An Eagle Creek Loop

to Wahtum Lake and return via PCT and 400


The Eagle Creek trail in the Columbia River Gorge near Cascade Locks recently reopened after clearing the landslides on the road (after reopening briefly after the 2017 fire) and I headed out for a morning hike to see the waterfalls. The trail follows the narrow canyon, slowly gains elevation by cutting into the basalt flows forming its walls, crossing through scree and forest burned by the fires. Geologically it's an awe inspiring trail. Right near the start there is a petrified tree stump poking out of the sediment, a reminder of the age spanning events that formed the landscape. The large boulders that have broken away from the walls near the iconic Punchbowl Falls have transformed that area, and landslides throughout have scoured surfaces and moved sediments. Each waterfall is stunning and unique in the way they have sculpted through the basalt, the randomness of erosion and time resulting in beauty.

Past Twister Falls, the day still felt too early and the weather cooler than recent days, so I continued on.  The trail ascends through the fires scared landscape where nothing of the trees but toasted vertical matchsticks remain above a vibrant understory dense with regrowth of flowers and berries, bugs and birds. The threshold crossing into the unaffected forest is stark, drawing notice to the sparse, dark, cool understory and the soft soil, needles and pine cones about the floor, all burn away to the dust before.

I arrived at Wahtum Lake, and then headed to the PCT to continue back north. The trail follows near the ridgeline, and reenters burned forest for stretches. After the Benson Plateau, the trail begins to quickly descend towards Herman Creek. I continued on the PCT to Cascade Locks, and then took the Gorge Trail No.400 to return to Eagle Creek, a total distance of over 32 miles.

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