Bright peach pink clouds were floating high above the treetops along Eagle Creek – I could see them from my tent door. It was early morning, the sun would be several hours before entering the high walls canyon, and it felt considerably cooler than the hot day before.
Packed up quickly and headed down the trail. Passed a waterfall that I thought must be Tunnel Falls – it had a large hole at the base of the basalt cliffs on the far canyon wall. The hole looked like it may have been a mine at one time. Now it appeared as though it were a tunnel through the mountain at the base of the falls.
Not much further down the trail was another falls. And the glorious pools along Eagle Creek, as well as more waterfalls, just kept appearing. It was an amazing hike down this river…the trail was narrow and blasted out of the basalt cliffs to form a sideways channel along an otherwise perpendicular cliff face. It was hard to imagine the amount of work that went into creating this trail – truly a great undertaking.
The next incredible falls was Twister Falls. I didn’t know the name of it until talking with some
other hikers much further down the trail, as I didn’t have an Eagle Creek Trail guide with me. The “Atlas” recommends taking the alternative Eagle Creek Trail instead of the PCT at this part, but does not show enough of the Eagle Creek Trail to know where you are on it, or names of the falls – a real lapse in forethought. But there can be only one Twister Falls, and when the name was mentioned to me I knew exactly which falls was being discussed.
It was near Twister Falls that Fireman suddenly appeared behind me! What timing! We continued down the trail to “oooh” and “aaaaah”
together at each new falls we came to. The next most awesome falls was the real Tunnel Falls. When I rounded the trail corner and saw it my breath was almost sucked away! It is extraordinarily tall – perhaps 200′ or more and that’s no exaggeration. It falls in one long band of white down from a cliff very high up, and the trail passes BEHIND the falls through a tunnel while the water continues to cascade downward for another 100′ or so into a small pool. The wind that is created at the pool surface from the water crashing into it is very fierce. The entire area had it’s own unique little micro-climate created by the falls.
Fireman and I took many photos of this falls, and after we had spent perhaps 15 minutes on both sides of it and had photographed it from inside the tunnel, we were standing at the edge of the trail looking back at the falls and saw a fast striding hiker in black tight shorts walk up to the tunnel, go through it and pass by us on the trail. Both Fireman and I looked at each other, and Fireman said, “Was that …? I said, “No, it couldn’t be, he looked too clean and professional.” And at that
same moment the hiker in question, about 15 feet away from us, turned around and looked back and said “Are you Sayward and Fireman?” We couldn’t believe it! He looked so different. This was the man who had slightly freaked me out with his hands in his pants, his fly open and naked from the waist up whom I had hid from in the Three Sisters section of trail! And here he was looking like a clean, professional hiker. We visited a few minutes and he actually apologized for freaking me out and his unusual behavior! I was totally blown away, and very glad to be so, as it proved to me once again that not all is as it seems
sometimes, and we create our own illusions or reality only to discover later that what we thought was real was not. Just a mirage. Of course, it still seemed a little weird when he unzipped his jacket in front of Fireman and me, displaying his naked chest, teats and hairs only inches from my face….but who knows. Perhaps he is just totally comfortable with his body and isn’t bothered by anyone else’s reactions to it. The whole thing was almost surreal, and when he walked away Fireman and I were left standing there as though we’d just experienced some strange vortex event, or a UFO sighting, or something equally curious and confounding.
The next amazing falls we came to were Punch Bowl Falls. The size of the pool at its base was like a large round swimming pool, and it was at least 100′ below us. Someone had found a way down to it and was swimming in it, which looked idyllic. We looked around and found the path down, but decided not to take it – the weather wasn’t that warm, and the clouds were growing darker.
On the rest of our hike out to the Eagle Creek TrailHead parking lot, we passed many hikers on their way up to view all the wonderful falls and pools that Fireman and I had just seen. It is a well-used trail, and many families, dog walkers, large groups of women, photographers, foreign tourists – they were all out to see a bit of the spectacular displays that Nature has created up Eagle Creek canyon.
I was feeling tired – the trail seemed much longer than Fireman’s map suggestion of 7 miles to the parking lot – felt more like 10 miles at least – and I decided to hitch a ride into Cascade Locks. As we arrived at the parking lot, a couple gentlemen with small day packs got off the trail just behind us and went over to their little red VW Bug. I asked them if they were going to Cascade Locks, and sure enough, they were – it turned out they HAD to go there – ALL cars have to go there, as there is no other way to get on the freeway heading west from the parking lot without going to Cascade Locks. They generously gave us a lift, and deposited us at the Pacific Crest Pub and Hostel.
Later in the afternoon, after Fireman had collected his box of goodies from the Post Office his wife had mailed him from Moab, we jaunted over to Hood River and caught up with email, enjoyed a little wine tasting event, and went to a great little pub that served delicious food and beer. We also caught a little of the action down at the water’s edge where the windsurfers leap and dance with their boards and kites across the waves of the Columbia River.
Back in Cascade Locks, the PCT hikers were receiving free camping at
the campground for just this one night – the next day they would have to move their tents over to Thunder Island where the PCTrail Fest weekend activities would be taking place. I dropped Fireman off to tent with the other hikers already set up at the campground, and drove my truck to the Visitors Center where I truck-camped overnight in their parking lot. It was a long and wonderful day, and with the weather looking like a storm was about to break, it was great to be safely snugged away in my sleeping bag in the back of my truck. Ahhh, the rough life!