Tunnel Falls hybrid trail-run


September 8, 2006.

It’s Friday. I still don’t have a job. I’m going hiking.Destination: Eagle Creek Trail: 12 miles round trip. 1000′ elevation gain. 4 hours.

I chose an easy trail in the Gorge for today, figuring I’d hike in and run out. I really miss running in the Blue Hills back in Massachusetts, and I haven’t found a suitable replacement here. I’m not a strong runner, so running uphill doesn’t draw me. There wouldn’t be much elevation involved in this hike so perhaps, I thought, I could manage to run most of the way back. In the end, I caught myself by surprise, taking only one water break about halfway through but running 99% of the six miles back. Nice!

The scenery in the Gorge is simply astounding and none of my lousy pictures can attest to that. One must experience these hikes first hand. I walked carefree through the drooping trees, ogling the river and multitude of waterfalls constantly. There were side trails to two falls: Metlako and Punchbowl, but there are many others not on the map or designated by any sign.

In several places, the trail is literally cut into the rock wall of the Gorge, and there are steel cables installed for the weak-hearted to grab onto for safety 🙂 The trail is wide enough that one can proceed without a problem.

As the miles ticked away, I encountered fewer and fewer people. I imagine that this place gets packed on the weekends, as it is an easy stroll and there are beautiful landmarks conveniently placed at several locations up the trail. There are also tons of campsites, which irks me quite a bit that they are RIGHT off the trail. Come on now, a 1/10th mile trail off to backcountry sites would be much more pleasant than plopping them in the middle of the trail. Just my two cents.

Upon reaching Tunnel Falls at mile 6 I was amazed at the height and volume of water that was streaming off the edge of the cliff. The trail bores through the basalt wall so that hikers pass through a tunnel beneath the falls, hence the name. I found a spot just up the trail to sit and have a power lunch–brownies and Gatorade. After about 15 minutes I was ready to go at it again.

I walked back past the falls and past a short string of talus slopes, then broke into a steady jog. I felt great as I slowly passed by many groups of hikers heading in the opposite direction.

I discovered this hybrid hiking/trailrunning style while in the Tetons this summer. Running back from a hike invigorates me so much for a few reasons:

1. There’s very little uphill for my puny lungs to deal with.

2. I’ve already seen everything on an out-and-back hike so I know I’d be ancy if I was just walking.

3. It challenges my legs that have already gotten a workout on the hike in.

4. It’s too much fun breezing by people who are huffing and puffing up the trail!

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