Waterfalls and gorges oh my!
PCT Mile Marker 2125.1, camped at Indian Springs at the junction of the PCT and Eagle Creek Alternate
Miles hiked: 15 (plus side trails to see waterfalls!) on Eagle Creek Alternate, and approximately 4000 feet of elevation gain
Ahh, a microwave made some nice warm oatmeal for a change this morning! I was delighted to see clearing skies and feel warm temps – though that could’ve been due in part to being at 200 feet in elevation vs camping at 5 or 6 thousand ala the past few weeks!
Hemlock and I began our day of lollygagging section hiking by happily inspecting the interpretative signs at the Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River. We traversed the river trail (the old highway!) a few easy miles to the Eagle Creek Trailhead, chatting all the way. Passing the campground, I was happy we’d moteled the night before, as it was damp and quite noisy next to the highway. I was also delighted to see a bathroom and trash cans at the TH, so we happily took a break to utilize.
Then we began a truly lovely hike through the gorge. This hike is renowned locally for its great waterfalls as well as being very busy, particularly on weekends. Most PCT hikers take this alternate as it is far more scenic.
During a very gradual climb, we diverted onto side trails to visit Metlako Falls and Lower Punch Bowl Falls, both well worth the side trips. Bridges, rushing water, and an incredible rain forest-esq canopy and undergrowth was so incredibly different than the environment I’ve been used to. Deciduous trees and shrubs! Ferns! Incredible moss!
Stopping often, phone was in hand to take many photos. One of the highlights for me was Tunnel Falls – an incredible feat of engineering where the trail goes behind a huge waterfall! I’d seen many pictures before, but this is a place where you have to be there to get the true scale and experience. Several other waterfalls were beyond Tunnel Falls, but what was notable was that the plethora of day hikers drastically went down. Welcome back to backpacking territory.
The last 2 miles of the day once we started the Indian Spings Trail back up to the PCT, were by far the hardest for me, climbing 2000 feet in 2 miles. AT-type steepness there, and no switchbacks to speak of. My nearly healed blisters protested, as did my lungs. Needless to say, it took me a long time (think 1mph) – thankfully we had made good time the rest of the day and were still in camp by 6. Hemlock, by far a faster climber than I, had climbed ahead and sent encouragement to me via a NOBO hiker, so sweet of both of them! Ahh, a key difference when hiking with someone :).
Hemlock also got into the spirit of National Lands Day and collected used TP and a wooden spoon left behind by inconsiderate hikers. Happily she met a couple day hiking near camp who took the trash out with them. She’s a better woman than I! Used TP in particular really grosses me out. Plus, who does that?? Carry it out people! It’s really not hard or gross.
Camp tonight is an old campground, complete with a privy and picnic tables. Both are highly appreciated, or will be in the morning. It’s both odd and happy to be sharing camp again with someone – great in that wonderful company is so appreciated, odd because I’m used to camping and making whatever noise – zippers as I get out of my tent to pee, doing my roitisserie rolling, etc. Guess I need to learn to be a more considerate camp-mate again!
Gear minutiae: knock on wood, no repairs needed today! I noticed my headlamp lamp was getting dim, so I replaced the battery but that’s standard maintenance!
Health update: my cough is significantly improved – probably due to the combo of having slept indoors for 3 nights and the air is so much more moist here. Blisters are thankfully not worse after the unrelenting steep finish to the day. I foolishly didn’t put on my rain pants for warmth when I got into camp, as I was still steamy from the climb, and now my bum and hips are chilled and taking a while to warm up. Probably actually getting out of my tent to pee will help the situation too. I’d better so that STAT, I’m falling asleep at I write this!