I went on a short hike this weekend, a MeetIn Portland event. It started on the Clackamas River, some miles past Estacada. First we had to cross the river to get to the trailhead. I’m not much of a swimmer, and the water was cold and there was a current, but we could wade most of the way. I flailed swam frantically across the deep bit, swallowing only one gulp of river-water, and then was across. (“You can stand up now!” shouted the people already on shore, pitying me.) We ferried across our belongings on a couple of inner tubes. I didn’t bring much, just my running hydration pack with a flashlight and a sandwich in it. A lot of people brought full changes of clothes, shoes, boots, etc. Those people are very lucky that their enormous packs didn’t cause the inner tubes to capsize.
Back on dry land, we followed an unmarked sometimes-barely-there trail away from the river and alongside a big creek. (Later research seems to indicate that this creek was actually the South Fork of the Clackamas, but if that’s right, the South Fork isn’t much of a fork… much smaller than the main branch.) It was a pretty creek, cutting a gorge through the hills and going over several waterfalls. Soon the trail went through a couple of short, large-bore tunnels someone, sometime had built through the rock. There was a lot of speculation about what all the old construction had been for. Water pipes? Hydroelectric? Mining?
After a side-trip to an old but still-sturdy bridge over the creek, and the foundations of an old building of some sort, we returned to the main trail, which shortly came to a log bridge. Over to the left was a nice view of a 100-foot waterfall. The view of the fall was especially good from the middle of the bridge. Not that I looked. The logs were remnants of an old bridge someone had built once, and there were two of them, right next to each other. They were long logs. Eighty feet? And the gorge was deep. Fifty feet? It didn’t seem likely you’d survive a fall. I watched a few people walk over, one at a time. Some people did it with both feet on one log. Some put a foot on each. Using both logs seemed safer balance-wise, but the weight coming on and off the logs that way caused them to flex up and down an alarming amount. How long had these logs been here? How rotted were they? How much more flexing could they take? If one snapped, would I be able to grab the other?
I went. I started off on one log. About ten feet in, that freaked me out and I switched to two. I shuffled across, watching my footing every inch of the way. They two-log technique had another problem: a lot of times there was a gap beween the logs, so watching your footing meant looking down between the logs, down to the creek ever so far down there… Yikes. Once I was across, I had a hard time even watching other people cross. One girl — a one-logger — even stopped in the middle to take a picture. My head span.
After the bridge was another tunnel, like the earlier ones only longer, and with a big metal pipe off to the side. After that was a scrambly trail up to the last tunnel. This one was long enough that we needed flashlights, and it was steep, too. The rock floor was uneven and wet and slippery. There was a wooden path in the middle, taking up most of the width of the tunnel, but it had large sections that were rotted away. At the top, we came out back at the creek, just a little above the big falls.
Making my way a little farther up the creek, I managed to fall in, bang up my left knee, and take a little ride down a rapids. It would have been kind of fun, but I was worried that my pack was getting wet and maybe my sandwiches were getting soaked. As it turned out, they were fine.
We came down the same way we went up. I tripped on the trail at one point, cutting my right knee, completing the pair. The log bridge was even worse on the second attempt. I’m not sure I could ever try for a third or fourth. Except for the bridge, though, it was a fun and interesting hike.