Day 103: So close it hurts… (NERO)

Day: Friday, 9th September 2016
Miles: Eagle Creek Alternate +4.8 – Bridge of the Gods 2144.6
Eagle Creek Remote Site +4.8 – Bridge of the Gods 2144.6
To Washington, that is. Its Day 103, and ostensibly the last day that I will hike in Oregon. I simply cannot believe that this entire state has passed by in barely 4 weeks. The trail literally aligned to the central Cascades and marched right to this point with none of the meandering fanfare of California, and none of the domineering weather we were warned about. What it brought in directional simplicity however, it did not match in the lack of elevation gain that was glowingly referenced by the SOBO crew. I could only surmise that may imply that Washington is simply so enormous, that Oregon was barely noticeable in comparison. At this point in my hike, with more than a few aches and pains, that idea began to chew away at my mindset. The allure and determination to get to Washington is now fraught with a self-doubt about exactly what lies ahead. The weather, the elevation gain, maybe snow, who knows.
We were not in any real rush this morning, although we decamped around the same time as our fellow campers in our amazing little camp site close to Eagle Creek. Immediately the trail began to climb above the creek as we made progress towards the trailhead a little west of Cascade Locks and the famed Bridge of the Gods. My entry route to WA and the point where my sister would finish her mini-thru-hike.
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A series of amazing cataract falls marked a number of huge elevation drops in the river level, however the trail remained high above, in a series of notches hewn out of the rock. It was a supremely pretty trail and a justifiable reason to break from being a purest for this PCT hiker (by now the PCT was high above and taking a direct approach to Cascade Locks, OR through the high route). Eventually arriving at the famed Tunnel Falls, we stopped for a while to admire a well known sight for many PCTers. The Eagle Creek trail squeezes along a catwalk beside the bunch-bowl shaped amphitheater, before passing behind the waterfall in a magnificent little cave. Its one of those moments where the invasive techniques of trail building in the past, have given us some treasures (and surely would never be allowed today).
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Further along the trail, and nearing the trailhead, we met dozens of hikers coming in the opposite direction. The trail further crossed over enormous heights above the river on steel bridges, as well as dropping into viewpoints such as the Devils Punchbowl, a magnificent crack in the rockface, so symmetrical it almost seemed man-made. The crowds on the narrow trail became a distraction gradually, and by the time we entered the carpark at the trailhead, we were pretty happy to have finished up that part of the trail as a result of hoards of tourists enjoying the beautiful day.
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Now we just had a few miles to walk on the magnificent Columbia River Gorge greenway that linked the Eagle Creek trailhead back to the PCT. It was asphalt, but in the clear and bright, warm morning with the trees and beautiful steeps high above us, it really was very pleasant, even with a highway right beside us. It was around noon when we finally made it to the Bridge of the Gods and the little town of Cascade Locks, Oregon. The sun was shining, and Washington was just a short distance across the bridge. I gazed across and despite my eagerness, knew that I was not yet finished with Oregon (at the very least, I still had to get my sister back to the airport!
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We visited the legendary  Cascade Locks Ale House, whilst I waited for our chariot to arrive, by chariot of course I mean the guy from Enterprise Rent-A-Car after we called them on that ‘We’ll Pick you Up’ slogan, to take us to our rental car in Hood River, Oregon, about 18miles east of here. I had figured that was a better option than hitching back to Portland, and thankfully worked out very much perfectly for us as we sat into a big fat pickup truck for a ride along the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Byway!
Stopping to gaze at Multnomah Falls, we were both really taken by the incredible views in this area. Portland really does have some incredible sights just outside the city limits.
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Arriving into Portland during the evening light, we ventured to the Portland International Rose Garden, to admire the great view of the city and Mt.Hood, as well as the roses (they take it very seriously here).
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We then ventured for a delicious Peruvian meal in downtown Portland, before drawing to an end, a fun few days with my sister, all in the name of Thru-hiking. Tomorrow would be back to business, as I would drop her to the airport and head back to the trail. No more time for these NERO’s and ZERO’s, but I did need to find where my hiker-trash crew had gotten to, as Breakaway, Outro, Schrocket, Blue, FlyBy and a bunch of other hikers we’re somewhere around the Cascade Locks area!

One thought on “Day 103: So close it hurts… (NERO)

  1. Welcome to my town! Cascade Locks is where I started my section hiking of the PCT in 2011. Yes we are pretty fortunate to live in Oregon as my spring hiking is almost exclusively up and down the gorge on both sides. Welcome back to the blog too as I was just thinking yesterday that we hadn’t heard from you in awhile! 🙂

    -GoalTech

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