Berry Pickin’

Start: Eagle Creek (2141)
Camp: Paradise Park (2114)

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Preparing my over-strained arch for the notorious climb up the Indian Creek Trail

I skipped breakfast and just snacked on Oregon Grape berries I’d noticed last night. At Indian Spring I made breakfast and filled up my new Evernew bladder for the dry stretch ahead.

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Finally climbed out of the Eagle Creek drainage and got a look back at the Columbia Gorge

It’s somewhat alarming how loud high tension power lines can be up close, especially the old rusty ones. Around lunch I came in contouring just feet away from three hefty cables suspended high above the ground on overbuilt antique trusses. The bases were made from actual I-beams. My elevated position on the hill above the pass where they crossed the ridge left me descending just a few feet from crackling and popping cables.

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Berry Pickin': I found a variety of wild berries along the trail, including Salmon berries (orange,) huckleberries and wild blueberries.

When I found water I laid out my tarp in the trail and kicked off my shoes while I made lunch. This location was key and I had been scouting for it for some time. It was relatively flat and it didn’t have mosquitoes. Like yesterday I had begun soaking done quinoa in the morning, and now I added it to boiling water. I overcooked it to see if my system might be able to process it more thoroughly that way, then I reserved half for dinner and added a Rice Side and more water. I brought it back to a boil, shut it off, and turned back to my Frito’s.
I felt my elbow bump it, and I heard the slow, sludgey spill of thin Parmesan noodles and quinoa sliding into the grass. I didn’t rush to salvage my lunch. I didn’t even turn around right away. “Not with burning myself over,” I thought. I finished yesterday’s journal entry before eating the few bites of flavorless food that remained at the bottom of the pot. The seasoning never makes it all the way to the bottom when you fill the pot that full. Half a mile up the trail I came upon ‘Trail Magic’, i.e. food left by a ‘Trail Angel’, which in this case consisted of donuts and cold soda let by Luna and Werewolf. Together with Sup Dog they were 2013 NOBO’s.
I checked out Ramona Falls and took a dip while it was still hot enough, and when I looked back the way I’d come I saw the sun glowing orange. I descended through smokey campsites, frowning as I bolted for the Sandy River. If you know me you know smoke and fire (and evidently stoves too) are not my thing. I met Daniel along the way and he warned me about the ford. His bloody shins would make a lot more sense in a few minutes. They were gashed and still bright red, particularly the left one.
I followed the trail right to the Rivers’ edge. Cairns marked either side of a wide and potentially shallow spot that might make a decent place to ford. At once I realized that this was where Daniel had gotten pushed and then knocked down and dragged over the sharp volcanic rock. “It’s a lot more powerful than it looks,” he warned me. Right, I could see it now. The Sandy is a muddy torrent that flows steeply down from Mt. Hood over basalt boulders through a canyon cut into light tan volcanic tuff. The trail drops down into the canyon, crosses the river, and climbs back out the other side.
I learned how sharp basalt is from Toni when I was 16. We were playing on a glob of it just offshore from one of Hawaii’s more famous beaches, Kaihena, on the northern side of the eastern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island. This is the straight between the Big Island and Maui, a channel of swift moving open ocean fraught with rip currents and great whites. I once saw a man die here and in the time it took for the helicopter to come out from Hilo he had been carried several miles down the coast.
Along with my other sister, Toni was trying to perform a dangerous stunt that requires dexterity, unshakable confidence, and an uncommon ability to read the ocean. It was only the last one that Toni lacked.
From atop the blob I watched Toni commit to a wave. Try to imagine for a moment body surfing. You watch the wave coming toward you, you watch it start to well up, you start to paddle, it begins to curl and if you’ve gotten yourself up to sufficient speed you stiffen your body and you begin to slide down the front of it, skimming across the water like a human surfboard. The stunt in question requires this much. But now imagine you’re here not just to ride the wave, but to ride it up onto a giant, jagged, sharp-as-glass blob of rock. This literally death-defying trick is something we’ve watched the true locals do every Sunday since we got here a free months before. I didn’t reach down to grab Toni when her wave didn’t carry her high enough. She just splatted against the shear front face of the rock, and for a moment she stuck there. She was clinging. And as she slid, the giant open vesicles in the now hardened lava sliced into her highpoints, the rails she slid upon: her hipbones, her knees, her elbows. Mom was high but she was still pissed.
I walked down the floodplain a bit, then turned and headed up to my crossing. I crossed without incident on two thin trees wedged just above the water line. I was able to keep my feet dry. Times like this one are part of the way I stay safe and make my hike less work: by talking to other hikers, and visualizing the things they are telling me. I knew this crossing was upstream when I headed down the floodplain because a northbound hiker had told me about it a couple hours before. I just needed to understand the crossing’s context to trust that it was the best place for me to cross.
A gorgeous gray and pink sunset shown down the canyon but everything went dark when I hiked back into the trees. I climbed for an hour in the dark on a trail good enough to allow it, then camped on an exposed ridge. I hiked 27 miles and 15 hours and I am still 7.0 undulating miles from Timberline Lodge and an all you can eat breakfast that ends eleven hours from right now, at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

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