29 Dec 1997

Eagle Creek and Ruckle Ridge

A few days before Christmas I walked the Eagle Creek trail past Tunnel Falls, where trail builders blasted a tunnel behind a raging waterfall. There were many other waterfalls on this trail, including Punchbowl Falls, and I told Kris about them in glowing tones.

As our vacation drew to a close, and moving house increasingly occupied our thoughts, we agreed on Monday to hike the trail again, and Kris would bring her camera and tripod. I was hankering for adventure, so I hatched a bold and foolish plan that went like this:

“Okay, Kris, you hike on the Eagle Creek Trail, and I’ll take the Ruckle Ridge Trail up to the Benson Plateau. I’ll run along the Pacific Crest Trail up there for 1.5 miles, then race down a switch-backing trail for 2500 feet back to the level of your trail. Sound good?”

Well, she agreed, and we set off, failing to decide what would happen if I fail to make it! (foreshadowing?) We had just read Ray Jardine’s Pacific Crest Trail Hiker’s Handbook, and were very impressed with his emphasis on traveling light. So we both wore tennis shoes, rather than our heavy boots. This served us very well.

I’ve described the formidable Ruckle Ridge in an earlier dispatch, and it’s forbidding aspect is much improved in good weather. Having an altimeter really helps too, because now I can tell about how much higher I have to climb. I started at 9 am at 100 feet elevation, and was at 1700 feet by 10:00 am. This was a very fast pace for me! The scrambling in this next rocky precarious section was slowing me down, but I made it to 3400 feet by 11:30. Finally, at exactly noon, I reached my high point of 3900 feet. The top of the trail! There was a little sign, but increasing amounts of snow. Soon, I lost the trail. Time for the map and compass (doh! I have neither!!!). Long sigh. Another sigh.

I realize I’ll have to (shudder) go back the way I came…just like it happened before last June! I’m really worried about what Kris will think, and what she’ll do now. The whole way down I curse myself for extreme stupidity…

Going down was as hard as ever. Although I tripped and slipped repeatedly, I forced myself to move fast, so as to get to Kris. It took almost as long to get down as up, and I was at the Eagle Creek trail-head at 2:45 PM. Hmm…Kris has a 6 hour head start on me…I wonder if I can catch her? (yeah right!).

I zoomed along the Eagle Creek trail in great anxiety. I asked each person I saw if they had seen an Asian woman with long black hair and a camera. Each person responded helpfully by saying no, or pointing out that they had seen a man with a camera, or a man with black hair. Arrrgh! One group of 4 young men traveled very fast, and I thought about asking them because of their speed, they were probably the only people who had gone all the way to Tunnel Falls and back (12 mile round trip). They were the only people I didn’t ask, however.

Finally, at 4:00 PM as it was getting dark, I saw Kris leaning on a bridge. Very excited to see her, I ran towards her shouting her name! We embraced in happiness! It was great fun sitting with her for a few moments discussing what had happened and what she thought about doing when I didn’t show up at the trail junction. She was very sensible in deciding to head back to the car, rather than venturing up the steep trail. As it turns out, the four young men were the only people she saw back there, so I would have been relieved had I only asked them about her!

We walked back in gathering darkness, Kris complaining that walking a trail by yourself is really boring. We were both sore, especially my thigh muscles from descending Ruckle Ridge! But our tennis shoes were great, and seemed to allow us to travel farther. For Kris, it was a 12 mile day, the farthest she’s ever walked, and for me it was a 17 mile day with 4000 ft. elevation gained and lost.

We made it to the car at 6:45, and promptly canceled all outdoor endeavors for the rest of the week! We did go sledding and snowshoeing though a few days later!