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Posts Tagged ‘Columbia River’

After we located Shrek’s house by going to the local bar and asking for his number, we found everyone hanging out on the back porch.  We had caught up again to Tickled Pink and Last on the Bus which was nice to see them; we met the younger Magellan and his girlfriend Pebbles, and then we found none other than Scooter sitting there with a small plastic bottle of good ol’ Canadian Mist – mostly finished.

“Let’s play this game!” Hop-a-long said putting her giant plastic handle of Canadian Mist on the table next to his fifth.

“Oh shiiiiiit!” he said and the shenanigans began from there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI somehow managed to wake up at the planned early time in the morning and went and found Hop-a-long who didn’t look so pleased to be awake and we put all our stuff in the car and set off for a 30 mile slackpack to the next road that looked decent enough for Dead to get his car there and meet us.

The slackpack began by crossing the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River.  I found myself intensely holding onto my phone and camera while taking pictures because most of the bridge did not have a solid ground — it had a metal grid-like thing and we could see the deep river flowing underneath us.  Really glad that I wasn’t afraid of heights; we took our time crossing it and getting in the way of the traffic since no pedestrian path existed.

After the fun and games, we began the long climb out of the Columbia River Gorge, up, up, up!  And chuck full of poison oak mixed into the blackberries.  Eventually, we extricated ourselves from blackberry thickets, trying not to get poison oak, and continued climbing for what seemed like an eternity.

Hop-a-long and I never saw anyone else that had been at Shrek’s the night before despite our slow pace.  We made it over 3,500 feet up with many, many bumps to the top of the ridge and got a brief respite from climbing.  We could see where we had dropped down into the gorge and the long winding way back out of it.  The ridge bumped along through some burn areas until dropping about 2,000 feet of what we had just climbed into a valley behind it.

Desperate for a snack, I stopped at a water source about 20 miles into our planned 30 mile day.  Washington was officially already kicking our asses and we had just under 500 miles to go!  Luckily, we had brought our headlamps and enough food to go another 10 miles.

Then, as we crossed a stream .3 away from a road, we saw the letters “DA” written in sticks on the bridge with an arrow pointing forward.  YAY!  No more miles!  We found him at the first road and he handed us each a nice, cold beer.  Exactly what we needed after the climb that wouldn’t end.

“I thought you guys had passed here already,” Dead said while we swigged down large gulps of PBR.  “Then I ran into Lush and Man Party and they said they had not gone off trail and had not seen you two or knew who you were.  They seemed reluctant to talk to me until I gave them beer.”  The true language of thru-hikers!

As the sun was already on it’s way over the hills, we decided to stop there and camp in a semi flat spot just up the road.  We set up camp and Dead made his Colman stove specialty of soy chorizo, onion, and pepper burritos.

We went to bed decently early that evening since we planned on doing another 30 miler the next day to make up for only doing 20 miles that day.

2 a.m. WHHHHHHHOOOOEEEERRRRROOOO!

“Guys…….what the hell was that?” Hop-a-long said.

“I don’t know, where’s the headlamp?” Dead said.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe shown the slight directly toward the sound and we listened and listened for moving animal noises.  Nothing.  It had all woken us up out of deep sleep and sounded like an old woman screaming as far as we heard from the depths of dreams, which usually means mountain lion.

WHHHHHHHOOOOOEERRRROOOO! It came again.  Then again from a different direction, except it sounded different, almost familiar and I immediately thought of the AT knowing that I’d heard it back east as well but couldn’t place it.

“Ohhhh it’s a damn owl!” Hop-a-long said.  “Listen, it’s the ‘who cooks for you owl,’” she said.  It came again and we all heard it that time.

In the morning, Hop-a-long and I left by headlamp to go climb another 1,000 feet up and then plunge back down.  We saw the road that Dead Animal said he couldn’t get his car up and we could see exactly why.  It appeared as though the road had large culverts in it at some point, but they had been ripped out and only a jeep could get over them as they were now.

We found the next road attached to a pretty cool campsite 10 miles into the day and sat down for a snack.  Hop-a-long noticed that she had some kind of a reaction on one of her shins that looked something like a little poison oak.  Since we didn’t have any bleach, we dumped some aquamira on it to dry it out.  In the meantime, Dead Animal drove up and we cracked a beer.  Slackpacking is hard work!

After some good old PB and Js, tortilla chips, and beer, we walked six miles to the next road and found him again for more snacks and beer.  We allotted ourselves a half an hour break in order to make our destination by dark o’clock.  Almost at the end of our time, Indiana Toad and Chocolate Chipmunk walked up from the road and told us how they found a great blue blaze that skipped the last 35 miles of trail that kicked our asses on the road and it passed three breweries!  We couldn’t complain too much since we slackpacked the whole chunk, but Hop, Dead, and I looked at each other and then began devising ways to get brewery beer later.

From there, we had another gnarly climb that went up another 3,000 feet and hit the 2,200 mile mark on top.  I threw the old iPod on and plugged through it with Hop-a-long right behind me.  Almost at the top, I ran into Lush and Man Party and chatted with them for a bit, and then again at the big 2-2-0-0 mark.  We all joked, “If this was the AT, we’d be done!”

After our legs decided to work again, we finished off the last six miles or so of the slackpack ridge walking over to the Crest Horse Camp where we would meet Dead Animal again.  Right at the tail end, around 8pm, we skirted a bit of lava and out of nowhere I saw a huge lightening bolt.  Then I thought my mind made it up since I did not hear any thunder.

Hop-a-long and I walked up and found Dead Animal who began frying pasta for us as we drank some beer with Jubel and Shadow for the evening.

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Mt. Hood and extending ridges.

I thought Mt. Hood was pretty neat from the south side, but from the Timberline Trail and the north side, I found myself stopping and just staring at the mountain in utter awe.  The gigantic ridges that sprang from the bases of glaciers shot out all around it, making Mt. Hood oddly resemble a spider with a central part of mosquito-eating awesomeness with huge legs extending outward.  To get to the Timberline Trail, we had climbed up on of those leg-like ridges to the Lodge.

Built in the 1930s as a CCC project, the architecture was something so admirable, even someone who knew very little on the subject had to stop and say “wow.”  Huge full, old growth trees made wide pillars supporting the structure surrounded by incredibly intricate carvings on banisters, railings, the ceiling and everywhere.  This is where we hung out while the wind ravaged the trees and the rain obscured our view of the beauty surrounding us.  The weather did clear somewhat in the late afternoon, but the wind refused to die which made the air temperature very uncomfortable.  When we heard about a bunk room deal, a “chalet” that the employee’s all seemed to call formally, we took it and it averaged out to be $15/person with five people sleeping in it.

So, we drank more beer, ate more buffets, hot tubbed, and relaxed at the end of our ten mile day.  We hikers took over the hot tub after dinner and only three other people stayed in, probably because they thought we were all crazy and they found us amusing.  At least the feeling was mutual because two of them, a father-son duo, told us all they had plans to climb Mt. Hood in the morning and found it weird that the company had second thoughts about renting them gear.  We had reservations as well, which we voiced very vocally and making sure they had enough sense to figure out when they were completely over their heads and needed to turn around.  We also tried to hammer into their heads that there was no shame in turning around.  Neither of them had ever done any mountaineering or even handled an ice axe.  They kept asking us where the route went up the mountain since they had not though to pick up a map or even do internet research of the various summit routes.  They worried me.

In the morning, we had a lazy start eating buffet breakfast, sleeping in, packing and repacking.  It helped that we had to vacate the

Into the Tunnel

room by 11am so once again we had to return to vagrant status of bumming space in the open lounge near the bar.  Hop-a-long, Dead Animal and I examined the maps and decided that despite leaving around noon-30, we still had time to slackpack 18 miles and meet Dead at the next road crossing where we hoped to find a small spot to camp for the night.

We set off into a beautiful arena of blue skies and sharp mountain lines and excellent photographic moments.  It seemed as though we never had enough time to take a picture of Mt. Hood from each angle possible.  We realized quickly that we would have to keep moving to make it to Dead’s car and the rest of our stuff at a decent hour.  The terrain did not seem too terribly difficult on the elevation profile but in reality, going down off of one ridge, crossing a large stream, then going up the next ridge and repeating that over and over got tiring.  Some of the ups and downs were 1000+ feet each drop and climb.  The glacial melt water that came down off of Mt. Hood also presented interesting challenges.  Quite a few of them stopped us for a few moments to assess the best way across without a.) getting wet, b.) getting swept down stream over large rocks, and c.) getting to a spot on the other side where we could move toward the trail since some possible ways across would end in a small 10 ft vertical cliff that we couldn’t shimmy up.  The Zigzag river was the worst of those instances.

After several exhausting climbs, we went down, down, down, and took a short alternate that went to Ramona Falls.  It was a 2.1 mile swap for 2.1 miles of PCT with roughly the same elevation gain and loss, so we deemed it a worthwhile adventure.  It most certainly was magical in essence.  The falls themselves covered an entire wall that loomed above us and the water thinly cascaded down, almost vertically making a sheen that glimmered in the light that poked through the trees.  The area was visually water-rich and was completely green save for the water itself.  Moss grew everywhere and in so many varieties that both Hop-a-long and I stopped several times to examine certain strains we hadn’t seen before.  The moisture held in the air and we breathed in the freshness that emanated from the moss.

Getting back to the trail, we had another adventure.  We had to cross the muddy river that stretched wide and full of glacial melt water.  Supposedly, we would hit a horse ford first and had the option of going upstream a quarter-mile to where a bridge might or might not still exist.  We trekked up a bit, but saw no signs of anything promising except for two very large trees spanning the width of the river.  Relatively easily crossing them like balance beams, we got almost to the other side, but we found no fantastic way around the large root system that came up with the larger of the two trees except to scale some of them and pass between two large roots.

Once we escaped the roots, we had a sharp 1000 foot climb and then down to Lolo Pass where Dead waited patiently for us.  The climb had switchbacks, but after climbing over all the ridges, it seemed more difficult than it actually was.  Apparently, people tend to cut the switchbacks there because we saw giant signs saying “PLEASE DO NOT CUT SWITCHBACKS” at their beginning and end.

We found Dead Animal and Tahoe drinking beer at Lolo Pass and Hop-a-long and I immediately jumped on dinner preparations since the climbs had sucked all our energy and fat stores right out.  Drinking some good old PBRs and double stuff Oreos held the hunger off while we sautéed up some onions and peppers with soy chorizo and crammed all in tortillas.  Then ate two a piece.

Tunnel Falls

Looking at the maps, we saw we could do a 30 mile day into Cascade Locks, the last town on the Oregon/Washington border if we took the Eagle Creek Alternate (which we fully intended to do anyway).  We set our alarms for an early 5:00am and set off by 6am.  We grumbled because it was cold and dark, but we moved to stay warm and just kept putting one foot in front of the other.

The first 14 miles blew by, pun intended.  We reached a high point where supposedly, we should have gotten a fantastic view of Mt. Adams, Mt. Rainer, and Mt. St. Helens, but the wind whipped up something fierce there and it was all either Hop-a-long or I could do to walk straight and half-run, half-get-blown down the trail to the trees where we could breathe and walk straight.  So much for that view!

Luckily, that meant we had just about reached the Indian Springs “Campground” where the alternate began.  We finally took a decent sized break…more than five minutes and searched for the trail.  The abandoned campground was blatantly obvious, but the side trail was not obvious in the slightest.  We re-read and re-read Yogi’s characteristic two paragraphs of directions and eventually we stumbled up the stream she mentions and blocked by a considerable amount of foliage was the sign we were looking for.

We crashed down the “trail” which really was a hiker-user trail that was not maintained to link the PCT with the Eagle Creek Trail.  I had to slow down considerably due to the steepness and not wanting my knees to give out on me.  Hop-a-long bombed down and waited for me at the first waterfall.  I was not about to have sore knees at the beginning of a 4,000 foot decent to the Columbia River.  The connector trail took out 2000 feet of it in just under two miles, then the Eagle Creek Trail (heavily used and very popular due to close proximity to Portland) took us down another 2,000 feet over several miles past a large array of waterfalls.

The entire trail was constructed with dynamite and had lines to hold onto since it ran the side of a gorge and the side dropped anywhere from 30-70 feet.  Tunnel Falls was the most neat; it had a hole dynamited out and we walked through it, behind the waterfall.

The best part: Dead Animal came hiking up with two pizzas (right side up in one hand) for Hop-a-long and I.  We were so hungry, we sat and ate it right there.  The three of us then meandered down to his car and then over to Shrek’s where we met some usual characters and some unexpected ones.

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