It has taken me a ridiculous amount of time to write about this hike, for many many reasons. I did this hike almost a year ago, last spring break. It broke my spirit a little bit, but I’m over it now and that’s why it is time to write about it.
As I mentioned in many earlier blog posts, the goal for last summer was hiking the JMT with the one and only Lacey Wroblewski (and her mama). After Spring Break, those plans changed. The experience just really sullied everything hiking for me. It’s okay though, my sister and I intend to keep hiking and do a PCT adventure next summer.
Eagle Creek is beautiful. I have hiked it many times, but never with the intention to camp or multi-day hike, so this was a new adventure. I had my brand-new awesome tent and light-weight sleeping bag. The new fantastic backpack that Sharock Bruce Hannah, Esq bought for me held lots of supplies borrowed from the extraordinary Jerbear Wedell. I was ready. It was a bit rainy, but when isn’t it in Oregon, right?
The first part of Eagle Creek I have hiked numerous times. It is always amazing and beautiful and you better believe it was packed for Spring Break. It is also sentimental because my sister and I deposited our Aunt Patti’s ashes in Punchbowl Falls. Lacey had planned the hike and I knew eventually we were taking a cut-off trail that I had never hiked before and that it was steep. Oh my goodness, understatement of the century.
My sister and I have hiked lots of steep stuff. This definitely rivaled that. It was not the steepest thing I have ever hiked, but it was steepest for the longest. It was hard, but the views were incredible and it was beyond worth it. We crossed several creeks, we rested and ate Snickers bars, and we went over and under so many downed trees it was almost a joke as we came to another one across the path. With my back injury, it is very hard for me to go under a downed tree. It made for some interesting acrobatics to be sure.
Eventually we reached Camp Smokey. It was triumphant. Lacey filtered gallons of fresh water for us. We cooked dinner (freeze-dried deliciousness), we drank whiskey, we sent up our tents, and we turned in early.
For the first few hours or so I slept soundly, then the nightmare began. I cannot explain what happened because I don’t really know, but if I had to guess I would say the worst case of food poisoning ever. From about 10 pm to when I finally crawled out of my tent the next morning, I threw up over 20 times. I ended up digging a hole right next to my tent so I could just lean out and barf when I needed to, every half hour or so. I don’t recall ever barfing so much in one night before, except maybe when I had mono in high school.
When I did get out of my tent to go to the bathroom. I walked about 30 feet from camp and had trouble getting back. Finishing the hike, up to Wahtum Lake and around to Tunnel Falls was not an option for me. I had to go back. Unfortunately, I did not have a map. Because I had no calories in my body and was running on no fuel, my brain could not function. The only way to get back was down the crazy steep Eagle-Benson trail we had hiked up the day before.
Lacey and her mom continued on the hike. I sat down and cried for a long, long time. Then I drank some water, ate a bite of peanut butter and tried to hike back. The first part was uphill, barely, it took me FOREVER. After about 20 minutes I barfed up all the water and the peanut butter. I wiped my mouth and drank more water. Then I continued on.
You don’t need all the gory details, but it took me nine hours to get down. I fell a lot. I barfed a lot. I cried a lot. I screamed a lot. When I hit the Eagle Creek trail and saw other people, I sat down in the middle of the trail and cried. They were tears of joy. I was not going to die alone on a mountain. It was a good moment. I had been alone for about 5 hours at that point. I was so out of it I had convinced myself I would never see another human being again. Several strangers helped me, carrying my pack varying distances. I continued drinking water and barfing it back up the entire time. I sat down on the trail when I could go no further, which was frequently. I got a lot of help.
When I eventually got to my car, I threw my backpack on the ground, crumbled into a pile on the rainy ground and sobbed. A guy walked up and said, “Are you okay?” I said, “Yes, now I am. Thanks for asking.”
I got up. I unlocked the car. I called my mom to tell her she didn’t need to feed Remington because I was coming home a day early. I drove to a gas station and bought Gatorade. I drank it slowly and then had to pull over on the side of Highway 84 to barf it all up. I barfed for three days. I didn’t hike for four months after that.
So, that was my Spring Break hike to Camp Smokey. I’m over it. Hiking is still amazing. The adventure continues.
For information about Eagle Creek to Camp Smokey click here.