Instead of looking to the past, I put myself ahead twenty years and try to look at what I need to do now in order to get there then. —Diana Ross
So cozy in a bed, but I eventually decide to get up and organize for a return to the trail and the start of Oregon. The mist is down on the mountains and it’s cool outside and I immediately question if I should have sent my tights and rain pants home.
I liked the Rodeway Inn. It’s scruffy around the edges, but well located, clean, quiet and the couple that runs it is extremely generous, bringing me a set of dishes so I could eat my salads like a real person, giving me a cup of laundry soap snd taking me and two other hikers back to the trailhead in Cascade Locks.
As I walk down for breakfast I notice a candy machine filled with hiker food, including Ramen noodles. I am set on the noodle front, but I stuff myself from the buffet to prepare for a 4,000+ foot ascent in the first ten miles.
I love my new outfit of an extra large man’s Oxford shirt. It cost a dollar at the Adventist yard sale, but I gave them two. Before I go, I call Richard one last time. I really miss my ‘Smackles,’ but he was absolutely right in sending me out here to tackle this trail now while I can.
Joel drops Bat and me at the trailhead and as I head up I see two people with lovely long black hair. It’s Bounce and Supe! I didn’t recognize them as they look so clean and are dressed like civilians. I get to meet his parents, his mom a super fit outdoorswoman about my age. I certainly hope to get to know her better. Erin – now called ‘Trooper’ – and Rook are with them and ready to hike. We take a pile of pictures then the three of us head up the hill.
At first, we are able talk while climbing – about politics, why we’re here, how we feel and who we like and don’t like on the trail. Apparently I cracked them up sending Professor Oxford away from my space. He made a similarly bad impression on them.
But soon the trail gets steep and it’s all focus on breathing. I know you know I love uphill. Yes, I get winded and tired, but I don’t hurt like when I go down. We wind up and up, I pass a couple of young hippy wannabes, then an older man who checks his watch while he waits for me to pass. I ask if he’s in a hurry.
Later, I pass a woman who asks where the view opens, which is literally right around the next zigzag. We all stop to admire Mt. Adams – and how far we’ve come – and just the snowy top of Rainier, Helen in trees. The woman tells us she’s training for a hike on an island in Lake Superior. Isle Royale! We all get very excited because we love the north and those two have hiked it. Our new friend is so happy because no one out here knows about it. A special moment there looking at big volcanoes and reminiscing about home.
In front of us is Mt. Hood and below the massive destruction from the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. Just a dumb kid throwing fireworks in the canyon sparked one of the worst blazes in the state’s history, a fire that burned for months. For punishment, his family was charged the largest fine in the state’s history. I wonder if they were ever able to pay or make restitution. Was the kid even sorry?
We enter a magical forest lit sideways. The trail goes up and down and leads to a perfect Hood viewing spot for lunch. I realize things are getting drier and I need to ensure I drink plenty of water and know where the water sources are located.
Rook and Trooper move on faster and I take in the utter beauty of this high ridge, now entering a burned area. It’s stark and yet the hulks of dead trees have a special beauty, and this spot is full of life as bees and butterflies get drunk on nectar. Blue sky, Hood’s perfect triangle, charred sentinels in a row, soft, piney path, bees buzzing from flower to flower picked up by the wind and carried on, butterflies dancing, birds flirting. My heart is full.
Entering Oregon is like a dividing line. I can’t say I’m completely over things, but there is definitely a shift in my feelings. I am beginning to not care so much. It feels like an accident that totaled the car or a broken limb just set in a cast or a destroyed piece of clothing, shrunk in the wash. Yes, it feels bad, but it doesn’t seem to have as much of a punch. I decide in my beautiful solitude climbing up this burned ridge that I gave all that awfulness my beautiful Washington, but they may not have Oregon, too.
I come to a trail junction and meet a trail worker named Omar who tells me this is a shortcut. I feel a bit nervous flying straight down, but it keeps me from circling the lake and, as it turns out, it’s kind of cool to dive straight down to a few hidden campsites – one with a huge rock fire pit and rock chairs. I cross the outlet on a pile of logs, then meet the PCT and continue toward Indian Spring. Hood comes into view again, larger and closer. I’ll be on his flanks soon.
At the next junction, I meet three very dusty and sooty trail workers helping to clear the spectacular Eagle Creek trail which has been closed since the fire. They point me towards a water source and a little campsite with a picnic table and even a funny little outhouse. I share my space with a lovely young Oregonian and we make dinner together before turning in at 8:00 – ‘hiker midnight.’
I realize that soon I’ll return to work life and this schedule of walking all day will become only a memory. I promise myself that I’ll savor this gift I’ve received of time enough to walk, that I’ll not push so hard and rather try to simply enjoy what each moment brings. I promise myself I’ll leave my angst and sorrow in Washington, and start fresh here in Oregon, that I’ll plan for my future and dream up an interesting life to live in the time I have left. I promise myself to laugh more and complain less. I promise myself to ‘do’ the trail but also to simply ‘be’ while doing it.
I think I can make that work.