Day 110

Day 110 – mile 2116 to 2144 – Gloomy Hood Camp to Cascade Locks, Bordertown:
Alright, Oregon, lesson learned.  This isn’t the Sierra anymore and it can rain at night.  Last night proved that unambiguously.  Needless to say, my attempt at cowboy camping didn’t last.  I waited out the drizzle as long as I could, huddling under my wholly inadequate umbrella, but in the end I had no choice and set up my tarp in shoddy fashion.  It proved to be worth the effort as it rained consistently all night long.  I even woke up in a shallow puddle at one point, but somehow my down sleeping bag remained dry enough to keep me comfortably warm.  Still, by morning, I was eager to get moving to Cascade Locks, on the banks of the Columbia River and, at the lowest elevation of the trail at 200ft, safely below the clouds.
But where I was now, I got to enjoy the second morning in a row hiking in a cloud.  Though it wasn’t raining any more, the condensation clinging to the trees and plants around me were all too happy to leave me drenched with the slightest provocation.  Through the car wash again.  I’m not going to lie, it was kind of miserable walking along the ridge, cold and wet, without any views to speak of, but that’s just what you get sometimes.  At least the trail was relatively flat so I could move quickly.
I disappeared into my mind for a while, but reemerged when I reach Indian Spring.  This is where one of the most highly recommended alternates to the PCT, Eagle Creek, splits off, and I wasn’t going to miss it.  Apparently, no one else in the entire state was going to miss it either, all deciding to join me on this beautiful Saturday.  However, not even the frustration of passing hundreds of rowdy day hikers could diminish the beauty that surrounded me.
Violently green and flowing water everywhere, the canyon had a magical feel to it.  Ferns covered all horizontal surfaces, and moss covered the rest.  The creek itself rushed below and over numerous waterfalls, plunging between sheer cliffs of volcanic basalt.  The most noteworthy feature was the accurately named and ridiculous Tunnel Falls.  As the trail clings to a cliff face, it passes behind a huge waterfall through a tunnel.  A creative bit of trail work.
Eventually, the trail brought me steeply down to the Columbia River Gorge, the border with Washington, and the end of Oregon.  The 2 mile walk along the river into Cascade Locks gave me plenty of time to contemplate what I’ve achieved by making it this far.  Neither finishing the desert nor California, felt like much of an accomplishment, but for some reason, finishing Oregon means a lot to me.  Perhaps it finally feels like I’ve been on the trail for a significant chunk of time.  My investment, physically, mentally, emotionally, combined with the 3.5 months on the trail has finally added up to the grand scale I’d envisioned while planning this trip.  Maybe for the first time I’m beginning to feel the size of this endeavor, and the weight it carries.  It’s overwhelming, and now I’m more determined than ever to see it through.  Washington is on fire right now, but rest assured that I’ll do my darndest to complete the continuous footpath from border to border.  I’ve come too far to not give it my best effort.
Cascade Locks seems to be a pretty cool town.  A beautiful setting paired with some cool history, and very hiker friendly.  I’m camped at the campground along the river shore in a grassy park surrounded by other travelers.  The ice cream comes in huge portions here and the first beer is on the house at the brewery.  My body is screaming for rest and this may be the last good stop to get it until the very end.  I have no qualms with spending one more day in Oregon and taking a zero here.  Time to chill hard.


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