July 27- 4 miles, camping at Gillette Lake
After a fantastic weekend in Portland with Art and good friends, I was back in Cascade Locks meeting up with some hikers I hadn’t seen in a while. Khalil, Blue Moon, Scarecrow and Chuck Wagon were there and planning to head out later in the day. Kurt was also in Cascade Locks and had just finished his section hike of Oregon.
I headed out late in the afternoon and only put in four miles before stopping at Gillette Lake for the night. I didn’t take any pictures because it really wasn’t too inspiring and my feet were aching a bit.
Unfortunately, I now have a new pair of hiking shoes. I say “unfortunately” because I actually lost my old boots when I got on the bus to Portland last week. I must’ve set them down somewhere in town when I switched into my sandals, but didn’t realize I was missing them until I was boarding the bus. The new shoes are lighter, but not as comfortable and cushioned as my old boots had been. My feet are feeling a little tender and I hope I can break these shoes in soon, or it’s going to be a long 500 miles to Canada.
July 28- 21 miles, camping on a dirt road
Last night, I stepped out of my tent to make a phone call to Artie. I still had cell service because we were so close to the highway. When I came back to my tent, I found a fat mouse scurrying around inside. We both squealed as I tried to shoo him out. The damage was done, however. He had already chewed into my tortillas- I was so pissed at myself. Tortillas are worth their weight in gold on the trail.
After that, the fat mouse knew exactly where to find tasty food and spent all night trying to get at it again. I woke up multiple times, hearing him chewing at the side of my tent, but I didn’t think it would go beyond me having to occasionally slap the ground and scare him away. I was wrong. Hours later, I awoke to that same fat mouse crawling over my head trying to get the tortillas that I’d stashed under my makeshift pillow. I jumped up and mercilessly shooed him out again and then searched around the tent for the hole he created. I patched it up with duct tape and then examined all my food. This time, he managed to chew into a bag of cookies and my Nido milk; he also left me little bits of mouse poop to clean up. More than being woken up with the mouse crawling over my head and more than having to clean up his poop, I was heartbroken at the loss of my cookies. I saved what I could of the tortillas and milk.
Washington is similar to Oregon with its forests and Cascade Mountains, but the days of gentle elevation changes are gone. Here begins some of the steepest gains and losses on the trail with little to no flat stretches to recover on. The day was full of ups and downs through moss-covered trees and rocky stream beds. My muscles haven’t been used like this for awhile and my feet are still getting used to my new shoes.
It’s such a nice, warm, bugless night and it was already past sunset when I reach my campsite, that I decided to cowboy camp. It’s been awhile since I’ve done it because bugs were a problem through most of Oregon. My only concern tonight is keeping the rodents at bay. I’ve bagged all my food and wrapped it in my smelly hiking shirt- I plan to cuddle my treasured snacks like a teddy bear all night. No one will come between me and my food!
July 29- 21 miles, camping at an unnamed spring
It was a beautiful day, but I really struggled with my feet and the big climbs. I hit a couple nice spots near rivers and creeks and was very happy to take big breaks.
Besides still breaking in my new shoes, my foot is still giving me problems from when I smashed it with my water bottle while crossing Russell Creek near Mount Jefferson. The ache is in the front middle of my foot and it’s very slightly swollen. I’m going to give it another five days to see if it gets better or not. I’m hoping it’s just a very bad bruise and nothing more serious.
I camping near an ice-cold spring tonight with some thru-hikers I’ve just met: Ice Cream, Thunder Thighs and Toasted Toe- all really fun and equally miffed about the sudden changes in elevation.
July 30- 26 miles, camping near Mosquito Lake
Despite my achy feet, I decided to hike 26 miles today. The water was spaced out about ten miles apart at two places, a lake for lunchtime and a creek for dinner and camping. The heat has also really turned up, so all morning I was dripping with sweat and plopping down in the trail for water breaks.
My lunchtime spot, Blue Lake, couldn’t have been more heavenly. It was deep with clear, turquoise water and lined with tall pines. I couldn’t resist jumping in along with a troop of boy scouts that was camping there. We rested on the lake shore for two hours, swimming, eating, and sorting through our food bags rationing out what we could eat.
I have been exceptionally hungry during this stretch. I think it’s because of all the elevation changes and the increase in calories it takes to go over them. Since I was so hungry and trying to do 26 miles today, I opted to have my big homemade pasta dinner for lunch. My veggie chicken wrap that I’ve been having for lunches doesn’t seem to have enough calories. I’ve actually been eating my tortillas with ghee that I grabbed out of a hiker box instead of the veggies and chicken because the ghee has more fat.
After lunch, it was time for more asprin and some tunes. All afternoon, I bounced down the trail to Billy Joel, Pharrell Williams, and James Brown. It’s amazing what a difference music can make in one’s mood. I’m not saying it took away my pain, just made it easier to cope with- and the asprin took the edge off.
I reached the creekside campsite after 9pm and met up with Toasted Toe, who I met last night. Even before I could put my pack down, he requested some uke music. How could I refuse? I serenaded him with a few tunes until it was too dark to see and then had to set up my tent.
Since I ate my dinner for lunch and really didn’t feel like having the veggie wrap for dinner, I just had a protein bar, some chocolate covered sunflower seeds and a cup of cocoa. Seems like a good enough dinner to me!
July 30- 10 miles, camping at the Trout Lake County Park
With only ten miles to the Trout Lake turn off, I slept in until 8:30. It was a hot, but shadey hike all morning and I even caught some trail magic at the road. An old Mexican man who’d been mushroom hunting in the forest picked up a few hikers and he blasted classic rock through his beat up minivan speakers all the way into town.
My right foot is in a lot of pain, so I’ve decided to head 25 miles down the road to White Salmon where I can see a doctor and maybe get an x-ray. I really hope I don’t have a stress fracture or anything like that, but I at least need to know if continuing my hike would do more damage.
I had lunch at the diner, got a campsite at the county park— for a whooping $18 and not including the shower!— and am now hanging out in a tiny cafe where I can charge my phone. There’s a Monopoly board game… maybe I can convince Khalil to play and take my mind off discouraging thoughts.
August 1- ZERO DAY
I hitched into the town of White Salmon and I found myself back on the beautiful Columbia River. A second hitch took me to the local emergency room to check out my foot pain.
The good news is that no fracture is showing up on the x-ray. The bad news is that my injury could really be anything from a developing fracture that’s still too small to see, to nerve damage, to a basic overuse injury. The doctor recommended rest and prescribed a topical cream for pain. Since I’m so close, I don’t want to throw in the towel just yet. I plan to take at least one rest day and then continue my hike with a conscious effort to take it easy. If it gets worse, I’ll know I need to get off trail and finish some other time.