Eagle Creek Alternate
Mile 4.6 to 15.5
Today timing is everything. We want to see the amazing waterfalls in Eagle Creek so we don’t want to hike before dawn, but we also want to avoid the hordes of hikers drawn to this beautiful place. We sleep in about an hour past normal, which seems just about right. As we hike past a variety of campsites tucked into the ferns we see few people stirring and those that are, are still making coffee or packing up. We are successfully avoiding rush hour.
We hike along cool pools, flowing cascades and breathtaking cliffs on our way to Tunnel Falls. The trail is a tiny ledge on a sheer wall, made slippery wet by the drifting mist. Bolted to the cliff-side is a cable railing for the faint of heart. The trail horseshoes up to the falls and dips briefly behind in a cool wet tunnel then reappears as a cliff ledge on the other side. Our timing is perfect. We have this magical place all to ourselves. We take a variety of pictures and video but none do the falls any justice.
We continue down Eagle Creek past Loowit Falls, Punchbowl Falls and Metlako Falls, all spectacular in their own right. Tunnel Falls, however, is clearly the main event. As we move further down we begin to encounter more and more hikers coming up, until it begins to feel about as private as a stroll through Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer’s Island on a summer Saturday afternoon.
A group approaches and I can hear a man say to a woman, “You ask them.” She then asks where we have come from. When I mention Mexico she squeals with joy – “I have cheese sticks for you!” Apparently she carries cheese sticks in hopes of encountering thru-hikers because everyone knows we crave cheese. She insists on taking the wrapper even though we are heading out of the wilderness and she is heading in.
We pass a salmon hatchery and end up on a bike path to Cascade Locks. There are delicious blackberries everywhere, significantly slowing our progress. We walk to Cascade Locks and straight into the Bridgeside restaurant for char burgers and shakes. We have a window view of the Columbia River Gorge and the Bridge of the Gods, which takes the willing from no sales tax Oregon to the sales tax Washington State. We decide to stay another day on this tax free side.
We make a quick stop at the post office to pick up my new shoes. It brings to mind the sheer joy captured in the Time Life photo of an Austrian boy receiving new shoes during World War II. For thru-hikers, however, that joy is mixed with fear. Even the slightest change to footwear, new insoles or new socks, risks starting the blister process all over again. This box has new shoes of a completely different brand with brand new insoles. Oh Bridge of the Blister Gods be kind to me.
At trail Angel Shrek’s we do laundry and shower. While getting ribs at the brewery, we learn it is expected to rain and that most thru-hikers are staying at the campground at the locks. It has showers, electricity, WiFi and grass to set up on, all for only $3 a night. We pack up, pay Shrek for laundry and leave his backyard dirt pile which we fear will become a mud pit for a beautiful greenbelt park.
Tomorrow we will zero. We will work to survive the rain, plan our food for the next leg and fatten up with the fattiest of foods.