PCT Day 143 – Sunday September 3
Bridge of the Gods Mile 2144.4 to 2152.7
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 8.3
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1590.9
Feet Ascended Today: 2536
Feet Descended Today: 601
Current Elevation: 1958
I awoke shortly after 6:00 am to a phone call from the front desk. A Level 3 Evacuation Order was issued and we had to leave the hotel immediately. We had anticipated the evacuation and so our bags were already packed. The hotel staff handed us baggies with scones and bottled water as we sped out the door.
We decided to cross the bridge to the north side of the Columbia River. The Columbia is an enormous body of water and we figured that we’d be reasonably safe from the fire on the other side. I was about to hop in the car when I realized that I hadn’t walked across the bridge yet. The Bridge of the Gods is technically part of the PCT and walking across the bridge is one of the most important milestones of the entire hike.
And this is how it came to pass that I slackpacked across the Bridge of the Gods at 6:30 am after being evacuated from Cascade Locks. (Slackpacking, for those not in the know, is a slang term used by long distance hikers to describe hiking without one’s backpack fully loaded with gear and retrieving said gear at the end of the day.)
The bridge has no shoulder or sidewalk and cars whizzed by as I strolled across. The Columbia River stretched out far beneath me, clearly visible through the grating. Smoke from the Eagle Creek Fire blanketed the horizon to the west, creating hazy cloud that stretched for miles. As I neared the other side, onlookers walked onto the bridge taking photos and causing confusion with oncoming traffic.
I was finally back in my home state of Washington! It felt good to be home.
Daniel met me on the other side of the bridge and we drove into Stevenson. We spent the morning together, hanging out by the waterfront park and eating breakfast at Tater’s Creperie. Around noon, I bid Daniel goodbye and hit the trail again.
The trail headed west for a couple of miles, traveling through the woods but generally following the curve of the Columbia River. Before the trail headed north again, I had one last glimpse of the river as it flowed through the Bonneville Dam. The Eagle Creek fire raged directly on the opposite bank, sending plumes of white smoke billowing into the sky.
After about 8 miles, I stopped at a creek to fill up on water and met another hiker named Alan. I’d leapfrogged with him and his hiking partner a few times over the past weeks. It was getting dark and we ended up camping together a short ways up the trail. It was nice to have company as I was still feeling a little spooked about the fire. Alan cracked jokes as we set up camp and had me in stitches the rest of the evening.