170803 – Columbia River Gorge

Day:  102
Date:  Thursday, 03 August 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 2136.7, 3287 ft
Finish:  Cascade Locks at Mile 2144.4, 219 ft
Daily Miles:  7.7 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  1604.1
Weather:  Hot, sunny and hazy
Accommodation:  Room at Bridge of the Gods Motel
     Breakfast:  Western Omelette & hash browns, toast & jam
     Lunch:  Turkey salad roll & potato salad
     Dinner:  Fish & chips, ice-cream & watermelon
Aches:  Nothing new
Highlight:  Getting to the Columbia Gorge and the end of the Oregon section (on schedule).
Lowlight:  Views of the Columbia Gorge on the descent, and from Cascade Locks, were seriously marred by a heavy wildfire smoke haze.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map

After an unpleasantly warm and smoky night, I had no trouble getting up at 5:00am and hitting the trail at 6:00am for the eight-mile descent into the Columbia Gorge and the small town of Cascade Locks, one of the few towns right on the trail, and the lowest point on the entire trail at 219 ft.

The first few miles of descent were relatively steep and switchbacking, which is never much fun, and it was a little eerie in the hazy forest as the sun rose, but as the trail got lower, the grade decreased and the hiking was easy enough.  I planned to cover the eight miles without a stop, hopefully in three hours or less, which would be in plenty of time for a diner breakfast.  There were a few places with views over the Gorge, but the haze made it hardly worth stopping.  As 9:00am approached I was still apparently deep in the forest, though I could hear the sounds of vehicles on a freeway, then all of a sudden the trail emerged on a back road passing under the freeway and through the underpass was suburbia.

From there it was a short walk to the motel where the office opened at 9:00am (in theory), the time of my arrival.  It took another 15 minutes before anybody turned up, and I was told my room was not ready, unsurprisingly.  They allowed me to leave my pack in the reception area and recommended a nearby restaurant for breakfast.  I went there, dirty and smelly, and ordered breakfast, glad I was not still hiking in the growing heat, and savouring the moment.  I think the first hour of time off in town is the best.  Sitting in the cool, waiting for breakfast or lunch to arrive while sipping on an ice-cold Diet Coke and contemplating no hiking or pack-carrying for 24 hours has been, perversely, one of the highlights of my hike.

After breakfast, I picked up my mail, including my bounce box, from the post office and found a chair outside the motel’s laundromat to kill an hour or two planning the Washington leg of my hike.  Soon after noon, I was given access to my room and showered and got my laundry started before getting some takeout lunch from a nearby cafe.  The afternoon was spent working out my food resupply points and daily schedule until the end of the month when I should arrive in Canada.  My schedule is reasonably aggressive (for me), but doable, I think.  If not, then I’ll just be a day or two later 🙂

Later, I had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Columbia River Gorge, and overlooked by the Bridge of the Gods that I will cross into Washington on Saturday morning (I’m having tomorrow off).  This is the place where Cheryl Strayed (author of “Wild”) finished her PCT hike.  I still have two plus months to go.

Cascade Locks is a very small town with limited eating/shopping options and the motel is reasonably basic, but it will do.  Many PCT hikers get a bus to the city of Portland, about 50 miles away, but I can’t be bothered.

Sadly,  I learned of two other deaths on the PCT this year from the PCT Facebook group which linked to an article in the Los Angeles Times here.  I’m pretty sure I met the Japanese girl who drowned and know I met the Chinese girl.  I also know I have been lucky on a few occasions, and I’m sure that’s true for all PCT thru-hikers.  That makes these tragedies very real to me, and I feel great sadness for their families and friends.  But I also know that they were fulfilling a dream and were aware of the risks.

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