Monday, May 5, 2014

Eagle Creek Trail

Nobody wants to drive four and a half hours to hike a two mile trail, no matter how cool it is. This is why I had to research what other good hikes there are at the Columbia River Gorge, because Beacon Rock was just not going to be enough. (our previous day's hike, and the post before this one) There are no shortage of options for sure, but according to most "Eagle Creek Trail" is the place to go.
Almost there!
The Gorge Trail went right behind our campsite.
It wasn't quite as picturesque, unless your into
the concentration camp look. 
Once I started looking into it, I was surprised I had never heard of this hike before, considering it sounded like just about the best hike ever. I supposed it was because I always include the word "Washington" in my searches, and this hike is in Oregon. (just barely; it's right across the river)

Well, darn...there goes that idea.
It's only 15 minutes from Beacon Rock, so it was the perfect choice. Plus it had a campground. I was anxious to backpack again; but having a campground with bathrooms and water you get from a spout was just too tempting.

A great place to camp...just be prepared to listen
to the hwy and train all night.
Although, if we were going to car camp, we had to do 12 miles in one day; because you can't do this hike and not go to Tunnel Falls. often are you going to get to hike behind a waterfall? I realize many hikers can do this many miles, (and much more!) but I have to acknowledge it's a stretch for me. At least we didn't have to carry our full packs, so I knew that would help make it more doable.

Once we finally arrived, I couldn't believe we had the entire campground to ourselves. This was an 80 degree day in May! Getting a campsite meant we didn't need the Northwest Forest Pass to park, which was a good thing because I left mine at home. (along with my Discover Pass that we needed at Beacon Rock...sheesh)
In the morning we parked at the obvious lot just down from the campground and started walking to the trailhead. (An extra half mile. That, plus the quarter mile to and from Punch Bowl falls pushed the total mileage to 13.5) We didn't realize there was another parking lot at the trailhead, but it was pretty full so it didn't matter.
This hike is everything everyone says it is and more. There is no way pictures can do it justice. One reason we decided not to backpack was I thought our only option to stop would be the camp that is 7.5 miles in, (called "seven and a half mile camp" creative) but we passed many other awesome looking sites along the creek.
One of our favorites. Awesome rock bench, right?
When Debbie rounded the corner and saw Tunnel Falls, she turned around and gave me a jaw to the ground expression. No pictures had given us any perspective of just how massive these falls are, but we really tried to capture it as best we could.

Do you see little me?
When it was time to leave (it took us about 5 hours to get there, which is ridiculous I know. There is just so much gawking and photo ops; this is not a hike to be done quickly) we decided Debbie would go ahead and I would catch up. She had need to get to a place where she could safely venture off trail (we won't go into detail) and she is just SO much faster. I understood the situation to be, "I need to stop at the first place I can and then I will wait for you". So after 15 minutes or so of hiking at my much slower gait I reached a place where someone could do whatever business they needed to do. But there was no Debbie.
The tunnel behind the falls
Anyone who knows me knows I tend to reach panic state quite quickly. I'm really working on this. I thought it was very strange she wasn't there, but decided I'd just keep going until I came to the next logical spot. (looking at the pictures you can see your options for going "off trail" are few) Next spot, still no Debbie. Don't panic...just keep going. Next spot. No Debbie. How can this be?

I'm not going to go into all my mind games. I'll just say that after hiking for 45 minutes and not finding Debbie, I had decided the only answer was she fell off a cliff. You can laugh, and I understand...but look at this picture of her taking a selfie and tell me I was being unreasonable.
I had just caught up to a couple of guys and was asking them to quickly run ahead and call 911 (I recall the phrase "you need to calm down" coming up) when I realized Debbie was just ahead waiting for me. "I've been sitting here a half an hour!" she tells me with exasperation. I wanted to strangle her and hug her at the same time. I didn't scream, "What the hell were you thinking!" like I did to my kid on the Boulder River hike, but I did let her know how very confused I was that she would be so far down the trail. "No...I said I would go ahead UNTIL I needed to stop" she argued. Communication is a bitch. But she was alive; and I was really, REALLY glad about that.
Debbie tempting fate again. Okay,
I made her pose.
I'm afraid I over celebrated a bit that night. Can you blame me? My friend was dead and now she was alive. I was a happy camper!
When we left the next morning (a Saturday) the first lot was overflowing to the point of people parking up the road towards the campground. We both thought it would have been really horrible trying to hike out of there with big ol' packs while the hordes were flooding in. (the trail does not allow for much traffic at the same time; some of those ledges are mighty thin!) Thankfully most of the groups we talked to the day before were planning on backpacking several days, but everyone else was going to have a very long day. (did I mention it was raining? SO glad we were out of there!)

Holy drippyness! This is a very moist hike
even on a nice day
It's been awhile since I've given some lessons learned, but I have several this time:
#34) Car camping can be a GREAT option. Don't feel you need to backpack if you don't have to.
#35) Even though everyone knows you shouldn't separate, the fact is sometimes you will. (poor Debbie says it actually hurts her legs to go as slow as me!) Just make sure you have a very clear understanding of where you will meet, or how often the faster hiker will stop to wait, and how long they will wait before they come looking for you.
#36) If your using a "You Go Girl" to pee (I finally bought a new one; this one's pink!) you need to take wind direction into consideration. (I'm sure any boy would say "duh!", but this education is new to us girls)

And lastly, not really a hiking lesson, but very important nonetheless:
#37) Don't wait until you think someone is dead before you appreciate just how much you love them.


  1. I enjoyed reading this trip report.

  2. I can't figure out how to sign in ... but it's me... Denise Mullen. Just wanted to thank you for this great blog. Loved the Tunnel Falls and Beacon Rock posts... they are now on my "list".

  3. You have to go back; you didn't make it to Twister Falls (and it was only another 1/2 mile or so beyond Tunnel Falls). I backpacked this and camped at Blue Grouse about 5.5 miles in, then day hiked the rest of the way. The trip out in the morning was super speedy and we didn't pass many people coming in, so don't discount the idea of backpacking this.