This fairly short section included taking a great alternate route with lots of impressive falls and brought us to Cascade Locks, the very last stop in Oregon and the gateway to Washington.
Day 136 (Continued)
After our tasks were completed and we’d finally come to terms with our loss of the battery pack we set out. Cashmere was still pretty full of food, but it was good to get moving to get digesting.
Because of our late start we only walked 15 miles (~24km) this day. We didn’t take many photos either because we were feeling insecure about our battery capacity. With our charger gone we had only what battery was left on the phone, so we had the phone turned off for much of this section. This also meant that we couldn’t work on our blog, which frustrated Cashmere greatly.
As we descended off Mt Hood we passed lots of creeks, many silty with glacial melt. There were lots of daywalkers about, most of whom had come from the Timberline Lodge. Cashmere was getting annoyed by the number of day walkers because she kept having to step aside for them and felt less comfortable peeing wherever she wanted. Plus she was also feeling bad for herself because of the charger theft and the associated banned phone activities. To make matters worse she was also freaking out about the fires in Washington the associated trail closures. But she also felt like she couldn’t just start crying in front of them like she wanted to. Meanwhile Physio was trying to keep the team together, and felt positive that things would work out one way or another.
We later passed a fellow wearing a shirt with a “Oregon Rugby” logo on it and it turned out he was a rugby coach. Physio was in heaven talking to him about all kinds of cool rugby related topics. Cashmere liked hanging out with his dogs that walked with her. Sadly we had to let them go when we stopped for lunch.
That evening we had dinner by a little creek and then continued walking in search of a camp site. After a few miles and an extended period of hiking in the dark we found a campsite at a trail junction.
Our morning routine was going fine until a big black wasp found its way into our tent. It was no ordinary wasp either. It was the kind that kills yellow jackets in mid air. We’re not sure if they eat yellow jackets, or whether they just do it for fun. We had two problems:
1) We love the big black wasps because they kill the evil yellow jackets – so we didn’t want to squash it by rolling up the tent.
2) Any insect that kills yellow jackets for fun must be pretty freaking bad ass so we probably don’t want to mess around with it.
So…Physio opened up the tent and tried unsuccessfully to encourage the mega-wasp out a door. Instead it kept flying between the roof and the tent liner. Eventually Physio held a door wide open and the wasp finally left our sleeping quarters. We breathed a sigh of relief, finished packing up and hit the trail.
(Sorry not many photos yet, with our battery pack stolen we had to conserve battery for the falls coming up.)
After a few miles Physio said he had to do something about the blister on his right foot. Physio had used a needle to put all kinds of threads in it at Timberline Lodge, but the blister was still causing him immense pain. It was time to bring in the field surgeon – Dr Cashmere. Cashmere took a few tries to drill a needle in deep enough, but eventually hit the spot. Physio had developed a blister under a thick callus on the bottom back corner of his foot. This sort of blister is all too familiar to Dr Cashmere. Once the hidden blister was re-threaded Physio put some antibacterial ointment and a dressing on it, and we set off again.
Despite the great work of the big, black, badass yellow-jacket slaying wasps there were yellow jackets everywhere, seemingly ready to strike. It was scary.
We cruised along, chatting away. We got some water from a stream where there were two section hiking girls walking south. We exchanged stories and advice and continued on soon passing under high voltage power lines!
The views of Mt Hood had quickly deteriorated because of a thick smoke haze. We weren’t too upset because we were conserving the phone’s battery anyway, and it saved us turning the phone on to take photos.
As we hiked into the afternoon we found ourselves reminiscing about good times in Australia. While hiking we often find ourselves thinking about the Adventure Gang and how lucky we are to have such a fun group of friends. Soon our fun reminiscing was cut short when a large group of older hikers blocked the trail ahead of us. When they stopped to let us pass they declared that we “have far too much energy”. Cashmere informed them that we had been training for a long time.
Shortly after passing the slow paced older hikers we descended to the Indian Springs where there was reportedly an “Abandoned Campground”. As far as we could tell the main evidence of abandonment was a camp chair with the seat ripped off. We happily ate lunch at a lovely picnic table near the abandoned camp chair.
Once we finished lunch and Cashmere collected and filtered water we started the Eagle Creek alternate. Our guide book (and thru-hikers we met last year) told us the Eagle Creek alternate was not to be missed.
To reach the Eagle Creek Trail, we had to descend down the knee jarringly steep Indian Springs Trail, which connects the PCT to the Eagle Creek Trail. We descended something like 3000 feet (~1000m) in approximately 2 miles (~3km). It was all a bit extreme.
Once we joined the Eagle Creek Trail the grade mellowed out hugely and we slowly descended down a large canyon. As we descended we passed increasingly impressive waterfalls. Many were just tributaries to Eagle Creek, which filled us with anticipation for what was to come in the creek’s main channel.
We stopped for dinner at a lovely large and deep pool in the main channel. We both felt really gross after about six days without a decent wash or shower. Physio was first in the pool and discovered that Cashmere’s confidence in the warmth of the water was unfounded. It was FREEZING! After frantically washing himself and his clothes Physio got out and sat creekside awaiting dinner (which was rehydrating). Cashmere who had first got dinner started and exchanged a few words with a nearby section hiker, soon discovered that deep water flowing down a deep dark canyon is definitely not warm. She also frantically washed herself and some clothes before joining Physio for dinner.
When we both were getting ready to enjoy the warm food we noticed something strange. A block of chocolate and a freeze-dried lasagna meal had materialised by our packs. Turns out the section hiker was impressed with our thru-hiking feat and/or our freezing cold bath and had left us some treats! He wasn’t even seeking positive feedback (as he did this sneakily). Cashmere’s confidence in humanity was renewed!
We quickly gobbled our dinner and continued down the creek trail. Not long after dinner we passed the first epic waterfall in the Eagle Creek canyon. Sadly our view of it was obscured by trees so we couldn’t get a good photo. We started to hypothesise that it was ‘Tunnel Falls’ since the trail was cut into a cliff and looked a bit like a three sided tunnel. We thought it was pretty cool and could understand what all the fuss was about.
As we pushed on down the trail it got progressively rougher and harder to hike in the diminishing light. Physio was feeling like the small heads of what seemed like lava rock were constantly trying to break his ankles. We also noticed many tents set up in little creekside campsites and frequent toilet paper evidence of people improperly pooping in the canyon. Physio was once again thinking about humanity’s impact on the world. It seems like the very beauty of places makes them too popular and then people end up ruining them.
Just when we were feeling a little depressed again we came across the actual Tunnel Falls. It was absolutely incredible – a single massive fall into a perfect pool. What’s more the incredible cliff edge trail we were hiking down literally went through a tunnel behind the fall. It was strange to think that we were incredibly lucky to arrive there just before dark. Why you ask…We had it all to ourselves – just us and the majestic roaring waterfall!
After hanging around enjoying the falls for a while we went in search of a campsite. Walking on the rough lava heads was going to be even less fun once it was properly dark.
We were soon hiking with headlamps and found an empty campsite to make our home for the night.
Shortly after setting off down the trail we were rewarded with more incredible waterfalls including Punchbowl Falls and Little Punchbowl Falls. We were also starting to see day hikers and overnight hikers in huge numbers. We both started to independently fantasise about lecturing people on how to properly poop in the woods.
Eventually we came to a stunning bridge over a deep and narrow section of the canyon. The Eagle Creek alternate kept serving up natural wonders.
Finally we emerged out to the main carpark. We were unsurprised to see signs from the Parks service talking about the problems with human waste in the canyon.
From the carpark we navigated our way to Cascade Locks on a historic trail running parallel to the main freeway.
In Cascade Locks we visited the Post Office to collect our ‘Bounce Boxes’ and went and ate pizza at a nearby pub. We were soon collected by Margo (our friends Caroline and Julia’s grandmother). Margo took us to Hood River to run some errands and then took us to her house in the small community of Mount Hood. As you might imagine her house had wonderful views of…you guessed it Mount Hood.
Once at Margo and her husband George’s house we worked through more hiker trash chores for the rest of the afternoon.
We were soon enjoying a home cooked meal and great conversation with Margo and George. It became clear Margo had a huge amount of energy because she refused any kind of help from us whatsoever. What’s more we kept finding evidence that Margo and George, like their grand daughters Caroline and Julia, were very socially and environmentally conscious. Margo showed us newsletters outlining the work of their local environment and community preservation society. An organisation Margo has been heavily involved in. Margo also said she had hiked all of the Washington section of the PCT over the years, leading a number of hikes. She was very interested in our thru-hiking experiences.
Unfortunately that evening Physio’s throat started to get increasingly sore. He was getting sick. Margo immediately produced various forms of cold medication, including a rather ancient looking jar of Vicks Vapour Rub.
With the overwhelming smell of Vapour Rub in the air the two of us settled down to sleep for the evening.
With Physio’s symptoms worsening we decided to take a zero. We both worked on numerous tasks including: repairing shoes, repairing a hiking pole, purchasing more cold/flu medication, and sending out packages from the local Post Office.
We were also treated to more home cooked meals and enjoyed more fun conversations with our hosts “the amazing Earley Grandparents”.
Our day spent at George and Margo’s was one of our most relaxing days off on the whole trail. We did almost no walking and the lack of TV ensured we didn’t stay up all night watching dumb movies. We enjoyed great conversation with these amazing people. It was the ideal way to try to get over a cold.
Physio had been battling with whether or not to get back on the trail. He was still very much sick, but felt like we could not afford to take another zero. Cashmere declared it was Physio’s choice, since he was the sick one. By around 8:30am Physio had decided we would definitely head back to the trail. After informing Margo (our chauffeur), we made our final preparations and took some photos with our lovely hosts.
Before going back to Cascade Locks and the PCT, Margo took us back to Hood River to run one more errand. The replacement battery pack we purchased from RiteAid didn’t work, so we needed to return it and buy another one.
After several fruitless trips to various would-be sellers we found ourselves at Walmart. Sadly it was the only place in Hood River that sold battery packs suited to our purpose and at a price we could afford. Cashmere felt both embarrassed and guilty for making Margo take us to Walmart. However, while en-route we learnt a startling revelation that made her feel better. Cashmere complemented Margo on her lovely earrings, to which she embarrassingly replied something like:
“I get so many compliments on these earrings and I am embarrassed to say these things are actually from Walmart. They were only $3.”
Okay, so even the lovely socially and environmentally conscious Margo Earley was wearing earrings from Walmart! We don’t have to feel so bad after all.
With our new battery packs (we had to buy two to get enough capacity) Margo dropped us at Cascade Locks to begin the next part of our adventure. As we hugged Margo goodbye she had to try hard not to start crying. Such is her love for hiker trash like us.
Our hike from Cascade Locks to Trout Lake, in Washington, will be covered in the next post. We hope you’ve enjoyed the read!