INTO CASCADE LOCKS
PCT Day 3: Saturday July 16, 2022
Mile 2127.6+20 miles today
Our order was restored this morning. I woke just as the pink of the early dawn lit up the sky. A low pitched bird whistling like a train conductor whistle woke me. Coffee in the calm of the early morning was bliss. The mild air temperature was so very welcomed.
By the time we broke camp a heavy fog swept over the mountain we were on and closed out the views towards Mt Hood. We were packed and on our way by 6am. Shafts of sunlight pierced the enveloping fog as we left camp.
The cool mist made for very pleasant hiking conditions. We crossed multiple tallus fields and were commenting on how surprising it was there there were no Pica around. And just on cue, there was one tiny one sitting between the rocks right by the trail. They look so mousy and cute.
Seeing the wildflowers lining the trail was like seeing long lost friends. Many whose names I’ve never know and many whose names I’ve forgotten. But one thing I’ve never forgotten is how seeing their abundance and splendour made me feel. All so familiar and all crying out to be remembered in a photograph.
About 2 hours from leaving camp we reached the Eagle Creek alternate trail junction. At the junction we met David, who is part of the trail maintenance crew. He was enjoying his morning coffee alone in the forest. We thanked him for his work and left him to enjoy the silence before the rest of the crew arrived.
I was looking forward to the Eagle Creek alternate. It was a section I hiked under risky conditions with a forest fire burning somewhere nearby. I didn’t realise until it was too late to turn back that I was hiking through an active fire. So today I was keen to see what were the after effects of that fire.
As soon as we started the steep decent on Indian Head Trail the damage was evident. There was little forest left, just the burnt skeletons of trees and the green shrubbery of the undergrowth. The fire I walked through in 2017 was the Indian Creek Fire. Two months later it merged with a much bigger fire which was started by a carelessly tossed firecracker. It’s possible that most of this damage was caused by the later and much bigger Eagle Creek Fire.
The trail down was as nasty as I remembered, a very steep goat track.
What ifs were dancing through my mind as the extent of the fire damage became more evident. I was incredibly lucky firstly to have seen this forest before it was gone and secondly to have made it through without getting seriously hurt.
Once we reached Eagle Creek, I pushed all the past judgements of stupid risks taken behind me and settled on once again appreciating all the amazing features of this waterway. As we descended towards the creek we left the fog behind. It got warmer and more humid by the time we reached the the creek. Eagle Creek is really a narrow canyon with sheer walls rising to the sky.
Where the creek widened, creating deeper pools, looked so inviting for a swim on a such a warm day. The water was a crystal clear turquoise colour.
Acces to the pools was possible where we first joined the creek but the trail rose above the creek very quickly. This offered spectacular views on the numerous waterfalls, the most spectacular of which are the Twisted and Tunnel Falls. It’s extraordinary how the trail is constructed. It snakes it’s way halfway up the canyon walls. Narrow in parts with sheer drops down to the creek. It could be nerve wrecking if you are scared of hights, especially when passing people going in the opposite direction. It was comforting that a cable is fixed to the wall to hold onto.
Being a weekend and such a beautiful day the trail was very busy with day hikers. It’s the first time for both of us to be here with so many other people. Hammer walked through in the early morning on his 2016 hike and in 2017 when I went though the trail was closed and it stayed closed for a few years. It was great to experience it with others. Its nice that so many people take the long trek from the Cascade Locks end of the trail. Particularly as the trail is not too kind on your feet. It was also great to see so many dogs out for day walks with their owners in this incredibly beautiful landscape. The thing we both commented on was how well behaved the dogs were and no evidence of dog droppings anywhere along the trail.
The falls are super impressive.The huge volume of water rushing down this narrow canyon creates a roaring sound when it drops in levels. Walking under Tunnel Falls still feels a bit eerie. Such a huge volume of water roaring above and past you, it feels like the tunnel walls could give way.
From Tunnel Falls it was a long descent towards Cascade Locks. The warmth of the sun and an occasional cooling breeze made for a pleasant afternoon of hiking.
We made it to Cascade Locks by mid-afternoon.
After checking into our accomodation, we shopped for provisions for the next leg, showered, did laundry, found a burger for dinner and finally collapsed to bed – exhausted.
I was surprised by how swollen my knee is considering how it feels walking. We are thinking of taking a full rest day in Cascade Locks tomorrow. It would give time for the swelling to go down and the snow in Washington another day to melt. Hot weather is predicted in the coming days.