In spite of my goals, I kind of wanted to sleep in because it was still raining when it was time to get up. Eventually, though, it couldn’t be helped. I had to get ready in the rain.
I had picked a terrible spot to camp. Water pooled into mud under my tent and in the bathtub bottom as well. The towel slid off the inner tent and out into the rain and was thoroughly soaked. So I packed everything up muddy and wet and hiked off myself in the same condition.
The day would clear up, rapidly in fact, but I had no time to enjoy it. The time to enjoy it would come when I arrived back at the Bridge of the Gods Motel, more than 20 miles away. Having already paid for my room, stopping short was not an option. Nor did I want to spend the night in the woods again. A warm, dry motel room and a laundromat meant I could get all my things dry and clean before beginning Oregon.
I can’t deny the section included many beautiful scenes. The dampness and the autumn colors really combined into something special. But, aside from a brief break for lunch, I didn’t want to stop for a moment. Stopping let the cold seep in and the pain come up. I didn’t even really drink anything the entire afternoon, though I never felt dehydrated either.
Once, coming down from Table Mountain, I missed a turn and ended up following an old road I thought was the trail halfway down the hill before I realized my mistake. The first trail I came to that promised to connect back seemed to cut steeply back up the hill, so I tried to follow an even older road directly across the hill. I only got a few hundred yards before the jumbled snags across it got too thick to make any reasonable progress, and I turned back. I continued down the road until it met another old, overgrown, but largely clear road that met the trail a little over a mile down from where I left it. The detour probably cost me an extra half mile at the least.
A mile or two later, the sun started disappearing. I didn’t want to stop to get out my headlamp, so I just kept marching into the dark. When the trail came alongside the road, it got much harder to see the trail, but I could see the sky sometimes and that helped. Eventually, the trail popped out onto the road just across from the Bridge of the Gods, and I crossed that grid of metal on the edge of the road, facing the occasional cars and trucks that shared the span.
Fifteen minutes later, I was picking up my room key and dropping all my things in my room. I turned up the heater, laid some wet things on it, took off my boots, and put on dry socks, camp shoes, and a jacket and went straight across the street to Thunder Island Brewing. Food was top priority. It was already 8pm. If I had waited until after I had taken a shower, I might miss dinner service.
Dinner and beer and a helping of fried dough for dessert hit the spot. I had enough energy to do the rest of what needed to be done that night: claim my bear can (and attached shampoo), take a shower, and run a couple of loads of laundry at the motel’s laundromat. When I went to bed I still had wet things on and above and around the heater. I vowed to sleep in and push packing out until the last moment the next morning.
Total distance: 22 miles
Trail progress: 20.5 miles