The Cascades are dry? Who knew? After crossing the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia, trying not to get taken out by the RVs hurtling full speed towards us, we started a long climb, burdened with 4 liters of water. Which, by the way, weighs a lot if you are also carrying five days of food.
"What does poison oak look like?" Map Girl wondered. As I traversed the brushy trail in a skirt, I had to wonder also. Despite having gotten a poison oak rash before, I wasn't sure. We would ask the first southbounder we saw, we decided. Except we kept forgetting, because there were so many other things to figure out.
The southern Cascades were dry. Bone dry. We rushed toward water at Panther and Trout Creeks for salvation, filling up for long water hauls and dry campsites. We walked under powerlines and clear cuts. You had to look hard to find the beauty, though it existed in small doses.
Our second night, having walked 21 miles, we were peacefully lying in our tents at hiker midnight (9 pm), surrounded by thru-hikers doing the same, in a campground by a road. A car drove by, horn honking, and fishtailed back to us. "HEY!" the driver yelled. "Anyone want to get stoned?" Nobody did. Of four campsites, three were next to roads. Logging trucks thundered by. This was the PCT?
But after the stoner, things got better. We hiked into the Indian Heaven Wilderness, a little slice of paradise with sweet gem-like lakes. Things were looking up, even though we were forced to camp at the aptly named Mosquito Creek.
As we hoisted our heavy packs at the trailhead, we realized: we still didn't know what poison oak looked like.
To be continued....