PCT 2019: Day 86, Trout Creek to Tentsite at Mile 2157.1

May you stay forever young

Dave and I didn’t keep with our normal departure routine this morning. Instead of leaving camp 30 minutes after Sunkist and Bluejay, we didn’t leave until nearly a full hour later.

There wasn’t any reason for this. We both just seemed to be a little less organized than normal. Or to put it another way, we weren’t organized at all.

DateWednesday, July 31, 2019
WeatherClear sky with temperatures rising to mid 80s
Trail ConditionsTwo steep climbs and a long rocky section
Today's Miles20.0
Trip Miles1232.5

This was a little surprising for today, however, because we wanted to complete as many miles as possible. That would put us closer to Cascade Locks, which is tomorrow’s destination.

When we reach the Columbia River and cross into Oregon, Dave will meet his family at Cascade Locks. From there, they will take me to my friends' house in Portland and drop me off, then they will head to their home north of the city. He and I will take a zero day before returning to the trail.

After we finally left camp at 7 a.m., we didn't walk far before stopping. We refilled our water bottles at Trout Creek before getting on our way.

Just past the creek, the trail began the first of today’s two big climbs. It went up 2,050 feet in the next 4.5 miles.

The mountain barely topped out at 3,000 feet above sea level. Large outcroppings of rock were found near the top of the climb. They were volcanic in origin, yet the mountain itself didn’t otherwise look much like a volcano. Compared to most volcanic mountains in the area, this one was heavily covered in trees and shrubs and no discernable cone or vent.

The trail followed a ridge for about two miles, then began a long descent. When we reached the bottom, Dave and I stopped for lunch at Rock Creek.

Just beyond the creek, the trail began a second, more difficult climb. The elevation gain and trail conditions weren’t what made the ascent more difficult. It was nearly identical to today's first climb, going up 1,900 feet in 4.6 miles.

What made the second one tougher was that by now the day was much warmer. In fact, unlike most days on the trail so far, this one was hot and sweaty.

At least we had large trees most of the way up, which provided shade to keep the climb a little less hot.

I fell behind Dave along the way, and stopped more than once at the top of the climb so I could enjoy views through some openings in the trees. Included in these views were our last good looks at Mt. Adams.

When I caught up to Dave I found him stuffing himself with blackberries. They were plentiful, large, and delicious.

At the top, the trail followed the crest of a ridge for about four miles. For a long stretch of that, it crossed an area that had been clearcut for timber.

The footpath was sometimes rocky, thanks to erosion caused by the lack of trees. The rocks weren’t big, but they were scattered enough to be annoying.

Admittedly, these rocks weren’t as troublesome as rocks were on many parts of the Appalachian Trail, especially in Pennsylvania and Maine. Here, they were merely a minor annoyance.

Looking south toward Oregon, Dave and I began to get an occasional look at the Columbia River Gorge.

The time was passing 6 p.m., but we kept going because we still wanted to shorten the miles for tomorrow.

When the trail began to descend again, more of Oregon could be seen ahead. The most eye-catching of these sights was Mt. Hood, with its sharp peak piercing the hazy sky.

That mountain was now 27 miles away, but a much closer one also caught my attention. Table Mountain was on the Washington side of the Columbia River and was only a mile ahead of me. To get a better idea of how it got its name, you’d have to stand at the river and look north. From there you’d see a sheer cliff and what appeared to be a flat top.

A remarkable geologic event took place here sometime between 1060 and 1760. The entire south side of the mountain sheared off and tumbled into the river. This event is known today as the Bonneville Slide.

Native Americans say their ancestors were able to walk across the river after that because it became dammed by the rock slide from the mountain. Though the river eventually carved a new course, the temporary bridge gave rise to a legend known as the Bridge of the Gods.

The trail's descent continued by going around a knob and then away from Table Mountain. Before long, a much better view of the Columbia River could be seen.

I realized here I was falling behind Dave, so I tried to pick up my pace and didn’t stop long to look at the river.

A short distance before I caught up to him, I passed some rotted timbers and steel cables that were scattered across the trail. I believe these were the remnants of a donkey engine that had been operated by lumbermen working here during the first quarter of the 20th century.

A donkey engine was a large steam engine used to drag felled logs on a wooden sled. The sled was pulled by steel cables from a winch run by the engine. This machinery played a significant role in making the Pacific Northwest a booming lumber supplier.

I found Dave at 7 p.m. where he had stopped at a campsite. This wasn't the one where we had intended to stop for the night. Bluejay and Sunkist were probably there by now.

Dave was talking to two hikers, HOB (as in Hike or Bike) and Chickadee. They were retired school teachers, and have hiked and biked extensively across the U.S. and Europe.

We were having such an enjoyable conversation with them we decided to stay. We didn’t even mind that the tent spaces were slanted at a slightly uncomfortable slope.

As we ate dinner, HOB told us he and Chickadee thru-hiked the PCT in 1976, shortly after they graduated from college. Then he showed us a photo of the two of them on the trail.

This made a deep impression with me, reminding me of photos of my wife and me and some of our adventures early in our marriage.

Later, after I was in my tent and preparing for bed, I thought more about the photo, as well as Chickadee and HOB. I admired them for their adventurous spirit, which obviously stayed with them all these years later. This older couple had good health and energy, and I could tell they still had a deeply caring and loving relationship after being together for more than 40 years.

How wonderful would it be to be like them when Kim and I are their age, I wondered.

Then suddenly I was struck by a realization. If that photo was taken soon after HOB and Chickadee graduated from college in 1976, that meant they were only about two years older than my wife and me. We graduated in 1978.

I had aspired for us to be like them, yet failed at first to recognize we already were.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

From “Forever Young” by Bob Dylan


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