Benson Plateau (Day 3: Eagle Creek)

We woke up on the last day and the rain had passed. The sky was still overcast, but I was quite pleased with the lack of rain. My body ached all over and my feet were still angry from the previous day’s hike. I took some ibuprofen and put on dry clothes. After a hot bowl of oatmeal and a couple of packets of hot chocolate, I was ready to hit the trail and get home.

I’ve hiked the Eagle Creek trail at least once a summer since I moved to Little Bay Root. It’s just about my favorite place in the gorge and I should be able to hike it for years without getting bored. We knew that we had about seven and a half miles to get back to the car, so we simply got to it.

The trail out there beyond the wilderness boundary isn’t as well maintained as it is closer to the trail head. There are no bridges at the stream crossings and the trail is heavily overgrown in some places. On the upside, it is also less traveled. As tired as I was, my spirits were high thanks to the fact that I actually got to take some pictures. Unfortunately, it was just damp enough that I found myself fighting condensation inside the lens. I kept having to put my camera aside to make sure that it had time to dry out and become usable again.

One of the best qualities of Eagle Creek are the waterfalls. There are so many beautiful falls, yet each one on that hike has a very different character. I can’t think of another place to see so many interesting falls from so many great angles. They are even spaced nicely along the trail so that hikers of nearly any level can see at least one great waterfall.

We hiked and I snapped photos. We stopped and dawdled at Tunnel Falls. After we passed back out of the Mark Hatfield wilderness, we stopped at one of the bridges and ate out lunches. Mostly we just hiked out.

We got to my buddies car and changed into some more comfortable (and clean) clothes for the drive back to town. At home, I took a long hot bath and tried to soak the trail out of my muscles. My feet were corded with swollen and angry muscles. It was lucky that we had come home a day early, since there is no way that I could have worked the next day as I hobbled around on my angry feet.

It was a hard three days, but I always draw some satisfaction from that. The exhaustion that comes after a long hike is a welcome friend.

Tomorrow, I’ll sum up what worked and didn’t work and what I’m planning for the future.