Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

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renegadepilgrim
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Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by renegadepilgrim » May 27th, 2012, 9:01 pm

27.0 miles, 4000' gained, 2 night(s)

Originally, the plan was to go on the Eagle Creek Trail to 7 1/2 mile Camp for the first night, Wahtum Lake for the second night and Hunters Camp for the third night...basically Eagle Creek Trail to Wahtum Lake to PCT to Ruckel Creek Trail....all was going well, but I am getting ahead of myself!

So, we headed up to Eagle Creek on Friday and hit the trail around 9a, and there were already quite a few backpackers on the trail. We made it as far as the campsite at 6 1/2 mile marker (I had mistakenly been told this was 7 1/2 mile Camp, but if I had read my map, I would have noticed my error...) and set up camp there. After we set up our camp, I went for a walk and found the other campsites further up the trail and made a mental note for next time. We shared our campsite with a couple we had passed earlier in the day. It was their first backpack trip and we hung out a bit, even spending about an hour together trying to get a campfire started. We gave up eventually, and I was in bed by dark. Switching from night shift to days is always a struggle.

On Saturday morning, we got on the trail again around 9a and I was worried because I had read that the trail had a 2300 elevation gain and it was a steep trail. I'm not a fan of steep inclines...I usually go rather slow. It was nothing of the sort. It was a nice, gradual grade and we made good time up to Wahtum Lake, even with multiple treacherous creek crossings and stopping to chat with people coming down the trail to get intel on what to expect. My favorite creek crossing involved two separate parts. I don't know the name of the creek, but it's a reverse fork...so there are two creeks dumping into one. It was insane. Lots of water and it was moving fast.

We made good time up to Wahtum Lake and found 2 to 4 feet of snow all around the lake, with melted patches here and there. We checked out the first campsite and it didn't look too promising. Lots of trees, not a lot of space, but I left my hiking partner there just in case the spaces were as limited as we feared due to the snow. I went a bit further and just where the trail junctions with the PCT, there were two campsites and one was empty! It was perfect. There was no snow at the site and it looked like it would be comfortable. There was plenty of room for our two one-person tents and it had a fire ring. Score!

We set up our camp and then wandered a bit to get water. Our next door neighbors were another couple with their dog who we had met earlier on the trail. We hung out at our campsite and watched as people continued to flow by looking for a campsite. We had walked up around the lake a bit and didn't see much, but knew there were some more campsites on the other side of the lake. A solo female hiker came through and we offered to share our space and found out she was a hammocker! I was excited because I've been looking into it myself. She went to look and see what else was there and ended up back at our site. Then another couple we had met the day before also came through and ended up at our site. There just wasn't a lot of empty, dry ground to choose from!

Eventually, the couple we had shared a space with the night before showed up but we had scouted out more of the area by then and directed them to a campsite up the PCT a bit. There was a steady flow of people, including at least one large group of 8 people, who we found out camped up near the parking lot.

Since we had created our little trail family, we took advantage of the fire pit and started to work on making a fire in the late afternoon after everyone had set up their camps. Fuel was everywhere, but not always dry. We experimented with many things...and after an hour of delicately coaxing the fire, we were able to keep it going! Each person collected wood from their campsites and contributed to the fire. We found lots of dry wood in the tree wells around where the snow was. My hiking partner was a true champion when it came to collecting firewood! She was relentless in her quest. We were able to keep the fire going into the late evening, finally retiring after 10p. We shared wine and fire and it was good!

Two things happened that we thought were odd. One, around 8:30p, three guys walked by and all of them were in cotton t-shirts, with one in basketball shorts and two in jeans hiking in sneakers (not trail runners, but actual basketball shoes). They didn't look very well-prepared but we never saw them again. Weird.

Then, around 1a, I heard footsteps going past our campsite and saw head lamp lights. Weird. What are people doing out on the trail this late? Didn't think much of it until I heard footsteps again...going the opposite direction and then again going back up the trail...this happened for a while and there were at least three or more people, based on the LOUDNESS of their voices, as well as the LIGHT of their head lamps. This went on until at least 2:30a!!! They were carrying on trying to find a campsite, finally settling on a very small piece of open dirt across from our site. I was sooooo irritated. They woke up three of the five of us at our campsite. (I found out today, they did the same thing to other people along the trail....)

Our original plan was to continue on Sunday down the PCT and head towards Benson Plateau to Hunter's Camp. We managed to speak to some people who had come that way and while it sounded passable, it seemed like there were still some areas with snow and difficult trail finding. Neither of us were up for that, so we made the decision to just head back the way we came.

So, this morning we woke up after a night of light rain, and hoofed it back down to Eagle Creek. We made great time and were back in town in time to have a late afternoon lunch at Burgerville in Gresham on our way home.

I'd really like to head back up there sometime this summer when the weather cooperates a little bit better! No pictures at this time...I took some, but how many pictures of this trail does one really need to see?
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Peder
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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by Peder » May 27th, 2012, 9:53 pm

Great report though it sounds rather crowded! I like the bit about sharing the wine and a campfire... That is how I like to camp. :D

I would enjoy a couple of pictures with your trip report; it is always fun to see the current conditions and other people's take on what is of interest.
Some people are really fit at eighty; thankfully I still have many years to get into shape…

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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by Hiker_Dude » May 27th, 2012, 11:30 pm

Thanks for the report.

Eagle is so busy on holiday's and nice weekends. I am so thankful I discovered the Herman Creek Trailhead. Even on the weekends when Eagle is full I find space to myself on the MANY trails at Herman.

Ron

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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by joerunner » May 28th, 2012, 6:14 am

Enjoyed the report. Thanks! I like how you were able to adapt to the large number of campers/hikers and make the most of it. Wahtum lake has vehical access so you are going to occasionally have some inconsiderate people around there. If you didn't get a chance to see the camps on the other side of the lake just past the log jam you should check them out. They are a bit more secluded and are really nice.

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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by renegadepilgrim » May 28th, 2012, 11:02 am

We did Herman Creek last year and it was overrun with Boy Scouts so we thought we'd try to go further and start earlier on Eagle Creek....we were usually the third or fourth to the campsites, so it wasn't too bad. There was enough space and there are enough campsites heading up to Wahtum that we never felt too crowded except while at Wahtum due to the snow.

The road to Wahtum is currently not open, as near as we could tell, because there was nobody but backpackers up there.

There was a couple with two dogs ahead of us who we thought would have taken one of the empty sites on the south side of the lake, but they went around the lake to the north side and camped. They came by our camp the next morning and said their spot wasn't as great as they would have liked. Due to the water level near the log jam, it didn't seem like a good idea to try and cross there, which is why we stayed on the south side...it was our first time there, so lessons were learned and notes were made in my head about campsites. :)
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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by The Backpacker Kid » May 28th, 2012, 7:52 pm

We managed to speak to some people who had come that way and while it sounded passable, it seemed like there were still some areas with snow and difficult trail finding.

Were you guys the ones camped out above the spring last night, with 2 tents, 1 was orange?

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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by renegadepilgrim » May 28th, 2012, 7:58 pm

The Backpacker Kid wrote:
We managed to speak to some people who had come that way and while it sounded passable, it seemed like there were still some areas with snow and difficult trail finding.

Were you guys the ones camped out above the spring last night, with 2 tents, 1 was orange?
We hiked out yesterday so that probably wasn't us. We were at the 6.5 mile marker on Friday night, and Wahtum Lake on Saturday night...
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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by The Backpacker Kid » May 28th, 2012, 8:06 pm

Ah ok. Still though, small world up there on Benson :)

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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by renegadepilgrim » May 28th, 2012, 8:13 pm

One of these days I am going to make it up on Benson...maybe when the weather cooperates a little more... :)
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Re: Memorial Day Weekend: Eagle Creek to Wahtum Lake

Post by drm » May 29th, 2012, 7:46 am

renegadepilgrim wrote: My favorite creek crossing involved two separate parts. I don't know the name of the creek, but it's a reverse fork...so there are two creeks dumping into one. It was insane. Lots of water and it was moving fast.
In the tradition of hiker simplicity, I've heard of this spot as called the Two Creek Crossing. About 2 miles below Wahtum, right? There are great camps down below next to the confluence, and the cascade above is real pretty as well. The two creeks are wide and shallow, but in the spring deep enough to make dry feet crossings difficult.

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