I spend four days in Cascade Locks reuniting with old friends and making new ones at Pacific Crest Trail Days. Nearly everyone who I’ve hiked with showed up, I’m so glad I got to see them all before the end. After breakfast I cross the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River which serves as the border between Oregon and Washington. With 500 miles left, this is the final countdown. The forest changes instantly, it feels like I’m walking through a jungle. Ferns cover the ground in thick patches, lichen of many shades covers the trunks of the fir trees which tower above me. The lighting is dark as no sunlight can penetrate the thick canopy of the forest. Bridge of the Gods was the lowest point on the entire trail at 200 feet above sea level. From there, the only place to go was up. As I expected the grade of the trail instantly became significantly steeper as well as more rugged. I climb and climb and climb all afternoon before being rewarded with a panoramic view of Mt. St. Helens,!Mt. Rainier, and the closest, Mt. Adams. Finally going downhill, I find a little nook in the forest to lay down for a few minutes. The sunlight streaks the trees with golden light here and there is no sound other than me opening a pack of poptarts which are much better the first day out when they’re still fully intact. Three more miles makes for a twenty mile day where I camp with Oolong and two other hikers whose names haven’t stuck in my head yet. It’s not even 8:30 as I write this and it’s already completely dark outside. I’ll miss this trail dearly, but it’s time to get to Canada.It was another day of climbing, and honestly I’m beat. I didn’t expect Washington to be so hard, especially not right off the bat, but on my second day in the state I’m faced with two large climbs. From my campsite the trail ascends 1500 feet which seems like nothing compared to yesterday. At the top I take a rough trail up to the actual summit of the mountain I’m on to eat breakfast with a great view of both mount hood and mount Adams. There’s a brief period of flat and downhill trail through overgrown ferns to a steel bridge crossing the Panther River. I eat lunch here before tackling the 3000 foot climb that lies ahead. The steepness slows my mileage immensely but after a couple miles I get used to it and power up the hill. The ferns recede as I gain elevation but still at the top I’m rewarded with more trees and sweat pouring from every pore in my body. I head downhill two more miles before making camp at a spring where I meet two other hikers, proton and dreamscape. We’re all quickly in bed after such a long day and by 8:30 it’s pitch black anyways. The terrain for tomorrow looks much mellower than the past two days which I’m looking forward to almost as much as I am to closing my eyes and letting sleep take over my body.
The trail levels out today giving me a much needed break after the past two days. The ferns disappear at the higher altitude I’m at and are replaced by thriving bushes of both blue and huckleberries. I plan to have breakfast after five miles as usual but unlike every other day am greeted by trail angel “Funhog” with cold drinks, an orange, and a Hershey bar covered in caramel. The trail then leads me along a ridge line with great views of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams. Both of these massive volcanoes are close enough that I can make out the details in them. I imagine how impressive St. Helens was before it blew, it’s already quite a sight to behold. I continue on in the direction of Mt. Adams, picking berries as I enter the Indian Haven Wilderness. The forest breaks here into open meadows before beginning a long descent back down through the trees. It’s funny how much time I spent longing for trees earlier in this hike and now I go miles wondering when the sun will hit me. As I near Canada, my surroundings look exponentially different than that of the Mexican Border. For the first time on this hike I’m in pain. My feet hurt, my legs are sore, my butt burns like hell from chafe. Canada is right there though, I just have to put one foot in front of the other a few more times. I stop at 25 miles, five miles short of my goal but why rush now that I’m so close to the end. Tomorrow I’ll take an unplanned detour to Trout Lake to pick up some snacks and get a huckleberry milkshake recommended to me by two southbounders who are camped here along with myself and many other hikers. Each night laying down feels better and better, even though the terrain was flat today I’m still beat. Washington is no cakewalk.
I’m up late as its only another ten miles to Trout Lake. When I get to the road I find someone who has been somewhat of a myth to me on the trail, I’ve heard of him a lot but never actually met him. Its Coppertone, a trail angel who is traveling down the trail in his van making root beer floats for hikers. For breakfast I have a banana split with chocolate chip cookies in it. I get a ride to town which consists of a general store and a cafe. I hang out for a while before getting a ride out with three hikers I meet named Morning Glory, Digger, and Frost. We hike five miles before camping in a meadow surrounded by a burn area. We have a fire and eat hot dogs which Digger has packed out, it’s nice to meet new people now that it’s the end and I know mostly everyone around where I’m at. Once the sun falls we each head to our shelters to get ready for a full day of hiking through the Mount Adams Wilderness.
I get out of my tent to find the meadow empty, everyone has already hiked out. My shelter is soaked with condensation, a byproduct of sleeping in an open grassy area, so I stuff it in the outside pocket of my pack to dry later and get to hiking. I feel great after sleeping in and plan to only hike twenty miles. The trail continues to wind through the burn area with Mount Adams now right beside me. Even though the forest once burned the area is beautifully lush with a green understory and the occasional young trees growing back. Mount Adams is a beautiful mountain to gaze upon. It is almost completely covered in snow, the center of the volcano encased in a sparkling glacier. For miles I circle the base of it until the forest becomes thick again and I head on my way to Goat Rocks, an exposed ridgeline I will walk along for four miles tomorrow. I stop for lunch at an awesome spring gushing from the Lava Rock where I find Digger, Morning Glory, Frosty, and Oolong. It’s just past noon and I’ve already hiked 15 miles since the terrain has been so flat, so I decide I’ll do 12 more miles to camp with everyone else a little closer to Goat Rocks. The trail is forested, thick with huckleberries which slow me down immensely but eventually I make it to the campsite where there is hardly any flat ground and the mosquitos are a nuisance for the first time in a while. Today was beautiful and tomorrow will be even better, and then the next day I’ll arrive at White Pass where I have my next resupply box. Less than four hundred miles to go, Washington is flying by even though I’m taking it easy.
Mosquitos drive me out of camp early but it’s kind of a good thing as I have a day ahead of me. It’s 3000 feet of climbing up to Goat Rocks from where I camped and it’s beautiful from the start. Mount Adams finally makes a grand view unblocked by trees. The sky is blue in every direction but one where a dark cloud has created a sort of cyclone looking thing. The trail luckily heads in the opposite direction across vast meadows where I get awesome views of Adams, Rainier, and Saint Helens once again but they’re each so beautiful every time. The trail is so enjoyable and I’m so excited to get to the ridgeline that before know it I’m at Cyprus pass where I begin the final climb up to the Knifes Edge. The sun has risen above the clouds and seems to be drying them out, for the time being at least. The Goat Rocks are magnificent, Rainier is right in front of me amongst an ocean of other jagged peaks. A smooth white cloud cups the peak, which is what it would have looked like anyways as it is always covered in snow. I reach the Old Snowy Alternate before and take it up to the Knifes Edge where the wind is fierce but the views outstanding. Both sides of the trail drop down as sheer cliffs, for miles I can see the trail continuing on like this. walking along is a bit scary but mostly exhilarating, it’s been ages since the trail brought me anywhere like this. Washington has been an amazing end to an Amazon journey. For two of the four exposed miles I walk along with great views but then the clouds return and take over the sun. The wind picks up with considerable force which is troubling for me seeing as I’m walking along cliff edges, but I can do nothing but walk ahead. The herds of day hikers I had seen earlier are gone now, it is just me and the relentless wind as I walk through the clouds at 7000 feet. I walk and walk but the ridge stretches endlessly until unexpectedly I round the corner and begin to descend into more lush meadows and then back into the trees. I’ve already hiked 20 miles and it’s only 2, I hike on another 3 before the cloudy skies look too risky. By 3:30 I’m in my tent for the night, but I can’t complain. I’m dry and tomorrow I’ll be at White Pass, it was a beautiful day and I put in good miles. Another good nights sleep will do me well.