PCT Day 2: Friday July 15, 2022
Mile 2104.6 + 23 miles today

As soon as he got horizontal, Hammer was out like a light last night.  A layer of smog from a wildfire to the south coloured the horizon as the sun began to set  My body was tingling with fatigue. But despite the tiredness I just couldn’t fall asleep.
As a result, this morning was a late start for me. Hammer was up and packed before I even woke up. A quick coffee with a fantastic view and we were off just a bit before 7am.

We had a long decent to a creek crossing at Sandy Creek. The few snow patches that we encountered near camp were not icy as it was a very mild night.  And before too long there was no more snow. A northbound hiker we passed said there was no snow from here to Cascade Locks – happy days ahead.

Hiking felt so much easier, once we were off the snow.   As soon as we started to descend the most magnificent  rhododendron shrubs started to  appear.  Colourful fragile blooms lined the trail. They got more prolific as we hiked on. It was a  rhododendron garden in the shade. A day hiker we passed later in the morning mentioned that rhododendrons don’t really belong here. They were introduced and have spread. So much prettier then Lantana, our problem introduced  plant.

Sandy Creek  crossing, at the bottom of the descent looked a little bit hairy. Just like yesterdays creek crossing, it wasn’t particularly wide but it was running fast. We walked up and down till we found a well placed log across. Fast running creek crossings still cause me anxiety, I had a racing heart and dry mouth as I crossed. Hammer danced across and watched and waited for me on the other side, ready to leap in if required. 

From here we took the Ramona Falls alternate. A wide trail leads to the prettiest waterfall. The water from the top of the falls, fans out and gently cascades along the rock face as it spreads out.  It is mesmerising to watch. It was still early and there was no one else around. Even though we’ve seen it before it is still very impressive and worth the detour.

With the pretty Ramona Falls behind us it was back to the green tunnel. I didn’t really mind as I could really focus on the beautiful birdsong. Today was a day of big ups and downs with one more creek crossing at Muddy Creek in between.  I did remember this creek crossing from my hike in 2017. You had to hold onto one log while walking sideways on another. That is now replaced by a much easier to cross wide log. 

It was a long and sweaty ascent to Lolo Pass from Muddy Creek, with neverending switchbacks. The sun was shining and whenever  we emerged from the green tunnel there was Mt Hood, framed by a clear blue sky,  looking remarkably close by at times and distant at other times. Mt Adams could also be seen way off to the north. We will be heading towards it over the next few days.

I recently listened to a story about the group of teenage school children who died on Mt Hood along with two of their teachers. It’s hard to believe that something like that can happen when you see the mountain on a day like today. But what a desolate place it would be to be stuck up there as the weather turned bad. I found it hard to look Mt Hood without thinking of this tragic loss.

We were hot and sweaty when we reached Lolo Pass. It  was busy with day hikers today. We passed a red faced lady huffing her way up the pass while we were descending on the other side.. She wanted to know how many more switchbacks she had to go. I didn’t have the heart to tell her, so I assured her that the view at the top will be worth her effort. That’s the PCT, there is always a reward.

Despite the long ascents and descents today, hiking felt easy. Maybe our bodies are beginning to remember what to do after the last two years on the couch. My knee felt great, no niggles. So very happy with that.

Not so happy though with the appearance of mosquitos and blowdowns. Just where the trail approaches the turn off to  Lost Lake the mosquito population exploded.  Not unexpected but still annoying.

The blowdowns were remarkable because they were huge, healthy looking trees that seems to have fallen recently. The worst of the really big trees had been tidied up so the trail was passable but there were so many others that we had to shimmy over or under.  By late afternoon we were on trail that wou d it’s way aking very steep slopes. It was getting late in the day and we were keen to find a campsite. We passed a few that were almost on the trail. We kept going, hoping not to run out of daylight, and found a lovely  campsite with filtered views of Mt Hood in the distance. Such a relief to stop for the day.