This mornings routine was obviously always going to be different to the opulent surroundings of the Timberline Lodge breakfast buffet, but that still did not prepare us for the enormous pile of poop that was deposited outside my sisters tent doorway last night, by some passing animal. I could only assure her that this was the first time that had happened in 2108 miles, and I was as surprised as she was! The poop mystery was finally resolved when we noticed that some hikers a short distance away had a plucky sheep dog of no particular breed, and he was very familiar with the little nook we were camped in, visiting us briefly over breakfast.
Day: Thursday, 8th September 2016
Miles: 2108.9 – 2125.1 – Eagle Creek Alternate +4.8
Bald mountain 2108.9 – Indian Springs 2125.1 – Eagle Creek Remote Site +4.8
It was around 8:15AM when we hit the trail after our usual morning routine of breakfast oatmeal and some very handy Trader Joes coffee+creamer sachets that my sister had found for our resupply. Immediately the trail departed the circular routing we had followed around Mt.Hood, and took aim for our eventual intersection with the Columbia River Gorge at Cascade Locks. In the morning sunshine, everything had a dew covered sheen, as if some cleaner came through in the night, polishing the end-of-season greens to a renewed level of vibrancy.
After following the ridge-line for some time, we were afforded a magnificent morning silhouette of Mt.Hood, now far enough behind us, for its slender cone and prominence to become more vivid and stern against the sunlight.
After a few miles we met the intersection with Lolo Pass, a surprisingly busy dirt road, that I remembered from my last visit to Oregon when I drove from Lost Lake to Timberline. The pass contained some gruesome power lines, but gave some good views towards Hood River, and my first proper view of Mt.Adams in the distance. Close to the road, there was a number of insect traps tied to trees by the trail, and lots of little thimbleberries.
Following the rising ridges, we finally crested Huckleberry Mountains (sadly mentionable due to the lack of huckleberries when I was there). Close to the top of the ascent, I was given a wonderful view of Lost Lake far below. This was where I camped two years ago on my first visit to Oregon, and it felt really satisfying to finally get here!
The trail at this point weaved between high forests of evergreen trees, with both sides covered in long green grasses. Its clear this area receives a lot of moisture compared to points south. There was more intermittent berry bushes at points (mostly huckleberries and blueberries), although many seemed to have spoiled, another reminder of the time of year.
Every few miles, and the trail would open up to allow some incredible views back to Mt.Hood. What a beautiful mountain it is.
All through the day, I wondered whether I might get that first view of Mt.Rainier that I was yearning for, and I wasnt to be disappointed, when the final ascent of the afternoon provided and incredible vista across to the Washington State side of the Columbia River. The gorge was still hidden, but Mt.Rainier was just right there in front of me, along with the broken top of Mt.St.Helens! This was exciting, I had finally caught a glimpse of Rainier! This IS the home stretch! I really did not expect an exposed rocky area like this one in this area, but as we rounded the crown of the ridge, I was not disappointed at the view ahead.
Once we reached the camp area at Indian Springs (2125.1), we took a long break (including stretches for my sisters painful IT Band problems) and treated ourselves to a cooked lunch, with rice and tortillas. It was warm and sunny in our lunch spot, with a camp table and a close-by spring. We took the opportunity to dry out our gear, which had become very wet, even in our dry and high camp spot last night. We had not seen any hikers today, until this point, when a female hiker was just about to hit the trail as we arrived. I later got to know this hiker as EnergizerBunny.
As we started the descent on the Eagle Creeks alternate route to the PCT, the trail followed a steep downhill section, certainly not what my sisters IT Band was craving, but we were making good progress regardless, and the vegetation changed quickly around us, with trees covered in thick green mosses and some large downed tree-obstacles with interesting cuts and steps made in them.
Dropping further into the valley, and the age and height of the surrounding trees, along with the ferns, mosses and rhododendron bushes hinted at an area that is cloaked in rains all year, and has been protected for a long period of time. It was green, damp, luscious, and water was everywhere.
Parts of the trail seemed to wander through an enormous fern-garden, with giant trees obscuring the light.
As we finally joined up with Eagle Creek, the evening was well progressed, and nightfall had set in the valley itself. Obscured from the west, there was no hint of a sunset, only an impending darkness as we sought out a camp site. We had decided to wait until tomorrow for the spectacle of Tunnel Falls, which limited our options to 2 potential camp sites. At this point, we found many campers, some PCT hikers, weekenders and section hikers. Space was at a premium given the enormous amount of vegetation in the valley floor and the two sites available were tiny. We eventually settled on a pleasant space shared with a couple from Portland, whom we sat with and enjoyed dinner and some banter before finally heading to bed around 8PM. As we were settling, two more couples arrived, filling up the space. All of the hikers we shared the space with had come from the northern trailhead, and intended to return via the same route, rather than following a circuit using the PCT via Indian Springs (which would appeal to me a little more). The creek was just a short distance away, and I had forgotten what a glorious feeling it is to sleep to the sound of flowing water. I was reminded of the campsite I shared with Levi, Schrocket and Blue before Tuolumne Meadows, as I finally fell asleep to the gentle sounds (along with occasional snores from our camp friends).