Apr 252012
 

I hate this hike.

I really do.  I hike Eagle Creek about once a year and then I remember just how much I hate that hike and vow to never do it again. The reason is not what you’re thinking.

Yet somehow I always forget how terrifying Eagle Creek is, and do it again. And mid-hike I become a terrified, quivering mess of anxiety. The reason I hate this hike? I am afraid of heights and this lovely like Gorge Gem happens to have sheer cliffs and drop offs, narrow and terrifying paths edged into the side of the cliffs and expansive views of the valley and river below. I’ll explain in a moment.

Our Sunday plans were busy ones. I got up early to go for a swim to soothe my aching hamstrings from weight lifting, and then we went to Michael’s mom’s house for brunch. I ate a lot, preparing for our afternoon hike. (One serving of a crab quiche, potatoes, fresh fruit, toast and just a few deviled eggs. There might have been a mojito or two in there too…)

It was unusually hot (nearly 80) and sunny and Michael and I drove out after brunch to The Gorge to hike Eagle Creek (directions here). We arrived at the peak of the heat of the day and the parking lots were full of eager hikers ready to get rid of their winter funk.

We packed a bunch of water and I slathered on sunscreen. There’s a 1/2 mile walk from the parking lot to the trailhead. You walk along the creek, which was fast moving this time of year, and then the trail starts to climb the side of the mountain.

The trail isn’t steep, it’s pretty gradual as you climb. For the first few miles you’re out in the open, full sunlight, then eventually you get some old growth shade.

There are a few waterfalls that you walk underneath and it’s very refreshing on a hot day.

I think around the first mile it gets scary. You’ve climbed up a ways and there’s the first very, very narrow trail that clings to the edge of the mountain. There’s even a steel cable bolted into the rock to hold onto. There is NO railing. Just a sheer drop off to the racing water and rocks below.

Do you see the steel cable on the left in the above photo? And the very narrow trail? Yeah. This is the first one like this. And it’s not the last. And my heart is pounding with fear and anxiety right about now.

The trail climbs higher and higher until all you see on the other side is a vast open space and the tops of the trees. This is the part where I get vertigo and feel like dying. Fun, right?

I didn’t get pictures of the truly terrifying part because I was trying not to die and I certainly wasn’t looking at the drop offs! My internal monologue is “I hate this, I hate this, I’m never doing this hike again.”

There’s parts of the trail like that I think 3 times? Higher and higher, scarier and scarier. Then the path winds through the trees and it’s quite enjoyable. We got to the above waterfall and turned around. And then you get to enjoy the scary parts all over again!

The butterflies LOVE Eagle Creek for some reason. Every time I’ve been I’ve seen dozens of them fluttering around. This time it was tiny purple butterflies. I couldn’t get a photo, unfortunately. There were a bunch of beautiful wildflowers too, but most of the super colorful ones were growing on the side of the cliff–not exactly where I want to take pictures.

We finally got down to a manageable height and my fear subsided. It was a hot, hot day and we were both dripping in sweat. The day was growing a little dimmer.

Not bad, huh? I burned over 1,000 calories on Sunday. Michael thinks we hiked 5-6 miles total, I think it was more like 4-5 miles. When we got home and cleaned up, we plopped our butts outside on the deck to enjoy the last little bits of the sunny day.

Dinner was bratwursts grilled outside, salad, and some pickled carrots to munch on.

I enjoyed one beer as we listened to the neighborhood kids playing in the sunshine. I also read some of my book (I started reading The Game of Thrones). It was such a nice day and a lovely end to a weekend. Dessert:

Now, the breakdown of the hike:

Good for Kids: Iffy. I saw a lot of kids on the trail but…those cliffs are pretty treacherous. Probably better for older kids.
Good for Dogs: Probably ok. Leash recommended because there are a lot of dogs there.
Cost: Pass required, or you can pay at the trailhead.
Activity Level: Medium in activity level. It’s not super strenuous and the elevation is gradual.
Scenery: Spectacular.
Verdict: Good first hike of the season because it’s not too difficult, but if you’re afraid of heights in any way I’d skip it. It’s also super crowded. Get there early.

QUESTION: Are you afraid of heights? Do you hike much? 

About Lisa Eirene
About Lisa Eirene Lisa lost 110 pounds through calorie counting and exercise. She swims, bikes, runs, hikes and is enjoying life in Portland, Oregon. Her weight loss story has been featured in First Magazine, Yahoo Health, Woman's Day and Glamour.com.

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  16 Responses to “Eagle Creek”

  1. Looks like a gorgeous hike. I am a little afraid of heights, but I will definitely give this a shot soon. Any idea what a hiking pass runs?
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    • If you’re only mildly afraid of heights you can probably handle it. I am deathly afraid of heights and usually prefer hikes that are in a forest with no cliffs! Let me know if you do Eagle Creek.

      I think it’s about $4 or $5 for a day pass at the site. We bought an annual pass at REI and I think it was $30 or so.

  2. Eric and I attempted to hike Cathedral Rock trail while we were in Sedona, AZ. I’m not very big on hiking to begin with but I enjoy being active so I was down. We made it about halfway before I realize that I am terrified of climbing up steep rocking areas. I was a shaking, quivering on the verge of tears mess. We had to stop in a shady spot and give up. I think I’ll stick to flat surfaces from now on.

    Eagle Creek really looks gorgeous despite it’s scary factor!
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    • That sounds like a hike I wouldn’t be able to do. I don’t like rock climbing or heights or drop offs! I’m sorry you were a crying mess! I was on the verge at Eagle Creek.

  3. I do hike a lot (weather permitting), I guess that happens when you live in a place surrounded by mountains :-)
    I’ve never been afraid of heights although I must confess I got a weird sensation when I was rock climbing and the fog lifted, showing the village below the rocks. Some 3/4 of a mile below the rocks!
    I’ve heard you can improve the fear of height by focusing on a far object and then a near object. Apparently it’s just a vision trick.
    If you happen to be again in a similar situation try and concentrate on the ground, don’t look down!

    • Where do you live?

      Good for you rock climbing. That is definitely not something I could ever do. Last summer I did a high ropes course and zip line and I thought that would help me get over my fear of heights but not so much. :)

  4. Northern Italy, near the Dolomites! I once saw a guide having a man do exercises for the fear of heights, but I didn’t pay much attention, I’m sorry! It was basically looking up and down (down in the creek) but the man was sitting down, far from the edge (so in a very safe situation).

    • Wow! Italy! Lucky!!

      I think your advice probably works. I probably should have started doing it before I got to the scary parts so I was prepared. I did do the thing where I shielded one side of my face like a horse so I wouldn’t see the drop off. :)

      • Now, if it just stopped raining…a snowless winter and a rainy spring don’t make the hiker happy!
        I found the name of the visual exercises: look up Cawthorne-Cooksey exercises and you’ll find a lot of useful tips. Good luck for the next hike!

  5. I like to hike and I am afraid of heights also. The scariest hike I went on was the one where the cable is REQUIRED to go up and down the trail to a creek. I was terrified I was going to slip, going up and down.

    I’ve hiked in the Smoky Mountains in TN and have thoroughly enjoyed hiking on the ridges above Cades Cove, where you are above the clouds and can’t always see the valley. I remember walking along once thinking that I was really high up and felt like a billy goat, since I was at the top of the mountain and could see off both sides, but for some insane reason I wasn’t scared. It’s beautiful there!

    • Oh HELL NO. I would not do that hike! I used to want to do Half Dome until I came to my senses and realized I probably would not be able to get back down.

      Your hike in the Smoky Mts sound more my speed. I just don’t want to be able to SEE how far up I am.

  6. I love hiking…but conditions like those scare me! I’m more of a “well-beaten path” kind of girl when it comes to hiking at least :)
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  7. Gaah, I’ve seen photos of this hike before and it looks terrifying to me – I’m scared of heights too, and I get all clumsy and shaky when I get nervous…not good on that trail!
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    • YES!!! I was shaking and clumsy and walking under the waterfalls meant I got wet so my hands were all slippery as I was trying to hold on to the steel cable. It was awful!

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