Thursday, August 18, 2016

Day 110 : Timberline Lodge

2 miles today
556 miles to go

Woke before dawn. Flickering light against the walls of my otherwise dark tent. What is this, an alien abduction? My tent is only a few feet off the PCT. An early morning, way early morning Thru-hiker bobs by his/her headlamp bouncing and weaving from side to side in the pitch darkness. I watch it dance by through the semi-translucent tent wall. More steps, more thru-hikers. Oh yeah, Lodge day! I'm only two miles from Timberline Lodge, right smack dab on the trail, well almost. Herds of Thru-hikers migrating to the breakfast buffet. A buffet we've been hearing rumors and stories about at least since Ashland. Maybe longer. Legendary, mythic, epic, gigantic, unreal are all adjectives that I've heard describe this veritable cornucopia of breakfast goodness all found under a single roof for a single price. Stay as long as you wish eat as much as you want as long as you're done eating by ten am. So they come, some rising in the wee hours of the morning to arrive at the Lodge at the published opening time of seven thirty am. There are more Thru-hikers heading to the Lodge this morning than were summiting Mt Whitney way back when summiting Mt Whitney was the daily agenda item. Sleep is done for me. Too much traffic, like living next to a wildebeest freeway. I get up and forego breakfast, it's Lodge day. They have waffles! I pack quickly and join the herd. Not before being passed by a Korean film crew documenting the strange habits of PCTus Americanus. I wave at the camera, “Hi mom!” I don't know that she'll ever see the Korean Documentary but I've seen NFL players say that and I've always wanted to do that. So they have at least one purchaser of their film, my mom.

I tramp the remaining two miles up the hill. Out of the trees and into the stiffly blowing east wind. Stiffly, as in dust storm intensity wind. It's hitting the slope below me and creating a cloud, almost like fog, for us thru-hikers to climb through. And we do, nothing will keep us from realizing the visions of breakfast foods piled high. We all are coated with a fine layer of dust and grit as we enter this historic and fantastic building on the mountain. It's called Timberline but technically it's a little above timberline. Above the trees, right on the southwest flank of Mt Hood. Incredible views of forests, forests we've hiked through, greet us as we descend from the PCT like so many pilgrims to our goal. I see skiers, yes, snow skiers, in full multi-colored skier regalia climbing from the parking lot up to the lodge. They are all shiny and clean, no dust coating, just the fresh scent of recently laundered clothes and washed bodies. From a different world than the unwashed raggedy band descending from above. We Thru-hikers enter through the door closest to the dining room. We all hiked faster than we anticipated and fill the lounge with dirty stinky thru-hikerness. The skiers enter someplace else and somehow are magically transported to the white slopes above. The two groups don't mix, don't even see each other once they enter the massive Lodge edifice. We sit around and congratulate each other on our good fortune to arrive here today, the day of the buffet, (Which is everyday), but for us today is the day. 

Seven-thirty and the gates to the dining room open. Like a herd of cows heading to the hay the farmer just threw off his tractor. We all herd up around the entrance. Grouping together into foursomes, sixsomes, eightsomes for tables so as to get through the entrance that much sooner. Our negotiations and invitations like so much lowing and mooing We all know each other. Well we don't necessarily recognize each other without our Thru-hiker costumes, but as we greet each other there's many a variation of, “oh yeah, Ashland, good to see you again,” as we get acquainted with people in a context we've never been in together before. The buffet lives up to its reputation. At least from a Thru-hiker whose best food has opportunistic gathering of huckleberries in the last couple of hundred miles. My personal single favorite item was the self made waffle with blueberries, maple syrup, and whipped cream garnished with sugar crystals. Absolutely fabulous and at least fourteen hundred calories per serving. The cheddar  cheesy scrambled eggs coming in a close second. Oh, then there's the fruit sliced and perfectly sweet and ripe, watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple. I can't forget to mention the blackberry pancakes… And the sausage links, and patties, grilled slice ham. Well, you get the idea. We gorge ourselves like we have another five hundred miles to hike. Which in this case we do. Then comes lounging and battery charging time. My time is abbreviated when I receive a call from the front desk telling me my room is ready. I enjoy my Thru-hiker buddies and comrades on this sojourn but my own shower trumps any feelings of loyalty or solidarity, “see you all on the trail,” and it's off to my own private paradise. Being a guest of the Timberline puts me in a class above the common riff-raff thru-hikers. Sorry but it's true. It's not a distinction I make, it's the discriminatory practices of the hotel. Paying guests get additional amenities. Like ‘free’ laundry, access to the pool, whirlpool spa, and sauna. I could even work out on the treadmill… That certainly makes no sense to me, even with all the calories I ate. Oh, and my room includes free breakfast tomorrow with a whole new group of Thru-hikers. The ratio of breakfast eaters thru-hikers to hotel guests is about nine to one in favor of Thru-hikers.

I take a long luxurious shower in my own private shower, open the window and turn on my vintage fan to blow cool mountain air around my rustic luxury room. This is by far the nicest most luxurious place I've stayed on the entire trip. For example, I get a complimentary bottle of water. It's free to drink the water within but if I choose to bring the collector quality glass bottle with me I can do so for a mere twelve dollars. I pile my hideously out-of-place hiker trash clothes into a fetid pile, like so many burn-heap ready rags and stuff them carefully into a stuff sack trying not to re-soil my hands. I'm unsuccessful and have to wash my hands once the sack is safely sealed and the funk and scum safely locked away. Down to the secret, guest only laundry with my dipping sauce container full of complimentary laundry soap. Oops, I put the chuck-e-cheese like token into the dryer slot instead of the washer. Good thing they gave me two. One token, one laundry, it's a beautiful thing. Once my laundry finishes I toss it in the already prepped dryer. The laundry’s done!

I spend the afternoon sorting, packing, planning, map reading. All the stuff I need to do to get through Washington. Next stop after here is Cascade Locks. The last Oregon trail town before crossing the ‘Bridge of the gods’ into Washington. It's been a beautiful day on Mt Hood. The weather has been warmer than is typical for this elevation but I believe tomorrow starts a cooling trend. I was looking at some of my earlier videos where I remember thinking, “it's finally going to be cooler.” It hasn't turned out that way. It's still quite warm. I wonder if it'll stay warm and dry all the way to Canada. I guess I'll have to start walking there to find out. Tonight though I'm sleeping in a comfy bed at the Timberline Lodge. I toss and turn a long time before finally drifting off to sleep. Not enough exercise today? Too warm? Noisy creaky building? Asking too many questions?

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