Vail Valley resident journeys to the Northwest Sky |

Vail Valley resident journeys to the Northwest Sky

Andy Linger
Photo by Andy Linger/Special to the Daily

The Triple Crown is calling. I will start the Pacific Crest Trail at the Mexican Border in late April, and work my way north to Canada for the next five months. As I prepare for this next journey, I reflect on last year’s adventures to the Northwest Sky.

Well, it all started out at the dating site in 2008.

After viewing a description of her a couple months back, she seemed a little different. I realized she wasn’t your typical Sally Suburban or Samantha Shopaholic-type. We started the e-mails, the phone conversations, planned an overnight backpacking trip or two, a couple days along the Oregon Coast and even a snow climb she was interested in doing.

My airline tickets to Portland were soon in hand, and I was ready for a week of adventure and romance. With a week left until my departure from one adventure-oriented town to another, I called her to plan some last minute details. I was headed to the great Northwest for the first time, to gaze upon the spectacular snow-covered volcanic peaks, experience the infamous unsettled weather and see the mighty Columbia work its way to the sea.

I hadn’t gotten very far with the dating Web site before, so this was exciting. She was really looking forward to expanding her comfort level and hiking some of the trails she drove by every day. I tried her again after a couple days of leaving messages ” she answered the phone with a nervous tension in her voice I hadn’t heard before.

There was the stuttering of a few words, and a long pause ” something obviously wasn’t right.

“What, you met another guy at a local hangout after I booked my flight? I’m supposed to be out there in a week!” I blurted out with disappointment.

The conversation didn’t last much longer, and I knew this was one of those risks associated with dating someone over the phone. I could get upset or angry; I could make a call and make the two of us miserable, but what would that really accomplish?

I had airline tickets in hand and time off work. I could simply stay in happy valley and pretend this never happened, but I wouldn’t do that if my life depended on it. I’m outta here, I decided.

I’ve never been to the Northwest before, and they have record snowfall. My life is controlled by an incurable, powerful addictive drug that has torn me away from the mainstream, destroyed my capability of ever living a normal life and is seldom understood outside of ski towns.

It consists of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen ” the drug is snow.

This is going to be great, I thought ” the closest I’ve been to a volcano is the Dotsero Crater. After removing some clothing and adding some climbing gear to my bag, I headed to Denver. As the plane started its descent into Portland, I could see the colossal Mt. Hood shining sentinel over a mile above the surrounding landscape.

From the snow-choked western flank of Mt. Hood all the way to the coast, the weather was grim. There were low clouds and fog spitting out a steady mist into the murky gray air as the plane landed. Surprisingly, this supposed date of mine still offered to pick me up at the airport and I happily accepted. We stopped for lunch to talk, and then continued on to the town of Hood River. The clouds slowly thinned as we followed the snaking highway stretched out ahead of us, and the sparkle of the mighty Columbia River glimmered to our left. She pointed out a few landmarks I needed to visit in town, let me store my luggage in her garage, and dropped me off at some intersection at the end of town.

Some years ago, I read an article about a Web site dedicated to helping people find locals from around the world with a place to stay ” better known as couch-surfing. After getting the bad news the week before, I seached online for a place to say and posted my battery of questions on what to do in town. A day or two before my departure, I had a general idea, and not much more “but I did have a place to stay the first few nights.

Not more than 15 minutes later, with my thumb out to hitch a ride to Government Camp, I had one. After a few bends on the winding highway, there she was, in all her bright glory.

Check out next Sunday’s Vail Daily travel section for the second part of this three-part series. Have a travel story you’d like to share with Vail Daily readers? E-mail

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