Friday, July 15, 2011

Backpacking Eagle Creek: Day 3

On Saturday morning I woke up comparatively refreshed. Snoring tent-mates were still an issue, but since the disturbance could be adequately regulated by a nudge or a swift kick, I managed alright.

Once again I had coffee and oatmeal for breakfast, and this time was able to heat water using my little alcohol stove. It’s pretty cool to be able to boil water over a pop-can stove, even though it could be rather finicky. This morning was quite a bit warmer than the previous so I didn’t find myself wishing I had brought warmer clothes (for some reason I decided to just pack shorts instead of lightweight pants).

We had about 11 miles to hike before we reached our original starting point, the Eagle Creek trailhead. As we set out, I think most of us were experiencing aches and pains of some sort. My right boot was crimping a bit as I leaned forward, causing numbness on the top of my foot; thankfully that wore off as the day progressed! For me, the last day brings the most mental challenges. Knowing that our mission was nearly accomplished and that we were headed back to the land of ice-cream and french fries made me resent those mile marker signs. “What do you mean it’s still another mile and a half?!”

Wild Snapdragons
Wild Snapdragons

Jonathan's Gorillapod setup for taking vertical shots of a waterfall.
Jonathan's Gorillapod setup for photographing waterfalls vertically. These things are neat!

Tiger Lilies
Tiger Lilies, I believe

This was probably the least eventful day out of the three. We followed the Herman Creek Trail north, intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail which took us west toward the Bridge of the Gods, and eventually joined Gorge Trail 400 at Cascade Locks, which borders I-84. Along the way we got some great views of Table Mountain across the river - a hike I’ve been really wanting to try - and also found a Spotted Owl along the trail! My “birder’s eye” really paid off this time!

We had the privilege of seeing a Spotted Owl up close. Federally, they are on the Endangered Species list, and are listed as threatened in Oregon and California. Being nocturnal (like most owls) they aren't commonly seen in broad daylight, but this little guy was hanging out right next to the trail!
Spotted Owls are Federally endangered (and listed as "threatened" in OR and CA) and have caused a great deal of controversy over the past few years, especially concerning the logging industry up here in the Pacific Northwest.

Jonathan and Chelsea resting up at Herman Creek. We stopped here to fill up on water  since we didn't expect to encounter another creek between here and the trailhead.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses several thousand miles from Arizona to Canada. I'm told the section between Stevenson and Snoqualmie Pass is particularly beautiful - I'd love to hike it someday!

Jonathan putting away his water filter.
Jonathan putting away his water filter

Frog :)
I found a very cooperative frog. Now I'm in trouble because I didn't tell anyone I found a frog - as though it's a big deal? He was pretty cool though.

I can’t quite remember when we reached the cars. What stands out most in my mind was seeing a sign that read 1.5 miles when we thought we only had half a mile left, and traveling most of that distance on asphalt (painful when you’re footsore!). Oh, and Jonathan sprinting ahead at the last minute, yelling wildly. I didn’t chase him, since I know I could beat him any day - why prove what I already know? ;)

It was with great relief that we all hoisted our packs into the cars, got a group photo, and headed off to Cascade Locks for some ice-cream. Sometimes, when you’re out on the trail or pushing for the summit, you can get caught up in the exertion, the soreness, the shortness of breath, and forget what it feels like to reach the finish line. The sense of accomplishment is really something else! It amazes me how fast I can “flip the switch,” forget about the difficulties and immediately want to hoist a pack again and get out there in the wild again. It’s almost like McDonalds - you forget just how bad you felt after your last experience eating there, and it’s all you can do to resist the urge to walk through those doors again.

So why bother?

My two driving motivations are: 1) To experience a side of God’s creation that comparatively few people get to experience, and 2) To challenge myself physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Scripture makes a connection between physical discipline and spiritual discipline, comparing our spiritual walk to “running a race,” and noting that we must run “with endurance.” We need to be careful not to equate the two in a literal sense (i.e. “John is overweight, so he must not be very spiritual”), but I think there is definitely a connection. Discipline and self control in one area of life usually flow over into other areas. Conversely, laziness and a lack of self-control cannot be easily confined to just one thing – they soon begin to define us.

I need to keep challenging myself, even when it hurts.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… ~Hebrews 12:1

Can you say "bad hair day"?

The Gang!
The Gang. Fun times guys!

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