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Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington Sections
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Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington Sections

Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon & Washington Sections

Hikers near the PCT on Mt Hood

Hike a section of the PCT and meet some hardy thru-hikers!
By mile 2,155, when thru-hikers reach the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River, after 120 days and nights on the trail, those tenacious souls have traversed dry deserts, scrambled over snowy Sierra passes, meandered through alpine meadows on the Cascade Crest, and covered the entire lengths of California and Oregon.
Only another 500 miles through the State of Washington to go.

I try to get out on the PCT as much as I can this time of year.  That's when the northbound PCT thru-hikers are coming through my neck of the woods.  I enjoy talking to them and learning from them.  It's always amazing to hear how, after four months steady, they have adapted to life on the trail.

Alpenglow on Mt. Hood from the PCT

My last blog (Aug. 14) chronicled some PCT trail magic at Wapinitia Pass, and mentioned a southbound section hike.  Here's the rest of that story.  I explored spur trails off the PCT, hiking the Jackpot Meadows trail, which connects to the Salmon River trail (one of my favorite trails on Mt. Hood in any season).  I retraced my steps and headed back north along the PCT, and took, the Twin Lakes loop spur trail, for a lovely evening camping beside a subalpine lake.  The huckleberries were out something fierce.  I ate very little of the food I had packed, my fingers and lips stained purple from steady grazing along the trail.

PCT lightweight cowboy campsite  Mossy bridge in ferns along Salmon River Trail

I only saw a few section hikers on that outing, but then, I spent most of it off the PCT.

  Greg atop rocky viewpoint of the Salmon River Wilderness

Last Friday (8/23), I got up to Timberline Lodge, on the slopes of Mt. Hood, for a day hike along the PCT (which is also the Timberline Trail at that point).  Several thru-hikers were sprawled out inside the lodge, opening drop boxes like it was Christmas morning, and feasting at the Lodge's famous lunch buffet.

Pacific Crest Trail Sign on Mt. Hood near Timberline Lodge

Osprey and ULA backpacks were the most common thru-hiker packs that I saw.  We ran into several groups trudging southbound under the weight of towering backpacks.  They were NOT PCT thru-hikers; they were round-the-mountain Timberline Trail backpackers, carrying more on their backs for four days than most PCT thru-hikers carry for fourteen days.

ULA Backpack on the PCT around Mt. Hood  Sulfur Buckwheat flowers near PCT on Mt. Hood  Arnica flower on Mt. Hood near PCT

Wildflowers were just getting past prime at the 5000-6000 foot elevation.  Sulfur buckwheat, lupines, asters, arnica, and fireweed were blooming.

Huckleberries along the PCT in Oregon  Lupine flowers near PCT on Mt. Hood Oregon  Fireweed flowers along PCT on Mt. Hood in Oregon

The view of Mt. Hood from the Zigzag Canyon overlook was spectacular.  Blue sky with whisps of white clouds.  The mountain had lost most of its winter snow, but broad swaths of glaciers and snowfields still whiten its slopes.  The lifts at Timberline are still running, so you can still ski and snowboard there!

Zigzag Canyon viewpoint on Mt. Hood along PCT

Starting this week, I'll be heading up to White Pass in Washington to hike a section of the PCT southbound, through the Goat Rocks, Mt. Adams, and Indian Heaven Wildernesses.  If all goes well, I'll be arriving in the Columbia Gorge right on time for the PCT Days festival in Cascade Locks, on the Oregon side of the river, September 6th - 8th.

I'll take advantage of the free camping on Thunder Island and enjoy two more nights out under the stars before finally returning to Portland.

Get out there and hike while summer is still in the mountains!  See the alpine wildflower show while it lasts!  Meet some thru-hikers on the PCT.  Maybe you'll even see me on the trail!

PCT Days Event in Cascade Locks Oregon 2010

Don't miss the PCT Days event in Cascade Locks, September 6-8 (pictured above from 2010).  If you really want to get a grip on the the latest and greatest in ultra-light gear.  Free admission, free camping, gear raffles, gear clinics, movies, photo  slideshows, dance parties, a disc golf tournament, mountain biking, hiking and more await those who are thru-hiker-curious and head up the Columbia River Gorge for this incredible event.

Or, you could join Next Adventure Outdoor School for a five-day backpack along the Pacific Crest Trail, starting  September 9th, and really get a feel for what it's all about. Find out more at NextAdventure.net/Community/Outdoor-School

And if you want to learn more without leaving town, then come by Next Adventure, 426 SE Grand Ave, Portland, Oregon, at 7 pm, on the evening of September 10, for a free informational clinic about what it takes to be a lightweight thru-hiker. Learn more at NextAdventure.net/Community/Outreach

Pacific Crest Trail sign from Oregon PCT

Greg Hill is Lead Guide and Program Manager for the Next Adventure Outdoor School, based in Portland, Oregon.

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