Sunday 24th July
Start: Bushcamp, mile 2116
End: Bushcamp, Eagle Creek mile 7.2
Waking up this morning my body did not feel good. I had the aches and pains of an arthritic grandma. For the first 8 miles I was on auto-pilot. We slowly climbed up and along the ridge of Preachers Peak, and through more forest. I kept my head down. There were a few blow-downs in this section, which I cursed. Such wasted additional effort.
Only once we had been on Waucoma Ridge for a while did a special view open up before us. The rocky path fell away steeply to the valley below, in which the huge mouth of Eagle Creek opened. In the far distance we saw a giant crater-topped mountain. Then a few minutes later another more pointed one appeared, also covered in snow. Then almost immediately one more. We were catching our first glimpse of Washington’s giant peaks, and in a couple of days we would be passing them! The mountainside was covered in wildflowers, with bees and butterflies floating through the air.
As we reached the old abandoned Indian Springs campground my heart jumped. A man, a dog, and a huge pickup truck was setting up an epic cookout. Could this be a well-timed trail angel I thought? Turns out it was Paul, the brother of one of the seven women camped at Salvation Springs last night. On their 3-day hike he had driven up a dirt road to bring them a feast. And not to mention the portable shower he had set up! So we sat at the solo picnic table filtering a few litres of water chatting to him whilst he waited.
Now I know I sound very ungrateful, but as we left Indian Springs I couldn’t help but feel massively disappointed. Paul had offered us some berries. That was it. He seemed like a really nice friendly guy as we chatted. He had gallons of water for his shower, but had watched as we slowly filtered some spring water to drink. He had two giant coolboxes, and not one, but two grills. I was really starting to feel resentment towards those women! I mean, an on-trail shower on a 3-day camping trip (and they were hiking less than 10 miles a day)! Ok, rant over, I must try and be a better person and be thankful for what I have.
The 2-mile trail which departs from the campground and eventually connects to the Eagle Creek Trail was horrible. It was one of my worst sections of the entire hike purely because it lost so much elevation so quickly. I have never suffered with my knees, but they were straining under the downward pressure. We had to keep stopping. The PCT is well-blazed and often employs switchbacks to make life more enjoyable. This trail did not. We also really began to feel the hotter temperatures the further we progressed. We should have listened to Joel’s advice and walked a few extra miles to avoid this section!
The Eagle Creek trail once we reached it was wonderful in comparison. A much softer graded trail that wound further down the canyon in a sea of green. It was similar scenery to that in Ramona Falls yesterday – lots of moss, ferns, and water trickling down the mountain. Mushrooms and other fungi grew. Because we had sat on a log to eat lunch at the trailhead after the rapid descent, I was now walking like a robot. My legs had seized up! Conrad was very tired.
By late afternoon we were at only 1000 feet. This is by far the lowest point we had been since we started the hike, and it was sweltering! Having crossed a number of small waterfalls and streams whilst walking through what felt like a jungle, we stopped at a spot about a mile upstream from Tunnel Falls. There we stripped off our shoes and went paddling in the river. It was so refreshingly cold, and very fast-flowing, forming rapids that soon (we realised afterwards) cascaded into falls.
Continuing on, we admired the height and rainbow forming across Tunnel Falls. The trail leads through a narrow stone tunnel behind the falls, and continues to follow the fast-flowing river beneath it.
We probably hadn’t drunk enough that afternoon given the warmer climate, and started to feel the worse for it. So knowing that we could easily arrive in Cascade Locks as planned in the morning, we decided to camp at Wy’East camp. We think that is where we were – the PCT apps do not show much information for alternative routes like this one. But it was flat, and very close to the rushing river. We arrived by 5pm, and it was our first camp to date where it was warm enough to sit outside and write this blog until it got dark. Usually we are huddled in the tent long before that!