Saturday, August 10, 2013

Part 163 - They Didn't See Us Coming

I  wanted to stay longer and enjoy the companionship of Kermit and June Bug, but I had a deadline to meet; there was an all-you-can-eat-breakfast at the Timberline Lodge in the morning that began at six o'clock and ended at ten.  There was no way I was going to miss that breakfast even if it meant hiking through the night.

I gave Kermit and June Bug a big hug and bade them good-bye; it would be the last time I would see them, yet if I were to meet them a year from now, I would feel right at home in their presence.  The father and his two sons stayed a little longer and they too passed from sight.

As late evening descended on the forest and the shadows grew longer, I came to Highway 35 that provided access to the slopes of Mount Hood and the historical Timberline Lodge built during Franklin D. Roosevelt's era.  Where the trail came out of the forest, it linked to a road that exited off of Highway 35 and ended in a parking lot.  I followed this small spur road to the pavement of Highway 35; however, standing at the edge of the pavement, I couldn’t see the trail on the other side of the highway; it was just a steep mountain in front of me.

Not knowing where the trail was, I took an educated guess and turned left on the highway towards the small community of Government Camp.  But after walking a couple of blocks and not finding the trail, I backtracked to the side road and the trail where it first emerged from the forest. Standing in the side road and looking around, I spotted the trail and a PCT trail marker nailed to a tree on the other side of the parking lot road.  I felt stupid that I missed the obvious, but was glad to have found it.  Had the Guthook app on my Verizon phone been working, I would have known immediately where the trail was located.

Crossing Highway 35, the trail began a steep climb up the side of the mountain and eventually leveled off to contour around the side of the same mountain.  The slope was almost vertical and the trail hugged the mountain, as did I.

Fog began rolling in, obscuring the trail and the steep drop-off to my left.  Were I to trip and fall, the trees growing on the side of the mountain would impede my fall, but it was still a straight drop-off to the valley far below.  It was almost dark, yet I still had no place to camp.  My headlamp was not working well and I didn’t want to try and walk the trail in the dark; at 9:00 p.m. I decided to camp in the middle of the trail.  Because it was so late in the evening, I felt confident that no one would be walking the trail at this time of the night, but then I forget; trail hikers aren’t normal people.

I no sooner had my air mattress and sleeping bag laid out in the middle of the trail and had settled in for a "long winter’s nap," when three fast-moving hikers passed by me, headlamps blazing, and each offering an “Excuse me,” as they passed over and around my sleeping bag.  I didn’t recognize these three hikers, but the next day at the Timberline Lodge, I ascertained that my three late-night visitors were Laptop, Sailor Moon, and Trout.

Animals of all types use the trails through the mountains, not the least of which are cougars, bears, deer, elk, as well as skunks, raccoons, and rabbits.  For all I know, any of these mountain dwellers may have passed by me during the night. 

Now it was only six miles to the Timberline Lodge and the all-you-can-eat-breakfast, but I was up and on the trail plenty early, as the six miles would be all uphill.  At six thousand feet I moved above tree line and started to connect with the glaciers and snowfields that were slowly advancing down Mount Hood.  On the trek thus far, this is the farthest up a volcano the Pacific Crest Trail has taken me, as usually the trail will just skirt around the base of the volcano and then continue north.

Mount Hood is heavily eroded, and a mile from the Timberline Lodge I encountered a large ravine that could only be crossed by hiking to the head of the ravine, and then crossing over.

At 12,239 feet, Mount Hood is the highest point in Oregon and the fourth highest point in the Cascade Mountain Range.  It has twelve named glaciers, the largest of which is Palmer Glacier, below which sits the Timberline Lodge.  It sports six major ski areas, of which the Palmer snowfield is the only one which offers year-round skiing in North America, and I must say, it was a total surprise to see snowboarders in late August riding the ski lift to the top of Palmer Glacier.

A few minutes after 9:00 a.m., I entered the Timberline Lodge via the front stone stairs of the edifice.  The front of the building was simply magnificent, as was the whole structure itself.  As I gazed up at the entrance to the lodge with multicolored flags flying from stonework above the large wooden doors, I sensed I had been here before; there was something very familiar about the front of the lodge.  After much contemplation and pondering, I recognized the front of the lodge as being part of the opening scenes from the 1980 movie thriller The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

Inside the lodge, I made my way to the front desk and inquired about the location of the dining hall.  The desk clerk gave me the information I needed, but before turning away, I sheepishly asked her if there was some place I could leave my backpack, as I felt a little out of place in such an elegant hotel.  She laughed and then assured me that I was fine just the way I was.  She said there were many others just like me in the dining room; I thanked her and proceed to climb the stairs to the next floor where the dining room was located and breakfast was being served.


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