A Dramatic Point of Re-entry

July 23, 2018

The Cascade Mountains, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, form a steep, rugged, often snow-covered barrier along 700 miles of the western “backbone” of North America. From Mt Lassen in northern California to the confluence of the Nicola and Thompson rivers in British Columbia, these mountains have been forming for the last 7 million years.

The Columbia River breaches these mountains in a grand east to west sweep. Eight hundred years ago, a landslide of gigantic proportions temporarily dammed the river here. The Native Americans have a story of being able to cross this huge river, dry shod, upon the “Bridge of the Gods”. The landslide dammed the river for quite some time before eventually succumbing to the relentless workings of water and gravity prevailing over rock and stone, collapsing the ancient Bridge of the Gods.

Epic rapids formed here, making an abundant fisheries for the Native Americans. Though the Cascade Rapids were drowned when Bonneville Dam was constructed, several native tribes still use fishing platforms when salmon and steelhead are running.

Sarah peers down at a dip net on a fishing platform.

Pioneers, fur trappers, and explorers used the Columbia River in the early 1800s. They found the Cascade Rapids to be a great hindrance, requiring an arduous five mile portage. A historical sign describes it better than I could.

Eventually a canal with locks was built. The project took 21 years, and the locks were used for 42 years before being replaced by the railroad. A historical sternwheeler offers tourists a dinner cruise. The railroad is also still quite active, carrying countless boxcars of goods along a river that has been a gateway through the Cascade Mountains for thousands of years.

The PCT crosses a modern bridge, still called Bridge of the Gods, here at Cascade Locks. After almost two weeks off, Jay and I will start hiking north from here tomorrow.

I’m looking forward to our re-entry into forests and mountains. But it was good to take some time today to reflect upon this place where ancient natural forces met in an awesome display of power.

A giant Douglas fir assists me with some horizontal reflection time.

Bridge of the Gods at sunset, with an almost full moon.

6 thoughts on “A Dramatic Point of Re-entry

  1. Glad to see you are back on the trail. Exciting that you are reaching Washington. Do you have an updated estimate on when you might make it to Canada?
    We are thrilled to help you conclude your trip. I am starting to schedule some backpacking trips and other commitments in late August and early September. As much as possible, I want to steer clear of your most likely window for arrival at the Northern terminus. What assumptions would you suggest I use to be there for you at the other end of Washington?


    1. Dear Trail Musik,
      Thank you for your good wishes and offer of help! Right now it looks like we will be hitting Canada right when you are busy, at the end of August or the beginning of September. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific. There are still a lot of miles to go! If meeting up with you doesn’t work out, it’s okay. Please don’t worry about planning your schedule around us. It’s much more important for you to make your own trips! 🙂
      We’ll stay in touch, just in case. Thank you very much for the offer. It was kind of you!
      Your trail friends,
      Sarah and Jay


      1. Even if I am away on the planned backpacking trip, Mary (Bird Lady) should still be around Bellingham. We would like to be part of your wonderful journey and perhaps the timing works out for me to be there too.


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