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Day 112 – July 24, 2022

Mile 2131.6 (Wahtum Lake Campground) to 2148.2 (Cascade Locks, OR/Bridge of the Gods)

16.6 trail miles | 16.6 tracked miles | 1,677 ft elevation gain | 77 F / 25 °C

I woke up in the Wahtum Lake Campground parking lot, surrounded by a cloud of mosquitoes that seemed to be having an impromptu gathering. I swatted a few for good measure, packed up my gear, and then made my way back down to the trail while pondering how through hiking has shaped my perspective. Less than a year ago, the idea of spending the night away from the lake, close to a pit toilet, in a parking lot would have infuriated me. However, these days, I find myself unfazed. In fact, I found the mishap rather amusing.

Moreover, I was in a cheerful mood this morning, knowing that I would soon reach the Columbia River, which serves as the border with my home state of Washington!

Approaching the Columbia River!

The trail gently started to climb east of Wahtum Lake and soon led me into yet another burn area. The weather was hot and humid, and the bugs were out in full force.

Several miles later, the lush “green tunnel” of foliage returned, and I embarked on the long, steep, eroded, and brushy 3,000 foot descent into Cascade Locks, Oregon. I was longing for new shoes, but marched on with determination.

At some point, I took a wrong turn and ended up on a side trail. When an expected water source failed to materialize, I quickly realized my mistake. I had to backtrack for half a mile—bonus miles!

Even before I could get my first glimpse of the quaint of Cascade Locks, the sounds of civilization enveloped me: the roar of the freeway, the rumbling of the railroad, and the whistles of freight locomotives.

After more than three months on the trail, I’ve come to appreciate the serenity of silence and the gentle symphony of nature. Noise feels like pollution, while silence is true luxury.

Descending into Cascade Locks, OR

Eventually, I spotted the unmistakable Columbia River below, marking the boundary between Oregon and Washington. Cascade Locks appeared much smaller than I had imagined!

The trail abruptly ended at a road crossing, and it hit me that I had reached the bottom. Cascade Locks, OR is the lowest point of the Pacific Crest Trail.

As I walked toward my hotel, I couldn’t resist the temptation to snap a selfie by the Bridge of the Gods, which spans the Columbia River. Despite lacking a pedestrian path or even shoulders, the bridge is officially part of the PCT route. Hikers can cross toll-free, and to my knowledge, no one has been run over yet, although I’ve heard the experience can be nerve-wracking. I’ll find out firsthand tomorrow!

Yours truly in front of the Bridge of the Gods

I checked into the Best Western Columbia River Inn, wonderfully situated along the majestic river, and treated myself to a hot bath.

Then, I set out to briefly explore Cascade Locks, which was decidedly smaller than I expected. I stopped at the grocery store to resupply and found a paltry selection. Thankfully, my foresight to prepare my Washington resupply in Portland paid off. The upcoming days are going to be heavy on Clif bars!

Then, I sat down at a coffee shop and experienced incredibly indifferent service, prior to having dinner at the local brewery and enjoying much more genuine hospitality.

Dinner at Thunder Island Brewing Co, Cascade Locks, OR

With this, I’ve wrapped up my journey through the Oregon section of the Pacific Crest Trail. Oregon has been kind to me.

The Oregon section is famous for being mild, but hot, humid, boring, and infested with mosquitoes. It was humid indeed, and the mosquito swarms certainly aren’t for the faint of heart. However, overall, I’m once again reminded of my good fortune. The heat was never painful, the bugs were always manageable, and I narrowly escaped the snow.

Was Oregon monotonous? The landscapes were more diverse than I expected. While there were days of hiking amidst endless trees, and the prevalence of burn areas was disheartening, the splendor of Central Oregon and the Three Sisters Wilderness left me in awe. I also relished the grandeur of Mt. Hood.

I missed the chance to experience Crater Lake due to partial closures on the Rim Trail. But as a resident of Seattle, I can easily return another time.

I’m eagerly anticipating the final section of the PCT through Washington. Forgive me for my bias, but in my view, Washington, along with the Sierras, constitutes the pinnacle of the PCT experience. Washington is a backpacker’s paradise in the summer, offering abundant water, comfortable temperatures, and exceptional campsites.

While the unpredictability of snow remains a factor, recent reports have been encouraging. If all goes as planned, I’ll be back in Seattle in just a few weeks!

I will cross into WA first thing tomorrow morning. Next stop, Trout Lake, WA!

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