Wild In Oregon: From Wild To Gilmore Girls

24 February 2017
Read Time: 3.5 mins

In the recent Netflix reboot of the fast-talking caffeine-fuelled Gilmore Girls, mother Lorelai, at a crossroads in her life, decides to “do Wild”. Since its publication in 2012, Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and the 2014 film adaptation of the same name have inspired women to hit the Pacific Crest Trail.

The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 4,265km-long trail, running from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington State. Thousands of hikers tackle the track every year, from day-trippers on short hikes to thru-hikers.

Hiker in front of Mt Hood in summer. (Image: MtHoodTerritory.com)

And, thanks to Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Wild and the PCT are back in the spotlight with Google searches for ‘Pacific Crest Trail’ up 450 per cent when the four-part Netflix series premiered on November 25, 2016.

Although Lorelai never actually ends up hiking the PCT, she sets off for California in search of that profound epiphany that has made Wild – a real-life story of a real-life individual who embarks on an adventure and finds herself along the way – what Eat Pray Love (also a book and a movie) was to the Noughties female traveller in search of clarity.

If you are not inclined to hike the entire length of the PCT, or the 1,770km Cheryl trekked from the Mojave Desert to Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks, Oregon, you can still sample the sublime landscapes of pivotal scenes in the book (or movie – very different experiences according to Gilmore Girls – “Books don’t throw boots, respect the book” Lorelai tells a nonplussed park ranger in the ‘Fall’ episode) in Oregon’s Mt Hood Territory, where the PCT runs through, just 90 minutes' drive from Portland.

Oregon Film Office Executive Director Tim Williams gave us the lowdown on the following Mt Hood Territory locations that appear in the Wild movie (and the book!).

Snowy Timberline Lodge with Mt Hood. (Image: Timberline Lodge & Ski Area)

Timberline Lodge & Ski Area

At 3,427m, Mt Hood is a snow-sprinkled winter wonderland for skiers and boarders to shred down powder runs, groomers and big park terrain. Below the tree line, quiet forests beckon snowshoers and cross-country skiers plus there’s horse-drawn carriages and the Magic Mile Chairlift for those who prefer to remain off-piste. In the movie, Timberline Lodge & Ski Area doubled for Cheryl (portrayed by actor/producer Reese Witherspoon) crossing the High Sierras in the snow, which actually occurred in California.

Fun film fact: The exterior of Timberline Lodge was also used in The Shining.

The Zigzag River flows through the National Forest. (Image: Oregon's Mt Hood Territory)

Zigzag River

The raging river that Cheryl/Reese crosses with her massive backpack (nicknamed 'Monster') in the movie is Zigzag River, where the PCT intersects at Zigzag Canyon. There's no bridge here, so those wanting to cross need to hop the rocks, being mindful of peak glacial runoff from Zigzag Glacier in the summer months. According to OregonHikers.org, this crossing is a popular spot with PCT thru-hikers to stop and cool off.

Looking up Clackamas River. (Image: MtHoodTerritory.com)

Clackamas Ranger Station

The scene where Cheryl/Reese encounters the creepy hunters was shot at a waterhole at Clackamas Rangers Station, says Tim, although in the book this encounter happened while Cheryl was still hiking in California. Elsewhere, on the Upper Clackamas River you can go ride the whitewater rapids, follow the river along the Cascading Rivers Scenic Bikeway, or head to Clackamas Town Center to stock up on hiking gear at REI (yes, the outdoors store where Cheryl buys and ultimately replaces her Danner boots).

Skiing downhill at Skibowl with Mt Hood as a backdrop. (Image: Mt Hood Skibowl)

Mt Hood Skibowl

Scene of the infamous boot throw in the movie, Mt Hood Skibowl boasts the largest night ski area in the US and the most black diamond runs in Oregon. In winter, try Cosmic Tubing at Skibowl East, racing down a snow tube hill lit by 600,000 LED lights in a family-sized inner tube. While boot throwing was playfully mentioned in Gilmore Girls, the Pacific Crest Trail Association adheres to 'Leave No Trace' principles to minimise impact, meaning any symbolic tossing of footwear is a no-no.

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Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Portland.

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Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.