I sleep in, having bought myself some extra time by making miles last night. And because the alternate is actually a bit shorter than the official trail. I have plenty of time to enjoy the string of magnificent falls along Eagle Creek, each more spectacular than the last. Though every step is blister pain today, raw skin jostled against each rock underfoot, I barely notice with so much to see. There’s Twister falls, spinning off into the abyss; the famous tunnel falls, draped in moss and ferns dripping with mist. No one is here, so I take a million terrible selfies before ceremoniously walking through.
So much of this trail, like the tunnel, is dynamited through the rock face, the kind of aggressive trail making that would never happen here today. Paths blasted from the cliff faces, strung with thick cables to provide handholds between mossy cliff and sheer drop offs. The crowds thicken as I near the trail head, hoards of day hikers at Punchbowl falls, where a day hiker plunged to his death just last week. The falls are mostly obscured by vegetation and he fell after having climbed the safety barrier for a better view.
At the trail head parking lot I rush to use the facilities – there’s been nowhere at all to go, stuck between the cliffs and the crowds. Then the last miles on the paved bike path parallel the river. And during these miles, the tears well up as they do when something so deeply burrowed into your soul is coming to an end, until the Bridge of the Gods makes me cry. The bridge is named for Native American legend-as-oral history, in remembrance of a landslide that once connected these distant banks. Now a lacy expanse of steel spans the river-as-colonial-border. I feel excited and sad, proud and guilty all at once. I’ve made it so far, yet still have that 80ish mile stretch back by Crater Lake tugging at my conscience. This year has been so strange, being on and off trail so much. But I guess that’s to be expected when you attempt a long-distance hike while technically holding on to a full time job. So I head to town to eat my feelings until family arrives to whisk me back to my default life (and the biggest nicoise salad of my dreams), though already I’m dreaming of fall in the Sierra.
August 6th, 2016
Trip: 644 PCT Miles for Summer 2016
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 2070ish
PCT Mile Marker: 2144