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Timberline Lodge

"In Santa Barbara he had soup, lettuce and string bean salad, pot roast and mashed potatoes, pineapple pie and blue cheese and coffee ...

... he had fried chicken, julienne potatoes, hot biscuits and honey, and a piece of pineapple pie and blue cheese. And here he filled his thermos with hot coffee, had them make up six ham sandwiches and bought two quarts of beer for breakfast."

Steinbeck, Cannery Row

With the arrival of August and being so close to Washington, I began to notice a chill in the air each morning. Fog permeated the forest as I hiked through tree cover, with no views beyond the trees themselves. Soon enough I rounded a corner and stopped in my tracks. The fog had lifted and before me stood Mt. Hood - crystal clear in the morning air. At its base hovered a sea of mist and below that a lush green meadow. I brimmed with excitement as I sensed myself drawing closer to the Columbia River and the third and final state of my journey along the PCT.

I passed over a highway and began the slow ascent up Mt. Hood towards Timberline Lodge, perched as it was on the volcano's flanks. Climbing up out of the forest and above tree line I found myself plodding through soft, volcanic soil. It seemed like another one of the trail's cruel jokes, making the last few miles before an all-you-can-eat buffet as agonizingly slow as possible. "Just building my appetite," I thought as I watched skiers make turns in the snow still clinging to Hood during that first week of August.

Finally, the lodge appeared and I was inside waiting anxiously for the hostess to arrive so I could pay my $19.50 and feast at the buffet. And it was no run-of-the-mill buffet. It was no South Lake Tahoe casino fare, mind you. It was perhaps the best food of the entire trail - and it was limitless. On my first plate I piled potato salad, pasta salad, couscous, lentils, macaroni and cheese, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, raspberries, blackberries, gouda and cheddar. On my second plate there was a Belgian waffle with butter and syrup and more fresh fruit. My third plate was another helping of macaroni and cheese, cookies, a chocolate raspberry bar, a miniature coconut pie, chocolate cheesecake and little espresso cups filled with custard and berries.

Blue Skies joked about bouncing up and down on his chair to settle the food, packing it down in his stomach to allow room for more. I imagined the staff complaining, "There are all these stupid hikers in here bouncing up and down in their seats. They've been here for three hours and they won't fucking leave!" I watched a chipmunk that had somehow made his way into the dining room as he scrambled across a table top and disappeared back into a corner. It was probably the only other creature in the room that appreciated the food as much as we thru-hikers. We gathered our belongings and what was left of our dignity and shuffled over to the lobby to sink into plush chairs and couches where we remained motionless for nearly an hour. I stared up at the motifs that adorned the beautiful woodwork of the lodge - icons representing Indian names for the full moon of each month, a way of tracking the progression of time through the seasons and year. Timberline's logo was apparently that of the Wild Goose Moon, the name given to April when most thru-hikers begin their journey along the PCT. The Hunger Moon referred to February when winter snows and frigid temperatures made hunting difficult. Others included the Thunder Moon, Hunting Moon and Crow Moon.

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