Muddy Fork(2106.4) to Wahtum Lake(2127.8) 21.4 Miles (+7 alternate miles) total of ~28.4 miles
+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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.