Columbia Gorge Loop (Day 1: to Herman Creek)

trail_journalI haven’t been able to do much of any hiking this summer. There have been a few trips with the boy up to Forest Park, but nothing substantial. I decided to fix that with a solo backpacking trip in the gorge. I’d had my eyes on a four day, forty mile loop for years.

I made preparations, loaded my new pack and bought the supplies I’d need. I planned my route and marked out some notes on my map. The lovely Mrs. Portmandia took me out and dripped me off at the Eagle Creek trailhead. They walked with me for the first half mile and then I was off.

I present here my trail journal, with commentary.

August 1

A hard day alone. Dropped my camera twice, damaging the mechanism, before even leaving the parking lot. If I’d realized, I would have left it behind and saved the weight.

Yeah, this was the first bummer of the trip. Since I wouldn’t have any pictures, I decided to keep this journal. I’d brought a pen and notebook anyway, so I might as well put them to use.

I was stung by a hornet before my first break, an intense pain in my right calf, even after I pulled out the stinger. A snake slithered away soon after

Lunch was idyllic, taken beside Dry Creek falls in blissful solitude.

I ran out of water shortly before my destination, but lo, the campground had been shut down and there was no water to be had. I was spared the indignity of shitting in the woods by the cleanest outhouse ever.

One of the things I like least about backpacking is pooping. The whole process of leaving the trail to find a secluded spot and digging a hole isn’t too bad, but doing the deed in that hole is lame and I don’t like it. This trip was unusual in that all three nights were supposed to be at established campgrounds. Though a bit gross, outhouses are preferable to holes.

I backtracked to the single campsite that I had found near Herman Creek.

I count my lucky stars for that site. I’d passed it and thought that it seemed strange, a solitary camp. Looking back, I suspect that other backpackers had built it to replace the decommissioned Herman Creek campsites.

Unburdened of my pack, I went down to the creekside to filter water. I drank the first liter as soon as it was ready and discovered a frog at my feet, nestled in the rocks. He sat unperturbed as I filled my bottles, unresponsive to my attempts at conversation.

Honestly, that frog (though it could have been a toad, I have no idea of the difference) was one of the most magical encounters of the day. Not for the last time, I wished I had a working camera to capture it. My son would have loved to see that stoic amphibian sitting by the creek.

Back at my tent, I cooked ramen and ate it with relish. After, I lay in my tent, clad only in my sweaty skivvies, reading on my iPad and eating chocolate covered nuts.
My leg throbs lightly, but the ibuprofen keeps it calm.

Though my tent is naked, the screens fail to let in the evening breeze. I am tempted to open the door, but flying pests convince me otherwise.

I watched the weather reports like a hawk up until my departure. It was going to be hot and dry, so I left my tent’s rain fly behind. It turned out to be a good choice.

Hopefully I will sleep well and rise ready for the climb.

I didn’t sleep well, tossing and turning. The climb was coming and I thought I was ready. The miles ahead would be harder than I could expect.