Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Rock Trail

I almost always work on Sundays; except for on Easter and Mother's Day. Because my co-worker is not big on celebrating those holidays, she kindly takes those days in my stead. I'm not sure why that wasn't the case this year, but I found my work day on May 11th to be an emotional one...and not in a good way.
A fern roofed cave

I chalk this up in part to the fact I'm sort of half way immersed in the empty nest syndrome. My kids are going in every which direction, and none of it feels very solid at all. I want them safe. Actually, not just safe; but confidently headed somewhere that is very clearly mapped out. But as it stands, the majority have jumped out of the nest with no idea how to fly; and are just hopping around begging to get eaten. (well, one made it back safe into the nest...and after two months of seeing dishes and wrappers all over the house, I'm feeling like pushing him out as soon as the next available cat walks by)
"If you were homeless and living in the woods,
you could use these as shelving!" Amber...
always so resourceful. 
Kidding aside, I was missing my kids on Mother's Day, plain and simple. So I pulled out the guilt card and said they had to hike with me the following weekend. No presents required; all I wanted was quality time spend together. (which is a good thing, considering nobody has any money) Even so, the arm twisting only worked on two of four; but it was the two "jumpers", so I was content.

I knew I'd be pushing my luck if this hike required a long drive, so I was very happy to find trip reports for a new trail on Chuckanut drive. Chuckanut is a hiking staple in these parts, so getting something new introduced to our regular trail diet is pretty exciting. "The Rock Trail" promised 100 foot high sandstone cliffs and a cave you could explore, and all for just a round trip of 4 miles.

I know I just stated I always work on Sundays, but this faux Mother's day was on the following Sunday-- which fate allowed me off. So before the hike, my eldest daughter and I went to church. Without getting too terribly personal (I have another blog for that) I will say that both of us are struggling with faith. Amber shared with me her desire to find this elusive faith, and I shared how my once seemingly stable faith was feeling quite wobbly. So before attending church we prayed together; that we would believe we are loved and valued. For to me, that is what faith is about.

Pastor Marilyn came out with a rock, and set it on the table. She read a few scriptures that reference God as "our rock". Then she told the most heart felt story of riding in the car with her mother. She explained how they had just gotten through something really tough, and her mother was looking at her with a beautiful, relieved and happy smile. The memory stood out to her because of the lyrics of a classic Paul Simon song playing at that moment on the radio:

My mama loves me, she loves me
She gets down on her knees and hugs me
She loves me like a rock
She rock me like the rock of ages
And loves me
She loves me, loves me, loves me, loves me...

"This is the love of God", she declared. It was hard not to cry; even as I write this I'm tearing up. I want and need it so desperately to be true; for me and every human being. But when I look around at the world, it can be very difficult to hold onto at times.
Be prepared for 338 stairs...169 down,
then another 169 back up.
"The Rock Trail" had a lovely sort of significance to it that day. I had prayed for a little light on this confusing and scary path we call life, and I had gotten it; along with quality time spent with my birdies that I will always love, whether they are flying or hopping. 

I love them, I love them, I love them...

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 you are 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 suppose it's 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 you are 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.

Cheryl Strayed, Beacon Rock, and the Bridge of the Gods

So I was chatting with my bestie Cheryl Strayed on Facebook the other day...

Okay, not really. But sort of! For anyone who doesn't know, Cheryl is the author of the best selling book,"Wild". I had several people who knew that I was into hiking tell me to read the book, so I finally did and fell in love. Cheryl is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you know the deepest part of her, so it's hard not to feel like she's your friend; even though clearly she is not.

Nonetheless, I friended her on Facebook.Yes, I understand that it's her public page, and she's "friends" with anyone who clicks the button...but a girl can pretend a little, can't she? It's not like I'm sketching her portrait or sewing her a quilt; (honestly, some fans do that kind of stuff!) I just post things on her wall occasionally with a little hope that maybe she will read it and think, "Oh...that Kelly! She sure would be fun to hike with sometime."

Me and not pretend friend
So imagine my delight when she actually responded! I'm a little afraid to admit to this part, because I really am going to look like an obsessed fan, but I asked her a question about where she ate some ice cream. I know that sounds weird, but let me explain. In the book, Cheryl ends her trek on the Pacific Crest Trail at the "Bridge of the Gods" (every time I read that, I hear it in a James Earl Jones' voice) where she treats herself to some ice cream at a little drive in.Then she sweetly ends the book with her taking her kids there (years later, as she was only 26 during her hike) and reminiscing with them about her adventure.

Driving on the Pacific Crest Trail
I knew I would be crossing the "Bridge of the Gods" (you heard it in his voice this time, didn't you?) to get to my first overnight hike of the year...why not have some ice cream in Cheryl's honor? Only problem, no where could I find the name of the place she got the ice cream at. Don't these people understand marketing?! I mean, the town of Forks gets it; and even though it's annoying to see "Twilight" signs in every shop window, you know they are damn thankful for every tourist dollar. (Yes, I've been to Forks; and no, it wasn't because I needed to see Bella's hometown. It was because I was lost, as usual)

And so I asked Cheryl where she got the ice cream and she told me. Whew, that was a lot of writing that has nothing to do with hiking. Sorry, but I had to brag about being Cheryl's new BFF.
Ta da!!!
Anyway, I've had my eye on Beacon Rock for some time. My dilemma was the almost 5 hour drive for a piddly 2 mile traipse. I knew I needed a bigger plan if I was going to go there.

At the top. What a view!
Plus I have such a nice, sweaty glow!
I think I'll save the story of the "big plan" for next post; for now, the trip report for Beacon Rock is pretty simple. You go up, then you go down. If the rock is still in the sun and it's almost 90 degree weather (Happy May Day to us! It had to be record) you will drip a lot. Oh, and don't forget your Discover Pass! Both Debbie and I bought one this year, and neither one of us remembered to bring it. It hurts to spend $60 and still end up paying $10 to park.
A little shade on the way down
And now it's time for me to post a link to my blog on Cheryl's page and ask her if she wants to get pedi's next weekend. Oh, and start on the painting of her cat. She's going to love it!
The caution signs were unnerving, but the closed sign had us really confused
until we realized it was for climbers, not hikers!