INTO CASCADE LOCKS
PCT DAY 25: Thursday July 20, 2017
Mile 2108.9 – Mile 2144.1
35.2 miles (56.3 km)
I was so happy that I made the long uphill from Muddy River at the end of yesterday. I camped at a trail junction on top of Lolo Pass and this morning had a long sweet downhill to the pass.
Soon after I left my campspot I could see through the trees that the sunrise was streaking the sky brilliant shades of red, pink and blue. I got so excited I ran for a bit hoping for a break in the trees so I coud see the sky fully. No luck, the forest just went on and on. I could see the surroundings were shrouded in mist and the sun was trying to break through.
I reached into to the very modern song list that has been going through my head and sang a song from my favourite musical Oklahoma – ‘Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I have a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way’.
And it was a beautiful morning. On this day last year Hammer and I were in Ashland. Hammer was getting ready to go back on trail and I was grounded, feeling crushed by the disappointment that my hike for the year was over. And here I am a year later, almost done with Oregon and it’s my birthday. So lets see how this optimism of a beautiful (birth)day and everything going my way pans out.
Where I got glimpses of the surrounding valleys and distant mountains it looked like a heavy mist was descending. The sun was trying to break through and eventually gave up letting the mist turn into low clouds. Walking under trees drops of water were falling on me – not sure it can be called rain when it falls from trees not the sky. It was a silent morning hiking through the mist on beautiful soft trail lined by exquisite floral display. Going back up from Lolo Pass I could see the base of Mt Hood in the distance with the top covered in clouds. It was a morning of hiking up and down with my jacket and gloves coming on for the downhills and off for the uphills. The silence was beautiful especially as the mist brings your focus very close in. The flowers demanded my attention with their splendour and I stopped way too many times to take yet one more picture. It’s like a compulsion, I can’t help myself. The burst of life after the heavy winter is short and prolific. It feels so special to be here to witness this busy time in the life of plants.
Getting close to lunchtime, shafts of sunlight pierced through the mist and it started to lift. Birds started to twitter and I stopped right on trail, in an exposed rock-field, to have lunch and soak in the sun. It is strange in hindsight when I look at my pictures that while having lunch I did not notice the plumes of smoke rising from the valley below.
It was minutes after leaving my lunch spot, right before the turnoff for the trail to Indian Mountain, that what looked like a very big bowling ball came tumbling downhill and across my path. It was only as it straightened up that I realised it was baby bear. Holley dooley…where is mumma bear, was my first thought. I stood frozen waiting to see if mumma would follow. I realised that mumma bear was most likely downhill and baby was running towards her. So lucky mumma didn’t have to come looking for her baby.
So that was pretty special – a baby bear only a couple metres in front of me. My closest bear encounter.
Within minutes I reached the Eagle Creek Trail turnoff. Almost all PCT hikers take this alternative to the PCT. Talking to Claudia and Lady Bug yesterday, they mentioned that they thought the Eagle Creek trail may be closed due to fire. I did see a fire closure notice on the PCTA website while I was in Bend. But at that time it was difficult for me to work out how the closure affected the PCT or the alternative trail. Anyhow we agreed that if the trail was still closed when we got to it, that there would be notices at the trailhead. I got to the Indian Springs Trail and realised that it becomes the Eagle Creek Trail about 2 miles down a very steep track. There were no notices about a closure or tape blocking access at the trailhead, so I assumed it was OK to continue. As I descended a very difficult downhill I could smell smoke. I reached the junction with the Eagle Creek trail and still no notices although the trail back to Wahtun Lake and the PCT had tape across it. So I proceeded, the smoke got thicker and I got more concerned. This can’t be right but I really couldn’t face the prospect of going back up that perilous slope. It was about 4 miles in that I was absolutely certain that I should not have been here. The smoke was closer to the ground and was heavy. I soaked a cloth in water and used it to breathe through so as not to inhale too much smoke. I knew from seeing how the smoke was drifting as I descended that the trail would pass through a valley where the smoke was being concentrated by the wind.
And the trail eventually would eventually pass upwind of the smoke as it entered the Eagle Creek Gorge. And it was only here at the switchback that I saw a note torn from a small note pad – warning about trail closure due to fire, dated July 10th. The tape across was mostly torn down. I was committed, I could not turn back as at this point as I was through the worst of the smoke. I started to get angry, as up the trailhead to the Indian Springs trailhead were parked what looked like two private fire fighting pick-up trucks. The fact that they were there and the trail was not blocked gave me confidence that the trail was open. Anyhow the drama of the fire was behind me as I entered the gorge. Although I could see way above me where the forest had burnt right to the edge of the gorge and small flames could still be seen still burning. I was relieved that I made I made it upwind of the fire as I entered the gorge.
And to my surprise within minutes I was standing in front of the astonishing Tunnel Falls. The roar of a shear wall of water tumbling down was incredible. And even more so, the fact that the trail passes through a tunnel underneath the falls. I stood transfixed for some time before proceeding to walk underneath the falls. Simply spectacular, I can see why this is such a popular tourist destination.
There were other beautiful cascading waterfalls along the creek but all pale in comparison. I proceeded to walk north and about a mile further saw my first official trail closure notice – it was aimed at people coming from the Cascade Locks direction.
I started to pass more and more daytrippers heading out to the falls. At this point I really just wanted the hike to be over. I was safe and back in civilisation, my feet hurt especially on the rocky trail. All I could think about was having a shower, soaking my feet in ice and lying down on clean sheets. That had to wait another agonising slow three and half hours before I made it to the Bridge of the Gods and the end of the Oregon section of the PCT. I got a motel room, went to the market and bought a salad and some Ginger Kombucha, which I’ve been dreaming about. Clean and showered, I sat in bed under crispy linen sheets and celebrated my epic birthday. So the song I sang in the morning did really come true… it was a wonderful day and everything did go my way.
Are you staying in Cascade Locks today? Are you heading back on trail tomorrow?
Lovely to hear from you. Yes a much needed rest day at Cascade Locks and heading north tomorrow, Saturday.
are you here today? Are you heading out tomorrow?
I was going look you up in Portland on my way back after the trail. Are still at the Powells?
I’m not! I’m working in commercial real estate now (don’t ask me how). Let’s connect in Portland when you come back up. Maybe see you on trail tomorrow, I’m not sure which section I’ll be hitting!
It would be great Ella. Will email you if I don’t see you on trail tomorrow.
Corky, we were in Trout Lake this morning leaving our food drop at Trout Lake Grocery then stopped in Cascade Locks to buy Salmon on our way back to Portland. We looked for you but sounds like you were snug in bed. Happy Birthday! Barbara reached out to four young ladies who were thru hikers at the soft ice cream drive in but they didn’t know you. So I guess it was not meant to be. I took a picture of the trail angel list in Trout Lake of people to come pick you up from the trailhead if you’re interested. I’m sure you’re aware it’s 13 miles to town. I also spoke with two of the recommended guys. If you’re interested I can text or email info about Trout Lake. It’s very small but everyone seems intent on helping PCT hikers. Best of luck. Don’t get injured again. If you ever need a place to stay in Portland we’ve got a guest room with private bath and live right downtown in the Pearl. Bill.
I should gave given you my contact details. It would have been nice to meet you and Barbara. I didn’t get into Cascade Locks till almost 7.30. I think I can email you.
email@example.com or if you’re more comfortable emailing Barbara it’s firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ve been loving reading your journey. I followed along last year as well. OK, I gotta ask. What age are you and Hammer? My wife and I, 60 and 62 respectively, hiked a 1000 mi of the PCT a couple of years ago. I’ve been wanting to get back and do the section you’re hiking this year. Hopefully I’ll be there next summer.
Good luck and thanks for the such positive and thankful attitude I’ve ever heard or read in a Hiking journal. It has been so refreshing.
That is so lovely to read John. Thank you for following and staying with us. I turned 58 last Thursday and Hammer is 6 months younger. Life has humbled me to the point I am grateful for every day I get to witness a sunrise. To be blessed with what for me is a third chance at life. I take nothing for granted. To have my health and fitness and the priveledge to be able to choose how I live the years I’ve been gifted.
And do get out and do it John. Hike your own hike……there are no rules.
Happy belated birthday, Corky! What an epic way to celebrate – dodging forest fires, a bear encounter, Tunnel Falls, and over 35 miles! Wow! That Eagle Creek section sure feels like it goes on forever, doesn’t it? Congrats on finishing Oregon. I’m sure it’s bittersweet.
Thanks so much Barb. Oregon has truly been a wonderful gift. I think by the time I was crossing paths with the clean and freshly laundered people the day was over but you are right it just goes on and on. But getting to that motel room and getting a cold ginger Kombucha – pretty close to heavenly. Apart from Hammer not being there.
Bravo, Stef! A Birthday to remember, and who would have thought that however many years later, you would be on this outstanding adventure on planet Earth. Neat bear encounter; and everything is going your way!
So true Larry,
Sometime luck just goes our way. I just git lucky the wind was blowing the way it was in Eagle Creek. And what a super privilege to have it all to myself. A birthday to remember just like the last one.
A belated happy birthday to you, Corky! The wildflower meadows are simply stunning!
Thank you Leslie
Oregon has been the best gift ever. And thank you for you wonderful words of encouragement. There are manufactured moments in a day where it’s nice to know that there are people with me every step of the way.