Ballard and Walker: PCT Thru-Hikers

Northwest of Eden
Gorp.com

September 1, 2000—Day 117—Mile 2298—White Pass, Washington—Angela's Diary: Duffy held the manure-green, Philly Blunt-sized slug in his mittened hand.

"Kiss it. . .Come on Chiggy, kiss the Banana Slug."

As I stared at the slimy beast, I came to a few conclusions: one, no way was I kissing that mutant slimeball; two, since Duff had already smooched his oozy buddy, I didn't plan on kissing him anytime soon either; and three, someone or something (possibly the Forest Service) was pumping 'roids into the northern Oregon wilderness.

Everything about the area surrounding Eagle Creek (approximately 35 miles from Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood and 15.6 miles from the Washington border) seemed immensely exaggerated. From the mammoth slugs to the lush undergrowth with leaves the size of dinner plates, I felt like Alice in Wonderland—no, make that Alice in the Amazon. The trees were draped in a light, airy moss that hung from them like beards. The rocks were covered with carpets of a thick, spongier moss. Myriad varieties of fern tickled our legs. And of course, the drizzle and accompanying dankness added to the rain forest effect. But while the verdant wood, literally dripping with dense vegetation, was spectacular, the real star of the show was Eagle Creek itself.

Roaring below us, Eagle Creek was like a watery Rube Goldberg contraption. Whipping around corners, cascading into pools that overflow into falls and vice versa, pouring over basalt flats, and cutting through cracks. Even the trail along the creek was a wonder. Blasted into the cliffs of volcanic rock and frighteningly narrow, the precarious footpath heightened our sensitivity to the power of the creek below. At some especially harrowing stretches trailworkers had installed iron hand cables for safety and reassurance. I, for one, took full advantage of them.

Like a fine piece of classical music, Eagle Creek's delights start subtley—with rockbound creeks, a 50-foot cascade, and clear deep pools. Soon though, the composition builds to a crescendo with a two-stage 100-foot fall sliced into a gorge hiding around a corner. And the finale, Tunnel Falls (a popular day-hiker attraction), brought us scarily close to the heart of a 150-foot waterfall with the trail actually leading to its showery edge, about half way up, then ducking, via a narrow wet tunnel, behind the thundering torrent. For an encore, an 80-foot fall and then the Punchbowl, a huge pool with a sapphire blue hue fed by a boisterous, 40-foot plunge. The bowl would have tempted Duff with a swim if he could have found a way down to it.

Bridges spanning the creek's gorge aren't for those who are afraid of heights; actually I'm not sure 90-foot drops are really for anyone but us adrenaline junkies.

And, although Tunnel Falls was the only true tunnel on our route, much of the trail boasted wet overhangs that made us feel like cave dwellers peeking outside at the inclement weather. [MORE. . .]

Duffy and Angela are losing weight! Check out what gear they've dropped. Also see their original gear lists.


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