September 12th; Approx. 32 miles
So, I wasn’t planning on doing 32 miles, but it seemed the trail had other plans for me!
The original plan, fatoring in some nicer and shorter trails, was actually for a 22 to 24 mile day. I started off well, getting to a spot, Indian Springs, about 8 miles down the trail. oNce all the others caught u, we all talked about the best route and figured on this short cut which was supposed to be a trail somewhere out of the campground. I started off first, wanting a good start since everyone else had their “trail legs” already, down what I thought to be the trail.
As I was going down, I started to second guess if it was the right one, since it was incredibly steep and overgrown for even a PCT side trail, and seemed to be going in the opposite direction of the actual trail. I was really tearing through this downhill, but after 20-30 minutes, I stopped to see if the others would catch up, indicating I was on the right trail. I went off to go to the bathroom, leaving my pack and figuring I’d hear them, but still nothing by the time I got back. I tried our hiker call, “Fooo!” a couple of times and then after no response, I decided I should head back up since I had no maps or guide.
We had been talking about another trail, Eagle Creek, that would eventually take us to town. This trail I was on was called Indian Springs Trail and I just figured it met up, but after so much uncertainty, I thought it wasn’t worth the risk (I found out later that it did in fact meet up with Eagle Creek). It took me over an hour to get back up, which I figured meant, in all, I had just added 4 miles of very steep decline and incline to my day.
After looking for a while and not finding another trail, I decided that the best thing to do was hike the actual PCT since I knew this would lead me to Cascade Locks, even if by a longer, less scenic route. After about an hour, I got to a junction at a lake with a sing for Eagle Creek Trail. That, plus a hand drawn sign with a picture of an eagle pointing to the trail and “WA” (Washington) convinced me to take the risk and leave the PCT again.
Still nervous, and not having run into any of the thru-hikers I had been hiking with, I later crossed paths with 3 weekend hikers. I asked about the trail and asked if I could take a look at their map. I saw that, even if it was wrong, it lead to an interstate from which I could probably hitch hike.
By about 5 o’clock, I was starting to get really tired and calculated out that with all the extra mileage, my 22 mile day would likely turn into at least 28 miles. I started to run into more people though because, as it turns out, the beginning portion of Eagle Creek is a very popular and scneinc day trail. Despite my exhaustion, I really enjoyed hiking past massive waterfalls and very lush, rainforest-like vegetation. The trail was hugging cliffs that lined the creek and waterfalls, at one point even going through a tunnel in the rock, right behind a huge 100ft waterfall.
Eventually, I got to the trail head and parking lot and started seeing signs for Cascade Locks. This meant that I had gotten on the right trail, hiked around 29.5 miles, and would apparently have 2.5 more, on a paved road, into town. This last stretch really did me in, hiking on concrete after 50 miles in two days, as I literally was limping into town just at dark.
I walked up to the “Pacific Crest Pub” as I heard they might have a hostel. Unfortunately, just my luck, this turned out just to be a rumor, so I just settled for a large pizza, root beer, and 2 pints instead. Afterwards, I hobbled towards the nearest campground. Luckily, someone noticed my hobbling and offered me a lift, even though it was in the other direction he had been driving in. Two trail angels in two days!
So after what turned out to be the most miles I’ve ever hiked in a day, I think I’m definitely looking forward to my planned Zero (zero miles) tomorrow.