Hiking

PCT Hiking: Section G (Mt. Hood to Cascade Locks)

Of the many sections of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) I have hiked, Section G went into my mind as the hardest one. Not because the hiking was hard, but rather dry, dusty trail, dismal views, and a butt clenching ford of the Sandy River. It was a section that I told myself I was glad to have done, but I’d be happy to never hike it again if I had my way.

The year I hiked it I was on a hiking high. I had done Section J the summer before, and my friend Steve wanted to know if we could pull it off. We got a group together, because groups make it fun. We hiked the section in 3 nights/4 days in late July.

But if there was one thing I learned on this trip? Never try out new gear on a multi day hike. I’d only remember this hike for my crazy idea to buy baby blue yoga cut hiking pants the night before and leave all my other bottoms* in Steve’s truck. *The horror story comes later. Hah.

Steve’s sister in law dropped the group off at the end of the road at Mt. Hood where the lodge is. We had a last drink from the water fountains, and put our backpacks on and headed off North on the PCT.

Walk up one of the trails out of the lot, and up to the PCT junction, the PCT runs a bit above the parking lot. It’s a pretty bland start however. Starts in the middle of a homely section of woods. I almost found it humorous as other sections you get a feeling you are setting off on a magical section of trail. It was a bit of a let down

The first miles of this section are great, no doubt about that. You are in subalpine, open views and wildflowers. The creek beds were nearly dry, the snow long gone, so easy to step over.

And the theme became quickly…one drainage after another.

The drainage areas started looking alike about this point….and the sad realization that not long ago there were most likely glaciers in these moraines.

and the mountain started getting smaller…..

But periodically one would slip into the shade for a bit. What I noted was how dry and unstable the land around Hood was. Unlike Rainier or Baker, Hood reminded me of hiking around Mt. St. Helens. Dry, gritty, sandy, and so on.

We came out of the forest to the view of Zig Zag River far below us. And just how grey Mt. Hood is!

Zig Zag Falls in the distance, while hopping over the (tiny) Zig Zag River (more of a creek).

Beargrass in bloom.

The trail dropped more and we started getting new views of Hood, with a bit of green in the front.

Coming to the open views in the trail.

Waterfall across the open expanse. Walking here was very hot, due to the color of the ground, reflecting back the sun. The views were worth it though.

Looking down the mountain, towards the Cascades with Mt. St Helens back side visible.

As the trail started heading downhill the open areas were choked with native plants, humidity and a lot of flying insects.

The first day did offer a lot of views. However, one thing I noted was how wildflowers were not a heavy presence, rather green vegetation was.

It was cool though to see a mountain in constant change. Hood is a rough mountain, with lots of exposed ground that isn’t solid rock as expected. The waterfalls shooting out of the hills were very neat.

The trail would often go around sharp corners, giving you the feeling of being on the edge of air.

Oh, in the days before selfies….

The trail headed downhill into the cool forest, which I was enjoying. There is a tiny camp area as come down to a side creek, that empties into the Sandy River.

Well gee….the Sandy River. Yeah. I was excited. Not exactly. Notice I am on the other side, so there is that.

Discussing our methods. Note I am wearing baby blue hiking pants, with the legs zipped off.

Ben crossing.

In the end my being short was not a good thing. Doug came back over and helped me, arms linked, to ford the three braids. My inseam is 28″ and the water was crotch level. Just having him help made it so I was comfortable. Had I been solo I would have camped and crossed it before sunrise.

We visited the old National Forest cabin on the trail.

It was a cool cabin.

We took the Timberline Trail at its junction and went out to Romona Falls, which sits in the deep forest. A cool spot for the hot day. There is a an actual trail to Romona Falls (#797) that you can make a loop out of, if one wanted to.

We backtracked and made camp in an area near the cabin. Don’t ask me exactly where it was. The old memory slips a bit over time. Steve prepping dinner.

Ben and Doug prepping food.

In the morning it was Ursack pickup time, all 5 of us had them. Don’t ask why mine was in a grocery sack. Lol.

*Remember those blue hiking pants? I woke up, got out of my tent and put my pants on. The zipper broke.

I wore them broken for the rest of the trip, till I happily got my clothing back end of trip. It was so hilarious to have ill fitting pants on I can tell you!

We got back on the trail and walked the long length of the land, that followed between the Sandy River and the Muddy Fork. The trail cuts across this land and passes two trail junctions. After the Romona Falls junction we cam up to the “horse ford” of the Muddy Fork and where the bridge used to be. I knew there was a bridge that year, and we had to detour, and head up the Romona Falls Trail till we saw a sign.

The bridge made the detour worth it. Muddy Fork wasn’t a deep creek but it was a mess of trees. Not a fun ford if one has to do it.

Once crossed, the trail was uphill to the day use area for Romona Falls. It was busy with good smelling people. We passed a junction with Timberline Trail for the last time and continued on.

Stopping in the sun to look across at Hood.

Up next, as the millionth switchback was conquered in deep forest we crossed Lolo Pass. For being in the middle of nowhere, the road was wide and we crossed under the big power lines. We had lunch in the shade before crossing.

We headed up the trail and were treated to a different tread of trail for awhile.

Mt. Hood was quickly getting bigger to the eye, and starting to look how it does in the low lands.

Looking down and across, at land that has been harvested many times. The mountain seemed so far away.

Not long after the trail started to change. No longer was it marred by deep river valleys, and we had real dirt under our feet, through deep forest.

“Salvation Springs”? More like Mosquito Heaven. We made camp here, then end of a long day.

Home was my tarp. I had tried hard that year to get past my need for a tent, and I was using a protype tarp tent that had no zipper but had a full length mesh, I could fold under…and weight down with everything in my pack. That year I learned the weight of a zipper was priceless. I just was never comfortable with it and I had zero privacy.

In the morning we were on the trail early. The mosquitoes didn’t care what time it was. It was eating time all day – and night.

This was the PCT tread I loved. Cool forest, sunlit.

Sometimes we’d get views across the valleys, Hood becoming more pointed. And that feeling when you realize how many miles you have walked.

The subalpine look comes on as you leave the forest. It is the result I was told of a forest fire. The wildflowers were amazing.

I felt like I was home when I walked through here. It made all the miles worth it.

And it just kept going.

Mt. Adams in the distance.

We passed a few junctions and old road bed to Indian Springs Campground. It is an old car campground, with walk in sites. There is a natural spring that rushes up, I camped next to it. We had ancient picnic tables as well.

It was very windy that night. And I found sand blasted through the mesh like nothing. Lesson learned.

In the morning we left the PCT to take the alternative route, Eagle Creek. *This and Eagle Creek burned horrifically a few years ago. It won’t look like this for a long time.*

We headed down the very steep Indian Springs Trail #435, which connects to Eagle Creek Trail at the bottom. It’s a lonely trail that doesn’t see a lot of traffic. Of the side trails from the PCT to Eagle Creek this is the last one, and drops you down furthest.

Once on Eagle Creek, the hike was easy going along the many waterfalls.

I had hiked Eagle Creek before, but not this far back. It was beautiful wandering. The wall has anchors and cabling to hold onto while on the narrow, exposed sections. This really helps with any fear of heights.

I love tunnel falls, where you walk behind the waterfall.

Looking across the trail.

For once I was ahead and waited for the group to catch up. But why rush…it was so pretty there.

The alternative version lands you out at the parking lot and Gorge Trail #400 takes you to Cascade Locks and the end of Oregon (it connects with the actual PCT as well).

~Sarah

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