By Jack Edwards
They are a wonderful, All-American family, except for one little thing. They might try to kill you. This family, who I will refer to for the purposes of this article as “The Marshall Family,” because their last name happens to be Marshall, strategically avoids giving off the impression that vacationing with them will result in your untimely death. This impression would be wrong.
Our families recently checked into a resort lodge on a sparkling sunny afternoon and decided to go on a hike. The older Marshall daughter suggested we hike nearby Eagle Creek Trail. It ended at a waterfall, she said. That cinched the deal, and we all quickly agreed. A few wrong turns later we arrived at the trailhead.
The small mountain rising toward the rim in the trailhead’s porta-potty was an ominous sign. In the literary world, this is called foreshadowing. This stinky pile was warning me that we would soon be in deep do-do.
Here is a picture of the trailhead sign:
We live in a world where companies inscribe their coffee cups with bold print warning consumers that the scalding hot coffee they just purchased might be (surprising as this may seem) scalding hot. Given this level of litigious insanity, the average American coffee consumer might expect this trail sign to be equipped with flashing neon lights and an audible warning system. Or at least some effort to alert an unsuspecting family that it had, best case scenario, a 50/50 chance of each and every family member returning alive.
The hike began pleasantly enough. We strolled along next to Eagle Creek, no doubt named because soaring eagles were such a common sight – back in 1852. Certainly, none were on duty this afternoon. The trail was smooth and flat with little elevation gain. I even wondered aloud whether the trail might start climbing. (More foreshadowing.)
Fully trained and certified mountain goats who have successfully completed Navy Seal training would describe the trail ahead as “challenging.”
At one point, the trail narrows to a width that only allows hikers to proceed single file. The good news is that this portion of the trial is bordered by an unprotected shear drop-off plunging hundreds of feet to certain death. (No kidding, people have fallen and died on this portion of the trail. Google it and see if I’m kidding. Hint: I’m not.) The Park Service, sensitive to the danger of visitors slipping and careening into the ravine below, thus creating the obvious problem for Park Service Employees of having to take time away from ignoring the waste build up in the porta-potties to retrieve these bodies, was good enough to install a state-of-the-art safety system. It anchored a cable along the rock face of the opposite side of the trail for hikers to clutch onto in a desperate attempt to survive. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take a picture of this portion of the trail because I was frantically clinging onto this “safety cable” and whimpering like a small child. Here is a much wider portion of the trail:
During our assent of this portion of the trail, a young man actually came bolting down toward us at a full run. On the way back down, I think I caught a glimpse of his t-shirt on the rocks below.
Two miles up (though it seems like only ten) is Punch Bowl Falls. I mistook it for New York’s Grand Central Station. It was so crowded that it was nearly impossible to take a picture that didn’t include other nature enthusiasts. We joined the crowd in procrastinating our return trip along this modern day “trail of tears.”
Moral of the story: If you vacation with the Marshalls, remember one simple safety tip, schedule your life flight helicopter in advance. If not for you, as a polite gesture to your surviving family members. They’ll thank you for it later (in heaven).