Dusty e-mailed me on Tuesday, asking about my plans for the weekend. I was 48 hours removed from New Orleans and had just finished unpacking, so my weekend was wide open.
That’s when he suggested backpacking up at Eagle Creek in the Gorge. Having no other plans, I was on board.
We set out Saturday afternoon. As Dusty put it, “this hike spoils you.” It’s a good starter hike for backpackers, with maybe 50 feet of elevation gain every mile. And with temperatures in the 70s, it was a pleasant walk the whole way.
The plan was to make for Seven-and-a-Half-Mile Camp. We walked along Eagle Creek the whole way, enjoying the beautiful day. We talked about relationships, our favorite TV shows, movies, and sports, with long periods of comfortable silence in between.
Beyond that, there are — by our count — 24 waterfalls through the first seven miles. It’s breathtaking. The most beautiful of all those is Tunnel Falls — pictured above. You literally walk through a 50-foot tunnel behind the falls while basking in the cool spray on either side of the tunnel.
We hit the 7.5-mile maker and, surprisingly, found no camp. To our right, a cliff edge that fell down to Eagle Creek. To our left, a dense forest. So we headed back to the camp at the 6.5-mile marker.
That’s when things took a turn.
I tried crossing a small creek on the way back — it was flowing pretty steadily but didn’t seem especially dangerous. Yet I still fell in, getting soaked from the waist down. It took some work to regain my balance to keep from being swept downstream.
We made it to camp, and the frustrations mounted. A nice couple had a fire going nearby, so I put my soaked hiking boots next to the fire. I didn’t have any other shoes, so I wore a spare pair of socks around camp. The ground was mildly soaked, so those got wet in a hurry.
Then, when it came time for bed, my sleeping bag’s zipper broke. I wasn’t especially cold but was certainly uncomfortable.
I slept, by the way, on a thin mat that didn’t do much in the way of comfort. I slept maybe four hours the whole night, waking up for hours on end. I tossed and turned, but it’s hard to get comfortable with such little padding.
The funny thing is, I never got especially frustrated with the comedy of errors. I remained stoic and cool in the face of the mounting problems. I rolled with the punches. There was, after all, little I could to change any of it.
We woke up on Sunday and made good time back to the car — we covered 6.5 miles in about three hours. For all the troubles I encountered the night before, I had a great time. It felt great to get out, get away from the connected world for a day, and enjoy the sunshine.
To celebrate, we reconvened for lunch on the river at McMenamins.
We split a pair of pitchers and each noshed on some great burgers and Cajun tots — all while relaxing just a few feet away from the Columbia River. It doesn’t get much better than that.