Ode to Eagle Creek

Before me green slopes made a wide ampitheatre, enclosing a frothy and pulsating lake into which, over many-coloured rocks, a waterfall was pouring. Here once again I realised that something had happened to my sense so that they were now receiving impressions which would normally exceed their capacity.

:: C.S. Lewis ::
The Great Divorce

Twister Falls
Twister Falls

April 22, 2017

I pulled into the parking lot early that Saturday morning, hoping to beat the crowds of hikers that would soon fill the trails. I sat on the tailgate of my car, trading in flipflops for socks and running shoes. I put my running pack on my shoulders, shut my trunk, and began the jog from the parking lot up the narrow country road to the trail’s beginning.

The trail was rocky and steep, winding slowly up into the canyon with an occasional chain bolted into the cliff to be a handrail when the trail became particularly precarious.

Despite the early hour, I encountered many hikers, smiling warmly as I asked to squeeze by them on the narrow trail. Pacific Northwesterners out in nature are another breed of nice altogether. We are all in our element, hardly believing that this is real life.

The sound of moving water was everywhere, from the flowing creek below to the fresh spring water trickling down from the walls of the canyon.

After a couple miles, I arrived at Punchbowl falls, a powerful roar of water pouring into a wide pool below. It had captured the attention of children, dogs, and casual day hikers. I looked down at the falls from a viewpoint on the trail above.

Further down the trail, I looked across the canyon to see  Loowit falls, 60 feet of spring water roaring over the ridge and down into a small pool, which then spilled into Eagle Creek.

I kept running, keeping light on my toes to protect my ankles from rolling on the rocky trail. Several creek crossings required careful steps on slippery rocks that peaked above the icy water. One log crossing made me flashback to grade-school balance beam exercises.

I crossed over the High Bridge to the west side of the canyon, and found myself running for a short while on packed snow.  Before I reached five miles on the trail, I crossed another bridge to return to the east bank of the canyon.

The trail became much trickier here, with downed trees and mud slides blocking the way. My progress slowed as I crawled under large branches, over trunks, and carefully across the thick fields of mud.

As the trail began to feel too treacherous to keep going, I heard the sound of rushing water ahead.

Around another bend, Tunnel Falls roared.  The trail reached halfway up the 175 foot falls, with a tunnel carved in the stone behind it. But the height and tunnel of this waterfall is not what made it feel so special. It was the power of it, the way it shook the ground beneath my feet, the way the mist of the water sprayed my face while I was still a fair bit away.

The strength of the waterfall captured something deep in me. I had only made it that far once before, and I remembered the way the falls quaked the ground around it, a terrifying and exhilarating experience.

I felt a deep pang in my chest. Fear. Awe. Awareness of my infinitesimal place in the world.

I felt something else too: a sense that this could not be all that there was. Nature reflects its Maker. Waterfalls reflect a danger, a threat, a power. They remind us that we are not all that there is. That we are here to witness, to appreciate, to respect, to protect.