Thursday, August 15, 2013

Part 168 - Highway Robbery

I had a resupply package to pick up at the post office and I needed to do laundry, which sort of mandated an overnight stay in Cascade Locks.  There aren’t a lot of motels in town, so I first checked out the motel located across the street from the restaurant.  I won’t mention the name of the establishment, but I was highly disgusted at the inflated rate they wanted to charge for an overnight stay in a less than average motel room.  There was nothing classy about the motel; in fact, it appeared to be one of the older motels in town.  I entered the lobby and inquired about a room; without blinking, the day clerk said that would be $112 for the night.  I said to the clerk,

“You’ve got to be kidding.”

She said, “Oh, do you want the room for a hundred dollars?"

When she saw the look of disbelief on my face, she pointed to a hiker sitting at a computer in the lobby, which was Brownie, and said, “That’s what he paid.”

Not wanting to walk around town with my backpack on, checking out each motel and campground, I paid the rate and went to my room.  For a hundred bucks, I got a crappy little room, no phone, no closet in which to hang my clothes, and a bathroom so small I could hardly turn around.  My advice to future PCT hikers planning on overnighting in Cascade Locks is to do your homework on the Internet and ascertain lodging prices before committing to a motel room.  If you’re willing to pay a hundred dollars for a dinky motel room, then pay a few bucks more and get a really nice room; or if you’re low on funds and money is an issue, stay at a campground in town, or with trail angel Shrek.

I emptied the contents of my backpack on the floor of the room, placed my wet tent on the porch railing to dry out, put my rain suit on, and went to the laundry room across the parking lot to do my laundry.  When the laundry was finished, I walked a few blocks to the post office to retrieve my package, and then returned to my motel room.

While at the post office, I noticed a grocery store across the street; after leaving my resupply package at the motel room, I walked back to the grocery store to pick up a few items I needed for the trail.  There were other hikers in the store, including Cookie.  I mentioned to her that inasmuch as we didn’t get to celebrate Runs-with-Elk’s birthday at Etna, we should do it here.  She agreed, and later in the evening, we walked to the Char Burger and ordered root beer floats, sans-Runs-with-Elk.

Today, Tuesday, August 27, is a big, big day; I am finished with the state of Oregon, and after crossing the Bridge of the Gods, I will enter Washington.  I was out the door of my motel room by 6:00 a.m. and at the foot of the bridge a few minutes later.

The bridge is a toll bridge built in 1926, and with the rising of the river due to the Bonneville Dam, the bridge had to be raised, which was accomplished in 1940.  At the toll booth on the bridge, I stopped momentarily to ask the toll booth operator if there was a charge for hikers to cross the bridge

She said,

“No, it is free to hikers.”

There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the bridge this early in the morning, which was good, because there was no pedestrian lane for hikers.  I had to hug the side of the roadway and hope that traffic coming up behind will see me.  I stopped midway across the bridge to take photos of the river in both directions, and tried to imagine the extent of the Bonneville Landslide that dammed up the river to a height of two hundred feet and three and a half miles long with debris. The debris dam backed the river up for thirty-five miles.

Disaster at Warm Springs Rapid on the Yampa River

In my lifetime as a professional river runner, I have witnessed landslides on rivers, albeit on a much smaller scale and on much smaller rivers than the Columbia River, but with the same effect.  One was the Yampa River in northeastern Utah in 1966 at a rapid called Warm Springs. My group had run the rapid the day before, when it was small and insignificant; but the next day, a perfect storm gathered over the mountains and unleashed a downpour, the likes of which I had never seen before. 

My rafting group that was now twenty miles downstream had to pull off the river and huddle under a rock outcropping, so fierce was the storm, and wait while the fury of the tempest expended itself.

The cloudburst in the hill country above Warm Springs was so violent that the highly charged rushing water denuded the canyon of all vegetation leading to Warm Springs and totally dammed the river with massive boulders, smaller rocks, and trees and brush of all types.  

As no one was around at the exact moment the landslide occurred, it’s not known how long the dam lasted before the rushing river flowed over the dam and began to push the debris downriver.  The next rafting group that floated the river a few days later had no idea; a new and unrunnable rapid had formed.  The guides were rowing a thirty-three-foot pontoon raft with two guides manning the oars; the massive boat flipped in the ragging rapid, throwing everyone into the water, and one guide was drowned.

No comments:

Post a Comment