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Day 119: Lost on Hood

Posted by on September 4, 2015

August 27, 2015
Seasonal Stream before Timberline Trail Junction (2104.8) to Tentsite after Lolo Pass (2124.8)
20.0 PCT miles today
2170.7 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 4,412 ft, – 4,976 ft

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Today felt more challenging than it should have. We slept in just a bit this morning since we knew that we only had 2.3 miles to hike before we got to Timberline and its buffet breakfast which doesn’t start until 7:30am. We figured it’d be less than an hour of hiking that would work up our appetite just enough to make us feel like we’d earned as much food as we planned on eating. The first mile was as simple as we’d hoped, but then we hit a sandy incline that slowed us down immensely and made us feel like we might never make it to breakfast. Eventually, after taking hundreds of steps that seemed to get us almost nowhere, we finally made it to Timberline Lodge on the base of Mount Hood.

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The buffet breakfast at Timberline is famous among us thru-hikers. Many claim it is the best food and value available on trail, and I think we’d have to agree. Even though we had looked forward to this particular meal for a while, I’m pretty sure we would have decided to skip it this morning if our incredibly kind friend Erin in Portland hadn’t given us money to pay for our breakfast. We would have justified saving the money, and missed out on the multiple plates of delicious food and fun socializing with our fellow hikers. Instead, Erin, out of the kindness of her heart, had handed us money at our BBQ in Portland, and had made breakfast actually happen.

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The lodge was packed full of hikers and other guests, and the food was just as delicious as we’d heard. I had 3 separate plates of food, and even grabbed a few pastries on the way out. We knew the first few miles back on trail would be rough, but as we expected, the exhausted, full feeling slowly faded away the more we hiked. It was tempting to just spend all morning at the buffet, especially since friends kept trickling in every few minutes, but we forced ourselves to pay our bill and move on by 10am. It was a good thing, because even with that start time, we still only managed to get in another 18 or so miles before stopping for the night.

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Surprisingly, today was one of the first times on the trail that we actually got a bit lost, and it happened not once, but twice! The first time we were hiking along when we happened upon a cliff. The only trail went downhill, so we followed it, and were quickly surrounded by thick foliage and a steep, rocky trail. We were clearly still on some sort of trail, so we continued down for about a mile before we finally met back up with the actual PCT. We still aren’t really sure what went wrong. Less than one mile later, we were lost again.

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We crossed the rushing Sandy River, which I managed to fall into with both of my feet, soaking my shoes and pants, and ended up on the other side, unable to find any sign of an actual trail. We pulled out our Guthook’s app and attempted to follow the GPS, but were quickly surrounded by dense brush and thorny bushes. According to the GPS, the trail was just east of us, so we forced our way through a practical jungle until we finally came upon the narrow trail. By that time we were hot, scratched up, and a bit frustrated, and we marched in silence the rest of the way to Ramona Falls, a couple miles away.

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Ramona Falls was quite beautiful and made for a nice relaxing lunch break. We were able to wash off a bit and start over fresh, which was a good thing since we still had a couple incredibly steep climbs ahead of us for the afternoon. After eating and packing up, we put our heads down, and spent the next 3 or 4 hours climbing and switchbacking out of a huge gully. The camping spot that we had in mind, right near a seasonal stream, was already taken by a weekender, so we loaded up on water and prepared for a night of dry camping. A couple miles later we finally found this small site just off trail. We got in later than we had hoped and are exhausted from a long day of bushwhacking and climbing. Tomorrow’s elevation profile looks more forgiving, and we have promised ourselves to only hike as far as we want, since we officially have no more vital deadlines that we need to meet. Trail Days is this weekend in Cascade Locks, so we’ll definitely have to check that out at some point, but right now, we feel more invested in making it to Canada than spending any more time relaxing and socializing. Again, that may change, but for now, we’re feeling quite motivated to get in our miles and finish up this adventure.

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