June 17 (~09:20 – ~20:30)
Before Sentinel Peak – after Teakettle Spring (23.5 mi / Total: 2139.7 mi)
Total PCT miles: 1039.7
Weather: Another great warm and sunny day, with a little wind.
I can see the sun rise through the thick forest. It’s high already, but for the first time in a while I turned off my phone before going to sleep, and without alarm I have no idea what time it is. Crunchmaster and Smiles aren’t moving yet, so I don’t either. Then Smiles gets up, and is gone quickly as she barely has anything to pack away – a piece of Tyvek and her quilt. As she leaves she says I’ll catch up during the day, but I know I won’t. That girl is a machine.
I leave Crunchmaster trying to finish all the leftovers from yesterday, and walk into the day. It’s after 9 already, and the sun is out and casts all the beautiful shadows on the bright green leaves. The forest is thick and lush and allows for marvellous views over the green mountains around us. I keep getting views of snowy peaks or sections of volcanic rock will occupy the mountainside, the trail carved right though, affording splendid views ahead. There are little white flowers and big pink ones and they are all exquisite. It’s warm and sunny but there’s a wind now and again which keeps everything fresh. Oregon is glorious.
I take my time today. I walk, take lots of pictures, and Crunchmaster seems to be doing the same thing, as he doesn’t pass me until I take a long break in the afternoon. I love it here. The grand views, the forests, the colours. The grade of the path is easy, with ups and downs you could fly over if you wanted to.
For a moment later in the day I get above tree line and the views open op. I’m on a mountain of angular rock, a beautiful contrast against the shape of mountains layering a purple blue in the distance. Then I descend into the forest again.
I pass Wahtum Lake after that, which seems a popular destination, and I take water from the streams flowing across the path to keep for later. After a last break I get a message from Crunchmaster. Smiles is just a mile from town – she just did another 30 mile day. Crunchmaster is already 4.5 miles ahead of me, looking for a place to camp after getting water at Teakettle Spring. I decide to catch up on him, and hurry down the trail, another late in the day half-run, which I seem to be growing accustomed to. Suddenly my day speeds up, and I pass the forest that is now burnt, devoid of its grandeur and former romance.
I find Crunchmaster cowboy camping on an exposed ridge, with some great views but for the grey, leafless trees. Just then his last message comes through: the mosquitoes are quite bad here, and I know I should’ve stayed at one of the tent sites just before the spring, where the forest was dark but the ground flat, and I could’ve set up my tent. Instead, I spread out my gear and dive into my quilt until it gets dark, and the mosquitoes mostly disappear.
We’re walking into Cascade Locks tomorrow morning, and Crunchmaster’s dad will be waiting for us. They’re planning on going back to Timberline Lodge to climb Mt Hood, and then they will drive up to Harts Pass, where the hike to the Canadian border will begin. I decide I’d better look into my options for joining them. I check the snow map and read some articles outlining the sketchy traverses in the Washington snow for southbounders. I realise there’s still snow between Harts Pass and the Canadian border. Harts Pass is the nearest road to the PCT’s northern terminus, but it’s also thirty miles away. To get to the start point, you must hike thirty miles north along the PCT to the monument, and then backtrack. And while the snow is definitely melting fast, that thirty mile section is pretty much all covered in snow. And I really don’t want to hike that twice. I don’t even want to hike it once.
However tempting it is to start the southbound journey with a few other hikers, these are not the conditions I’m waiting for. However – do I want to join them at Timberline Lodge so I could get the breakfast? Then I’ll probably get dropped off in Portland or Seattle. I’m not sure it’s the right thing for me, and however much I’d like to stick around, I’m starting to feel as though joining these two is not the right thing to do.