I ended up taking a second day off in Bend, using the time to go for a canoe trip with someone I met at the hostel/B&B I stayed in the second and third nights in town. Normally the places I stay in at towns aren't worth mentioning but if you ever go to Bend, OR make sure you stay at the Mill Inn. It's a fancy B&B but they have a backpackers room with four bunks for $35 a piece. Sounds expensive for a hostel but the breakfast was the best I've had on trail; four difference gourmet quiches, bacon, eggs, potatoes, waffles to order, fruit salad and incredible pastries all home made in their kitchen and buffet style. I think I ate $35 worth of food so the bed was basically free! That last morning I ran into Cuddles at breakfast, a professional cellist doing concerts along the trail in between through hiking the trail for the second time. He was with his wife who ferries the cello around and does her own violin concerts as well. He wasn't doing a concert in Bend until the next week but his wife was nice enough to drive me to the edge of town where I could hitchhike back to the trail at Santiam Pass more easily. After half an hour of unsuccessful hitching a retired guy picked me up on his way to pick up computers that were getting fixed from an office supply store. He wasn't even going halfway to the trail but drove me the 40 miles out of his way anyway! We had a great conversation about the PCT, engineering and green energy and he showed me his solar setup on the way to the trail.
Back on the trail I could see Mount Jefferson and the Sisters mountains in the distance behind and the approach to Three Finger Jack in front - a jagged craggy mountain with several smaller peaks or fingers on it. By the end of the day I had crossed the side of Three Finger Jack and Mount Jefferson. The north side of Jefferson was a beautiful series of meadows with views of the glaciers on the north side of the mountain. The next day was an easy 30 mile hike to Timothy Lake which has a bunch of off the grid cabins and a tiny store. Sadly, no power meant no ice cream. The next day I hit some trail magic at a highway crossing, Kermit and his wife, the same hiker parents who I met earlier on the trail were set up with food and drinks. I stayed long enough to dry out my stuff after getting rained on the night before and made a short day up to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, the same lodge used for outdoor shots in The Shining. The lodge is famous for the breakfast buffet, so naturally every hiker in the area either does a short day or a long day to be able to catch the buffet in the morning. There were twelve of us there! The buffet was great but no Mill In buffet. Oh yeah, mount hood was pretty too. That morning I was the first to leave and got most of the way to Cascade Locks, the border with Washington! The next day I took an alternate along Eagle Creek which cut a mile off the PCT but takes hikers by a dozen waterfalls, including one you walk behind in a tunnel of rock! It was amazing. Just before the alternate started was a view of Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams and Mount Rainer, incredible! I ended the day in Cascade Locks with a burger and stayed at a trail angels house named Shrek. He's a big guy and has been a trail angel since 2003! He retired and moved to Cascade Locks specifically to be a trail angel, which is pretty amazing.
My legs were still pretty fatigued even after two days off in Bend so I decided to take one more rest day in Cascade Locks since there was a cheap place to stay and the weather was iffy. Shrek drove me and two other hikers to Hood River, a much larger town with a real grocery store so we could catch a movie and resupply. The next section was 148 miles to White Pass so it was nice to be able to get 6 days of food with some variety instead of the expensive tiny store at Cascade Locks. Also, the Columbia River gorge is incredible and really reminds me of Yosemite but with huge river running down it. It's surprising how unknown the area is and Shrek compared it to living inside a national park, which I agreed with.
The next morning I crossed the Columbia on "The Bridge of the Gods" and started the hilly section to White Pass. There were lots of huckleberries so progress was a little slow, but I made it 24 miles in before finding a tiny campsite part way up the fourth or fifth 1,000+ foot climb of the day. I wanted to cowboy camp (no tent) since the sky had been clearing up all day but decided to set my tent up just in case. Around midnight I got up to pee and noticed how dark it was outside. As soon as I was back in my sleeping bag a deluge came down and I was suddenly happy with my tent choice. The next few days were mostly in the trees and fairly hilly. On the morning of the forth day we ran into a large trash can filled with goodies from the Buddhist temple in Trout Lake, complete with a little shrine to the goddess of "travelers and all beings in hell". Seemed relevant especially since the day before I was stung about twelve times by some hornets that made their nest in the trail and the next day was spent almost entirely in the rain.
The second half of the section entered the Mount Adams Wilderness. The trail took us up the west side of the mountain with some incredible views as the clouds finally broke for the first time in several days. Like Jefferson the north side of Adams was covered in glaciers. The next day I hiked into the Goat Rocks Wilderness, an incredible series of ridges above treeline that reminded me of the Sierra Nevadas. The hiking included a knife edge ridge traverse and the highest point in on the PCT in Washington - 7600 feet. I camped midway through and enjoyed the sunset behind Mt. St. Helens. I finished the section at White Pass - 148 miles, 30,000 feet of climbing in 6 days with nothing but 3 oatmeal packets left in my bag at the end of it all. On my second day of that section I ran into some section hikers doing the same 148 miles but in 14 days, a normal pace for that terrain. It really sunk in how different through hiking is from backpacking. You have to go this fast or you can't do the whole thing. On one hand its great to be able to cover this kind of ground in such a short time, on the other hand it would be nice to be able to spend more time in parts like the Goat Rocks, but that's the choice we make.
It was an easy hitch to Packwood from White Pass so I could resupply at the grocery store there but since it was labor day weekend there was a huge flea market covering the entire town. The cheap motels were booked and most hikers sent packages to White Pass and skipped Packwood. It looked like I was SOL for a room but my Dad bought one for me so I was able to get a shower and get out of the weather. I also made use of the minifridge and bought some cubed stew meat and veggies to freeze and pack out for a hobo stew the next day. The 99 mile section was less exciting than Adams and the Goat Rocks but still had some great views of the Crystal Mountains and passed the edge of Mount Rainer national park. The weather was sunny until the last night of the section where a huge lightning storm dumped an inch of rain on me. No single wall tent can stand three or four hours of continuous heavy rain, let alone the puddle that formed under half my tent. I slept in, wet and looking forward to drying out here in Snoqualamie. It's still a bit ugly outside so today will be a later start. The next two sections to Stehekin are supposed to be some of the most scenic of Washington so I plan on slowing down a bit to enjoy it, not to mention the repeated 3,000 foot climbs.
Hard to believe there's only 258 miles left to the border! Also thank you Joan for the gift card!!