Great Western Loop: Day 143 - 144: Cascade Locks to Bend
Day 143: Eagle Creek alternate (28miles)
I left Cascade Locks in the late morning and headed south for the Eagle Creek alternate. This alternate is one of the most famous alternate routes on the PCT, but had been closed in 2018, due to teenagers causing a fire that destroyed most of the forest.
The alternate quickly climbs from 154ft (47m) above sea level to 4200ft (1280m). Most of the trail is narrow and some sections even have rails to hold on to.
The highlight of this alternate is Tunnel Falls. A waterfall that can be navigated by a small tunnel right behind the actual waterfall.
Just after Tunnel Falls the climb got very steep for another 2 miles. I was hoping for some great views from the top, but the sky was still rather cloudy. At least I got some views of Mt. Hood in the late afternoon.
Day 144: Timberline Lodge and Government Camp (19miles)
I had camped at Lolo Pass. My plan was to reach the famous Timberline Lodge, which many know from the movie "Shining", by noon. The lodge is also famous for its incredibly good all you can eat breakfast buffet, but this time I wasn't really interested.
The weather was, once again, wet and cold in the morning. As in 2018 I decided to take the 2mile Ramona Falls alternate, which is a nice and easy sidetrail, that doesn't add any additional miles.
At Sandy River, the sky than cleared up for a few minutes, but it didn't last long. As I was climbing up towards Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge, the weather once again changed and blocked all views on Mt. Hood. I was once again really frustrated. Of all those immensely spectacular mountains in Washington and Oregon, I had only seen Mt. Rainier.
Mt. St. Helen's, Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood had been covered in thick layers of clouds.
(Literally right behind those lifts is Mt. Hood, just a mere mile away, towering over Timberline Lodge...)
By the time I arrived at the lodge, it was raining cats and dogs. I quickly got inside and enjoyed their porcelain throne with an endless supply of white gold (also known as "toilet") and than decided to head down the road towards the small town of Government Camp.
I still hadn't finalized my decision on how to move on from here on. Some miles further south the trail was closed and almost all hikers hitched around, or took a bus to or from Bend.
While I was warming up by eating a late breakfast at the Huckleberry Inn, I called the bus company to see if any seats were available on today's bus - and I got lucky. After all these disappointments of the last days, I just needed a break, and I wasn't willing to hike 3 days on a highway with no shoulder.
So, just three hours later, I hoped on the bus to Bend, where I arrived just before 7pm. The ride was actually really interesting. The landscape immediately changed from rugged mountains into wide open plains, that had suffered from this year's drought and rain clouds gave way for blue skies.
(Pickup place for the bus. Not quite sure...is that the entrance to the "men's" toilet?!)
I stayed in Bend for the night and decided to hitch to Sister's and back to the trail the next morning.