Today's miles: 15
Total miles: 2170
Tanner had to go to work this morning at 7, so we said a very early morning goodbye. It was harder this time, knowing that my last stretch of trail I would be walking farther away from him rather than closer and closer day by day. Treekiller said goodbye to Tanner, too, promising him, "don't worry, we'll look after Brambs for you."
Sunshine was in the kitchen, whipping up a breakfast of eggs, biscuits and sausage. Treekiller and I packed up our gear (I remembered to pack my waterproof pack cover this time) and after breakfast Sunshine drove us back to Cascade Locks to continue our journey. We stopped by the post office to pick up a care package for Sunshine and then popped by the hotel where Giddyup and Wocka were gearing up to leave, too. They struck out ahead of us while TK and I said our final goodbyes to Sunshine and watched him drive back to Portland. We would see him again in one week, and how much would happen in so short a time.
We walked across the street to the entrance of the Bridge of the Gods, the official crossing point into the state of Washington. There was a Native American food stand beside the river, where a group of local men and women were selling freshly caught salmon and fruit. One of the women, seeing us in our packs, ran across the street with her arms full of cherries and apples.
"For you!" she said. We gratefully accepted the fresh fruit, tucking it into our packs for later.
Treekiller and I went up to the toll booth of the bridge, and I dug through my pack for some loose change. The toll was $1 for cars and $0.50 for pedestrians. We were standing awkwardly in front of a few cars who were waiting to cross the bridge, and a few of them were getting impatient. When I found my money, I quickly stuck my hand out to the woman at the toll gate and she laughed jovially at me, waving her hand.
"No, sugar, you're free!"
"Oh, thanks!" I said in surprise.
"Of course!" she said. "You guys are something like celebrities around here!"
The car behind us honked impatiently, and we tried quickly to get out of the way, but the woman at the booth stuck her head out and yelled to the car with a roaring laugh,
"These guys walked here from Mexico! They can do whatever the hell they want!"
We laughed and started across the bridge.
The Bridge of the Gods had no pedestrian walkway, so Treekiller and I hugged the railing and tried not to look down at our feet, which walked over trestles wide enough that we could see straight down into the river far below. The wind was blowing strongly over the water as we walked, but it was an exciting crossing, for it marked our third and final state in this long journey of ours. We beamed happily at the Welcome to Washington and PCT signs on the opposite side of the bridge.
Cascade Locks marks the absolute lowest spot on the entire PCT at just 150 feet, and the end of 458 miles of gently rolling Oregon landscape. Washington promised to be much more difficult, with elevation changes more severe than what we had been walking. But by this time we were strong, we were confident, and most of all, we were egotistical. Nothing could tear down our hubris; we were going to kick Washington's ass. We covered all of Oregon in 18 full walking days, how could Washington be so much different?
How much we had to learn.
Our climb out of the lowest point on the PCT was to the tune of 3,500 feet in five miles. And we quickly learned that Washington had no time for switchbacks. The quickest way to the top of a mountain was straight up, and that's the way we went.
And it was hot. Hot and humid and a struggle. After ten miles Treekiller and I took a break and quietly ate our fruit, sitting at a campsite covered in lush, green trees. It was strange just the two of us, like we were missing limbs of our body without the rest of our friends close by. I felt strangely empty and sad, wondering if our trek through Washington was going to be a quiet and lonely walk to the end.
We continued on, wanting to get in as many miles as we could. We caught up with Wocka and Giddyup a short time later and climbed another mountain. We could see the Columbia River far below us as we left it behind. It was very overcast and seemed like it might rain, but the sky never broke.
We walked until 7:30 and found a small campsite at the top of another climb. We contemplated trying to go further to find a better spot, just in case it rained, but the maps showed a lot of downhill ridgewalking and we weren't confident we could find something before it got dark. So the four of us set up camp, our tents meshed closely together and in the open expanse of the hilltop. We ate the last of the cheesecake for dessert and went to bed shortly thereafter.