PCT Week 15: The Green Tunnel

After skipping Oregon to leave it for later we are respawning at the border to Washington, our second state after all the time in California. Our first week of Washington goes through kind of a Green Tunnel. It’s mostly forest, but a beautiful one, with some glimpses of Mount Hood and Mount Adams.

PCT Day 85: Hiking into Washington

Cascade Locks (mile 2148.2) to mile 2151.8
6.6km (4mi) / 1.5h / elevation gain of 183m (600ft)

After we spend two nights in Portland where we reunite with some friends, we catch the bus out to Cascade Locks in northernmost Oregon. The Bridge of God spans the mighty Columbia River here and marks the border between Washington and Oregon. We skipped an entire state, so this is actually our first border crossing on foot. It is weird to be here now and see some people we know from early on and who passed us during my time off trail due to the injury. Everybody seems to gather here as they skipped Oregon or just walked parts of it. Also, there are the PCT days coming up soon, which take place in Cascade Locks.

We hang out in the grass for a while and got ice cream at the place where Cheryl Strayed finished her hike before we start heading out in the late afternoon. Then, we are crossing the bridge, such an iconic moment. We imagined it differently but it is what it is. There are rarely years when hikers can do a continuous thru-hike all the way to Canada because of the fires starting in the height of summer.

The bridge also marks the lowest elevation on trail with 24m (78ft). The crossing is a bit scary as you can see through the grate down to the river far below and there is no sidewalk. But the cars are going slow, I guess they know about us hikers. We take pictures when there are moments without traffic and then continue on a path that climbs up beside the road, offering sweet blackberries along the way.

We are walking through a beautiful forest and reach our campsite for tonight at a little lake. We just did 3.7 miles today, but that’s fine. I love hiking with Squiggles again after we haven’t seen each other for a month. Our little trail family is coming together again.

PCT Day 86: Biggest day since I’m back

Mile 2151.8 to mile 2173
34.3km (21.3mi) / 9h / elevation gain of 1,975m (6,482ft)

Today has a lot of elevation gain. We start our first climb in the morning, going over 1,000m (3,280ft) up. There are some occasional views of Mount Hood in the distance but mainly we are going through the dense green forest with lots of moss and fern, reminding me of New Zealand. We do a lunch break after the top before we head all the way down just to climb all of it up again after that on our second big climb today. There are a lot of people out here, especially compared to last week when we were at the end of the hiker bubble. Now we are right in the middle of it. We met a southbounder yesterday who told us that he sees around 150 hikers every day and that it will be hard to get food in the little stores in the trail towns.

So the elevation sums up and makes it quite a big day for me since I’m back on trail. Also, there are a lot of blowdowns today where we have to decide if we are crawling under or going over.

We are trying to get to a campsite that is described as epic, so we are making our way up to the top of that climb. A little blue blaze leads us steeply up the hill to the campsite which has an awesome view of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, and the other mountains around us. We are cowboy camping under the stars, having everything for ourselves, and counting shooting stars.

PCT day 87: Lazy day

Mile 2173 to mile 2186.7
22.7km (14.1mi) / 5h / elevation gain of 585m (1,919ft)

In the morning we are taking our time until we start hiking. The campsite is just so beautiful that it’s easy to spend hours here, just watching and enjoying the warmth of the sun. We have quite a lot of condensation in the morning and we dry our stuff in the sun. After the big day yesterday, we are having a lazy day today. We are not doing many miles but we are very much enjoying ourselves.

The trail goes mostly downhill until we hit a bridge and shortly after there is our first trail magic in Washington. Goblet makes grilled cheese sandwiches and there are cold drinks and chips. We did just 7.5km (4.6mi) to get here but it’s the right timing for lunch. So we stay here for quite a long time.

After that, we make our way to Wind River where we stop again to take a refreshing bath. Its already late afternoon until we continue. We hit some more roads and then another river where we get water for the waterless climb up the hill. We want to go up a little bit to get half of the climb out of the way for tomorrow. I’m also hoping that there are not so many people as it’s dry camping. We are quite fast going up the mountain but arriving at the campsite there are already five tents filling up the spot. But we find some more spaces a little bit up the dirt road but it’s very hard to get the stakes in the ground here. We are wondering if that’s gonna be our new normal as the tentsite on the first night was quite crowded too. Just yesterday there was nobody which was very surprising. Maybe because it was mainly a cowboy camping spot.

PCT day 88: Inappropriate Behavior

Mile 2186.7 to Blue Lake (mile 2206.2)
31.45km (19.5mi) / 7.25h / elevation gain of 1,250m (4,101ft)

We are finalizing the ascent in the morning. We have nice views of Mount Hood and Mt Adams but mostly we are in a green tunnel. Then, we are descending to the first water source for today where I meet Lion from Germany again who I haven’t seen since the Sierra. We are proceeding to a nice place with picnic tables where we have lunch. We are moving well today. The next climb brings us up again and we are passing two lakes until we reach Blue Lake where we want to camp. The spots on the side of the trail are already taken when we come here, but there is a trail leading to the left of the lake and there are some nice tentsites.

Another hiker is already there and got a fire going which is very inviting. We started chatting, enjoying the fire. At one point I say I’m going to pee and go behind some bushes. It was not the best spot but as long as everybody is just sitting beside the fire it would have been fine. But at the moment I wanted to squat down the guy who was already there gets up. I don’t think much of it but suddenly he stands where he can see me and he stares me directly in the eyes. I’m thinking: Was this a coincidence? Didn’t he know what I was going to do? Didn’t he hear me announcing it? Am I overreacting? Then I stopped thinking about it and went back to the group, ending the evening with the fire.

When we went to our tents I started talking to Popeye about it. And it turned out he saw this situation and found it very weird too. So, I got a reality check. I’m not overreacting. It was weird. And I’m instantly creeped out. Also because our fellow female hiker Squiggles set up camp next to him and we are a little bit further away. I am thinking of getting her and getting the hell out of here. I don’t know what to do. I don’t sleep much that night.

He seemed like such a nice guy, he told some amazing stories, and then something like this happens and you realize that you can’t see if somebody does inappropriate things just from a shallow impression. And it kind of shook my happy little thru-hiking world. I never was suspicious on the trail, there was never a weird situation for me and suddenly you realize that there ARE things like that out here.

PCT day 89: Reunion day

Blue Lake (mile 2206.2) to Mosquito Creek (mile 2219.6)
22.1km (13.7mi) / 4.75h / elevation gain of 362m (1,187ft)

The next morning I just wanted to get out of there. I went down to Squiggles to check on her and be there before she gets up to maybe go peeing. But I didn’t want to scare her, so I didn’t say anything to her and acted like everything was normal. Suddenly, everything that was once a normal question like “Where are going tonight?” seems creepy. So, it took a while until we get going and I’m really uncomfortable. I get some strong anxiety and have to walk away a bit to get out of the situation. Actually, I would have liked to stay here for a while and to go swimming, but not together with this guy.

When we finally get going I’m relieved and can’t wait to get some miles between us and him. Meanwhile, Popeye told Squiggles about what happened. Luckily, she wasn’t creeped out and was very understanding of that situation.

What we learned out of that is that you can’t just trust everyone and that you need a code word that you can say when things go into a weird direction for one of us. We came up with a good one that you can use in a sentence but normally don’t in the thru-hiking world. I feel a little bit better with that now, but I hope we will not need to use it. Also, it’s always better to be in a group.

I mean, some of you might think it’s not that big of a deal as nothing really happened. But when something is happening it’s usually too late. So trust your feelings. And don’t find excuses to justify someone’s inappropriate behavior. When it creeped you out there is usually a reason for it. And guys, it’s not okay to go after a girl who’s peeing. Give her some space.

We hike not long until Sharkbait finds us, who was part of our group through the Sierra and parts of Northern California. Turns out he is done with solo hiking and wants to join our group again. It’s nice to get everybody back together.

We get to another lake after 5.5km (3.4mi), Bear Lake, and stay there for a couple of hours, swimming there. It’s perfect. Well, except for the flies that bite. They are not horseflies, they look like normal flies but they bite. Never seen that before. They have followed us since yesterday. At least there are almost no mosquitoes.

We decided to not hike much more today. We just hike another 10 miles until we reach the next water source and camp there. It was a mellow hike today with almost no elevation gain, but I didn’t feel very good. The entire day we just hike through a green tunnel and can just see the tip of Mount Adams shimmering between the trees twice. The flies are also at the campground, waiting for us.

Everybody always says that I’m so fast in pitching my tent, so we take the time that it takes me to pitch it. I heard rumors about a tent pitching contest on PCT days and maybe I have a chance. I thought it would be under 5 minutes, but it actually is just 1.5 minutes until the tent stands. I’m quite proud of that.

PCT day 90: Welcome back to civilization

Mosquito Creek (mile 2219.6) to FS Road 23 (mile 2229.9)
16.5km (10.2mi) / 3.75h / elevation gain of 491m (1,610ft)

There’s not much left to the road to town today. The first part is mostly flat and there is one brief moment when we can see the snowy top of Mt Adams between the trees, which is the highlight of the day. Then we start a climb without any reward at the top, it’s still a green tunnel. We hit the road which is very lonely. Some other hikers already gathered and luckily there is a shuttle going to the town of Trout Lake. Hitching doesn’t look easy on this one.

We can get five of us in the back of the shuttle car and five in the front. Trout Lake is a very hiker-friendly town. There are multiple places to camp, people are very friendly and there are showers, laundry, and an awesome taco truck. We camp behind the General Store, where there are at least four cats wandering around. Unfortunately, I left my hiking poles at a pile of broken trekking poles that were left behind by other hikers. So, somebody took one of my poles apart and left me with just one working trekking pole.

The next day we get a hitch to Hood River in the early morning, where we resupply at Walmart. There is a bus going to Cascade Locks where we arrive in time for the PCT days, a festival for PCT hikers where everyone meets up. I saw some people I haven’t seen in a long time and it’s nice to catch up. Also, you can buy or even win some gear. I didn’t get lucky, but I bought new shorts and insoles.

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