Wind River to Bridge of the Gods Hike

Dried out, recharged, I headed back out to the Pacific Crest Trail. I didn’t start until about 3:30 Thursday afternoon. I wish I’d gotten on the trail earlier, but I managed to get a fair number of chores done before I left. Also, if I’d been on the trail earlier, I wouldn’t have camped where I did Thursday night, and that means I wouldn’t have seen the bear Friday morning. 

The first few miles of this trail are relatively flat, and then it starts to climb. I found an amazing place to camp. This spot overlooks the Trout Creek valley. I hung my hammock across the trail. I left my pack against that tree; I could easily reach it from my hammock — it was like having room service!

9-20 campsite
Campsite Overlooking the Trout Creek Valley

After I’d set up the hammock, a thru hiker came through my camp. Given that the day was getting late, I let him know he was welcome to camp if he found a spot that worked. (There was no flat or level spot.) He said he’d keep looking, but then he headed around the rock outcropping. He came back around the rock, and said, “I don’t see where the trail goes down.” Ah ha! He was unaware he was on a side trail, not the PCT. He must have thought I was complete asshole to have hung a hammock across the trail — I’m relieved he figured out he was no longer on the trail. (Never make camp on the trail, and one certainly never blocks the trail. Never ever.)

I thought I was going to have another visitor later in the night. I saw a head lamp pause at the junction between the side trail and the PCT. It was easy to confuse — the PCT made a sharp turn, and northbounders going straight would walk right into my camp. The head lamp looked around, then kept going down the main trail.

This section of the trail has very different forests than the part of Section J I did. Deciduous forestLots of deciduous trees, lots of green. This section of the trail is soft, too. Very nice!

Shortly after I took this picture, I heard a great deal of movement in the brush. Normally, if it’s a deer, you won’t hear much. But this was too much noise to be a squirrel, so I figured it was a deer that wasn’t worried about being stealthy. I kept walking. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw a large black lump on a tree nearby. I turned to look at it and saw that it had a face. Yup, I treed a bear.

I figured the bear was scared, so I kept walking. I looked back over my shoulder, and saw that the bear had inched its way around the tree so it could keep watching me. As I walked away, I heard a lot of brush moving, and the movement was moving away from me.

That’s the closest I’ve ever been to a bear, with the exception of the bears at the Olympic Game Farm. Unlike my experience with the coyotes last winter, I wasn’t at all freaked out by the bear. I felt bad, because I must have spooked the bear pretty bad for it to tree itself. It really should have heard (I have a cowbell on my pack) or smelled (their sense of smell is akin to a bloodhound’s) me coming. And treeing yourself is not a great defense against humans during hunting season. I hope this bear figures out these things soon, because now it’s “my” bear.

This section of the trail has some long climbs, but unlike the climbs in Section J, there are no views to keep one inspired. Mt St Helens from PCTI took this picture of Mt. St. Helens from a ridge, near where I camped. I hoped to be able to watch the sunrise paint the volcano, but alas, a storm rolled in overnight and I was surrounded by fog.

Saturday’s hike was mostly downhill. It was hard to know how long it would take me, as I’m pretty slow on steep descents. My glutes surely felt every rise in the trail, too. The day was mostly rainy. My Tyvec skirt kept the water off my legs, and the pack cover was okay. (I plan to sew a pack cover that fits better.)

I stopped to scoop water, and then looked for a spot where I could filter the water and make lunch. I couldn’t find a place under a tree or another relatively dry spot, so I stood along the trail, eating my pudding, getting rained on. The pudding was so good I didn’t care about getting rained on.

I hiked a little under fifteen miles both Friday & Saturday. The last mile of this trail is demoralizing, as you get so close to Highway 14 that you can walk down someone’s driveway and be on the highway. The trail turns away and climbs a bit. By the time I got there, it had started raining again. I’d earlier stowed my jackets because I was getting really warm. I’d left the ground cloth/trail skirt section of Tyvec readily accessible. I didn’t want to stop and take off my pack, so I wrapped the Tyvec around my shoulders like a shawl. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but it kept me mostly dry and I knew I was almost done.

Jim was waiting for me at the north end of the Bridge of the Gods. After a burger & some chowder at a local restaurant, we retrieved my truck and headed home. I’d asked Jim to bring clean clothes for me to wear, but I hadn’t thought to ask him to bring me dry shoes. At some point during the drive home, I knew I needed to get out of my wet shoes & socks. I drove the rest of the way home barefoot.

This is probably my last overnight hike for the year. I’ve got things on the calendar for upcoming weekends, and I really need to catch up on work around the house. I’ll spent the winter trying to get my body in better shape for more hikes next summer and working on my gear. Time to start planning my next attempt on Section J.


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