August 27th, Wednesday
2096.9 to 2107.3
We were in no hurry to leave the campground that morning. We chatted while Gary made pancakes (I savored every bite), and then we packed up our stuff and helped him pack up his He was going to drop us off at the highway, where we had hiked sobo a couple days ago, and from there we’d hike north. Tomorrow he’d come meet us at a road crossing and hike a few miles with us, as he hoped to do on the weekend, too.
It was almost noon by the time Gary dropped us at the highway. We waved goodbye, said we’d see him tomorrow, and set off into the pretty woods. The trail moved steadily upward through the open forest, with Mount Hood’s dramatic peak growing closer each time we glimpsed it through the trees.
We stopped for lunch soon after setting out, since there was a picnic table at a trailhead. We had a very nutritious lunch: a bag of Doritos, a bag of Hi-Chews, and a Clif bar (in retrospect, it’s easy to see why my body had a system failure when we returned from the trail).
We walked over a set of tiny pinecones arranged into the number “2100.” I thought about how amazed and impressed with ourselves we were when we reached the 100-mile mark. And now, 2,000 miles later, I just thought, “Each hundred miles seems shorter than the last.”
Soon after that, we cleared the timberline and walked across soft sand up a steep slope with a blazing sun overhead. I struggled and panted as the sand swallowed each step. But the scenery made up for it: Mount Hood’s snowy peak ahead of us, alpine grass and purple wildflowers all around.
It was a difficult five miles, and I was exhausted by the time we crested the shoulder of the mountain and saw the iconic multifaceted roofs of Timberline Lodge below us. We took the detour down the mountain a little ways.
Our package was at the day lodge, a square building where the ski rentals took place in the winter. We walked into the air conditioning and wandered around a bit before finding the gift shop where our box was held. We dragged the box into the hallway, gutted it, and stuffed the contents into our bags.
That’s when Zach dropped the surprise on me. “Lisa, Dad gave me some money so we could eat dinner at Timberline Lodge.”
“Really?” I said, stunned. Zach had always wanted to take me to Timberline Lodge, ever since we had started dating. Now the dream was finally going to come true.
The lodge rose up before us as we walked toward it, with stonework and steeply-pitched roofs and turrets and a row of bright flags flapping out front. Zach and I walked through the lower doors, and found a cozy lounge area with a huge pillar that served as an all-way hearth in the center. Mosaics of animals and plants decorated the walls, as well as a display of the history of the region. The informational signs said that the decorating style in the lodge was “Cascadian.”
We looked at a sandwich board that listed the restaurant options, and ended up opting for Blue Ox Bar because they had pizza. The bar was in the lower level. It was cozy, with huge oak tables and chairs, and stained-glass artwork of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox along the walls. Zach and I nestled into a booth and ordered everything without even looking at the prices— blue popcorn (popcorn flavored with bleu cheese), beer, soda, and a pizza for each of us (Mediterranean for Zach; pulled pork with marjoram and lemon for me). We ate slowly, savoring each bite.
After we paid and headed back up into the lobby, I shifted back into hiking mindset.
“Yup,” I said, tightening my load lifters.
“…Or would you like to go to our room?”
I looked at him, uncomprehending. “What?”
“Would you like to go to our room?”
I still stared blankly. “What?”
“Dad got us a room here.”
Tears began to creep in my eyes. The last time I had slept in a bed, with a roof over my head, was July 4th, nearly two months ago.
“Really?” I asked.
Zach smiled and took my hand.
With me still fighting back grateful tears, we walked to the reception desk and asked about our reservation. She gave us keys and we took the elevator to the third floor. We opened the door to a cozy little room with a window facing valley-side, with Mount Jefferson in the distance.
I collapsed on the feather mattress, then immediately got up again, suddenly aware of how completely filthy my clothes were. First, a shower!
We took showers, washing away the grime, then changed into our “swimsuits” (shorts) and took our clothes down to the washer to do laundry. We saw some other hikers who were washing their clothes in a giant heap. Apparently six of them had rented out a room to make it affordable for everyone. When they heard we had one to ourselves, they were very jealous.
We walked out to the outdoor pool and hot tub. It was already dark, with stars sprinkled through the sky above, and the air was chilly. Zach still convinced me to get in the pool, and we swam around, shivering a little, enjoying a completely new sensation. Zach dove to the ten-foot bottom more than once, surfacing with his hair all tangled, saying that he was out of shape. Indeed, his body had eaten away a lot of his muscle mass over the course of the trail, while I had gained muscle because I was actually exercising my arms for the first time in my life.
I soon retreated to the hot tub and soaked up the steam, with the chilly air around and the starry sky above. We chatted with some tourists from Oregon, and also with an old hiker named Don’t Ax (he had carried an ice ax through the whole desert, only to discover he didn’t need it in the Sierra).
At last we dragged ourselves out of the hot tub, wrapped ourselves in hotel towels, and hurried back to our room, scooping up our clean laundry on the way.
We opened the window to allow in the cool night air, and snuggled under the down cotton comforter. It was good to be indoors. Sinking into the feather mattress, we drifted off to sleep with the sound of the flags softly flapping in the breeze outside.