Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Day 129- Pure Little Kid Joy

From small stream and campsite at mile 2124 to Tenas Camp on the Eagle Creek Trail

I was glad there was an old turning back into the earth log at my feet last night or I may have slipped all the way down the side hill.  The morning dawned cool and bright.  We apparently had a great view of Mount Hood from our campsite last night, but hadn't know it because of all the clouds.   It was another walking breakfast--it might be our new thing, but it sure is going to make eating oatmeal harder. 

The clouds had lifted during the night, but they seemed to settle back around Hood and every other peak by the time we had hiked to the first view of the day.  I felt very lucky that I had the view of Hood that I had the other day.  It didn't seem like we had much time to linger over views anyway.  We wanted to get to Indian Springs Campground for lunch, so that meant we had to hurry a bit.  We did six miles before stopping on a log for a mid-morning snack break.  When Portrait told me we had already done six miles I was surprised. 

After our snack the Oregon forest started to open up more, but the Oregon clouds did not.  The guide book boasted about an amazing panoramic view of Mount St. Helen's, Mount Adams, and Mount Rainier that we would be able to see if the clouds would move out.  I could see the bottom of Helen and Adams, but most of the mountains were lost to the clouds.  I supposed at some point on the trip I had to have a view dampened by clouds, but it was still very disappointing.  Hopefully there were be more chances to see the mountains. 

After our non-view we descended a bit to the campground.  It was a large dirt area with a very sad looking picnic table.  I sat gingerly at the table hoping not to be poked by nails or wood or have the whole thing collapse under me.  Portrait and I were joined by a French couple that we had seen at Timberline, but hadn't really talked to. We didn't talk with them much during lunch either--communication was a bit challenging, but we were able to tell them where the spring was.  And what a cute little spring it was too.  We filled up on the way down the Indian Springs Trail.

Since entering Oregon it seems like we haven't spent that much time on the PCT--certainly not lately--and we were leaving it again for the official unofficial Eagle Creek Trail.  We had to do two miles on the very steep and not that well maintained Indian Springs Trail to connect to the Eagle Creek Trail.  Eagle Creek Trail is described as stunning, favorite place on the PCT, amazing, but at first I didn't see it.  At first it just seemed like a trail, but then it evolved into a trail from the rain forest.  Moss hung thickly from the trees like a roof for the trail.  Eagle Creek roared at my left elbow.  It alternated between deep swift water and plunging waterfalls that were so loud Portrait and I couldn't talk.  Little springs bubbled up from the side hill we walked next to, flowed over the trail, and joined the creek.  It was truly stunning.

I had been looking forward to Tunnel Falls since I first heard about it.  The trail tunneled behind a tall, narrow, and roaring waterfall.  I had seen pictures and videos of hikers walking towards the falls and disappearing behind the sheet of water.  My excitement level was high and was being teased higher by each of the falls on Eagle Creek that weren't Tunnel Falls.  I was more excited about the tunnel than I had been about the 2,000 mile marker.  I was maybe more excited about the tunnel than I was about getting to town the next morning. 

Finally I heard it.  Then I saw it through the trees:  a tall column of flashing white water.  The trail had been blasted into a rock wall making a half arch to walk along to the falls.  Ferns grew down from the ceiling of the arch and touched my head. 

Portrait was armed with three cameras: my camera, my phone's camera, and his D-SLR camera.  I walked to towards the falls on the lumpy rocky trail staying close to the rock wall:  It was a long way down to the pool of blue water below.  I looked back a few times at my camera man, but mostly focused on the falls ahead of me.  The roar of the water echoed back at me from the rocky arch I was walking under.  Near the falls cold mist sprayed me and big fat drops of water dripped from the ferns and moss growing above the trail.  A puddle had formed by the trail near the falls and I stepped very close to the edge to of the cliff to avoid wet feet.  I looked back at Portrait who was aiming his four pound camera at me.  I peered up at the water and down at the pool sixty feet below me. 

Behind the falls the tunnel had a low ceiling, a slight bend, and was nearly dark until my eyes adjusted.  Then I could see the black walls of the tunnel studded with white rock.  The curved walls dripped water and muffled the noise from the falls.  It wasn't nearly as loud as I expected.  On the other side of the tunnel I popped back out into the sunlight and waved my arms at Portrait.  I imagined I looked very small surrounded by so much green growing life and thundering water.  I passed back through the tunnel with as much wonder at it as the first time. 

I walked back to Portrait, resisting the urge to look over my shoulder at the water crashing behind me.  He scrolled through the photos he had taken, put his camera away, and got out my cell phone.  I walked again to the falls.  I walked that section of trail eight times (for three different cameras and to video waling through the falls, and to take pictures of Portrait walking through the falls).  Each walk I felt as much pure little kid joy at the idea of walking behind a waterfall as I did when it was still out of sight.  I could have stayed there all day. 

Finally we did leave though.  We still wanted to get in a few miles after the falls before dark to set us up for an easy day into town, and we couldn't sleep there--any tossing and turning at night would have sent you off the cliff.  After the falls the trail continued to follow Eagle Creek and moss covered trees continued to crown the trail, but somehow it felt less stunning.  Tunnel Falls had exhausted my since of beauty and wonder.

A handful of the two dozen campsites that we passed had tents set up, not thru-hikers.  We were hoping for a spot at the campsite three miles past the falls, but it was full.  Dusk was coming, I was hungry, and tired, and I told Portrait I'd like to take the next campsite we came across.  Those words were hardly out of my mouth when we came to the next campsite.  It was just a small lumpy thing right next to the trail.  Portrait and I looked at it, then each other, and I told him I wasn't that tired.  We walked on.  The next one was a dream in comparison, but still not that flat.  We decided that it was still early enough in the day that we could afford to be picky so again we walked on.  We had gone minutes when it felt like the trail had changed.  We were back on a side hill with a cliff leading sharply to the river.  It didn't feel like we would find a place to camp anytime soon.  It is almost a rule that on a thru-hike a hiker never back-tracks, but this time we did.  It really was a nice campsite:  large, almost flat, no rocks or roots, a log to site on, and a rushing river to listen to.  We had dinner and cowboy camped under leafy trees.


  1. Your writing style is getting better with each mile. I feel like I'm reading your book. Keep up the good work!

  2. I absolutely agree about your writing. As I was reading this section, I said "you should consider having your journal published" Replace iPhone pix with Portraits photos and add some of your reference materials and half-mile maps, etc. It would be a future thru-hikers dream, and it makes great reading for the rest of us who are living the journey through you. Might as well make a few bucks to pay for your new adventure.