We got our lazy asses out of the tent by 7 and packed up. As Nate was making breakfast (which we sadly couldn’t eat but Sensei and T-Bone could) we decided to eat breakfast by the picnic table. Nate offered us coffee and said that he could just make us some hash browns as we were vegan – how awesome is that??
We finally left by 8:40 but we had 28 miles ahead of us, most of it pretty flat looking but with some hills in there for extra spice. I put on my headphones and just cruised along for the first three hours – over rocks, past lakes and through forests. After 9 miles I reached a spring where we had decided to take the first break of the day as there was 10 miles until the next water. I was the third to arrive but when T-Bone came we could see he was still having trouble with his feet. His situation makes me deeply sad as he is so close to the end and yet cannot truly enjoy this to the fullest.
We then pushed on, passing many dayhikers but also southbounders on our way. The forest floor was dry and sandy but the trees were still lush green, creating a sort of contrast. We also passed a bunch of dirt roads, no doubt headed for one or another lake nearby. There was a longer uphill where I passed Ironman, who we had met last night. I was feeling strong and full of energy and moved pretty fast, so the 10 miles pretty much flew by. Soon enough I could hear the small river bubbling and saw Kristians already settled down for lunch. I had passed Sensei on the way and T-Bone was still behind.
Everyone soon arrived and so did Ironman and a sobo. We spent an hour chatting and eating but mainy interrogating Ironman about his career in the police. We also filled in our bottles for the upcoming dry stretch. The section started with an uphill and here my left hip started to hurt – a numb pain expressed as every time I touched the ground. But I could survive it, I just took it a bit easier as I was getting tired anyway.
The day had gotten pretty hot by now and being surrounded by the forest meant that there was no wind to cool us off. Luckily the trail, for the most part, was either flat or downhill and meandered through lush green forests. Our aim was to get to Horse Camp by a small lake as we had heard that there was trail magic there – that was 9 miles out. We passed a lot more dirt roads and trail junctions but the podcasts helped to make the time go faster while learning something new at the same time.
Soon enough I hit a junction where there was a sign for us: trail magic at campsite #7. I headed off the trail and soon saw Kristians eating sandwiches by a picnic table. Connie the trail angel and her huge dog Dozer welcomed me and offered food so I made myself sandwiches and sat down. We talked about her two beautiful horses and her dog and about how she even got into being a trail angel.
Soon enough the other two also arrived and we all enjoyed our food and the cold sodas while chatting by the table. The next two campgrounds were vacant so we decided to pitch our tents there. We had a sort of shower by the spigot all together and then we went to sleep – it had been a long day.
When I got up at 7 then Sensei was already packed and leaving – he was apparently up by 3:30 already. But the rest of us had breakfast and hiked out at about 8:30. We planned to hike a meager 24 miles with 1300m of ascent. The first water source was at 9 miles so we planned to take a small break there. By the evening we wanted to reach the famous Timberline Lodge.
The trail started out as flat but then gradually went uphill. We crossed many more dirt roads and met many more dayhikers and southbounders. I soon got to the Timothy Lake and as the trail followed its shoreline for a while I enjoyed the views. As I got higher up I was rewarded by the first proper views of Mt Hood and the green valleys beneath me. The 9 miles went by relatively easily – thanks to the podcasts – and soon enough I saw Kristians taking a break. Sensei had apparently already taken off. We waited for T-Bone, had a snack all together and then headed off again. The next water was after 12 miles.
It was now really hot and I was sweating as the trail started to have more uphills. I passed many more hikers and even runners. Another thing I started to notice was all the berries – red, blue, orange. I was tempted to try them but not even the blueberries looked like the usual blueberries so I didn’t dare. By now my hip was hurting a bit again but I distracted myself by listening to the podcasts.
I soon went a bit more downhill and reached a parking lot at Lolo Pass. I took a 5 minute breather before crossing the big highway and starting the long steep uphill section of the day. I had 2,5 miles until the spring. The trail followed a hillside, climbing ever higher. Thd forest was quite dense so I didn’t have very many views but somehow this part went fast and I was surprised to see Kristians sitting close to the stream – relaxed and resting. I had again missed Sensei as he had left just before I arrived.
Soon Mosquito Bait arrived, who we had met at Lake Olallie and who I had passed earlier. And then T-Bone, who was still in pain from all the blisters. We ate and drank a lot whereas T-Bone said he wasn’t hungry. When Kristians headed out T-Bone and I decided to hike the last 2.6 miles together: it’s supposedly very steep and there’s lots of loose sand.
The first mile is indeed pretty steep and hard but soon we reached a ridgeline from where we could see the lodge on a cliff across the valley – that’s where we were headed. As we moved on the trail wasn’t as steep anymore but it got sandy. But it didn’t matter much, we were going slowly anyway as we were tired and as we stopped many times to take photis of the incredible Mt Hood, standing right next to us.
These last miles went fast and soon we took the short sidetrail down to the lodge. We met up with others and decided to go get some pizzas and sodas from the Blue Ox bar downstairs. It wasn’t cheap for sure but I think it was worth it. I also picked up my resupply box (the one that had been in Limbo since Mammoth!) from the nextdoor building. We enjoyed the wifi, each other’s good company and good food before heading up back to the trailhead to camp for the night…
After a noisy night (the snow machines & other vehicles were working throughout the night) we got up at 7, packed quickly and then got down to the lodge. I dropped my extra food off at the hiker box (we only had 2 days until Cascade Locks but my resupply box was for 5 days) and then headed into the dining hall to join the others.
The breakfast buffet at Timberline Lodge is somewhat famous amongst PCT hikers and the previous day we had been told that they have a bunch of vegan options. The buffet cost 17 bucks and we expected a lot but it turned out that all we could eat was berries, oatmeal, cereal, coffee and potatoes. Even the smoothie had yoghurt in it! But at least we could eat as much as we wanted. To our surprise the drinks were also accounted for separately! So all in all a bit disappointing but what can you do.
We headed out again at around 10 and at first the trail was going slightly downhill, following the hillside. We could see a lot of forest fire smoke to the south of us and the looming peak of Mt Hood above us. We passed a lot of dayhikers as we made our way onto a ridge with great views of the valleys and cliffs below the peak – a powerful waterfall filled the area with noise. The first steep downhill then started, leading us through a green and silent forest down to a stream crossing. A steep uphill took us finally to a trail junction from where we took a short sidetrip to the Ramona Falls. We had our lunch there, enjoying the cascading water hitting the huge black basalt columns below the waterfall.
We now had 11 miles left to go – we planned to camp by Salvation Spring. After the lunch the trail went downhill for a long way, ending up at sn interesting river crossing: two massive logs where you had to balance on one and lean onto the other, using a loose rope for security. Now it was time for the hardest climb of the day: 600m of ascent on steep switchbacks. It started off in a dry pine forest in almost autumn colors but as we reached ever higher it once again turned green all around us. Some more miles of gradual uphill forest walking I reached a junction from where the trail turned onto a ridgeline. From here on the trail was easy, just small ups and downs.
There was a roadcrossing after which the trail did climb a bit but nothing serious. Exposed rocky cliffs led me to a stream where I filled up some water – it was very hot and there was no wind. I could barely notice the uphill, winding my way around these green hills and up to the junction to the spring. When I arrived Kristians and T-Bone had already set the tents up so all I had to do was unpack, wash myself a bit in the stream and have dinner. Sensei arrived 10 minutes later and we ended up having a very fun evening together – sadly it was one of the last ones together with Sensei as he would be taking a longer break in Portland to wait for his girlfriend.