Mile 2016 to 2036
I wake to the loud nostril snorts and branch breaking rampage of a ticked off buck. Apparently he owns this ridge and is making clear we are not at all welcome. When he eventually discovers our peace offerings of salt, in the form of human urine near a tree, he calms down. At least we had the decency to bring house warming gifts.
After checking out of our rooms with a view, we hike into the green tunnel. It is a living incarnation of the expression “can’t see the forest for the trees.” We spend the next 9 miles dropping 2,000 feet in elevation. We reach milky white Mill Creek, which is running wild and a safe crossing location is as unclear as the water. A thru-hiker and a couple of section hikers with a dog are scouring the shore. I join them climbing very high upstream in search of safe passage. Kevin eventually tires of our efforts and plows across the rushing water. I climb back down stream and follow his lead. Oh to be young and so confident. Now we just have to climb back up the lost 2,000 feet in the next 9 miles.
As we cross Jefferson Park we catch up to a Forest Service Ranger. Kevin experiences his first can-I-see-your-PCT-permit drill. We are lectured about a variety of things, including not stepping on greenery near shore when getting water because we might injure the insects which are “the life blood of the forest.” I wanted to ask what lecture he was giving the insects that were sucking the life blood out of me, but instead I just smiled and nodded. In the 4 million or so steps it has taken me to get here, I am pretty sure a squashed insect or two requires major medical. I keep looking at the ranger’s feet and wondering how he hovered here.
As we climb the steepest stretch up to the summit and across the border to Mount Hood Wilderness, we are treated to more spectacular views of Mount Jefferson and its icy glaciers. At the summit looking north, we can now see Mount Hood creating its own weather of swirling clouds.
After a break we push on towards Breitenbush Lake Campground. There are a surprising number of couples, families, dogs and horses coming our way. Looking at my watch I realize it is Friday evening. This is the get-a-jump-on-the-weekend crowd. On the way down the steep slope of loose stones, Kevin slips and falls backwards, miraculously flipping into the air a fist size rock with his lunging pole. It seems like it soars 15 feet in the air, but in reality is probably only 14 feet 11 inches. Kevin is completely unaware as it thuds just behind his head. Had it thudded directly on his head, he would be permanently unaware.
At our campsite we are rewarded with a tilted picnic table, a pit toilet, and a couple of goofy deer trying to get to lake for water. We try to get a backpacker’s night sleep, while the rest of the camp is just getting started with their campfires and red neck noises.