Day 124: Cascade Locks (2147) to Table Mountain (2160)
Day 125: 2160 to Panther Creek (2183)
Day 126: 2183 to Blue Lake (2206)
Day 127: 2206 to Trout Lake (2229)
Day 128: 2229 to Killen Creek (2245)
Day 129: 2245 to Goat Rocks – Old Snowy Mountain (2277)
Day 130: 2277 to ???
Highlights: Triumphantly crossing the Columbia River into Washington; Mt Adams; Goat Rocks; Mushrooms the size of dinner plates.
Lowlights: Rainy weather; Weird location psychologically, where I am almost done but the end still feels far away.
Cascade Locks to Trout Lake
I started the morning of Day 124 in a little cabin my aunt Megan had rented in the RV park in town. Joined by my brother Torsten and his girlfriend Sofie, we went for breakfast at a cafe just underneath Bridge of the Gods.
As we were finishing, Jordan, who you’ll remember from various previous exploits throughout my journey, walked through the door. He had just finished the Sierra, flown to Portland, and been deposited at Lolo Pass (just 15-20 miles south from Cascade Locks), and is now finishing his thru-hike in Washington. He had gotten up early and hiked into town, so rewarded himself with an IPA and a Mountain Dew while the rest of us were finishing up our omelets and coffee. He was planning to spend most of the day in town while I wanted to head out, so we split ways again. He’s actually now passed me since I stopped in Trout Lake and he didn’t, so I probably won’t see him again until he backtracks south 30 miles from the border to the nearest road in Washington at the end (the easier thing to do is to continue north 8 miles to the first road in Canada, but he can’t find his passport).
After a quick bit of grocery shopping, which was very limited because Megan and a couple of my friends at the brewery the night before left me with a bunch of stuff, the four of us headed across Bridge of the Gods into Washington. This was my second state line crossing, and definitely much better than California-Oregon, which is just a random spot on the trail marked with a sign. The annoying thing is that the bridge doesn’t have a sidewalk or a shoulder, so cars have to swerve around you. They aren’t going very fast so doesn’t feel unsafe, but it does make it impossible to dilly-dally and properly soak in the moment of crossing the largest Pacific-flowing river in the Americas.
Torsten and Sofie were very much dressed in street clothes, and so only made it across the bridge before turning back. Megan hiked with me for two or three miles before she turned back to go spend a couple of days with other friends in Oregon.
And cue the pouring rain: Welcome to Washington!
I had pretty solid rain for the first two days of Washington, and damp, drizzly weather on the third. This was pretty in its own right, but eventually all of my down stuff (jacket and sleeping bag) got wet, and it was difficult to find the motivation to leave the tent each morning when I could hear the rain drumming incessantly on my rain fly. As a result, my mileage was in the low 20s at first, a big change from the low 30s I was used to in Oregon.
The sun came back out on Day 127, revealing an epic view of the approaching Mt Adams (misidentified in a recent Facebook post as Mt Rainier – sorry about that), and giving me a chance to dry my stuff out in the sun. At the time of writing this, another storm is on the horizon, but these few days’ respite have given me a chance to keep everything dry and think about how I can store things better to keep more of my gear dry.
I made it to a forest service road with access to the town of Trout Lake around 5:30 pm, and got a hitch in the bed of pick-up truck driven by these guys who had been out foraging for mushrooms. Apparently that’s a big thing around here, because there are mushrooms of many varieties and sizes everywhere here. Obviously I know the danger of eating the wrong kind of mushroom, so I have not indulged, but these guys had several pallets and buckets full of apparently the right kinds of mushrooms in their bed, ostensibly bringing them down to some sort of farmer’s market to sell.
I got to Trout Lake and hung out for the evening in the one-stop restaurant/coffee shop/gas station/repair shop thing, with all the staff seemingly able to switch between being a waiter and a mechanic at a moment’s notice. The other building in town is the general store, which was surprisingly well-stocked, including some locally-made cheese which I snagged for the next leg of the journey. I camped that night on the lawn of the general store and, after a lovely breakfast at the cafe and a shower, and celebrating the 75th birthday of Doris (from the general store), I got a ride back out to the trail around noon or 1.
Trout Lake to White Pass
There were several of us in the truck out of Trout Lake, and we all started hiking around the same time. That was nice because then there were people around me for most of that day, which helps pass the time a bit. I camped with a group just on the north side of Mt Adams, which was pretty rad.
Day 129 was my biggest day in Washington, and probably the first day since central Oregon where all the cylinders fired and I just crushed it the whole day. I made it up into the Goat Rocks area, which is so epic it probably deserves a post all on its own.
Goat Rocks is apparently an extinct volcano which has eroded into several smaller jagged peaks and ridges, and is named for the mountain goats which roam the area (I didn’t see any – they may have been out of season). As a result of this process, the scenery is much more jagged and dramatic than the relatively low elevation (<8,000 feet) would suggest. On a day with good weather, as I had finishing the region on Day 130, there are stunning views of the formation itself, as well as out to Mts Adams, Rainier, and St Helens (of 1980 eruption fame). With the addition of large volcanoes in the background and vast evergreen forests down below, it all kind of reminded me of the most dramatic sections of the Scottish Highlands (e.g. the Black Cuillin in Skye), with huge grassy slopes topped with imposing dark cliffs.
On Day 130, I climbed the third largest peak of the formation, Old Snowy Mountain. The PCT doesn’t actually go up it, but an alternate loop goes near the top, and from there it was only a 10 minute scramble to the very top. I certainly lost a lot of time in doing so, but I’m here because I love mountains and epic views, and damn it if I’m going to let a mileage goal keep me from bagging a peak that’s so close to me.
After reaching the top, I scrambled back down to the PCT, which itself followed a pretty impressive knife-edge ridge for a couple miles. This whole area felt much more remote and desolate than anything else since the High Sierra, and makes me excited for what lies ahead in the North Cascades at the northern end of Washington.
The rest of the day took me down to White Pass, a major pass crossed by a US highway and populated by a ski resort. That’s where I sit now, hoping to get a couple more miles in tonight. But by the time this is up and posted, I may just decide to camp here for the night. We shall see!