Monday, August 15, 2016

Day 107 : Mt Jefferson

25 miles today
613 miles to go

I wake later today. The sun is hitting my tent as I eat breakfast. I don't rush, I make my mocha as I always do. It's after seven am by the time I get on the trail. There's a short burned section but soon I'm back in the trees. More climbing, except now I see what I'm climbing. I'm climbing a long ridge towards Mt Jefferson. It's an exciting and dramatic climb. Great views down to the east. The big mountain ahead. Higher and higher, closer and closer. The trail reaches the base of the mountain and turns north. Then it's down and more down. Switchbacks down into a dense and beautiful old growth forest. Giant fir trees tower up and out of sight behind branches. The trail is a soft spongy bed of needles. Still down, further down. Different trees, more undergrowth, I cross creeks that come from way up high on the upper slopes of Mt Jefferson. Snowfields? Glaciers? I can look up slope way up above white water rushing down the gorge, rocks and snow. The creek is lined with branches and trees washed from above. The water looks muddy, but it's silt carried from under the glacier where it's slowly carving its way down the mountain. I cross fairly easily today but I imagine this is well nigh impossible in early spring. 

Now I'm climbing again, old growth forest. I climb into Jefferson Park. No parking lot, no snack bar. It's a place up high on the north side of Mt Jefferson where the terrain flattens and there are lakes. The green places between the blue tinted lakes look manicured like a park. The lakes, the trails, it is like a park. I pass quickly through. I'm not here for the park. I am a Thru-hiker passing through to Canada. On the other side of the park the trail turns up again. Up switchbacks, steep up. Surprisingly steep up. I spend close to an hour climbing up. I meet a ranger who asked me where I camped. “Rockpile Lake.” “Good answer,” she said. “If you'd said something different I would have asked to see your permit.” On and up I go up to the top of the ridge above the park. The top of the ridge and to the north I can see Mt Hood, Mt Adams, and Mt Saint Helens all lined up on the horizon. Clear blue sky overhead, a cool breeze gently blowing from the west. Then it's down again. Down and down. There’s way more vertical today than I had thought and my feet feel it. The trail is the good ole’ cobbles and gravel. Painful to walk on and unstable too. I carefully and gingerly place my feet in the spaces between the bigger cobbles. Down, down, down. I'm ready to stop and camp. I don't have enough water to camp. So I keep going down. Breitenbush campground has water, it's on a lake, Breitenbush Lake. I decide to head there. Three tenths of a mile off trail. A sign greets me. Warm Springs Tribes Welcome You To Breitenbush Campground. Huh, cool. The tribe allows me to camp at the lake. There is a pipe flowing with ice cold spring water. The Camp is accessible by car and I meet a great couple, Ken and Theo, who are out for a two day backpack to Jefferson Park. They give me a couple of protein shakes and a Coke. We spend a good part of the evening chatting and enjoying getting to know each other. After saying goodnight I head back to my tent by the lake and fall fast asleep in the cool mountain air.

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