Oregon has a reputation on the trail as being flat (relative to the rest of the PCT). With terrain that allows you to put in big miles every day, you can fly in Oregon. And it’s true. You can. But no one ever mentions how amazingly beautiful Oregon is, or how nice Oregonians are. We have basically fallen in love with Oregon, even with the record rain fall this past month. It has been epically gorgeous and filled with amazing people.
We left Elk Lake Resort after a rainy night sleeping on their porch, and headed north. We wanted to put in a few days of hiking in the Sisters Wilderness before hitching out to Bend, Oregon for an unscheduled break. The Sisters Wilderness was gorgeous, with the Three Sisters (three volcanic peaks in a row) looming over us as we hiked. We had it all planned out. On our second day out from Elk Lake, we would push for a 35-mile day to Santiam Pass, where we would hitch to Bend. We were only 15 miles into the long day and had stopped for a short lunch when suddenly, our old friend Cuddles stumbled out of the woods to join us. We hadn’t seen him for more than 1000 miles!!! He told us he intended to hitch into Bend from McKenzie Pass, which was only 2 miles away (as opposed to 20). We were easily persuaded to go along with him…
Bend is mainly known for one thing among hikers: beer. Lots of beer. There are some 20 breweries in Bend. We managed to hit a few in the two days we were there but not nearly as many as we would have liked. Town days for hikers can be extremely stressful. There are so many errands to run: laundry, blog, resupply, email, bank, fix gear, clean gear, let gear dry, call family, call gear companies, organize mailings of other resupplies or new shoes, and a lot of other random things that need to be done while you have cell service and access to civilization. But all hikers really want to do is eat and relax. I can’t describe how exhausted we are all the time, mentally and physically. It’s hard to get everything done, and sometimes you don’t even feel like you’ve had a break at all. That said, we had a pretty great time in Bend that involved lots of beer, the most insane nachos I’ve ever had, and an amazing night of karaoke.
Leaving Bend, we passed the 2000 mile mark (which felt pretty anti-climatic) and continued our trek across Oregon, passing peak after peak… seeing them grow in the distance, standing next to them, then watching them recede into the horizon. Oregon really has a way of making you feel the distance you’re covering. We passed by the South Sister, Middle Sister, and North Sister, moved on past Broken Top, Mt. Washington, and Three Fingered Jack, then past the amazing Mt. Jefferson, and finally to Mt. Hood.
The section following Mt. Jefferson offered particularly mild terrain, and we decided to try for a 40-mile day – partly to make up for our unscheduled stop in Bend, but mostly just to see if we could. We were on the trail by 5am, had hiked 20 miles by lunch at 11:30am, and sure enough, had banged out 40 miles by 7:30pm. Had there been more daylight remaining, we might have tried for 50! Six months ago, I would have considered it insane to hike 40 miles in one day, but now it doesn’t seem all that difficult. It’s remarkable what your body can adapt to.
Following our big day, we were left with an easy 15-mile hike to Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood, where we stopped to pick up a resupply box and to gorge ourselves on their famous lunch buffet. It was pretty surreal to reach Mt. Hood. It holds a special place in Ashleigh’s heart, as she spent a lot of time there as a child, skiing in the winter. Hiking north from Mt. Hood, we also caught our first sight of the mountains in Washington that we’ll soon pass: Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Rainier, the latter holding a special place in my heart as the peak that loomed over my hometown of Olympia. It feels like we are home.
On our final push through Oregon, we took the highly popular Eagle Creek Trail as an alternate to the PCT. Almost all thru hikers take this trail, as it passes a series of amazing waterfalls. This included Ramona Falls, Punch Bowl Falls, and the incredible Tunnel Falls, which the trail actually passes behind. From there, it was a short hike until we caught our first glimpse of the Columbia River, which separates Oregon from Washington. We hiked along it until we arrived in Cascade Locks below the Bridge of the Gods, where Ashleigh’s father met us with sandwich fixings and beer. We drove back to Vancouver, Washington (where Ashleigh grew up) for some much-needed down time. When we return to the trail, there will be only one more state to walk through, only 505 miles to go.