Friday, August 19, 2016

Day 111 : Leaving Mt Hood

22 miles today
534 miles to go

I wake up early enough to pack my stuff before breakfast. In fact I have everything packed and ready by six thirty. I head down to the lobby to get a free cup of coffee and see how many thru-hikers show up today. In the lobby I see no Thru-hikers. Odd, yesterday when I arrived around seven there were scads of them. I don't see any tents out where there were so many yesterday. I sit in the lobby surrounded by wood. I love things made of wood. This whole place is made of massive timbers. It is a work of art. I enjoy looking at the construction details and the massive scale of it. It's so over the top. Something could never be built of wood to the scale of this huge place today. 

As I walk around I see Proton and Dreamcatcher sitting. They stayed here last night too. I sit with them and we speculate on how many thru-hikers we'll see today. Virtually none when the doors to the buffet open. Maybe five of us. Yesterday there were so many the line for the buffet wrapped around the corner and up the ramp. Today there is no line. We are seated at a table for six, the four of us. We anticipate the arrival of other thru-hikers and they do arrive. A few, a handful maybe. Two or three tables worth but nothing like yesterday. We speculate that a majority of yesterday's hikers are headed to PCT Days at Cascade Locks, The event creating a bubble of Thru-hikers that I have been experiencing the last few days.

I start my breakfast with the healthy choice. I eat a protein plate: cheesy eggs, home fried potatoes, and about six sausage links, well sort of healthy. Then I have a blueberry strawberry waffle with sugared whipped cream on top. A follow that with a fruit plate, watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe, more healthful goodness. I finish with another waffle, more blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream. It's amazing to me that after eating a breakfast like this I can walk anywhere much less hike, but I can and do.

I checkout of my room in this cool historical landmark and climb back up to the PCT. Above the trees, above the lodge, I have sweeping panoramic vistas to the south and west. South to Mt Jefferson in the hazy distance, trees and more trees. Green in multiple shades. I turn left, back on to the PCT where all the tents were yesterday. No tents today, not a single one. North I hike, across the rocky exposed flank of Mt Hood. It's actually west but north on the PCT. The peak sits there like a massive stone giant watching my progress. In and out of gullies and ravines created by the tremendous amount of snow melt that is generated by its lofty presence. I hike down, then up, then down, up across, back down. The trail follows a roughly circular pattern around Mt Hood all the way to the north western side. Roughly, because it's not a circle at all, running in and out of all of the creek channels. I climb and descend multiple ridges. I take the Ramona Falls trail and find that the falls are a situated in a cool shady glade. The continuous presence of all the falling water creating a microclimate significantly cooler than the surrounding dry terrain. I hike down from the falls and back to the PCT. I arrive at Muddy Fork where I had planned to camp. Fifteen miles, a reasonable goal for someone who stuffed himself with so much waffle calories. It's way too early to camp, way too warm. I'll just keep hiking. I cross over the creek in two logs, one above the other. I stand on the lower one and hold the frayed and tattered rope tied to the upper one. I cross slowly over the churning and roiling creek. It's the color of chocolate milk but probably doesn't taste like it looks. 

The trail changes its character. Almost like a different trail engineer has taken over. Perhaps the same one who engineered parts of California‘s PCT. I find myself climbing steep switchbacks. The kind I haven't seen since leaving California. Back and forth across the mountain side I climb. Higher and higher. There’s a sign posted to a tree, “Please don't shortcut the switchbacks.” The sign is slowly being folded in half by the tree. A significant improvement in these switchbacks is that they are under the trees. Perhaps the California ones were too, but the trees are all burned. It's a warm day but in the shade I find it comfortable enough to keep climbing without generating a significant amount of sweat. The liter of water I'm carrying is sufficient and I don't suck it all down. At the top of the switchbacks the trail turns sharply and heads down a ridge away from Mt Hood. I'm finally walking away from the mountain instead of just walking around it. Valley Girl and Chris are doing trail magic at Lolo Pass. I walk into the trailhead just as they were arriving. The give me an ice cold Coke and a Snickers bar. Wow! This is so good I down the bar and sip the Coke while chatting. Proton and Dreamcatcher show up and we all visit in the shade. Gunner, Valley Girl’s German Shepherd, chews sticks in his massive jaws, I can't helping thinking about how easily bones would snap should he choose to chew my arm rather than a stick. She assures me that the harness he’s wearing that says, “Do not pet.” Is only for small kids. I keep my hands to myself anyway. Chris and Valley Girl are headed to PCT Days so perhaps I'll see them again there. Thanks for the magic.

I head out on the trail which now passes through the Bull Run Watershed. Signs say “No Trespassing.” They tell me to stay on the trail and that the only people authorized to enter this area are PCT hikers. This makes me feel privileged and special. I get to walk in the Bull Run Watershed because I'm a PCT Hiker! I hike to Salvation springs situated between Preachers Peak and the Devils Pulpit. I'd love to know the story behind the naming of this place. I picture some kind of turn of the century revival tent meeting or something. I am sadly disappointed with the water source. The report said “good flow” which apparently in this case means a small trickle through the mud. At least it's cold and there are pools to fill from. There's about five or six people already camped here but I find a spot further out and back away from the springs that's perfect. It's the spot I'd have picked if no one was here. I set up my tent quickly and make my dinner, Hearty Texas Style Stew. Perhaps it's the fact that I've been eating breakfast buffets and pizza, but I'm underwhelmed. I find it unappealing but I eat it all anyway. Choking down the calories whether they taste good or not. I find I'm  doing that more and more and this Thru-hiker diet is getting really old. 

The sun has been behind the hill since before I arrived, now it begins to set and the darkness begins to wrap it's cloak around Salvation Spring and my tent. I finish my chores and climb into it's comforting space. My tent is my refuge from the outdoor life I've been living for over one hundred days. I try to zip out the outdoors and my zipper slides but no longer zips. It doesn't join the two sides of the zipper together. This happened with the other zipper slide and I fixed it by squeezing the zipper slide with a pair of pliers. That happened before Deb and Dave’s and Deb had a pair of pliers. I don't have a pair of pliers now. Hmmm. I try different combinations of pulling and holding to see if I could get it to work. After several tries it finally joined the two pieces and I'm safely zipped into my bug free zone.

The wind blows high in the tree tops. Almost nonstop. Lots of wind. Down here at the base of the trees it's calm. It's warm. I wrap my sleeping bag around my feet. I fall asleep as the moon rises and shines it's cool white-blue flow against my tent walls.

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