Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Day 125- The Waterfall Alternate

Sept 04, 2016
Muddy Fork(2106.4) to Wahtum Lake(2127.8) 21.4 Miles (+7 alternate miles) total of ~28.4 miles
Total up/down: +4,732/-3,756 feet(pct)
                        +863/-4,374 (alternate)
                        +5,595/-8,130 feet total 

I've been looking forward to this section of Oregon since before I started the trail. I decided to hike the Eagle Creek alternate instead of staying on the official pct. It wasn't really that hard of a decision, but I guess that I am no longer a purist. I missed sixteen trail miles in order to hike the sixteen mile alternate. The pct followed a boring ridgeline through this section, while the alternate followed a canyon through Eagle Creek. I haven't heard of any hikers skipping this alternate and I'm wondering when the pct will make this the official route. It is a gorgeous section of trail and I'm glad that I didn't skip it. 

The hike out of camp this morning was tough. It was pretty cold out and it was still drizzling so I kept my rain jacket on. Of course I had to climb several thousand feet of elevation so I was quickly drenched in sweat. Most of the morning I spent stopping to take my jacket off only to have to put it back on twenty minutes later. I was sharply reminded of hiking in the Smokies. I was hiking through the clouds all morning. 
Great view of Mt. Hood (lol)

Within minutes of leaving camp I had to cross a river using a very slippery wet log that was really high off of the ground. There was a rope to help you manage it, but it had just enough slack in the line to make me uncomfortable. I slowly made my way across without any issues. 
I walked on the bottom log

After a very wet and chilly morning I finally made it to Wahtum Lake. It was a very pretty lake even though it was enveloped in clouds. This is where I left the official pct to hike the alternate. The trail to Eagle Creek dropped several thousand feet of elevation. It was great. The farther down I went the more the weather improved. The connecting trail to Eagle Creek was extremely steep. I lost 2,500 feet of elevation over two miles. On the way down I passed by several berry bushes. I recognized huckleberries and thimbleberries. I plucked the fresh berries as I hiked. There was one type of berry that I didn't recognize. The berries looked like huckleberries, but the plant looked different. I didn't eat any of these berries. 
Can anyone identify these 

Within minutes of beginning the Eagle Creek alternate I came across my first waterfall. It was just a small one, but it got me excited for what was to come. 
Tiny waterfall 

This section of trail was beautifully maintained and there were a ton of people using the trail. I have never seen so many day hikers and weekend warriors on one section of trail before. It was very impressive, but it also meant that I would have difficulties later in the day finding a place to camp. It was very easy hiking and I enjoyed being able to slow down and enjoy the scenes around me. It was the first time in a long time that I was able to take my time, but I still made my miles. 
Random downed tree. I took the time to count the rings, it was over one hundred years old

I wasn't on the alternate for very long before I made it to Tunnel Falls, one of the highlights of Eagle Creek. It was very impressive. I wish that I had people around to take my picture. Taking a selfie isn't always the best way to capture the moment. Tunnel Falls is so named because the trail goes behind the waterfall through a tunnel blasted in the basalt. 
Trying to be creative
Tunnel Falls
Moss-lined tunnel 

After passing Tunnel Falls I followed Eagle Creek for several miles. It was neat being able to see how this creek shaped the surrounding landscape. 
Part of Eagle Creek
More of Eagle Creek
Canyon carved out by the water

I had decided to set up camp earlier than usual. There was no sense in hiking a long day since I was getting close to Cascade Locks. Most of the campsites that I passed were completely full. I had wanted to stop hiking around five-thirty, but it was closer to six-thirty before I found an empty campsite. It was closer to the trail than I would have preferred, but other than that it was a nice spot. Tomorrow I only have to hike nine miles before I get to Cascade Locks. This will mark the end of Oregon. After spending months in California I finished Oregon in sixteen days. I look forward to the challenges that Washington will bring. I have a feeling that the easy days are well behind me. 
Really cool ledge. Hard to tell from the picture, but I could see stone sentinels in the rock

"Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake."
- Francis Bacon Sr. 


  1. So me, the wife and lil P took a moderate detour from apple picking through the Shenandoah. P has been asking questions about Aunt Katie so we thought it would be cool to walk some of the same trail. We hiked a brutal section (1 mi) with a hellacious climb (800 ft). The first two tenths we enjoyable but difficult. The sun was obscured but warm. The following 2 tenths really tested us but we picked some flowers to keep our mind off the distance remaining. The final two tenths had us questioning our decision but we Yoda'd on and were rewarded with a nice walk around a cool rock formation left my tectonic plate shifts fillies by lava and leaving behind cool geometric shapes. P lost her balance and fell and immediately said "I hope Aunt Katie fell too" in the context of "I hope another expert has overcome such adversity so that I'm not the only one". We informed her that Aunt Katie had indeed met the earth as she had and she was grateful for the knowledge. The next day she would soldier up and board a bus alone destined for the strange land of kindergarten. Coincidence? I think not! Later, she would pose by a white blaze and ask, " did Aunt Katie see this tree? Do you think she will remember it?" I sent the pic to Yoda and she said "Yup. That one is called Georgie". P was satisfied with that answer. You're an inspiration Yoda. 1 "brutal" mile at a time.

    1. Ed and I got a chuckle from that too. I'm certain Parker's "tough" trail experience boosted her confidence enough to make her first day fabulous.

  2. I think being a non purist equates to cheating not to alternate routing; same distance, same local, same state, just different scenery. If that's not pure then fry me for an oyster. You still rock, so: GO YODA!

    Double G

  3. What a beautiful area. The falls reminded me of Hawaii. The ledge was just as awesome. You were very creative with your selfie, well done. I'm glad you took the alternate, it was well worth it. Sometimes it's good to be flexible. You have crushed it through Oregon. Can't wait to see your pictures of Washington. Funny that Parker asked if you had seen that blaze. Loved Ant'ny story and LY.

  4. HYOH Yoda!! Love when I get two of your blog entries in a day. Amazing you are!

  5. That alternate section looks so worth it! Yay for taking it! And since it is the same length, your overall mileage doesn't even change!

  6. The whole journey has sounded magical and this day even more so! Thanks for sharing Yoda. Of course much hard work for you and glad you were able to sleep indoors in a comfy bed the other day.

  7. I love all the waterfall photos ....especially the creative one.
    I also enjoyed reading about your nieces adventure on the AT...another family member with a gift for writing.
    It seems like you are more relaxed, and enjoying the adventure more...that's good!
    Stay safe and healthy, and hike on!
    Thanks for taking time to post the blogs.....the photos are amazing!
    Kathy in NH

  8. The tunnel is my favorite but they are all beautiful!

  9. Eagle Creek is really cool - love the picture where the two smaller creeks merge into a waterfall!

  10. So beautiful. Trading equal number of miles for that scenery=no brainier! Good choice.