PCT 2019: Day 91, Muddy Fork to Timberline Lodge

Get on through it, roll with it, baby

I like to think of myself as even-tempered. I’m not prone to peaks and valleys of emotion. I don't whine and complain, and I dislike people who do.

Although I have had a few moments before yesterday when I doubted myself on the trail, something physical prompted those feelings. The day I quit my AT thru-hike, then un-quit 20 minutes later, is one example. I fell three times that day as I struggled with a sprained ankle on a difficult, rocky section of trail.

There haven’t been many of these circumstances, though, and I quickly got through them all. That’s what made yesterday unusual. I spent much of the day in self-pity and dejection, without any physical complaints.

DateMonday, August 5, 2019
WeatherWarm and sunny with a high temperature around 80
Trail ConditionsSometimes sandy footpath with two big climbs and a challenging stream crossing
Today's Miles12.0
Trip Miles1292.2

Thankfully, that’s over now. I rebounded back to my regular self. Or at least that seemed to be the case as I prepared to leave camp.

I was a little wary after taking a look at the trail profile. From our campsite at Muddy Fork to Timberline Lodge, the profile showed this wasn’t going to be an easy day. Though only 12 miles of hiking, the trail would climb 4,300 feet up the slope of Mt. Hood.

Dane and Austin were ending their short section hike at Timberline Lodge. Dave was going home for a few days to take care of some family matters.

My plans, on the other hand, were unsettled. I had a vague idea that I might take a zero day to allow Sunkist and Bluejay to catch up. This would also help Dave avoid falling too far behind while he was off the trail. I wasn’t sure where I would stay tonight, however.

The trail from our campsite was easy and flat for a short distance, then gradually climbed to Sandy River.

The day warmed quickly. I struggled with my energy and sweated a lot, but I think Dave, Dane, and Austin were feeling the weather too. We didn’t move fast at first.

True to its name, there was a lot of sand on Sandy River's wide banks, but there were also many boulders. We spent several minutes walking up and down the river, looking for a suitable place to cross.

With so many boulders around, we kept thinking there was bound to be a place to rock hop across the stream, so we continued to look. Many spots appeared at first as if they might work, but the rocks were either unstable or weren’t placed ideally for hopping across.

Eventually, we found a place where someone had laid a couple of branches to bridge between some rocks. They had also tied a rope across the stream, but this was not needed.

By the time we got across and resumed hiking, I was feeling better for the climb ahead, but the temperature was still rising. The trail returned to the cover of trees, so at least we had some shade.

I’m glad I was able to power through the climb because, as expected, it was steep.

I began to think while I walked about how I was going to handle the next couple of days. At about noon, I stopped when I came to an overlook of a broad valley carved long ago by a glacier from Mt. Hood. I needed time to look at my options in the trail guide.

I considered a camping spot near Timberline Lodge, which included the rare benefit of having a strong cell signal. The downside of camping here was it was an exposed area. Being a warm day as it was, that might not be pleasant, especially if I was going to be here two days.

I also rejected this option because there were no showers available to hikers without checking into a room at the lodge, and that would be pricey.

There were a few cheaper options in the town of Government Camp and I discovered a shuttle bus was available to get there. I decided to call Huckleberry Inn and reserve a room for two nights. Chances are, I thought, I’d find Growler or another hiker who would be willing to split the cost with me, so I reserved a room with two beds.

At any rate, this would be more comfortable than camping on an exposed part of the mountain. And as a bonus, the Huckleberry Inn had laundry facilities.

The extended stop put me well behind Dave and his friends.

By the time I reached Zigzag River, I was beginning to see many day hikers. This was a tributary of Sandy River. Its source was up the mountain at Zigzag Glacier.

In 1922, locals feared Mt. Hood was about to erupt when they saw dark debris flow from a crevasse on the glacier and then into another crevasse. Geologists later determined this wasn’t a prelude to an eruption, but a jo¨kulhlaup, which was caused by geothermal heating under the glacier.

After crossing the river, which was really just a trickling stream, I had 3.3 more miles to walk to reach the lodge. Because of the climb and trail conditions, I needed nearly two hours to get there.

I wanted to make faster time because I wanted to catch Dave before he left for home, but the trail was not helping. It was so sandy for much of the way I felt like I was walking up a sand dune.

I knew I was near the lodge when I saw a ski chairlift. This one wasn’t running, but skiing takes place all year long on Mt. Hood because some of the glaciers are skiable.

Finally, the views of the mountain were good. For most of the day it wasn't possible to see the peak, despite being so close to it.

When I arrived at the lodge at 2:15 p.m., I was unsure where to go to find the resupply box Kim had sent me. That problem was easily solved, however, when I saw a hiker sitting outside in the shade of the lodge with his resupply box. He told me the guest services office was located in a different building, across the parking lot from the lodge.

I had read the office closed at 3 p.m., so I wasn’t able to spend much time looking around the lodge. And by now, I figured Dave had already left, so I didn’t try to look for him. I hoped to see more of the place when I returned here the day after tomorrow to resume hiking.

Compared to the stately lodge, the building that housed guest services, along with a couple of restaurants, a gift shop, and ski rentals, was an appalling architectural monstrosity. When I found the guest services window, I had to pay $10 to retrieve my box, then I took it to a nearby area used by hikers.

At last, I could sit and relax a little. I was exhausted.

Once I had cooled down and rested a few minutes, I decided I was thirsty, so I went to a bar upstairs to buy a beer. As I set down my pack and trekking poles at a table, I noticed Growler was sitting at the bar, so I joined him there.

I told him about the room I reserved and offered to share it with him. At first, he was a little unsure of what he wanted to do, but soon he agreed with me that it was too hot to camp near the lodge.

Although Government Camp was 6.2 miles away, the shuttle bus ran a regular schedule, so getting there from the lodge was easy. We caught the 4:45 bus to town, then walked a short distance to Huckleberry Inn.

After getting cleaned up, we walked down the street to Ratskeller Pizzeria for dinner.

Later in the evening, I received a text message from Sunkist. She was camping tonight with Bluejay a few miles away from the lodge, but still within range of cell service. She said they planned to get to the lodge in the morning in time for the legendary all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. After that, they were thinking of staying in Government Camp, so I told her about Huckleberry Inn.

My energy lagged a little today, but my spirit didn’t. I was glad to get that back.

At least part of the gang will be back together tomorrow, and Dave promised he will catch up to us in a few days. It will be good to be with my SOBO tramily again.

When life is too much, roll with it, baby
Don't stop and lose your touch, oh no, baby
Hard times knocking on your door
I'll tell them you ain't there no more
Get on through it, roll with it, baby

From "Roll With It" by Steve Winwood, Will Jennings, Edward Jr. Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Brian Holland

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