Timberline brunch and a fire detour

PCT miles 2107.3 to 2129 – Timberline Lodge to Parkdale, OR – Total PCT miles 2129+ (Though not really certain.)

This morning we started a stone’s throw from Timberline Lodge and ended the day in the front yard of the Forest Service’s Parkdale Work Center. A day much anticipated and fulfilled just as planned and also a day so different then expected.

Gabriel and I walked 40 miles in a 14-hour day, Saturday, to get to Timberline Lodge and meet my family for Sunday brunch. We’d planned to celebrate our accomplishment by feasting on the much acclaimed and personally taste-tested breakfast buffet. In fact, I’d been planning-okay dreaming-of this day since Labor Day weekend 2005. When I’d been at Timberline to celebrate a friend’s marriage and our last wedding party “duty” was to eat brunch. In the dining room had been an assortment of dirty, smelly, homeless-looking folk eating plates of waffles with peaches and raspberries. Obviously PCT hikers! And oh I wanted to be one of them…someday! Well today was the day.

Only our plan of brunch and then a semi-leisurely hike on the southwest side of Mt. Hood was no more. At 6:30 that morning we learned from some Oregon section hikers that the PCT had been closed the night before due to the Dollar Lake forest fire. The reroute was not yet established.

While brunch was still confirmed, this left the rest of our day somewhat up in the air. Would there be a detour? Would we have to skip a section and comeback later? Many questions, but no way to get answers just yet. So we picked up our resupply box from the gear shop, got our food situated and waited for my family to arrive.

As Gabriel and I stood on the steps of the lodge it was impressive to look south to Mt. Jefferson, some 70 trail miles away, we’d walked that distance over the last two days. Now 2100+ miles into our hike and I was still in awe to look out on the horizon and see how far we’d come in a day, let alone 4 months.

Brunch was delicious! The fresh squeezed orange juice, hearty waffles, the blueberries, the blackberries, the strawberries, the raspberries, the eggs, the potatoes, the bacon, the pancakes filled our five plates apiece. It is food well remembered. Many thanks to Mike and Cheryl for such a delicious, significant brunch. My other parents, as I think of them, had joined my mom in coming to meet Gabriel and me on the trail. To see family in such a memorable setting was fantastic. But also a bit overstimulating. Between the long day prior, the food, being in a setting with lots of other people and having to coordinate with the Forest Service recreation specialist on the fire detour was a lot to take in when one is used to simply placing one foot in front of the other.

We said our goodbyes, which were all the more easier for my mom to handle since she was likely to see us the next night after we’d covered another 60+ miles.  And then it was time to join our fellow PCT hikers and the recreation specialist to figure out the detour.  The plan was to follow the Mt. Hood Round-the-Mountain trail to a spur trail down to Hwy 35. Then proceed into the town of Parkdale, OR, walk along the pear orchards of Dee Road to then connect to the logging road system that leads up near the Columbia River Gorge’s Mt. Defiance and then follow the network of Gorge Trails to get to Cascade Locks. Many thanks to the Mt. Hood ZigZag District Recreation Specialist, she was quick in devising a route, informative and aided us hikers to quickly get back onto a safe, smoke free trail.

The new route made what would have been a 50-some mile on-trail stretch into a 60+ mile detour with a majority of it walking on roads. Not ideal, and not the gorgeous and acclaimed walk through Eagle Creek that so many PCT’ers recommend. But taking the detour would mean that when we got to Canada, we’d know we were done, having walked every step from border to border. And fortunately we wouldn’t be alone on this road walking detour. Fellow hikers Zm, Goodness, Pepe Lopez, Seahorse and Chili Dog would be with us. Interestingly, we’d all lived or hiked in the Mt. Hood and Columbia River Gorge area before so we were familiar with the network of trails and roads that we’d be taking to get to Cascade Locks.

Around noon, without further adieu we set off for the southeast side of the Round the Mountain Trail enjoying wildflowers and crossing glacier fed creeks. It was fun to be on a trail more rugged than the PCT for the Round the Mountain Trail is washed out in some places, and given that it hugs the slopes of a volcano makes for more dynamic topography then the gently graded best-maintained PCT.

By 6:00 pm we’d made it to Hwy 35. Originally, Gabriel and I had planned to camp for the night here. The last few days had been long and hard on our bodies, we were feeling stiff-muscled and fatigued. But when we saw Pepe Lopez hitching and Seahorse and Chili Dog starting to cook dinner we were instantly convinced of their brilliant plan: hike in the dark, along the road, and drink beer.

Now that may not sound logical, but it really did seem like the best way to go. For one (and two), we were in the middle of the Labor Day weekend heat wave and during the day it was 90+ degrees. Who really wants to walk along a busy road with Labor Day traffic during a heat wave? Not us! So by hiking in the dark it would be cooler with less traffic encounters. And we’d have the safety of a group (more headlamps alerting drivers to our presence).  And it would mean that we’d have covered more miles and have a more realistic shot at getting to Cascade Locks by Monday as planned. The deal was sealed when Pepe Lopez agreed to bring back chocolate milk in lieu of beers for Gabriel and me.

Zm and Goodness soon rolled in, they jumped on the plan. We all ate dinner and waited for Pepe to get back. Soon enough we were walking north on Hwy 35 with the moon in the sky. We walked in a cluster, forming a single file line when a car went by. We shared stories, jokes and eventually riddles to make the miles of road walking go by a little less painfully.  By 11:30 pm, we’d made it to the Parkdale Forest Service Work Center and camped out on its dry grassy lawn. We’d all agreed that we’d be up and ready to go by 5:14 the next morning.

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