*Update 5 of 5*
We hadn’t made it far from Timberline Lodge before the rain started again in earnest, and it didn’t stop for another 24 hours. To this point, the rain had been at most a small annoyance and hadn’t had any effect on our overall outlook, but we were beginning to get a bit discouraged. We had 48 miles to make in about a day and a half, and we didn’t have time to be slowed down trekking across muddy, slippery ground and dangerous rain-swollen river crossings. The miles were not coming easily for our waterlogged feet. “Oregon: Land of the Damp” had become “Oregon: Land of Everything-is-Soaking-Wet” and it’s fair to say that we were getting kind of cranky. We knew we were walking through some beautiful sections, but we couldn’t see enough through the gloomy storm clouds to even get a glimpse of them. The end of the night found us crowded into a large campsite with four other hikers, all of us just trying to get warm and stay as dry as possible.
We woke up early (before sunrise) in a thick blanket of fog, packed up our wet stuff, and headed out to tackle the final 29 miles to Cascade Locks. We plodded along all morning, packs heavy with wet gear, ready to just be done for the day. And then a few rays of sunshine peeked through. And we cheered it on. Literally. Maybe that gives a bit of insight into how desperate and drained we were feeling. Anyway, the sun started to make a bolder showing. Like magic, our moods lifted with every ray of sunshine we caught. And then we encountered actual magic … trail magic, that is. Headed to the Eagle Creek trailhead for an official PCT alternate route we’d been told we just had to take, we met Shutterbug, a thru-hiker from last year who lives in the Portland area and had just arrived to camp for the long weekend armed with chips, salsa, sodas, and cookies. He invited us to dig in and as we sat there chatting with him, swapping stories and laughing, the sun came out in full force. Between the unexpected trail magic and the brilliant sunshine, our crappy moods made a quick exit.
The Eagle Creek Alternate was even more amazing than we’d been told. Owing to the complete inability of anything in Oregon to dry due to the rain and extensive tree cover, the trail looked more like a jungle than a forest – green and lush with crazy mushrooms sprouting up all over the place. The camera was under the pack cover for most of the day on account of the rain and moisture so we didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, but we loved everything about it. One of the main attractions on the trail was Tunnel Falls, which is a gigantic, powerful waterfall that you can walk behind through a short tunnel. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word. We took a short lunch break near the falls, dangling our feet over the edge of the ridge, just soaking it all in. Then it was time to pack it in and haul the final miles into Cascade Locks.
So why the rush? Because we were lucky enough to receive another amazing family visit. :) My dad and stepmom flew to Portland and then made the 45-minute drive to Cascade Locks to spend four nights here with us. And it was wonderful. We took a cruise out on the Columbia River Gorge and enjoyed the beautiful scenery that this area has to offer. We spent time relaxing, eating too much, drinking more, and playing increasingly competitive games of Oh Hell, which is a cherished and heated card game my family has played for years and years. There were endless giggles, tons of hugs and kisses, and so many stories to tell. They did their best to fatten us back up and completely spoiled us the entire time they were here – my dad even rubbed my disgusting, trail-beaten feet. He is a brave man. It means the world to us that they were able to come up and visit, and we are marching forward into Washington (Cascade Locks was the end to the Oregon portion; as soon as we walk across the Bridge of the God, we’ll be in Washington) feeling renewed and so very loved. They brought along goodies and well wishes from so many people we’ve been missing. We are so fortunate to have had the support and love of all of our families through this whole trek. We are two VERY lucky hikers, and we are feeling the love. <3 On to Washington!