Waiting is the hardest part. When you have been planning a trip like ours to the Tam MacArthur for over a year, the week leading up actually going is one of the slowest. Even though we’ve gone over our gear a million times, one more time won’t hurt. Skis, boots, extra socks, avy kit, cameras, rations, all check. Tire pressure, oil, fuel, batteries charged, sleeping bags, all check.
We left early in Mountains to Coast a 2018 Ford Transit to link up with Danny and his 2019 Sprinter at Cascade Locks, a short 30-minute drive from Portland. The only people on the road are the truckers, a police car or two, the 24-hour fast food restaurants, and the other all-night travelers.
We pointed our vans north and crossed the Bridge of the Gods over the mighty Columbia River, which has been the home of the indigenous people for 15,000 years. The darkness was heavy, and the fog made it impossible to see further than our headlights could reach and after a few minutes you wonder if this river even has another side.
With wheels firmly on Washington State solid ground, we turned east and headed down the historic Lewis and Clark Highway, driving through small towns. The black sky begins to turn a dark shade of blue and the tangible opaqueness began separating itself into shapes of trees, mountains, the road. We can now read the signs of the places we’re passing. Sweeny Falls. Rivermist Lodge. Wind Mountain. Dog Mountain Trail. We go east, then head south.
The road to the Three Sisters Wilderness area is a beautiful one and even though we could spend a lifetime exploring we put the hammer down and push it to our destination. We kill time by playing games, listening to music, telling jokes over the walkie talkies. We stop by Smith Rock, tuff and basalt cliffs formed by an ancient volcanic event. The sun had long since gone down by the time we reach the end of the road and parked our vans by the warming huts where we will spend the night. A fire, some hot food, and whiskey is welcomed after a long day of driving.
We woke up to the sound of people chatting and snowmobiles warming up. Gathering up all of our gear we leave the warmth of our van and join the others outside and load up the sleds for the 5-mile snowmobile ride to the Tam MacArthur rim. The air is cold, the light is low, and spirits are high.
We spent 3 days at the yurts at the base of the Rim shuttled back and forth on snowmobiles out to spots where we could ski. We will be back.