August 29, 2015
Bridge of the Gods – Cascade Locks (2155.1) to Tentsite after Greenleaf Creek (2160.9)
5.8 PCT miles today, 1 non-PCT mile today
2207.9 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: + 1,141 ft, – 753 ft
Yesterday we were so tired by the time we reached Cascade Locks that seeing Bridge of the Gods didn’t impact me much. Today though, crossing the bridge into Washington, and knowing that we only have one state and 500 miles to go on this trail brought tears to my eyes. We were lucky to get out at all today, since Trail Days is the strongest “vortex” we’ve experienced yet. Everyone we talked to tried to convince us to stay another night. They couldn’t believe that we’d leave on Saturday when the event went on for a whole other day, but 20 or so hours of socializing, eating, drinking, and hanging out was enough for us, and we were determined to get back on trail this afternoon, even if we didn’t get in many miles.
This morning was lazy and quiet and by the time we left our tent to grab free hiker breakfast at one of the vendors, it was sprinkling on and off. We had heard that a storm was coming, but none of us minded much since Oregon and Northern California had been so dry and Washington could certainly use the rain to help put out fires and clear the air of smoke. With our new Columbia rain jackets in tow, we grabbed a tasty plate of free food and a cup of coffee and enjoyed a nice relaxing morning.
As the morning went on, more hikers woke up and the vendors put out all their wares. We spent the whole first half of the day wandering around, talking to vendors, and slowly packing up our gear. It was fun to be in such a hiker-focused environment, but by early afternoon we felt a strong pull to get back on trail and begin the final push to Canada. We mustered up all our motivation for rounds of goodbyes, a quick hiker trash lunch at a picnic table, and a determined walk through town back toward the bridge. Leaving Trail Days is just like ripping off a band-aid. When done slowly it can be agonizing and painful, but if you just get up, put on your pack, and go, the pain is over before you know it.
By the time we reached Bridge of the Gods, we were shaking off the laziness of town and were basking in our independence and determination. Crossing the bridge into Washington was an emotional, bittersweet moment, and was made all the more symbolic and memorable by the downpour of rain that began the moment we passed the “Welcome to Washington” sign. The environment changed almost immediately after crossing the bridge, and we were surprised to find an almost-rainforest ecosystem waiting for us within a mile of the border. The hiking felt better than expected, and my pack felt especially light, but the rain kept coming and going and the grass that had overgrown the trail soaked my pants and shoes with cold water. At less than 6 miles in, we came across this tentsite that we just couldn’t pass up. It was only 4:30, but we had achieved our goal of leaving Cascade Locks and getting on trail and we longed for a nice long afternoon of dry, peaceful tent time.
In the hours since we’ve set up camp, the rain has come in everything from mist to sprinkles to full on sheets. The floor of our tent is already pretty well soaked and it’s far too humid for our wet clothes to dry, so we’re settling in for what might be a long couple days, or even weeks, of wetness. Compared with Oregon, whose reality was far removed from our expectations, Washington seems all to eager to maintain her reputation. Humid, lush, and incredibly rainy indeed. If nothing else, it seems that Washington will keep us on our toes and truly make us work for the completion of our thru-hike. These kinds of days are what adventure is made of, and we’re looking forward to seeing what this coming month has in store.