approx. 26 miles
Just as I started looking for a place to go the bathroom, 4 happy section hikers headed along the path above me. Great… Luckily my body was able to hold out. One of them commented to another on the magnificent sight of the rising sun. I tried to look through the trees, but couldn’t see anything.
I packed up, climbed back onto the trail and headed on my way. The woods opened up for a brief section that allowed for a nice view. I was reminded of a similar part of the trail in the desert with piles of rocks on one side and an open view on the other.
Low clouds hung in the air like fog, making the orange leaves on a small tree stand out. It looked like fall.
I continued on and at one point noticed a little animal by a rock on the side of the trail. It scurried underneath the rock when it saw me, but couldn’t keep from poking its head out. I talked to it and after a few moments, it decided to come all the way out. It was adorable! When it became nervous, it would run back under the rock, but again, stick its head out and then gather all of it courage to fully reveal himself. Our little interaction made me feel so happy!
As I climbed to the top of the next ridge, dark clouds covered the sky. Drops of rain began to fall a few minutes later. I decided to just kept going, rather than stop and put on my rain gear. Within minutes, thunder boomed over my head and bright lightening bolts shot down right in front of my face! The storm was directly over me! It was time to run! I moved as fast as I possible could with a thirty something pound pack on my back, allowing the adrenaline to overpower any fear. At last, I found myself back in the safety of the trees. I felt grateful. I took off my pack and dug out my rain clothes. Then, I headed on towards the Indian Springs campground. Only because I had read the directions multiple times beforehand was I able to find the trail. The entrance was obscured with low hanging branches. There was a nice spring on the side of the trail, but I was too cold and wet to stop and collect water. I had to keep moving.
When I got tired, I climbed up a bank and sat on a dusting of pine needles under a tree to partially shelter me from the rain. This was going to be a trying day. After a snack, I continued down the steep trail and finally reached the Eagle Creek trail. I felt extremely tired and down because of the rain. A previous thru-hiker had told me that this trail was the “best of the best”, but I didn’t find it so amazing. Maybe it was due to my mood, my sickness, the weather, and just plain exhaustion. I encountered two young guys heading the opposite way. One asked me if I had come all the way. I scrunched up my face and asked him what he meant. He asked if I had hiked all the way to the pond. “The pond?! I hiked from Mexico!”. He then scrunched up his face, unable to comprehend what I had just said. His friend nonchalantly said, “Yeah. She’s hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.” The other one had never heard of it.
I found a nice place to sit along a pool of water for my ice coffee and snack, which I hoped would boost my mood. Several other day hikers were around. As the trail got closer to the famous falls, it also got increasingly more crowded. A lot of people passed by without a greeting.
I waited for a group to head underneath the tunnel and after it was clear, went through it myself. I didn’t find it so earth-shattering. It was just a waterfall. I think expectations often bring disappointment. I remember walking behind a tiny misty waterfall on a trail in Switzerland and being much more excited about that!
After nearly five miles, I reached the upper Punchbowl falls. Maybe I wasn’t seeing them from the best viewpoint, but I wasn’t impressed by what I saw here, either. I continued on until I reached an intersecting path to the lower punchbowl falls. I wondered what I should do… I finally decided to take the path for at least a little ways. When some people came up, I asked how far away they were and if it was worth it. I was told that it was worth it and that it wasn’t too far. I continued down the steep path, knowing I was going to have to climb back up. Four teenagers were jumping into the water, ignoring all of the posted signs not to do so. I walked on and came to a shallow pool of water with a view of the falls.
Then, I started my way back to the trail. I walked on and on, feeling more drained with every step. At last, I made it out of the woods and on to a paved road. I still had to make my way to the trailhead. The guy that encouraged me to take the lower punchbowl path asked me if it was worth it as he lounged on a swing. “I guess so.” Two thru-hikers who I didn’t recognize were being picked up by their parents. I wasn’t offered a ride. Instead, I continued walking down the road, looking for the next side trail that would lead me into Cascade Locks. I eventually found it and followed it through the woods and back onto a road. It was once a scenic driving road that had now turned into a historical landmark with informative signs along the way.
I texted Connie and found out that she was in town. I was looking forward to having dinner with her and possibly sharing a room. At some point, I asked her where she was and told her I was only a mile away. Then, she informed me that she had already taken the bus to Portland! I felt so crushed. Her flight was scheduled for several days later and I thought she was going to at least spend one night in Cascade Locks. I was only a couple of hours away from seeing her. In my exhausted state, tears started to flow out of my eyes. She was one of the few people that I had really enjoyed being around, and now I wouldn’t get a chance to see her again.
I made it to a stone bridge beside a tunnel underneath the highway and took off my pack, drank some water, and dumped some of the excess out.
Then, I continued along.
Finally, I started seeing the road signs announcing that I had made it to Cascade Locks. I saw the Bridge of the Gods and I couldn’t hold back the tears.
I had just walked the entire length of California and Oregon, and was now at the border of Washington state. The magnitude hit me hard. I also felt so, so exhausted.
I moved on, past the fish and vegetable market, and the CharBurger, and towards the entrance of the Best Western. The lady at the desk was very nice. I asked her what time check-out was and she said noon, which brought me great relief. I was going to need all of that time. She recommended the pub down the street for dinner. I dropped my pack, took a shower, and headed down for some pizza and a glass of wine.
Later, I heard a loud voice boasting about having recently become a “trail legend”. It was Story Time. He had found an audience of locals and was taking full advantage. I headed back to my room in the dark, once again encountering the hitch-hiking “thru-hikers” whose parents had paid for their room, and got myself ready for bed.