Flying direct into Portland, Oregon from Iceland I was not ready for summer heat. It was around 90° when we got off the plane and I almost melted. My summer had been spent in cool Scandinavian climates, not this dry heat I was so used to last year. Regardless we were really only here for one reason and that reason was to see the Solar Eclipse coming through Oregon, just South of Portland, August 21, 2017.
We arrived 2 weeks prior to the eclipse to see the city of Portland and to meet up with our friend who lives there. I’ve never been to Portland as an adult so it was nice to see it with fresh eyes. Their beer scene rivals Sacramento and the city is objectively prettier than Sactown. The combination of the tree-covered Forest park, large bridges crossing the Willamette river, and Mount Hood in the distance makes it a beautiful place to live. Hipster shops are everywhere and part of the city’s overall charm. Public transportation is great and a NIKE BIKETOWNpdx bike share is available for shorter trips, although I never used it the prices are a little high and I heard stories of the bike locks malfunctioning double-charging customers along with various other fees applying. When we used the Oslo City bike share we had nothing but good things to say about it and it’s a great system to emulate. However, there are downsides to Portland, I would say it’s politics leaning so far left is its major problem. Although most big cities are left-leaning, there’s no balance of politics here. They tout diversity but have no diversity of opinions but whatever. The other prominent problem is the homeless problem. Homeless lining the street of downtown Portland. I can’t say much about this because my home of Sacramento also has a massive homeless problem but I’ll just say it’s noticeably problematic in Portland as well.
Viewing the “Great American Eclipse”
After exploring the city for 2 weeks, our other friends arrived and we planned out an ambitious seven-day hike starting from Mt. Hood headed Southbound along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) to Timothy Lake, just within the Northern border of totality of the eclipse, then spend a few more days hiking various trails in the area.
Our original plan was to hike Northbound from Sisters, OR but a section of the PCT was closed due to fires in the area and no way around it. We took a combination of buses and trams all the way to Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood where we would begin our hike. If you’ve ever hiked along the PCT you know it is a well-maintained trail that thousands of thru-hikers use as they make their way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington, however, at this time of year most of the thru-hikers were past Mt. Hood and approaching Canada. Our first two days of hiking were great, albeit long (10 miles), all downhill, camping right next to a little lake the first night and right next to Timothy Lake the second night where we planned to wake up early for the eclipse.
The eclipse was so amazing to see in-person and it was worth all the planning to see it. It’s something that I would like to see again in the future. Due to solar eclipses occurring on a new moon, there was no moon present that night and we got some amazing views of the Milky Way from the dark forest.
But all good things must come to an end, right? Everything was great until it all went to shit the next day during our hike. We hiked Northbound along the PCT until a major junction where the PCT, Barlow Pass Trailhead, Barlow Butte Trail #670, and the Pioneer Woman’s Grave Trail all meet. Our plan was to hike up the Barlow Ridge, Trail #670, up 1500 feet then back down 1500 feet. It was apparent the trail was not as well maintained as the PCT but nothing shocking, just some downed trees. We even saw some hikers coming down the butte.
What we didn’t know is the latter half of this trail is abandoned and not a thru-hike any longer. No signs or boards posted this information, Google Maps and our in-print National Geographic map both show this trail as a loop. Fake news. This is an up and back trail now. You can probably guess by now where we went wrong. At the top of the butte the trail takes a turn and goes from well-defined but unmaintained to taken back by the forest. There is no trail anymore in the last 3 miles. As we found out later on the Forest Service Website, they quote “The trail is extremely steep and rough for the last 2 miles.”
Once we lost the trail it was too late to turn back and in hindsight we should have. We were lost deep in the forest heading down an extremely steep trail and a member of our group slipped and tumbled down the hill. She was stopped by a large branch about 20 feet down from where she began tumbling. She got extremely lucky because there was another 30 feet or more to fall and a serious life-altering injury could have easily happened there with us lost in the forest with no medical facilities close by. After that we started to move more carefully through the forest on our way down with a bit of a somber mood after that. We camped at Barlow Creek Campground and decided that night we would not be continuing our week long hike and cut it short 2 days.
Shortly following our hike, we planned a day-trip for all 5 of us at picturesque Lost Lake (in Hood River County, OR as Oregon has at least 19 lakes named Lost Lake). Armed with some beer and some pakalolo for a beautiful day in the sun. Wikipedia says it is one of the most photographed lakes in all of Oregon and I can see why. I can’t get enough of that sweet view.
Continue reading my next (tropical) destination, the Cook Islands!