Eagle Creek Trail & Tunnel Falls

  • Eagle Creek Trailhead – camp at 7 1/2 miles camp – Eagle Creek TH;
  • passing Punchbowl falls, High Bridge, Tunnel Falls, Crossover Falls. 
  • Total miles: 15-16. (Definitely doable in a day too if you have a healthy body)
  • Trail condition: gently uphill, some steep dropp offs

We are parked under the Bridge of the Gods. I’m not walking across. I am under it. Sitting in a car. I feel a sting in my heart. A big part of me just wants to grab my pack and head out on the PCT. Northbound, southbound, who the hell cares. Just “bound”. Meeting the trail feels like meeting an old love you never quite stopped loving. There’s a heartbreak, yet a sweetness too. A longing. Maybe a belonging.

Instead we drive towards the Eagle Creek Trailhead, which makes the heartbreak a little less painful. I’ve been wanting to hike under Tunnel Falls for such a long time. Today will be the day… if my body allows it. My first hike, seven months after surgery. And to be honest, I don’t mind right now that I can’t hike long distances. At this point in my life I am just so so damn grateful that I cán walk. It’s been so hard learning to walk again. And even though every step still hurts, I walk with such joy and such gratitude. Ah. It’s all a miracle. I just love every part of the movement. Lifting my leg, stretching it forward, putting my foot down, shifting my balance, … A fucking miracle… and hard work, but noone ever said miracles don’t need to be worked for (or did someone, a well I guess someone did)…

My surgeon gave me his ‘go’ to start hiking, no heavy backpack though, and nothing above 9 miles. So we go for 8 and Roots carries part of my stuff. 

I feel good, wearing my hiking clothes, my dirty old Tshirt and dirty girl gaiters with holes in them. My tight shorts are a bit loose around my left leg. The muscles haven’t grown back yet. My poor little leggy. Time to make it strong again. I put on my backpack but I don’t close my hipbelt tightly. My screws are sticking out on the front site of my hip bone and can’t stand any pressure. 

The Eagle Creek Trail starts smooth and gently. The trail is easy to walk and hardly goes uphill even though it does cause soon I can see the creek well below and the drop offs are great if you’re not afraid of heights. The trail is carved into the rocks, beautifully made. We wonder who did all this hard work. We should find out and honor them.

We reach Punchbowl Falls together with a ton of dayhikers. After 2,5 miles I need to go lay down. Gone are the days I could walk 17 miles without a break. A well, life changes. It’s not less good. Life is beautiful in a new way, compared to the way it was before my body… hm… how do I put this… I’m having a hard time using the word ‘disabled’. I don’t know what my body is right now, but it’s still pretty awesome. I lay down for 20 minutes, watch the falls and the people, and then we head on towards high bridge.

As soon as we’re past Punchbowl Falls the dayhike crowd is gone. And the trail gets more beautiful with every step. I talk to the flowers, we meet 2 small snakes and I’m amazed by the flora that is so similar to the flora at home. I know their names and their medicine. How cool is that? And then we even hear familiar bird voices. They almost sing the same song, it’s just another dialect. Hey Zaunkönig! Hey Amsel!

At the next bridge crossing the creek and another 2 miles on, I need my next break. We go lay down next to the creek. I dig a hole for my butt and lay down on the pebbles. Seriously feels like heaven. Someone yells down from the bridge. Are you guys hiking the PCT? The water is too loud to talk so he comes down. I saw your Gossamer Gear pack and… Holy shit, it’s Lint! How cool is that. We met 2 years ago along the PCT and never got the chance to talk. Ha this world is small!  He’s a whirlwind of “wild life” and good vibes and one of the craziest hikers I ever met, having hiked the triple crown three frikkin’ times! After 15 minutes of “serious” hiker talk, he continues his hike back down while we head up. Tunnel Falls. I’m filled with anticipation.

And then there it is. Even though I’ve seen many pictures of it, it’s impressive. Pictures never compare to the real thing. Walking through the water drips down from the tunnel ‘ceiling’ and coming out on the other side feels like a welcome shower on a hot day. The trail is wet and narrow and kind of magical. Too soon I’m passed it and for once I’m happy we’re taking the same way back tomorrow. The loop going back along the PCT would be too much for my body so instead I get to hike underneath tunnel falls twice. There’s always something good to find. 

I wake up at night, half asleep. Is it raining? I hear something. That’s no rain, Root says, that’s a mouse eating through our foodbag. We’re so dumm hanging our food just on a treebranch. Should’ve known our little fellow creatures are smart here. We take the food inside. Roots beloved Zpacks foodbag has holes now and we sleep on.

We wake up early but are lazy in camp (ah no need to hurry, we’re short distance hiking). 2 early bird hikers pass. Good morning world! 

The way back down is nowhere near boring. It’s just as beautiful as yesterday. Different. Cause the sun is shining in a different angle. Nothing is ever the same. Just like the river. Just like the light and shadow walking through and making everything look new. Crossover Falls. Tunnel Falls. Wow! 

I feel full arriving back at the trailhead. Full of happiness, joy and most of all gratitude. I am so damn lucky.