Today was the day we had been waiting for – reaching Cascade Locks, that marked the end of the Oregon State and the beginning of our two rest days. But it was still 28 miles away! So we had to get up early, in fact we hiked out at 6:40. We had 11 miles until the next water source at Wahtum Lake, where we were also going to have lunch.
The first 19 miles of the day was going to consist of a lot of ups & downs. It was fairly easy and mostly in the forest but there were sections that were more exposed, following a rocky cliffside and ridge. We could see where the Columbia River Gorge was – that’s where we were heading to. So I put on my headphones and cruised along, enjoying the coolness of the early morning. I passed through patches of flowers and berries and could smell the wild plants in all their freshness. It took me a bit over 3 hours to reach the lake, during which I again met a bunch of southbound hikers.
I found Kristians and Sensei sitting by the lake, Kristians had just gotten back from a swim and was now cold! I sat down and packed out the food – because it was a bit chilly we decided to cook noodles & make some tea. T-Bone also soon arrived so we had our usual conversation of food, feet and farts.
Next up was 8 miles until Teakettle Spring where we’d take our second break and fill up the water bottles. From there on it’d be all downhill – steeply and literally. We walked mostly on a ridge, passing some burn areas and enjoying the relative flatness of the trail. T-Bone soon passed me, having used painkillers to overcome his foot problems, so I was the last of the group. But the 8 miles went smooth and fast, probably because my pack was now pretty empty and light. We had our second break and prepared for the tough time for our heels & knees.
The steep downhill was pretty rough on my heels but it also gave us some great views of the hills and mountains ahead. The trail skirted the hillsides for miles on end, zigzagging ever lower and passing a lot of streams on its way. Luckily my knees were not affected by the descent so soon enough (well, after 3 hours) I finally crossed the last two big rivers via bridges and met up with the others by a dirt road just next to town. A trail angel had apparently just given them a bag of cherries and grapes but as noone else wanted them I ate them all!
We then headed into town and got our first view of the Bridge of Gods – a special & important landmark for PCT nobos, marking the end of Oregon State. We headed directly for the Ale House, which is known for being very hiker-friendly. We got some veggieburgers and sodas, checked out the hikerbox, talked to some sobos and generally just relaxed. We also met Gandalf, who we had last seen in Mammoth – turns out he had skipped the whole of Oregon due to having problems sleeping from the end of Sierras. It seemed that he was going to quit the trail as it wasn’t enjoyable for him anymore.
After our meal we headed to the campground, located right by the Columbia River. The hikers could camp & shower for only 5 dollars! Seemed like a dream until you realized that there were train tracks right by the campground and also right across the river. But who cares – we set up the tent, took a shower and then hanged out with our group plus Whistling Pete, Freebird and his wife and a hiker from Denmark. When it was already dark two British hikers arrived and joined us too.
The night was noisy – not only were there trains once in a while but it got also incredibly windy and the tent was simply rattling the whole time. But at least we knew we could sleep in the next morning as we would be taking a zero and heading into Portland!
We got up at 7, after a restless night. We packed up and decided to do our laundry while we were going to have breakfast. So we dropped the laundry off and then headed for the Riverside Inn, located right next to the Bridge of Gods. Freebird and his wife joined us for the breakfast and we really enjoyed the atmosphere there.
After breakfast we waited for the laundry to go through the drying cycle and then headed for the bus stop. The bus was a little late but the bus driver was super nice and the ride was only 8 bucks! After about an hour long scenic ride along the Columbia River we got to a transit center and bought a public transport day pass. From there we took the tram to where our hotel was – on the East bank of Williamette River.
We had, funnily enough, booked a pretty fancy hotel (not too expensive if you are four people sharing a room) so it was a bit odd to walk in there in our hikertrash outfit. Everything was so shiny and clean so we felt like Kardashians! But we had no problem checking in so we dropped off our bags and then headed out to run some errands – get new shoes from REI and exchange the Darn Tough socks at US Outdoor. T-Bone also gave back the sandals he had bought just in case in Bend and we dropped by the post office to pick up the new backpack he had ordered (as he had broken the current one in the Sierras).
Kristians and I then went to a vegan restaurant as the others didn’t really want that. After eating a whole bunch of unhealthy vegan food we decided to walk back to the hotel. We walked along the promenade by the river, observing the traffic, the people and the buildings around us. Even though downtown Portland was kind of cool I didn’t like traffic and I found the abundance of beggars, homeless and tweakers quite frankly disturbing. The smell of piss didn’t help! And above all – the promenade didn’t have any grass patches, it was just a sort of dry sandy patch next to the bike path.
Once we got back we chilled out for a bit and then went to the hotel pool to relax in the jacuzzi and pool. And once we were hungry again we went to the hotel restaurant to get dinner, together with Sensei. T-Bone went out to meet another German hiker and visit a strip club – apparently Portland is pretty famous for these too! We then decided to get some dvd movies to watch on our huge flatscreen in the room. T-Bone also got back from his date and him and Sensei both passed out mid-movie but Kristians and I watched until the end, even though I had seen the movie already before.