August 28, 2015
Tentsite after Lolo Pass (2124.8) to Bridge of the Gods – Cascade Locks (2155.1)
13.9 PCT miles today, 15.5 Alternate miles today (Eagle Creek Alternate), 1 non-PCT mile today
2201.1 miles total
Today’s Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown
Today flew by for a number of reasons. First of all, most of the day was spent going downhill as we dropped from over 4,000 feet of elevation down to the Columbia River at sea level. Second, today was totally unique compared to the whole rest of the PCT. We had steep descents, waterfalls, swimming holes, and cliff-drops galore. Third, and most importantly, today was absolutely beautiful, and we kept up a great pace not only because we wanted to finish up Oregon and see what Trail Days in Cascade Locks was all about, but mostly because we were truly eager to see what was around every corner. Pickles and I both agreed that today’s trail was our favorite in Oregon, but it was also our last since tomorrow we hike into our third and final state of Washington.
This morning Pickles and I were feeling in the zone. The sky was a bit overcast, which made for nice cool temps, and we moved quickly up hills and along ridges until we arrived at the junction of Indian Springs Trail. This junction marks the divergence of the “official” PCT from the very popular and scenic Eagle Creek Trail, which many hikers choose to take into Cascade Locks. I had hiked Eagle Creek a couple times before, and had once even backpacked it solo, but Pickles had never seen it, and I couldn’t wait to introduce him to such a beautiful trail. The first couple miles on the connecting Indian Spring Trail was quite a steep descent, but it just sped our progress and got us to Eagle Creek Trail before we knew it. From the moment that the two trails merged, we began to see what would become dozens of day hikers and weekend warriors. As we continued to descend, tired hikers passed us on their way up to Wahtum Lake. We stopped for lunch at one of the many creeks crossing the trail, and as we got ready to hike on, our good friend Mosey caught up to us and hiked with us the rest of the day. We finally reached Eagle Creek itself, and both Pickles and Mosey couldn’t believe the beauty. Between all the natural pools, Tunnel Falls, which the trail actually hikes behind, and Punchbowl Falls, we were all in awe. We chatted, took photos, and even jumped into a swimming hole for a quick dip before reaching the end of the trail and making a decision about what to do next.
Last night when Pickles and I stopped for camp we looked ahead and saw that Cascade Locks was still over 30 miles away. We agreed that rather than push such a big day, end up at Trail Days in Cascade Locks and then potentially either not be able to find camping, or be kept up all night by noisy campers, we would just camp along Eagle Creek and then drop by Trail Days for a couple hours tomorrow morning on our way to Washington. It was a fine plan in theory, but when we were within a mile of the trailhead and it was only 4pm, it felt too strange to stop for camp where tons of people would walk by, not go spend the afternoon and evening with our friends at Trail Days, and forego a possible soda or ice cream in town. We decided we’d stick with Mosey and finish up Oregon, hoping that Trail Days would be worth the stop.
The final few miles from the Eagle Creek trailhead to the Marina RV park and Thunder Island in Cascade Locks was brutal on my feet. They had done pretty well all day, considering we were pushing 30 miles, but they were furious with me for making them walk on pavement. The last few hundred yards up to the Bridge of the Gods was torture, but once we got onto the Main Street of town, my complaints faded away and I became distracted by all things “town”. We stopped by a fruit stand to buy peaches, but the woman said that the fruit was free for hikers, so we gratefully indulged in our sweet, juicy peaches while we walked to the far end of town and the apparent location of Trail Days.
None of us really knew what to expect from Trail Days. Rumors had spread on the trail that the event wasn’t really catered toward thru-hikers at all and that you had to pre-register to camp and pay $5, none of which was at all true. In fact, we would have been crazy to have missed this fun-filled afternoon and evening with hundreds of other hikers, many of whom are now old friends that we’ve known for months. The venue is perfect for this kind of event, with dozens of tents set up on a grassy island in the Columbia River, and 20 or so vendors set up on the main land just across the bridge. There’s a fast food joint a few hundred yards away where we grabbed tonight’s dinner, and even a brewery where people can eat dinner or beers. We’ve spent the entire evening laughing, chatting, and catching up with old hiker friends and it has been a truly perfect ending to an already great day. Sure, we’re getting to bed later than usual, we spent some money, and tomorrow’s mileage might suffer a bit, but the hiking community is an important part of this trail and we’re grateful for the opportunity to celebrate everyone’s success and to enter Washington with a few friends in tow.