Day 117: Thursday, August 29

Tenting at the intersection of the PCT and the Eagle Creek Alternate (PCT mi 2138.1), walked 30.6 miles today

Woke up at 6 because the wind had shifted directions and was blowing a brisk easterly straight into my tent. As I was packing up, Sherpa came by with hot coffees that he'd already gone down to the Lodge and purchased for the hikers camped up above. Stand-up guy, that Sherpa C. Veins veritably coursing with caffeine, I set off on the PCT around 7 ready for absolutely any weather that the heavens wanted to throw at me ... Dark clouds were already brooding overhead and the many forecasts I'd read (for towns lower in elevation) called for scary-sounding things like "100% chance of precipitation" and "half an inch of rain possible." At around 9am, I did experience the most intense cloudburst I've seen since summer Arb Crew in Minnesota--I was right on a very exposed point above a glacial valley, watching cloud-to-ground lightning below, and in the process of refinding lost trail (so, the wrong place to be) when hail and rain came and drenched me for about a minute straight, and then went away.

After that, the skies were never really a problem the rest of the day and, though it stayed grey and foggy, there was never any hard or wind-driven rain, just patches of drizzle. Had to ford a creek around 10am for the first time since the Sierra, up to my thighs with nice refreshing glacier water. There were a half-dozen non-thru-hikers on the shore either taking off or putting back on their shoes, so I showed them how it's done by charging right in. No hesitation, baby! I was born ready! Not long after, I made a side trip to the splendid Ramona Falls, which is the Pacific Northwest at its best ... While I complain nearly constantly about the rain here (as my long-suffering girlfriend can attest), sometimes it takes what would already be a nice scene and makes it absolutely perfect. That was Ramona Falls today ... the falls just wouldn't look right with a sunny sky above them--better a dark, dripping copse of trees.

Ended up walking the first 22 or so miles without a single sit-down break, so conducive was the weather to hiking. Every few hours I stopped to change up layers or put a little more food in arm's reach on the outside of my pack, but otherwise I was on the move nonstop. Eventually I caught up to Sherpa, as well as Kent and Lisa, a funny older couple I knew to be in the area, and we busted out the last 8 miles to this camping area at the start of the Eagle Creek trail, which pretty much every single hiker takes instead of the real PCT down into the Columbia Gorge and Cascade Locks. We lucked out and were able to get set up and even eat dinner without rain falling on us. During dinner, Sherpa and I hung down with some cool other hikers from Portland/Long Island, whose names I never got, but they might be reading this blog (hey guys!). There's also an older couple within earshot, and the woman has to be drunk. Her husband has repeatedly reminded her of the proximity of all the other campers, but she's having some volume issues. I could not master the Hexamid Solo this evening for whatever reason, so it's pitched in a saggy and quite exposed position, and if the rain ever becomes wind-driven over the course of the night I could have some issues, but that hasn't been the pattern of the weather so far today so I think I'm okay. Tomorrow--to Cascade Locks, and beyond!