CASCADE LOCKS, Oregon — A walk through Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve discovered, is a lot like a stroll through the woods of Maine, with lush coniferous forests, sparkling lakes and ponds and clear-running streams. Climb out of the green canopy to a huge vista of a snow-capped ancient volcano thrusting sky-high, however, and there the comparison abruptly ends.

Ringed with a dozen named glaciers and snowfields and home to six ski areas, 11,245-foot Mount Hood is the state’s highest mountain and the fourth loftiest volcanic peak in the Cascade Range. From Timothy Lake, I ambled through 15 miles of tree cover before breaking into the open at Timberline Junction, where I enjoyed a close-up look at Mount Hood’s barren and beautiful upper slopes.

A couple miles ahead, I arrived at the historic Timberline Lodge, perched at 6,000 feet at the base of the Palmer Glacier. Completed in 1927 by the Works Progress Administration, the rustic, sprawling lodge features huge exposed timber beams and a three-story stone chimney with four fireplaces on each floor.

Carey Kish, ax in hand, in the lobby of the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, channels Jack Nicholson from the 1980 movie classic, “The Shining.” Photo courtesy of Carey Kish

Exterior shots of Timberline Lodge were featured in the 1980 movie classic, “The Shining,” which was based on the book by Maine’s own Stephen King. The reception staff keeps an ax behind the desk for curious visitors like me, who simply must have their photo taken with it. Inscribed on the handle is the film’s most notable line, uttered by Jack Nicholson as he peered through the hotel door he’d just chopped apart, “Heeeere’s Johnny!”

The two glorious days around Mount Hood were followed by two of the most miserable days of the trek. Nonstop cold, penetrating rain thoroughly soaked me and pretty much all my gear, despite a good pack cover and quality stuff sacks.

When I dropped down into the Columbia River Gorge and reached the town of Cascade Locks, my first priority – well, actually my second after a burger and beer – was to buy some heavy-duty trash compactor bags. My pack is now double-lined, all ziplocks have been doubled and every stuff bag is protected with two plastic grocery bags. Sometimes I think I might do well to double bag myself going forward.

PCT hiker “High Five” trudges through cold, penetrating rain on the walk into Cascade Locks. Photo by Carey Kish

After returning to southern Oregon from the California Sierra several weeks ago and reconnecting with my wife, Fran, three of us – “High Five,” “Ranger” and me – tramped happily northbound once again.

Three days’ walk was all that was needed to reach the brilliant blue waters of Crater Lake; at a depth of 1,949 feet, the lake is the deepest in the United States. Crater Lake fills an enormous caldera formed by the explosion and collapse of the former 12,000-foot volcano, Mount Mazama, some 7,700 years ago.

Inexplicably, the Pacific Crest Trail veers west of Crater Lake. Having none of that, I took the alternate Rim Trail for nine incredible miles along the lip of this most perfect lake, which yielded fabulous views of Wizard Island, Mount Scott, Garfield Peak and the shapely pinnacle of Mount Thielsen.

The path through central Oregon threads a route through huge chunks of head-spinning wilderness scenery. The Three Sisters Wilderness features three neighboring peaks over 10,000 feet, while the Mount Jefferson Wilderness is home to the second-highest summit in the state, 10,497-foot Mount Jefferson. The 75 square miles of rugged black lava fields in the Mount Washington Wilderness around Belknap Crater and McKenzie Pass were amazing but very hard on the feet.

Clouds partially obscure the view of 10,497-foot Mount Jefferson, Oregon’s second-highest peak, as views from the shore of Olallie Lake at Olallie Lake Resort. Photo by Carey Kish

Sprinkled along Oregon’s 450 miles of PCT are a number of “resorts,” similar to Maine’s sporting camps but with fancier amenities, like a store, cafe, showers, laundry and rooms. Combined with the pickup truck and camper support of Fran and High Five’s wife, Mandy, we enjoyed a number of leisurely slack-packing days and some pretty comfortable evenings at places like Diamond Lake, Shelter Cove, Elk Lake and Olallie Lake.

The century-old Bridge of the Gods spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks and the Evergreen State of Washington. At 140 feet above sea level, this is the lowest point on the entire PCT. Tomorrow morning, dressed in full wet weather regalia because the forecast is for – yes, you guessed it – rain, I’ll march across the bridge. The Canadian border is 505 tough miles ahead.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1977 and 2015, and completed the 1,100-mile Florida Trail in 2017. Follow Carey’s PCT adventures on Facebook @Carey Kish.


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