Mt. Hood, up close and personal

by Gillian Larson | posted: July 12, 2014

On Friday I had a long day’s ride into Lolo Pass, in the shadow of Mt. Hood. I’d been able to talk to some northbound thru-hikers, who warned me of some areas of snow ahead, but they thought it would be passable. Then on Saturday, as Shyla and I made our way around the edge of the mountain, we came across an remarkable sight: snowboarders (I kid you not!). There was one run still open on the mountain, and I had to stop and wait till they went by me and the path was clear, and then Shyla and I went trotting across the slope before the next ones swooped down toward us. I don’t think I’ve ever had to dodge snowboarders while riding before–and I hope I never will again, as I can tell you that I’ve had more than enough snow to last me the rest of my riding career! I was supposed to meet Mom at Little Crater Lake and to stay at the Joe Graham Corral horse camp by Timothy Lake, but because it was a weekend the camp had no vacancies, so Mom couldn’t stay there. She found a spot off a forest road a little north of there, near where the PCT crossed a gravel road, but although she left signs for me at the trail crossing, I didn’t see them in the dark, and she had no cell reception so she couldn’t text me to tell me about the change of plans. It’s the first time we’ve had a mix up like that where we didn’t manage to meet up where we were supposed to (although I know I’ve given her plenty of anxious moments waiting late at night for me to turn up), but this time I was the one who couldn’t find her where I expected her to be. I set out walking on the road toward Joe Graham Corral, and when it was getting late and I hadn’t arrived where she was, she figured either I’d missed her signs or had a problem on the trail, so she packed up and drove back towards civilization to get reception. But before she got that far, a man in a pickup truck flagged her down and told her where to find me; he had seen me walking on the road and had stopped to help, calling the rangers who waited with me until Mom arrived. We loaded right there in the road, and then the rangers actually managed to find us a spot at Joe Graham after all (a late cancellation had freed up a place), so we snuck in after midnight and tried not to disturb the rest of the camp. This was the third long, late and difficult day in a row (we didn’t get settled at Cascade Locks until after 1am, following a conversation with sheriffs about whether or not we were allowed to camp there, and I didn’t get to Lolo Pass until after 11, and now it was the dead of night again), and all of us were feeling the strain. We’ve had to work so hard to find enough open trail to ride on, and we’ve had to drive north and ride south, then drive south and ride north, over and over again, until sometimes I don’t know which way I’m going. It confuses the other thru-hikers that I meet too, as sometimes I’m ahead of them and sometimes behind them and sometimes crossing the same people going different directions at different times. But it’s been nice to also strike up some acquaintances with people this way and to trade information about the trail and give each other notice of problems ahead and what to expect along the way.


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