Day 1 Cascade Locks to CG2032 Road Campsite
I believe today was some new version of hiking torture. In order to do a loop that incorporated the PCT I had to make some sacrifices and spend at least half my time hiking gravel roads and ATV trails…all of which I had to do today and half of tomorrow.
I left my truck at the home of a trail angel who had offered a safe place to park it and who then dropped me off at the junction of Ash Lake and Blue Lake Road. I had camped at the top of Blue Lake Road the night before so I already knew how steep the first climb was.
Within a mile I had already taken a wrong turn as there were no signs for any roads. I pulled out my trusty DeLorme InReach and relocated myself before backtracking a 1/4 mile. The gravel road quickly became an ATV two track which at least felt somewhat like a trail. There was little to see but green trees, green bushes and green grass and it soon began to look very unused and I was hoping it wouldn’t peter out altogether.
Another unmarked junction at the top of a climb had me pulling out my GPS again, despite my maps. I was on the right trail and it soon looked well-used again. Views over the Columbia River Gorge were few and far between.
A brief stint on a well-maintained gravel road, used extensively by logging trucks, took us to another turn off that led us below the powerlines…and then the road ended. It looked like there had been a landslide of some kind so we picked our way carefully over the torn-up road, and then the path REALLY ended. I could see where we needed to be…1000ft straight down, though some very ugly brush, branches and countless trip hazards. One misstep here and you wouldn’t stop until the bottom…unless you got impaled on something.
Exhaustion quickly set in with the steep descent and constantly risk of falling but we eventually made it to the bottom. I was once again reminded of how much goat DNA my dogs must have in them! My legs felt like jelly and I’m sure the dogs’ did too…they were definitely panting hard. We finished the last of the water, took a short break and then headed up and then down the road to Rock Creek.
After crossing the bridge and climbing down another short steep slope I ditched my pack and pulled the dogs out of theirs before continuing to the creek. There were swing ropes hung from the bridge over a deep turquoise pool that looked incredibly inviting. The creek itself was gorgeous, cold and refreshing and we took a 1/2 hour break while I filtered water.
Soon we had to continue up the gravel road (such uninspiring hiking) but after the treacherous down-hill climb my legs just didn’t have any more energy and it took us an hour to go a mile with all the stopping. My map showed a permanent creek and I was hoping it WAS a permanent creek as one I had crossed earlier in the day was dry…and that doesn’t inspire confidence in the rest of the so-called permanent creeks (as opposed to seasonal creeks).
Thankfully the stream had good flow and we bypassed it in the search of a campsite. I didn’t need water but I knew I would for the morning. My first campsite of the year certainly left a lot to be desired as it was just off the side of the gravel road and the ground was impossible to get tent stakes into…I ended up having to hunt down and make use of rocks and trees, and I was glad the wind wasn’t too crazy as I doubted some of the smaller rocks would hold.
Dinner was a homemade freeze-dried meal concoction made with ramen and the remaining freeze-dried food stash from my camper (that which I hadn’t sold). While it was still warm I refilled all my water containers…it was looking like the next day would be a long dry stretch, especially if not all creeks were running.
Twenty minutes after I finished writing today’s entry there was a lot of snapping of twigs and other noise through the trees and behind my tent. Not knowing what it was, although the dogs were definitely interested, I made a fair amount of noise and calling out to let whatever it know that there were humans around. I grabbed my camera thinking it would just be a noisy dear but as I watched a large black bear emerged from where I had been refilling water less than 30 minutes before, and only 100 yards from camp. Thankfully he turned away from us and ambled up the road. I was definitely a little spooked and nervous and hurried to hang my food (which I actually hadn’t planned on hanging) all while continuing to make a lot of human noise.
Finally enough time passed that I felt more relaxed and didn’t feel worried that the bear would return to bother us. I actually slept fairly well. I generally don’t worry about bears…unless they are close to camp with food around or spooking them on the trail. Bison, from my perspective, have always been the one animal I have been most wary of.
Day 2 – CG2032 Campsite to Rock Creek
The dawn chorus woke me at 4:30am…and there was no way I was getting up THAT early. I pulled my hat over my eyes and went back to sleep for a couple more hours. The sleeping bag that had been way to warm at the beginning of the night wasn’t too bad by 3am (still a little warm, but not unbearable).
The day promised to start well despite the 3 liter water carry as we walked up on a doe and two very new fawns. Sadly mom took off into the brush and one fawn ran for a while before also turning off the road. The second fawn, however, took off down the road. I waited so that I didn’t spook it further if it came back, and come back it did…straight towards me. It stopped and the dogs and I watched her. She moved towards me again and stopped within about 15ft of us. She had a nasty shoulder gash but it didn’t seem to hinder her. Mom jumped onto the road and apparently spooked her again as she went around us, standing in the middle of the road. Cody unfortunately chose that moment to give into his instincts to chase. He didn’t go after her but it required a lot of yelling his name on my part…something I’ve never had to do and he was definitely disciplined quickly.
We continued up the road now the fawn was behind us and I hope the mom and baby were reunited.
That incident was the only decent thing about the day. We hiked up more depressing gravel roads, incessantly up and up and up, 2500ft up to be exact and it was miserable; my legs were feeling pretty burned-out from yesterday’s steep descent and the going was slow but we kept plodding along. With only two more miles expected to finally connect with the PCT the road ended…abruptly. No warning, nothing. There was no more road. I checked with the GPS…I was in the right place and even THAT showed a road. It wasn’t even as though it looked like there HAD been a road there at some time. I was pissed. I have always been the kind of person to double check Google’s directions and maps, and hiking trails elsewhere and everything told me there was supposed to be a road there. I had just climbed and would have to descend 2500ft and cover 10 miles extra miles all because of a stupid glitch.
I dumped some of the water I was carrying as I knew we’d be crossing Rock Creek again, and could fill up there, and so we made our way back down the mountain.
After 6 hours of hiking with nothing accomplished we arrived back at the pretty creek with the rope swing under the bridge. We took an hour long break to allow the dogs to sleep and get some rest…I definitely envied them. I soaked my feet in the water and filtered a couple of liters. The one benefit to having to come back was that I could get a photo…a benefit I could really have done without.
Our only option now, other than calling for a ride and quitting, was to hike another 5 miles up yet another gravel road to where the PCT intersects with Rock Creek. It was a long, hot walk but at least the road remained fairly flat and we made it in 2 1/2 hours with many stops for water.
I located a very pretty campsite next to the creek, just off the gravel road and a short way before the PCT. The tent was quickly up so it could dry then I cooked dinner, fed the dogs, hung the food bag and went to bed. We were all sore and limpy and should never have had to hike so much. I am looking forward to finally being able to set foot on the PCT tomorrow despite knowing it should have been 18 hours prior.
Day 3 – Rock Creek Camp to Cascade Locks
Today started off so promising. I had slept well and woke up at the late hour of 7:30am. It looked to be a warm and beautiful day. I packed camp as quickly as I could but still wasn’t on the move until 9am…I’m still not sure what takes so much time.
And finally I set foot on the PCT, and got off the gravel roads and on to single track. It was perfect. It was green, level and the footbed was perfect. My legs were still suffering from the steep downhill descent and the extra miles but I felt pretty good even loaded down with 4 liters of water.
The climb started moderately and I knew we had to climb about 2000 ft over 5 miles…not too bad…but I swear that climb went on forever and it felt a lot more than 2000ft. Massive slugs covered the trail and that was about all the wildlife I saw.
And while very not LNT this cute little gnome scene in a rotting tree stump gave me a smile and perked me up a little. I shouldn’t condone it but I enjoyed the surprise and imagination that went along with it.
And just when I thought there was no more uphill…there was another 400ft to go up, again and again and again. By the top I swear we were just a few more steps to heaven. Thankfully most of the morning we were hiking in the shade of massive pine trees but of course this meant few views and it was just one long uphill, green tunnel. Eventually we were rewarded with some impressive views of Mt Adams and Mt St Helens as well as the valley below.
Finally when I swore I couldn’t go another step upwards and was begging the trail to go down, it did. And that was almost worse. I moved slower but took a lot less breaks and my legs were screaming. I was miserable and could barely appreciate the views of Mt Hood that rose before me…but it was pretty spectacular, especially when thinking of it Middle Earth terms (it looks JUST like the Lonely Mountain from The Hobbit). At least there were views but that also meant we were in the sun a lot more and the dogs were getting hot. It didn’t help that the trail went from good dirt to rocks and talus.
It was about the 15 mile mark I decided I was done. Cody was sore, I was in agony and there were no campsites to be found. I just wasn’t enjoying it…and I don’t hike to torture myself, I do it because I enjoy it. I called the lady who had dropped me at the Blue Lake turn off (where I started hiking) and after a lot of back and forth I finally got a ride back to my truck, although with the amount of walking I had to do to meet her, and the time it took her to find me (even with provided GPS co-ordinates), I should have just finished the hike despite the pain and exhaustion.
I parked for the night not far from where I had camped before the hike and cleaned up with copious amounts of baby wipes (so easy and love them) and crawled into bed. I was ready for my bed but the night was rough and restless and sleep did not come very well partially, I think, due to being somewhat dehydrated. I left the organizing and unpacking for the morning.
I was extremely glad I had been picked up as the following day I could barely move for hurting, but I hobbled around and got packed up to hit the road and head for Canby, Oregon for the renaissance faire. After looking at the weather and the three days of predicted heavy non-stop rain, especially on Saturday, I sadly made the decision to fore-go the faire (the only one I could have made this year) because despite the fact that I won’t melt…my leather gear doesn’t particularly like water. So I headed out and started my drive to Idaho