ll get to see her again before she goes off to grad school.

Day 124 – Highway 26 to Zigzag Creek, 23kms

To finish our quest we woke at 4.30 to make it to Timberline in time for the best breakfast ever. But after only a little sleep and a really raging thunderstorm during the night our alarms rang far to soon for my liking. The power of endless breakfast potential got us up and walking in the cold dark, thankfully the rain had abaited and the track was wide, well groomed and easy to follow in torchlight.

Foggy highway

Our path climbed steeply over a ridge, dropped to another road and then climbed steeply again all the way to the lodge. The forest and roads we passed were hidden in fog, adding to the mystery of Mt Hood above. It wasn’t till we hit sandy open meadows 2 miles from the top that we got views of the spectacular mountain. It was a steep climb and our legs were tired from yesterday, I was pushing myself and when we hit the sand I slowed down so dramatically I wondered if I would make it to the buffet in time. It was torturous but with much huffing and complaining from my legs we made it by 9.30, a whole hour of buffet-ing ahead. I could smell the bacon 10m from the front door! We also got bloody Mary’s to celebrate – 43miles in 27 hours.

Mission accomplished

What a cutie!

We hadn’t really though much past this moment and spent the next hour in a food coma stinking up the beautiful and historic lobby of Timberline lodge, charging our biz. The staff here are really friendly to PCT hikers and unexpectedly we did not feel unwelcome loitering by the power points. We eventually decided to go and have a look around, the Lodge was used for all the outside scenes in the Shining, but full of tourists (it’s a Saturday) was not creepy at all. We went outside to get more views of Mt Hood and were offered a ride on the chairlift halfway up the mountain! The guy operating it was so impressed that we had walked from Mexico, he said he was sure we could walk up no problem but he though our legs could do with a break. An unexpected bonus we both had no jumpers or hats and got freezing and burnt, but the views and the Luna landscape were excellent (still hazy though) and we spent quite a while watching skiers wiz by on the few remaining open runs.

I was pretty nerd-ily excited to be here

Speed demons, compared to hiking

The crowds were staring to get to us so we decided to hike out 3.5 miles to the first water and spend the afternoon reading and relaxing. The PCT was packed with day hikers and families out overnight and the going was slow but the scenery was awesome. The lupin and Indian paintbrush and other wild flowers were having a party with Mt Hood and steep ravines in the background. The sun was shining and unlike yesterday’s push I could take my sweet time walking.

Only a bit hazy

Getting so close

Zigzag Creek was in a steep grey sandy gully with a waterfall at one end. The floor of the gully was full of stones but we found sandy patches to pitch our tents. My book finally got good (200 pages in) and I read for ages. Mushy set up just his tent fly and opened all the doors becoming the hiking version of a Persian prince lying in the shade. We cooked dinner at 6 still not really hungry from breakfast and went to bed early. I slept long and hard and it was great.

Home sweet home, at the button of that valley

Day 123 – Trooper Spring to Highway 26, 51kms

The law of the buffet

Today we embarked on a holy quest to cover the 42 miles to the Timberline Lodge breakfast buffet by 9am tomorrow. We reasoned that the infamous buffet will taste the best after hard work. Also our friends Amethyst and Queso are ahead and we wanna catch them.

Like all quests it’s best to leave early and utilise the daylight so we left camp at 5.15 and walked to the top of a hill and stopped for breakfast. We are coffee powered adventurers and had come equipped with lots of the stuff as well as caffeinated orange drink. We met Trashpanda, trail angel Brokeleg’s wife from the hot dog themed magic yesterday. Smoke is still thick in the air and the best romantic spin I can put on it is that it creates atmosphere, like a stinky foggy swamp.

A smokey burn

We continued through forest and 10miles in we crossed Warm Spring River on a cute home made log bridge. Trashpanda caught us while we were having a break, we had made 10by10 and were on track for the day. After another short climb through forest we descended to a long flat stretch, it’s great for miles but not great for scenery although every so often we would pass by a nice meadow or pond. We pushed another 8 miles to make it to rumoured trail magic at the horse camp. Today we have magic feet so of course the trail magic was happening. Lisa, a local nanna, had set up a tent full of the makings of sandwiches, soft drinks/soda, lollies/candy and fruit. She also had 3 horses and one giant pup hanging around waiting for pats. 

He gets the freshest water possible, every time

We didn’t let ourselves get lured into the land of endless sangas or comfy chairs for long as we still had work to do. We left the horse camp and soon came to Timothy Lake. It was huge and full of campers and day hikers and for a while the path was crowded with people. As soon as it calmed down a bit I spotted a lake access and jumped in to cool off from the mid arvo heat. It was hot enough that even Mushy went for a swim. The wind had picked up and the lake had a small swell.

Dogs can make trail magic too

We roamed around the lake shore and passed very well equipped car campers, envious of them cracking beers non stop. A short side trip took us to Little Crater Lake, as we have seen the original it obviously wasn’t going to be as good but it was still an ice blue pond 45 feet deep (apparently) and ice cold. The water from it tasted good.

Mushy at Little Crater Lake

Finally we were in the final 9 miles stretch to camp. We had 2 climbs left and our feet and legs were complaining. I plugged in to a feminist podcast (Popoganda) and listened to powerful women to help power me up the hill. We stopped for dinner after 4 miles at our last water source before Timberline. I popped a few Vitamin I and it was nice not to hurt for the final climb and 5 miles to camp. This section had the best views, albeit still very hazy, as we walked along a ridge with excellent views of Mt Hood in one direction and the giant red setting sun in the other.

Our first smokey view of Mt Hood

We finally reached highway 26 just as it was getting dark and high 5ed and congratulated ourselves for an epic day. Only 10 miles to Timberline, doable! There were a few other hikers up chatting around the picnic table but we quickly excused ourselves to pitch our tents, smoke a joint and go to bed! Lying down never felt so nice.

Nature Graffiti