Shelter Cove has a special resonance. It’s where, almost a year ago, I began my adventure on the PCT. I had three weeks free and thought I would try a distance hike, see how it felt, test whether a thru-hike might be for me.
My friend Nick Kristof, who’s been writing about his own family hikes along the trail each summer for much of the past decade, recommended the stretch from Oregon’s Willamette Pass through Cascade Locks. His infectious enthusiasm came with exclamation points. Three Sisters Wilderness! Mount Jefferson! Mount Hood! The Columbia River! Bridge of the Gods!
How do you pass up something called Bridge of the Gods? And so off I went — new tent, new sleeping bag, new boots and, little did I know, a new destiny, reborn as a child of the PCT.
I remember every step of that first hike as though it were only hours ago. The gentle path rising from the lodge at Shelter Cove through pine forest to the Rosary Lakes, Denny Lake, Charlton Lake. There I pitched camp, for the first time since I was a child, on a little promontory surrounded by alpine waters. It was bliss, and on and on it went.
Past Elk Lake with its resort and into Sisters, jumping a galloping forest fire around Mount Washington, up past Three Fingered Jack to Olallie Lake, where in the company of half a dozen other hikers I witnessed a perfect once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse. The PCT caught me up and swept along, past Mount Hood and Timberline Lodge through Cascade Locks and across that divine Bridge of the Gods and into Washington past Trout Lake, across the Knife Edge and Old Snowy and all the way to White Pass before the game-over buzzer sounded on my allotted vacation time.
So here I am again, in Shelter Cove, about to the leave the trail for ten days to be with my kids in northern Michigan. I’ll return to pick up where I left off — not Shelter Cove but the northern end of the Goat Rocks Wilderness at White Pass, where last summer’s epic first hike left off.
It’s too soon to revisit that remarkable passage, scarcely ten months ago. So I’ll put my head down and make a run for Canada.