July 27, 2017: Dry Creek to Cascade Locks: 2 miles
I barely slept last night my knee pain was so bad. Every time I tried to straighten my knee out, sharp stabbing pain would hit me that had tears leaking from my eyes. It was also throbbing when bent, so I spent the night tossing and turning, oscillating between discomfort and tearful stabbing pain. Not one of my best life moments.
When the sun finally hit the tent walls I was hoping to just make it into town without completely falling apart. I put a brave face on for Sarah and we packed up slowly, delaying the inevitably painful hiking. It was all downhill into Cascade Locks and the slowest and most physically painful two miles I have ever hiked. We stopped for lots of breaks and I just tried to stay positive, at least we were near a town and had a hotel for the night. Bright side, right? And there were a few pretty waterfalls along the way and a nice partner to share this time with.
We finally made it into Cascade Locks and immediately went to get food at the Bridgeside, which is an amazing and very hiker friendly place. One of the older women who worked there came right over to us and helped us figure out where to order and was so very sweet to these dirty, stinky hikers. We got delicious lunches and I texted my friends Jenny & Jen who were driving from Portland to come meet us.
Jen and Jenny arrived shortly after we inhaled our food and drove us around. It was so awesome of them to come give us such great trail magic! I admire them both so much as people and hikers so it was a really special visit. They drove us all around the Cascade Locks area stopping at multiple stores for me to find more sports tape for my shitty knee. And more importantly they provided sweet and funny companionship to take my mind off the pain and worry of what would happen to the rest of our trip. They drove us over to Hood River for delicious pizza and beer lunches, then back to Cascade Locks to check in to our hotel. Plus Jen gave us tons of yummy snacks for our hiker hunger, thank you both so, so much!!! Fellow hikers provide the best trail magic and fun!
I was so grateful for a shower and bed to lay on, plus an ice machine to really take care of my knee. We both showered forever, did laundry, relaxed, and napped until we got hungry again and went out to the Cascade Locks Ale House for burgers and beer, hooray!
My knee felt a little better on the walk back from the Ale House (I credit icing and beer for this) and I was getting hopeful that we could hike more. We discussed the next section we had planned and decided to take the “shorter” aka 15 mile road walk which would end up cutting about 20 miles off from our trip total. It was a bummer but really it made more sense to not do the roller coaster PCT on my crap knee. The guide book pages for this section also helped this decision because they apparently HATE this section and highly recommend the road walk, you don’t hear that often from hikers. I mean they clearly REALLY hated this section for some reason and used some pretty funny language to clearly convince other hikers to skip it, like “lacks views…pointless ups and downs…boring” etc.! There was also a detour route due to logging along the PCT that would make us miss miles on the true trail any way. So we cut some food from our resupply and dropped it in the hiker box for others to enjoy and I went to sleep feeling confident I could push on another 30ish miles to our car.
July 28, 2017: Cascade Locks to Panther Creek: 15 miles of road walking
I slept pretty well and when I got up my knee was feeling surprisingly better! I was kinda shocked, I thought for sure it would still be pissed but it felt decent and I was hopeful that the long road walk would not be super unpleasant for me. Our room came with a complimentary breakfast at the Bridgeside Cafe, which we of course could not pass up, so we were the first in the restaurant when they opened at 7am. I hardly ate anything on my plate I was so nervous about my knee pain coming back and the days ahead. This was extra sucky because the biscuits and gravy I got was really tasty and the last not trail food I would have for a while, oh well.
Soon enough it is time to get going and do our walk across the Bridge of the Gods into Washington! Super exciting! And also very terrifying, especially for Sarah who is afraid of heights. This bridge has big open grates for the “walkway” at least 100 ft over the river and no sidewalk, yikes. The first 20 feet is concrete so we stopped for a picture and then headed into oncoming traffic on the narrow bridge.
Sarah started out great and when we hit the grates I thought we got this…then she started doing this weird maniacal laughter, which was sorta funny at first until it got kinda creepy/scary. The cars drove right next to us and the grates were very wide showing the river in great detail far below our feet, I was a little freaked out too.
It was hard to hear each other on the bridge but I could tell that Sarah’s voice was shaky when she asked me to distract her, sing a song or something. Of course my twisted brain comes up with Tom Petty’s Free Falling first (WTF BRAIN!?!) but I tell it to get it together and give me something else so Fleetwood Mac’s You Can Go Your Own way luckily shows up in there. So I sing what I can remember of that song over and over to Sarah, I’m basically yelling it over the sound of the cars and wind but she seems distracted enough with my terrible yell/singing to keep moving forward. After what feels like hours but is actually only 15 minutes we finally hit the concrete on the Washington side and sweet relief. There’s a little picnic table in a pull out and porta-potty that we use for the hell of it before we start our true road walk.
Soon we are tromping East on the pavement along the scenic Highway 14 that winds along the Hood River. We watch cars, trains, boats, and sometimes Bald Eagles fly by. The morning is cool so far and we have the shade along the shoulder too.
We are having a ton of fun, eating the sun warmed blackberries that grow in the ditches all through here, and watching the scenery change as we walk along the flat road. It’s a little weird but in an awesome way.
We hit the little town of Stevenson, Washington and there is a tiny coffee shack called The Cabin at the end of town with adirondack chairs out front that calls my name. We pull over for a break and share a giant iced coffee frappuccino thingy, it’s heavenly.
Shortly after we hit the turnoff to our left for the Wind River Highway towards Carson, Wa. and loose the shade for a while. It gets hotter and we start loosing some motivation. I have never listened to music while I’m hiking so far but decide there is really no better place to give it a try and besides no one else will be bothered by it. So I put my phone upside down in my shoulder pouch pocket and turn on Fleetwood Mac hits for us to jam out to. We hit a second wind and do silly dances along the road while belting out Rhiannon. We take breaks in weird turn outs and give no shits, this is awesome!
The afternoon heats up more and logging trucks roll by more frequently, which lowers our moods again. Little odd things perk us up though, like walking through tiny towns and seeing little pieces of human junk to make stories up about along the road. How did you end up here small pile of fireworks? Plus my knee still feels good and I can’t feel too crappy about being out on the hot pavement when I know how lucky I am to be out here at all.
We finally hit the turnoff for Old State Road which will take us to a little forest service road and Panther Creek Campground, our home for the evening. Unfortunately I did not realize that Old State Road is a loop road and we should have taken the second turn off and not the first so we do an extra 0.75 miles of road walking, crap. Whatcha gonna do but keep walking? So we do and finally get back into the shaded trees and find the turn off for the campground.
It’s a Friday and we walk through all the first come-first serve sites and everything is full … shit. Luckily the campground host is super nice and let’s us know there are some sites tucked in the trees behind the campground near the PCT and bridge we can possibly snag for free. Plus we can use the pit toilets and water pumps for free, so nice, so much luxury! We luckily find a great shaded site back in the trees with the creek near by to settle in.
We are both pretty beat but do a little laundry and eat a lot of food, excited to have some new things from our resupply. A few other hikers trickle in throughout the late afternoon and find sites nearby. It’s quiet in this ferny magic town and the breeze blows through, rustling the old man’s beard moss on the trees. This spot feels so special and a little while later an owl flies through our campsite and that confirms it for me. Today was scary, exciting, fun, weird, and just plain awesome. You really can’t ask for more than that.