I took a zero yesterday at Ross and Sherrie’s house in Hood River. It was my first day off since Old Station, about 800 miles back. What a treat to have a day off in such a cool town and to meet family at the same time! Ross is mom’s cousin on the Hoag side. I got in on Monday afternoon (the 13th) after taking the Eagle Creek Trail into town. Eagle Creek is another one of those highly recommended alternates which only equestrians and acrophobes should avoid (great word-took it straight from the guidebook). True to recommendation, the trail was fantastic. The last eight miles ran along Eagle Creek, which tunnels, gouges, and falls its way (often precipitously), to the Columbia River. Hikers are frequently routed along sheer cliff sides where steel cables have been drilled into the wall next to the trail for holding onto. The climax of the hike was Tunnel Falls, a very tall waterfall with a tunnel blasted behind it so you actually walk behind the falls!
Ross picked me up at 6PM at the Cascade Locks post office. I arrived a little early and wolfed down an ice cream cone. A side note: It’s really hard to eat a big ice cream come with a beard and moustache. We drove about 30 minutes up I-84E to Ross and Sherrie’s place, me hoping I didn’t smell too terrible since the last shower I had at the Adventist camp. I had my “clean” shirt on at least. Hood River is a jazzy town that sits on the shores of the Columbia River just a hair west of the desert. It’s best known as a wind surfing mecca as the topography of the steep-walled canyons along the Columbia and proximity to warm desert air make for some stiff winds. Hood River is also a farming community where apples, pears, and cherries grow. Ross and Sherrie have a few well-taken care of acres with a single level house, big front and backyards, and a grove of cherry trees. Mt. Hood can be seen just up the road. They have two daughters, Carrie (14) and Candace (22). Carrie was kind enough to let me use her room and after a big dinner of London broil and a shower, that’s right where I went.
I don’t usually sleep well my first night in a bed so I was up at 5:30AM and began planning Washington. I didn’t finish until midnight. What makes Washington especially challenging are 1) Resupply points over the final 500 miles are few. On trail, there are a few gas station-type stores. Off trail, there are a couple of towns 10-15 miles away. 2) Weather. Washington got hit with heavy wind and rain last November, resulting in trail washouts and bad blowdowns. There’s the chance that if I’m gonna get a few days of crappy weather, it’s gonna be in Washington. I decided to split the state up into three stages. The first stage will be a 148 mile, 5 1/2 to 6-day carry to White pass using supplies bought in Hood River. The next, a quick 100-mile carry to Snoqualmie Pass using convenience store and hiker box supplies. Finally, I’ll do the last 261 miles miles to Canada in one 9 1/2-day haul using food mailed from Hood River to the Summit Inn at Snoqualmie Pass.
I had a lot of grocery shopping to do. I decided to go with good food this time and began looking for a store that sells commercially packaged freeze-dried food. While expensive, the freeze-dried stuff is tasty and a few weeks worth probably isn’t much more than I’d be spending on food in DC anyway. Plus, it’s the last state and I owe it to myself after eating random hiker box crap for the past week.
The local outfitter didn’t have a very good selection so Ross took me to REI in Portland, where they had it all (even sweet ‘n’ sour pork!). Afterwards, we hit up the Bridgeport Brewpub for beers. It was burgers for dinner and then I got right to the great unpackaging and repackaging of food for carrying and shipping. Also on the list was planning a route home from Canada. My friend Jesse Stanton from high school lives in Bellingham, WA and agreed to pick me up from Manning Park in Canada on September 3rd. From Jesse’s, I’m taking a train up to Vancouver to hopefully visit my friends Mandy and Toby for a few days. Finally, it’s a train back down to Seattle and a flight back to Maine for Sam and Shioka’s wedding.
This morning I crossed the Columbia River via the Bridge of the Gods and said goodbye to Oregon. I feel nervous excitement towards Washington, whose relative remoteness is truly the wilderness experience I’ve been looked forward to. I don’t expect to see many other northbound thru-hikers since with so few towns, there’s little chance to pass or catch up. I’m guessing most everyone is moving at a similar pace as well. Gonna head for my sleeping bag now. I’ll be under Mt. Adams in 2 1/2 days.