The last day of our trip from Mt Hood to the Colombian Gorge, Bridge of the Gods, started cool and early. We were on our hiking time schedule now, and all of us woke early, packed, and had a simple breakfast. It was cool but manageable. I had on a couple of layers, my knit hat with cat ears, and long leggings. We filled the water one more time not sure if we would cross water this day. Our path out crossed a stream and was much more direct to the PCT than the one we came in on. With my cat ears, the others kept teasing me that I was Big Foot bait and I should run. I had to remind them that my body no longer runs.
Almost immediately we met up with a trail runner and some hikers. All of them talking about the nice trail. It was nice, but it was steep. This time we didn’t head up; we went down. We went downward on tiny pebbles and switchbacks. It was like roller-skating for the first time where we could hardly keep our legs under us. The girls zoomed down. My cousin and I were more cautious. We would catch up with the girls every now and again. We were all excited to be having fresh food soon. We had about 10 miles to go on this day.
Occasionally we would go up, cross rock fields, cry a little. But for the most part, it was a great part of trail. My feet throbbed though. My knees and hips ached. I was tired, but I was humming and dreaming of what food I would order. We crossed two waterfalls, filled water one time, and had lunch on a triangular clearing. From the clearing, we could see Hood River Airport and the Colombian Gorge. We watched boats on the river and talked about what we would do when we got back.
We went down more and up some. When we crossed a foot bridge the trail forked. Camazon said we were just a couple of miles from the trail head. We were all excited and called Korientice to come pick us up and my husband to clean out the trunk so Korientice could use the car; it was the only one that could hold four backpacks and five people. While talking to my husband, he asked how I was doing. Without thinking, the words flew out of my mouth: “I’m done.” Little did I know that once said, I was really done. I hurt. I didn’t want to walk anymore. I couldn’t stand anymore. I didn’t want to put on my pack anymore. But we had two miles and then some. Camazon asked if we were still going to cross the bridge. I thought that she wasn’t sure she wanted to so I was vague in my answer not really caring if I did or not at that point.
My cousin asked Camazon how the rest of the trail was. She said, “It’s easy and downhill.” At that point, she turns and climbed uphill. We groaned and laughed. Whenever we stopped, we always had to go up hill. The trail probably wasn’t that bad, but it felt like the hardest two miles I’ve had to hike. At times, I felt like I was barely moving. People would let us go instead of us moving out of their way. They often commented on how we looked like we had been hiking for quite a while. I had a thru hiker offer me some chocolate cereal for energy. My sense of smell was heightened, and I could smell people’s odors. I knew one guy had recently eaten salami. I never smell that well any other time. My stomach was growling; it knew there was food soon. When we caught up to the girls, I let Camazon know that she was a true backpacker.
The trailhead was kind of a letdown. We had to go under an overpass and down a road, but when we came out at the bridge, all complaints were lost. I was excited to be there and the prospect of crossing the bridge was real.
I should have put everything I could have away. My hands were full of polls, phone, and hat. The wind whipped at us, and the traffic pushed us against the rails. The bridge was a grate making the river visible. Babyzon didn’t like that. I was nervous of losing something. But we pushed forward. We were crowded among other hikers and an idiot. The instructions were to stay next to the rail because there is no walking room. The idiot kept going out into the lane and basically dancing around. We waited at the halfway point to let others go and wait for a clear bridge. Then we crossed to the other side and returned to the same side of the river.
As we left the bridge, we saw my car arrive in the parking lot. We raced down the lawn to the restaurant and my car. Immediately Camazon and Korientice were screaming and laughing. We dumped our bags in the trunk as a woman walked by and asked if we were backpackers. When we confirmed that we were, she told us to follow her, she had something for us. A little leery and very curious, we followed. She took us to her fruit stand and gave us a bag of cherries. My cousin being the only male was special and got a fresh peach. This was the best fruit ever. She told us that she let backpackers camp at her place on the river and always had fruit for them. We thanked her profusely and went to the restaurant.
All day, my biggest desire was to eat fresh vegetables, but once I got into the restaurant and smelled the fries, I knew I needed fat too. While everyone had burgers and fries, Camazon had a veggie sandwich and I had a salad and fries. They had beer, and I had soda. This food was the best ever.
Back at the house, I had to take my shoes off. They were pinching my feet. I also had a shower and ate more food. I put my feet up and noticed that on my ankle was a mark growing in the shape of a British pound symbol. It was great to be seated and eating real food. It was great retelling our stories and of everything we went through. But what was best, was the fact that we felt accomplished. We had done just what we had set out to do. Now we were dreaming of the next big trip.