14.5 miles (2094.4 to 2108.9)
In the morning, smoke to the south is so thick that I can’t see Mount Jefferson. I eat, pack my things, and walk down to the lodge to use the restroom and fill my water bottle. Then I walk back up the mountain and find a place to sit and watch the eclipse.
While I wait for the show to begin, I upload blog posts. Finally I put on my eclipse glasses and look at the sun, and see that the eclipse is underway. Half an hour later, we’re down to a sliver of sun. The lighting has become strange. People whoop and howl, from the mountainside down to the parking lot. The darkest moment doesn’t last long. Very soon, the strange lighting becomes more or less normal. People leave their posts on the mountain begin walking downhill toward the lodge. Suddenly everyone is on the move.
I wait a little longer, then hike north. The ski lifts are running, now shuttling people down the mountain after taking them up for eclipse viewing. It’s odd to walk under a working ski lift in August.
After half a mile, I’m the only person on the trail. Down I go into Zig Zag Canyon, then up the other side. Here, I encounter a massive log obstacle. I follow a steep detour on the downhill side and finally get around the log jam. I run into several more logs that require me to take off my backpack in order to pass beneath them.
There’s no century marker at mile 2100. I walk back to be sure I didn’t overlook something. Nope. Nothing. Once again, I sketch the number on the trail and take a photo.
After a long, steep descent, I leave forest for a rocky canyon and a crossing of Sandy River. There’s a small log across the water. This is where most (all?) hikers cross. The log is only a little wider than the width of my foot. The river is flowing fast but doesn’t seem very deep. Still, I don’t want to fall in. I investigate upstream. I don’t like the look of things there, so return to the log. I stand on the log for a bit to get used to the idea. Ok, this isn’t so bad. I can get across this little log. I move forward. My left trekking pole slips out of my hand and into the water. Oh, shit!
Thus begins the Great Trekking Pole Rescue of 2017. I spear the water with my remaining pole and manage to pin the loose pole against a rock, but it slips free and zips downstream. I spear again, and press as hard as I can to keep the thing pinned as I maneuver to pluck it from the stream. Saved.
I walk through the river in my shoes. The water doesn’t come above mid-calf. I should have just waded in the first place, like I usually do. I hate crossing on logs and will always avoid doing so when possible.
With wet feet I take the Ramona Falls alternate. The trail is almost exactly the same length as the PCT, but I get to see a beautiful waterfall and walk along a cool, shaded stream.
I rejoin the PCT just before a crossing of Muddy Fork. There’s a campsite here, and it’s filled with tents, all of which appear to belong to weekenders. I pass through and arrive at the stream crossing.
Well, crap. There’s a huge log on top of another huge log, with a rope rigged along the higher log to assist with crossing. However, the lower log, where one’s feet will go, is half covered by the upper log – meaning it’s another narrow footpath. These logs are higher above the water than the crossing, and the water is moving faster than the last one, too. A few of the campers are down at the steam, watching me. I don’t want to make a spectacle here. I just want to get across this creek.
I dip my trekking pole into the water. It’s deep and fast. I take another look at the logs. I could scoot across the top log on my butt, but that would leave an awkward dismount at the end, during which I’d be extremely likely to freeze up entirely. Back to the creek I go, and walk upstream looking for a shallower section. I find one and walk right in. It’s not a difficult ford. Water doesn’t come above my knees. Once across, I wave to the folks on the other side and proceed on my way.
I’ve flunked two log crossings today. I feel like a wannabe thru hiker. Real thru hikers cross on logs without hesitation. I’m not good enough. Wait. Hold on. I haven’t failed anything. There were two ways across those streams: ford, or log. Fording is in no way a lesser option. I may not be making progress on my log aversion, but I’m increasing my confidence with stream crossings. I’m doing well.
After Muddy Fork, I face a 2,100 foot climb – at the end of the day. Halfway up, I stop for water at a spring. Afterward, I pass SOBO after SOBO. It’s like class just let out or something. Then I remember: PCT Days was held this weekend in Cascade Locks. They probably all attended the gathering and left around the same time.
I reach my intended campsite at a fork in the trail. I pitch my tent and eat dinner while black flies swarm. I’m tired, more tired than I should be after two 14 mile days. Maybe I just need a day off. It’s been two weeks since I had a zero.
As I finish eating, a weekender on the Timberline Trail shows up. His name is Mike and he opts to camp here, too. A little later, two more hikers arrive and manage to squeeze their tents in the vicinity. After several nights of poor sleep, I hope I can sleep through the night here.