Our final day on the trail had finally arrived. We are all a bit sad at the fact that our journey was nearly over, but we missed our families, modern plumbing and beer.
We had a slow breakfast and finally got around to packing all of our stuff up and hitting the trail. For some reason our packs seemed a bit lighter today. Maybe its because we had finally disposed of all of our food, which was most of our weight the whole week, or maybe it was just the fact that we knew it was all coming to an end soon.
We wandered down the hill and found the trail that would lead to the Eagle Creek trail. We marveled at the beautiful forest. We had seen some great sights but here, just the trees brought us joy and peace. Yogi was marveling at how large some of the trees were. She demanded that we get a picture with her next to one.
It may look like she was attacking the tree but I don’t think she was. Earlier in the week on the switchbacks from hell she had a little episode where there were some cross words and possibly a stabbing of a tree. She was scolded by a through hiker that pointed out it wasn’t the tree’s fault and that the tree had done nothing to her.
We laughed as she stood next to this behemoth of a tree and we reminisced the events of the previous days.
We continued on the trail. It was a down-hill grade but nothing to steep and it was actually quite pleasant. We passed a couple girls we had met the previous day as they were sitting along the trail eating a snack. We had passed them the day before and figured we would have seen them at the lake but apparently they had taken a different route or we had just missed them somehow.
As the trail continued we found some cool campsites, until we realized that you would have to scramble directly, straight down the hill to get there, and then back up to leave. Suddenly the campsites became less appealing.
We were having a great morning hike. We had settled into a good groove and were all in pretty chipper moods. The hike wasn’t too hard, our packs were light and we knew that beer was just a few hours away.
The further we went down the trail and closer to Eagle Creek the more pretty it got. We passed some pretty neat stream crossings and passed a few cool little waterfalls. I really enjoyed this section of the hike as it was all new to me and it meant that our sightseeing wasn’t over. I was glad we had chosen to take this route home instead of taking the actual PCT the rest of the way. From what I hear that section is pretty boring and that was definitely not the note I wanted to end this adventure on.
Another benefit to this route was I saw some things that I am definitely going to have to go back for. One of them was a cave next to a waterfall. I couldn’t see how to get down to it but I made the decision right then that I would have to come back to explore. Unfortunately nobody else saw the cave so nobody could share in my joy at finding it or understand the need for me to come back. Stalker, however, is always up for new explorations so he shared in some of the joy.
After we got the Eagle Creek Trail we started to encounter more and more people. Suddenly the realization that we were heading back to society was starting to sink in. This saddened me as I was enjoying my days with only brief encounters with other people, most of which were just a nod, and a smile or an explanation of where we were hiking to and from, and then we were on our way.
The people really started to get thick right before we hit Tunnel Falls. There were quite a few people that were swimming in the river. I had hoped we would stop and have a little snack and chill our feet in the water break before we headed on but the spot I had planned on stopping was completely clogged with people swimming and enjoying the nice cold water on a nice hot day. We continued on.
Of course once we got to Tunnel Falls we had to take a few moments to take some pictures and let a bunch of people pass. If you have never been to Tunnel Falls, the trail is wide enough for one person at a time, is wet and slippery and has a cable that is attached to the rock wall you are next to, that if you are afraid of heights you will cling to as if your life depends on it. It is, however, amazingly beautiful and breathtaking and I recommend the hike to anyone.
After Tunnel Falls, Stalker took off again and I once again tried to catch up to him with no avail. Yogi and The Professor stuck to their pace. I finally ran into Stalker at a bridge where he was chilling out and going for a swim. I climbed down to the bank, found a nice shady spot and took a little rest. Eventually Yogi and The Professor caught up to us and we all took some time to enjoy the nice scenery, cool our feet off and eat some food before we continued our journey.
Eventually our spot became a little crowded as other hikers decided to stop and enjoy the water and the view so we packed up and went on our way.
Stalker once again, took off and left us all behind. I was going to try to keep up but stopped to let my GPS find itself again and ended up at the end of the pack. For the next mile or so I followed Yogi and The Professor but was chomping at the bit to hike a bit faster.
We passed the campsite where Stalker and I had come earlier in the year so I knew we only had about 4 miles left. I mentioned the campsite but nobody heard me. Soon, we were crossing High Bridge and the question came about the campsite. I told my companions that we had passed it not to long ago and that we had about 4 miles left before we reached the trail head and then a short hike to Cascade Locks and we would be done.
An unpleasant thing happened. Yogi made a snide remark about, “I guess we aren’t hiking only 12 miles today.”
I kind of lost it. For the entire trip I had been being hounded about the mileage. Stalker and I had been doing the best we could to estimate the mileage every day and unfortunately had been off every day but one. We had explained how we were figuring out mileage, how we were just using an app on our phones, with no service and guestimating from there. We had explained that we had to make up extra mileage from skipping a day on the trail. I had explained that my watch calculated true mileage that included elevation so it was going to be more miles than just flat Google Earth style mileage and yet, the comments and constant questioning of the mileage continued.
I left them. I put my feet to the ground and left. It probably wasn’t the most mature thing to do but I needed some good quality alone time on the trail. I needed a few more miles of not having to converse with anyone, with no questions to answer and no snarky comments about mileage.
I dominated the trail from that point on. I worked out all my frustrations from the week and it felt good. I passed other hikers, I walked on the edge of the cliffs to pass people who were clinging to cables pinned to the walls on the trail. I felt better.
After a couple miles I calmed down and let it go. I wasn’t going to let this little thing that, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t really matter ruin the rest of my hike. I was, however going to catch up to Stalker if it killed me.
I didn’t catch up to him until the trail head. He was sitting in the grass relaxing as I walked up, sweat pouring off of me with a smile on his face.
I sat down next to him and explained what had happened with the other two. He was understanding and we both just laughed it off and then talked about other hikers we had passed and how we were going to pig out and drink so much beer when we reached the end of our day.
The others eventually joined us and rested for a bit while I texted Heisenbaker to let her know we were almost to Cascade Locks and would greatly appreciate a ride home. She informed me she was on her way and would meet us at The Bridge of the Gods. We then stopped at the restroom while Stalker went and asked a Park Ranger how far it was to Cascade Locks and how to get there. We were told it was a mile up the road and directed to the path. It was 2 miles.
The path was very pretty. Had we all not been starving at this point and ready for our feet to fall off we probably would have enjoyed it more. We talked about everything we could to keep our minds off our feet and the pain that had manifested itself in them since we were now hiking on nice hard pavement instead of nice soft trail.
We hit the halfway mark, which was a tunnel that went under I-84. I was elated, we were halfway to beer and a burger and the end of my feet suffering.
We continued on. Our attitudes both worsening from the pain and exhaustion but also brightening because real food and a beer and the promise of a warm bed tonight and a shower were only a mile away.
The last mile seemed to take a lifetime. I swear we hiked the last mile the same distance and time we had hiked the whole earlier part of the day.
We were elated! We were hungry! But first, the obligatory picture in front of the sign had to happen!
Just behind us were the two girls we had passed earlier in the day. They had more to their journey but were crashing here for the night. We congratulated them and wished them luck on the rest of their journey. Now that we had taken pictures and socialized with other hikers it was time for food.
On the way to Charburger we passed a local fruit stand that was closing up for the day and they offered us free peaches! We each took one and devoured it! They were the best peaches we had ever had. The next stop was the 4runner to unload all of our gear, then on to food and beer!!
Burger! That was all that was on my mind and a burger I had. I actually didn’t have a beer and went for a hard cherry cider that they had on tap. I was very happy with my choice. We all devoured our food and then even though we were all pretty stuffed a couple of us went back for dessert. I got a small pecan pie. I only finished half of it before I finally had to call it quits. It was so good not to eat freeze dried food out of a pouch.
We started the journey home. We told Heisenbaker of our adventures, showed her our blisters and laughed and had a good time. As we took Yogi and the Professor home we could see Mt Hood in the distance. I was excited to see it, amazed that we had been there just days ago, and sad that we had to say goodbye so soon. As the rest of the group continued to chat and share stories and banter I just let the whole of the week on the trail settle in.
I could tell something had changed. My perspective on things was slightly different now. I worried that I would lose this change as soon as I resumed my “normal life” and I made a silent vow to myself that I would do all I could to keep this perspective and to make this feeling last as long as I could.
We have decided that we are going to continue with a different Oregon section of the PCT, starting at Crater Lake and working our way north.
This time we are going to see if we can pack in more miles and actually be less organized about how far we have to go each day and just let the trail take us in its own time.
I can safely say that I am excited, and anxious for next year. If I could spin time faster I would because I love this trail, I love the feeling of being out in nature, living with only what is on my back. I enjoyed the bonds I formed with my fellow hikers, whether they were in my group or passing by on the trail and just giving me a nod. There seems to be a certain unspoken connection between PCT hikers. There is no judgment of how far you are going, or how far you have come, there is only the fact that you are undertaking this amazing trail and enjoying all if it that you can.
Eventually I will do the entire trail. 5-6 months, from Mexico to Canada. It will be quite and adventure but I am up for it and look forward to it and the stories and connections it will bring.
Until then, I am vowing to spend as much time on trails and having adventures as I can. I have found my passion and I plan to explore it to its fullest.