Our 20s and 30s section spent the Saturday before Halloween on one of the quintessential Columbia Gorge hikes. The Eagle Creek trail starts at one of the very first public lands campgrounds in the country. The eight Sierrans on this trip enjoyed the kind of fall day that only Oregon can offer: bright and clear enough to be warm in the sunshine, but cool enough in the shade to remind that you better enjoy this while it lasts, because winter is coming.
The salmon, first harbingers of autumn, were struggling up Eagle Creek. We were awed and a little humbled as we walked along the creek to the dam, watching them alternately rest, then power their way through the rapids. Watching this ancient cycle play out yet again was a good reminder that this world is older than us.
The trail, hewn into the rock by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930’s, will took us through some of the best scenary Oregon has to offer. Two hundred foot stately hemlocks were mixed with vine maple so bright red it seemed to give off its own light. We climbed steadily above the creek, at times on a path that was only a couple feet wide.
Our group came together quickly. Seven of us were out of towners, and the eigth that rarest of all breeds: a native Oregonian. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve heard people say, “you meet the nicest people on the trail.” That was certainly the case here. We all came from different places, but we had in common a genuine wonder for the natural world, and a appreciation for the quiet, authentic experinces it brings.
The creek rose up to meet us at Punchbowl Falls. Evidence of the titanic power of water was all around us there. The creek has hollowed a bowl in the rock the size of a city bus, and some day the cliff above will tumble down from being undercut. It was a great spot to eat lunch. Amid the serious business of comparing different brands of peanut butter, we took some time talk about the both past victories of the Sierra Club: fighting nuclear power, doing away with dirty coal, protecting wilderness, and the need to carry things forward into the future.
Past Punch Bowl, the trail gets closer, and denser. The views aren’t quite as grand but the feeling of being enveloped by the forest makes up for it. We were surprised when we got to high bridge, as it didn’t seem like we’d been on the trail that long. It was tempting to keep going, but dark comes early in the canyon at this time of year.
Going down is always quicker than coming up, and before we knew it, were back at the campground. Ice cream in Cascade Locks put the perfect punctuation at the end of a wonderful day. The only bad things about our outings is that they end too quickly, but that’s ok because there are a bunch more to come!
Check out the photos from our hike!
Interested in joining us in the future? Check out our outings meetup group at: