Portland’s city lights reflecting in the Willamette River. This photo was taken with my iPhone while on a run along the river bank trails.
As cool weather settles into Oregon and fog hangs on the banks for the Columbia River Gorge, the Eagle Creek Trail illuminates in the fiery tones of fall. Following its colorful path – especially against the evergreen backdrop and contrasting grey sky – I savored and soaked in the mists of the new hiking season.
This recreation area featuring several routes of various lengths is a popular hiking spot for locals all summer long. However, once the crowds hunker down inside for Oregon’s rainy season, the true beauty of this trail unwraps.
With springs of water showering down, the trail follows the rugged cliff banks of Eagle Creek past several beautiful waterfalls. Perfect for all ages and abilities (unless you’re afraid of heights), this trail remains relatively flat as it weaves along the cascading river.
The first few miles of the trail lead hikers past Metlako Falls, Punchbowl Falls and Loowit Falls to High Bridge. Crossing the deep cut Gorge, the bridge serves up views of the sheer, carving power of water.
With leaves of crimson and yellow lining the path through the lush rainforest, six miles into the hike, the trail reaches Tunnel Falls. About midway up the span of the waterfall, a passageway is carved behind the tumbling water. Created in 1910, the tunnel transports hikers along the amphitheater of cliffs for more spectacular view of this amazing water.
To complete the hike to Tunnel Falls (with time for photography stops) give yourself at least 2.5-3 hours each way. If you do go in the fall or winter, be prepared with a good rain coat and backpack cover because even if it is not raining from the sky, the cliffs spray down plenty of water to get you equally as wet.
Follow I-84 for 45 minutes east from Portland to exit #41. At the bottom of the ramp turn right on Eagle Creek Lane. Go about 1/2 mile to the end of the road to park at the trail head.
With mud from my toes to my nose and sloshing through my shoes, I waded through waist deep mud and over heaps of slippery dirt with only one thing on my mind, finishing. Exhaustion setting in and my knees splitting from an old injury…and falling on my face around mile 5, the cold mud for once in the course felt oddly and momentarily refreshing. “We are almost there,” I thought as I sludged my mud-caked Nikes out of the pit. But as two of my teammates pulled me out of the pond of goop and I hobbled (broken pirate style) around the last bend, there it was…the mountain of all obstacles – literally. Everest, a greased half-pipe, and Electroshock therapy, dangling electrified wires, were the last two obstacles that stood in my way. “Bring it on!”
Dubbed as one of the toughest obstacle course races, the Tough Mudder is an intense 11-mile, 25 obstacle race. Designed by British Special Forces to test your strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie, the course has you climbing walls, swimming through fields of mud, squirming under barbed (and sometimes electrified) wire, running almost a marathon and dunking your body into ice tanks, among other things. It’s a race that gives you the opportunity to prove yourself, not only to your teammates and the other competitors but also to yourself, that you truly are tough enough – or just crazy enough!
The highlights of the Tough Mudder, Las Vegas race for me were:
- Kiss of mud – crawling under barbed wire through muddy water
- Arctic Enema – a quick dip into ice-cold (and I mean ice-cold) water.
- Funky Monkey – a monkey bar challenge that brought me back to the good old days on the play ground
- The Wounded Warrior run – I hopped a free ride on a random dude’s back for half of it!
- Berlin Walls – scaling 3 sets of wooden walls that progressively got taller
- And of course, Everest. It took me four very painful attempts to grab my teammates’ hands, but I did successfully scale the half-pipe.
However, when they say that Tough Mudder is a race that you can’t finish alone – nor would you want to – they mean it. The best part about competing in this race was running it with my co-workers. The camaraderie, support and energy everyone brought to the course made the event. From running buddies to helpful boosts over the obstacles, my co-workers and all the other competitors are what got me through the race, up the walls, through the mud and across the finish line. (Plus it’s amazing what a little peer pressure and a bunch of stubbornness will get you through as well!)
Are you tough enough?
I’m crossing my fingers and my toes (and praying that they all come back in one piece) because this weekend I’m going to answer the big question: Am I tough enough?
Here’s why. I’m competing in the Tough Mudder race in Las Vegas:
Look forward to…hopefully a fun post next week recapping the adventure!
Looking out for ships nearing the coast of Oregon from 1881 – 1957, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse perches delicately in the Pacific on its ocean pedestal. For the best vantage point of this lighthouse, also known as Terrible Tilly, hike the 2.7-mile Clatsop Loop trail in Ecola State Park starting at the Indian Beach parking lot.
What is your favorite lighthouse?
Located just a few miles off of highway 26 near Seaside, Oregon this spectacular hike takes you high into the coastal range – 3,283 feet to be exact for views of the ocean, mountains, Columbia River and surrounding forests. A 5.5 mile round trip hike, the walk up Saddle Mountain is steep at times with grated fencing underfoot to help retain the trail and your footing, but the views just get better and better as you climb.This is a great half-day hike, especially if the coast Gods grace you with a clear sky.
Along for the ride, my nephew came with us on his first hike ever! He didn’t make it quiet to the top with his parents, but for a 13 month old, he is a tough kiddo.
Escape the sand or city with your family to walk this trail together!
Here are more photos from the hike:
View from half way up!
Me standing on the edge of one of the trails.
Last section of the hike and by far the steepest!
Climbing the last stretch, a mile straight up through red-brown silt and gravel, I kept my eyes on the peak ahead. The blue sky over the rounded bulge summit at 10,358 feet beckoning me like a turquoise pendant. Reaching the top of this mountain however, awarded me with a hiking high better than any jewels could offer.
Hitting the trail, I completed the first hike of my “10 hikes in 10 years” plan by summiting the South Sister in central Oregon. The third largest mountain in Oregon and the highest of the three sisters, the South Sister is one of few climbs of its size in the state that doesn’t require technical equipment. A 12-mile round trip trail leads from the base of the valley at Devils Lake up the mountain plains then finally along a rocky ridge to the mountain’s summit. Continue reading