Oregon: Mount Hood to Eagle Creek (August 19-20)
August 19. Much of today was spent hiking around massive Mount Hood, wondering at its multiple glaciers and the rivers running down from its slopes. So much to look at in those grand views.
Timberline Lodge sits on Mount Hood right next to the PCT, and draws in many hikers because it offers pricey but delicious buffet style meals. I enjoyed eating breakfast there, but even better than that was seeing an old friend who I hadn’t seen for weeks. We hiked to a camp site that evening, ate a late dinner in the dark, then sat for a while longer, chatting about the latest trail news. Wild fires, the bubble of hikers behind us, hikers who continued carrying bear cans even well beyond the enforced areas (Sierra section), when cold weather was going to hit us. We both told stories about calling in potential wild fires to the forest service, and he told me about seeing smokejumpers dropping from aircraft after a call he had made.
It felt good to sit there in the dark peaceful forest, catching up. One of those things that I don’t do very often at home, sitting outside under the night sky to chat. Seems to be happening more frequently lately, with the days growing shorter.
August 20. Got up late this morning. The rainy night caught me by surprise, so the backpack I’d left sitting outside my tent vestibule was soaked. There is nothing like shouldering a cold wet pack. I felt unmotivated to start hiking, but as always happens, it wasn’t so bad once I got going. The precipitation was more of a cold mist than a rain, I was glad to find.
The trail led along a ridgeline for miles, breezy and chilly on the western side, but more protected on the eastern slope. Fortunately the trail kept alternating sides, so I could warm up between exposures.
It was peaceful to hike in the mist when I was protected from that wind. I kept stopping to pick huge juicy huckleberries, even tastier, juicier in the wet weather. I felt happy in spite of the conditions.
I was just starting to feel cold and less optimistic about the conditions, when I caught up to my friend ahead, picking thimbleberries along the trail. We both hiked down to the Eagle Creek Trail, a well-known scenic alternate route that many hikers choose (this trail meets the PCT again 15ish miles later at Cascade Locks).
We were lucky to be able to hike the Eagle Creek alternate, as it had been closed after a fire in 2017, reopened in January 2021, closed again within 2 weeks from winter storm damage, then reopened in July 21. All that to say, it’s been closed for most of the past four years, and only reopened recently.
The trail wound through charred forest, with quite a steep grade to descend from the PCT ridgeline to Eagle Creek below. In spite of the burn damage, the scenery was beautiful, the path curving over pretty slopes, and then leading down to Eagle Creek collecting in brilliant blue swimming holes, falling off into steep falls, and then of course leading behind well-known Tunnel Falls. Spectacular sights.
I finally stopped for a lunch break down by the creek. It was much warmer there, and neat to look up high to the PCT on the ridges above, where I’d been, and see dense mist swirling there, sticking around. When I’d been in it, I’d imagined that mist was everywhere, of course. Though for most of the morning it had made for peaceful walking, I sure was glad to be down out of it.
My friend and I hiked along on the creekside trail, stopping often to take pictures or just stand and watch the water’s rush. We hiked until evening, then camped, with a plan to hike a few miles into Cascade Locks in the morning and get breakfast at a diner there. We would also be walking right into “PCT Days”, which takes place over a weekend in August each year. (Summer festival that draws a large number of thru hikers each year.) I was pleased with the timing of that, with the fact that I wouldn’t need to decide from a different spot on the trail if I wanted to find a ride back to Trail Days.
As I’ve said many times before, I’m thankful these days to be hiking with a good friend, and taking in new and beautiful sights. In this case, Eagle Creek, Mount Hood, and the moments in between the two.
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