Friday, February 12, 2016

Hiking the Eagle Creek Trail

We took a chance last Sunday and headed for the Eagle Creek trailhead near the Cascade Locks, hoping it wouldn't be so busy because of the Super Bowl.  But Oregonians evidently don't watch football.  The two parking lots were completely full, meaning we had to add an extra mile to our hike.

It only took me a hundred yards up the trail to get it--to get why this trail is the most popular hike in the Columbia River Gorge.  I know I have a tendency toward hyperbole, but man oh man, this has got to be one of the most scenic hikes in the entire world.  My travel buddy and I were in complete rapture for the rest of the day. I didn't even mind the traffic jams.


This trail has been well-used and well-loved ever since its completion in 1915.   It's a slow steady climb that goes through an old growth forest of Douglas Firs and Cedars that drip with moss.  The trail then winds along a basalt cliff with a sheer drop into the white water rapids below.  Cable lines have been fastened along the cliff walls for additional security and believe me, I used them! (If you suffer from acrophobia, think twice before attempting this one.)

Because we have had a lot of rain and snow this year, the creeks are high and we had to traverse a couple, balancing on logs, jumping from rock to rock (and dodging leprechauns.)  Not only that but the trail takes you behind a few waterfalls.  I didn't mind getting soaked a bit; it was so much fun!    

The Eagle Creek trail is ten miles out and back.  It begins at the campground and ends at Wahtum Lake.  The iconic Punchbowl Falls, however, is only two miles up and this was our destination.  This falls, which is framed by a bowl shaped grotto, has graced many a calendar and poster as well as a famous Styx album cover.  

But . . . 

that iconic view from below was not accessible last Sunday.  Because of all the rain, the creek was too high.  We were out of luck.  Waders were needed to round the corner in the freezing cold water.

So back up we went to see the falls from above.
Punchbowl Falls

I have no complaints.   

Metlako Falls

On the way back we took a side trail to see Metlako Falls--another beauty.  The truth is, we lost count of the waterfalls, both along the trail, and in the distance.


  Not only was this a beautiful hike, but an adventurous one.  No wonder it is so popular.  As I was walking along, I forced myself to stop and soak in the scenery. I realized how incredible (and rare) these moments in life are.  It's not often we enter a prehistoric, pristine world.  So dewy and green.  Fresh and magical.

I slowed down.  I let other hikers pass me.  I was in no hurry to get home.














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