Woke with first dawn, packed up and strode quietly by Fireman’s tent – no sign of movement at his camp so it appeared he was still in deep sleep. The trail continued to climb, even though it seemed impossible that it could do so. The look of the terrain and knowing that it must descend soon made it frustrating to keep going up. But up it went, ascending for miles, and finally I took a morning break and sat down in a rock scree area along the trail to eat my humble breakfast of muesli and dried banana chips while looking westward across the valley at low hills and mountains.
While sitting there munching I heard a whiz-beep noise that sounded almost computer animated somewhere off to my left. It whiz-beeped a second time and I looked left, and saw only 15 feet away a curious little creature, body hunched like a baby rabbit, ears like a large mouse, sitting on a rock observing me. As soon as our eyes connected, he scrambled away down the other side of the rock, and I didn’t see him again. I’ve not seen the likes of him before, so don’t know what he was, but I do know that he was not a marmot.
Around noontime the trail emerged from the forest onto scree fields and began descending. Finally – views and downhill! It was a welcome relief to what had become almost tedium. And the views were amazing! Ahead it looked as though I could see the upcoming Eagle Creek canyon I would be hiking down, and in the far distance against the horizon were Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Baker. Stunning! Again, the camera doesn’t serve as well as Nature.
Arriving at an intersection of trails at this high point I saw a rock shelter that appeared almost Incan. It was well made and looked as though it would indeed serve to protect from the wind if one needed. A sign indicated an old Indian Mine was nearby, and Indian Springs was just a half mile ahead. That half mile took me through fields of red – it was as if Fall had already started here in the high country. Quite beautiful!
At Indian Springs there was a picnic table, so I dropped my pack and had lunch. It was a nice break in the sunshine, and looked as though others may have enjoyed the area just recently, possibly having camped there the night before. The springs itself was very small and to fill my water bottle I used the pipe someone had inserted for just that purpose.
After almost an hour of relaxation at Indian Springs, I hoisted the pack and set off. The preferred alternate route to Cascade Locks was the Eagle Creek trail, and that trail cut off from the PCT in another 4 miles. I was hoping to hike an additional 8 miles on the Eagle Creek Trail, so I didn’t have time to dally. The day was inching into afternoon.
Rounding a corner in the trail I was suddenly at Wahtum Lake. Nice large campsites with big firepits were spaced out around the the area where Eagle Creek Trail takes off from the PCT. The thought of a swim was refreshing so I donned my swim suit (I could hear laughter and conversation happening at a nearby secluded campsite) and went down to the water’s edge. It felt colder than I had anticipated, so I walked around in it up to my knees trying to get
adjusted to the temperature, and finally decided I would not be swimming. Instead, I splashed water onto my arms, belly, face and neck and called it good enough. Then I went over to meet my neighbors.
They were a very young couple, he with dreadlocks tied up in a knot and she with nose and lip rings. This was her first time out backpacking and they were having a wonderful adventure. We visited for a few minutes, and it
turned out they were starting down the Eagle Creek Trail the same time I was. After a few minutes of hiking I pulled ahead, and ended up passing another couple only a few hundred feet further down the trail, so that finally I was in the lead and streaking for the finish, which in my mind was “7.5 Mile Camp” – the first major campsite down Eagle Creek Trail.
Water is abundant along Eagle Creek Trail. Every 5 minutes I was passing over a stream or spring or small river…it was incredible! I took multitudinous pictures of all these beautiful water features, then as the
trail began to flatten out a bit I almost passed – but then backed up to – a couple of men trying to start a fire at a trailside campspot. I asked what they were doing and they had just gotten water at a nearby spring and had no way of purifying it except for boiling. The younger man, Kurt, was trying to light a small fire for just such purpose. His older brother, Anthony, and I began talking a bit, and I offered the use of my Steripen. He poured their water into appropriate bottles and I whipped out my Steripen and purified their water for them. How simple, how quick…it saved them mega-time, as they were planning on
hiking up to Wahtum Lake and still had 6 miles of uphill to go, and it was already about 4 p.m. Wished them well and was off again.
I was photographing yet another amazing stream gushing off the mountainside when Fireman caught up to me. He, too, was planning on camping at “7.5 Mile Camp”, but this time we hiked the last two miles together, as I had teased him about racing ahead of me to secure the best campsite. When we arrived I decided to go further ahead anyway, as I had learned of a
swimming hole just a bit further along the trail and wanted an evening dip. Fireman said good-bye and took the short side trail to his campsite, and I hiked on less than a half mile and found an amazing campsite right along Eagle Creek with a large beautiful swimming hole. Once again the water seemed too cold, but I splashed it on me and felt refreshed. Eagle Creek lulled me with its magical, incessant, peaceful water babble that night, and sleep came with peace and gentleness.