August 23, 2022
Bus from Portland to Cascade Locks to Rock Creek campsite at mile 2167.2
The morning is chaotic because we realize it’s a 20-minute Uber to the transit center where we have to catch our bus back to Cascade Locks. I get up and quickly make coffee, eat a bagel, and finish the last bit of packing. Then Jumbo orders our Uber and we get ready to go downstairs, but there’s a debacle with the lock box and trying to get the key inside it that takes way too long and ends up with us just leaving the key inside the apartment. Luckily our Uber driver waits for us.
When we get to the transit station, we have to run to catch the bus. We hurriedly figure out how to buy tickets and then finally, we are on our way back to the trail. There’s a guy a few seats back from us who asks if we’re doing the trail. He looks very hiker, with a Melanzana hoodie and a tiny ULA pack. Turns out, his name is Goose and he hiked the PCT last year. We talk pretty much the entire way to Cascade Locks about thru-hiking and the trail.
When we arrive back in town, I set about eating one of my doughnuts left over from Voodoo while Jumbo throws away some trash and Tribute stands there looking very ready to hike. Then, out of nowhere, Feather Blue shows up! It’s so good to see her after all this time. She tells us about the coast, which sounds simultaneously terrible and like a big party, pretty much the vibe we’ve been getting from everyone who switched to the OCT. She’s getting back on today, too, so I’m hoping we’ll get to hike with her for a while!
When we’re all packed, sugared up, bathroomed, and ready to go, we walk west towards the bridge. There’s a lot of excitement in this moment. Besides the terminus monuments, there’s perhaps no PCT landmark more infamous and symbolic than the Bridge of the Gods. You see photos of hikers at this spot all over Instagram during hiking season, all over blogs and videos. Being here means we have walked really, really far, and that only one state remains between us and the end of this journey we’ve been on for months.
So when I step on the metal grate of the bridge and begin my walk over the mighty Columbia River, I am very emotional. The metal vibrates with a “plunk plunk plunk” sound as I make my way across. I look left at the water and forward at Jumbo and Tribute. I can’t square the idea that I’m actually here with the images I’ve seen of this bridge for years. I can’t fathom these two people I met on day one, who I’ve been hiking with since the desert, being with me still on the cusp of Washington. It still seems like we’re in the desert. It still seems like it should be May, in Wrightwood, in Tehachapi. How can we have possibly made it so far north? How are there so few weeks left of this magical journey?
I savor it. I take it all in while I walk across the bridge. Time, like the Columbia, like a thru-hike, only moves in one direction. You can’t go back. You can’t make it slow down. You can’t change the past or delay the future. How is this a basic fact that I still impulsively want to fight? The only tonic for the visible passing of time is to be here. I take a deep breath and really be here. I look at the river through the metal grates. I look at the blue sky, look back and say thank you to Oregon. Then, when we hit the asphalt again and turn around to see the infamous blue “Bridge of the Gods” sign, we have a photo shoot. It’s tricky with the traffic, but if you time it right, you can get a good shot.
Across the road, the trail picks up again and heads upwards into the woods. First, though, it walks flat through an extensive patch of blackberry bushes. These are seriously amazing blackberries, thick and juicy and sweet. Even Jumbo stops to pick a good handful. I fall behind because I cannot stop diving into the bushes to get the juiciest looking berry. My hands are stained purple by the time I actually start hiking again. Washington is really rolling out the welcome wagon.
In terms of views, temperature, humidity, terrain, and comfort, today is not my favorite. There are definite AT vibes. It’s hot and sticky, there’s a lot of uphill, and it’s in thick forests so overgrown that the only clear ground space is the trail. This makes it very complicated when, all of a sudden, I realize I need a cathole urgently. I look around, but everything is brambly and full of ferns and moss and poison oak and God knows what else. There’s no flat ground, and there’s certainly no flat ground with accessible dirt. But I have to go. I don’t have a choice.
Tribute is behind me. While I waffle back and forth about what to do, I tell him my predicament.
“I really have to go now. Oh god, this is going to suck.”
He laughs. “Welcome to Washington!”
I’ll spare you the gory details, but this task involves some very annoying bushwhacking, nearly falling through several rotting logs and slipping on mossy rocks, and a large volume of poison oak. Everywhere. On everything. The only thing I can do is to clear what could only very generously be called a semi-ditch and hope I won’t get a rash.
After that joyous experience, I finish the climb to the water while listening to a new audiobook, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s been on my list forever. I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s a quick, short, enjoyable book, and while parts of it aren’t exactly lighthearted, the protagonist is so funny that I actually laugh out loud multiple times throughout the day.
I stop at a water source by a tent site and slide down the very steep hill to collect a couple of liters. Then it’s another small bit of uphill before we can finally start going down. I find Jumbo and Tribute parked at a very nice campsite taking what looks to be a shoes-off break—a serious break! So I lay down my new polycryo groundsheet from Trail Days and get comfy and make a cup of tea.
It’s pretty late by the time we make it down the hill to Rock Creek. There are only a few scattered camp sites available. We pick one next to a guy in a Duplex. It’s a little cramped for me up here by the tent, though, so I find a little spot right on the shore of the creek. Jumbo comes down to eat a quick dinner with me, then I settle in for the night.
As I’m brushing my teeth, I’m horrified when several daddy long legs scurry over my quilt. I know they’re harmless and I’m being ridiculous, but I cannot stomach these creepy little spindly things. I think it has to do with the house in the woods my family and I lived in when I was a little kid. In my kid brain, there were daddy long legs all over the driveway that connected our house to my grandma’s, and when I walked over there, they swarmed. Childhood bug trauma goes deep, you know? Even if it was imagined or exaggerated.
I know I won’t sleep if I stay here. So, after several high-pitched and perhaps unnecessary exclamations, I throw everything willy-nilly into my pack and stomp over to a shitty tent spot I saw earlier. It’s literally right next to the trail and dominated by a large rock, but I don’t care. I set up my tent hastily and dive inside. Ha. It might be a terrible pitch, and it might come down in the middle of the night, but the creepy crawlies can’t get me in here.