The great Ben Gaye Debocale of 2016 took place in Cascade Locks on our zero day. Kyle and I, sore and exhausted after our ten days out in Washington had been planning an exchange of massages, focused mostly on the back, legs and feet. We had gotten it in our heads that using Ben Gaye as a massage lubricant would be a good idea. Then you get the massage and the healing icy hot power of Ben Gaye, all at the same time. However, about half way through my massage I suddenly began to rethink the whole thing. Covering half of ones body in Ben Gaye is a lot of icy hot. My whole body was on fire, I could taste menthol in my mouth, I began to become paranoid that it was entering my blood stream. In a panic I asked Kyle to check the box for a warning about percent of your body you were allowed to cover in Ben Gaye. I was worried it was like a burn, if more than ten percent of your body is burned you have a serious problem on your hands. He looked and reported back that no such warning existed, but he agreed, it was not a pleasant feeling. We sat in bed, shivering and watching the Olympics, waiting for our bodies to begin to exhibit weird symptoms, but they never did. We survived the Ben Gaye Debocable, but I would not recommend rubbing ones self from head to toe in Ben Gaye to anyone else. No matter how bad your body hurts.
Other then that we basically just ate a lot of cereal and felt pretty patriotic as we watched the Olympics. The next day came too quickly and we hiked out rather late after watching men’s fencing. As we were leaving town we made an incredible and regrettable discovery. On the edge of town was a man selling homemade tamales out of the back of his Toyota Corola. Incredible because they were unbelievably delicious, regrettable because we didn’t discover them sooner and therefore only got the chance to eat one apiece. We seriously considered buying our weight in tamales and staying in town another day so we could consume them, but our tight schedule was calling, so we pushed on.
That first day out of Cascade Locks was a short one. We had decided to take the actual PCT instead of the Eagle Creek Alternate because of a mellower elevation profile and because we had a shorter day that day anyway, so why not? We had a massive climb right of the bat but after reaching the top things mellowed out nicely and we ended our day at a lovely little campsite with a spring and a couple section hikers. We had glimpsed hood for the first time that day and we’re excited to get up close and personal with it the next day.
One of the most amazing things out here, lately, is that when you are putting in 25+ mile days a mountain that you see at the beginning of the day becomes the mountain whose slopes you are camped on at the end of the day. That was what our second day out of Cascade Locks was like. We had just seen Hood in the distance the day before, but after twenty eight long miles, full of short abrupt ups and downs and one big climb at the end of the day we found ourselves camping in a little hollow, the bulk of the mountain rising up above us. The end of the day actually found us in rather low spirits, the last climb had been hard and long and we kept passing people who had been hiking around us in California, only now they were about to enter Washington. It is hard to see people so far ahead of you, so close to a new milestone and ultimately the end, when you still feel like you have so much left to do. It sure isn’t a moral booster. But just as we were getting into our tent, grumbling that we were camped all alone and sure we would be woken up by pesky elk that sounded like bears we looked up to see Hood lit up by the setting sun.
Despite my weary limbs I forced myself to grab the camera and head up to the ridge above us for a better look. When I got there I discovered that Hood wasn’t even the main attraction. When I looked out the small river valley I was perched above, I found I was looking straight out at Helens and Adams, hulking dark shapes in the bring orange sky. Clouds that we hadn’t noticed earlier were strung across the sky in skinny long strips, like cloud tubes, the sun highlighting their curves and creating shadows in their depths. We didn’t even look at hood during the whole sunset, instead we were captivated by the sky, which seemed as animated as a firework show, constantly changing, clouds morphing, colors becoming more and more vivid, until suddenly the color went out of everything, and a calm grey blue settled over the hills and valleys and finally the clouds. Kyle and I cheered and were joined by another hiker who had showed up right for the end of the sky symphony. So, as the cherry on top, we didn’t have to camp alone that night. Oh, and did I mention, the next morning we were headed in to the Timberline Lodge for an All You Can Eat breakfast Buffett, something we had been looking forward to for a while now.