…the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty lands springs of water…(Isaiah 35:7)

Trail of Memories

By Rex Goode


Eagle Creek Trail

Stephen Rex Goode

Me in front of a rock tower over High BridgeRecently, I went hiking up the Eagle Creek trail that leads to Wahtum Lake. It had been about five years since I was on that trail. It holds so many memories for me that I can barely even think about it without reminiscing about something.

Eagle Creek flows out of Wahtum Lake, which is formed by melting Cascade mountain snow. The trail begins or ends, depending on which direction you are going, as Eagle Creek flows into the mighty Columbia River just above Bonneville Dam.

The trailhead begins on the east side almost at the level of the creek and slowly rises above it. On either side of the creek and trail are tall bluffs, covered in lush greenery. Not far up is a fallen tree that has been there at least in my lifetime. One of the roots at the base makes a good bench to take your first rest.

Some sections of the early part of the trail are on small jagged rocks, with a metal cable fastened to the rock wall. Holding onto that cable is imperative, since any false moves would land a poor hiker at the bottom of the canyon formed by the creek.

After a particularly steep part of the trail, you come to a vista overlooking a wide expanse of the creek far below. The site is magnificent and those who aren’t afraid of heights will linger there for a few minutes. Acrophobiacs will hasten by and look out from a distance.

Beyond this viewpoint is a side trail leading down to another viewpoint looking over a narrow part of the creek. If you stretch a bit over the guard rail and look to your left, you can see powerful Metlako Falls bursting out of the high canyon wall.

Returning to the main trail, you cross over Sorenson creek and over a couple of low bridges. After this, you come to another side trail, leading down to Punchbowl Falls. Punchbowl Falls is a mere 15 feet high, but it drops into a large green pool. Below it is a small, but wide waterfall that many people think of as the lower Punchbowl Falls.

View From Pigout RockBack up at the main trail, you come to a rock next to the trail. It’s a rock that I dubbed, Pig-Out Rock, because some friends and I once devoured our rations there. If you go around the south end of Pig-Out Rock and down a slippery slide of loose rocks, you come to a secluded area with an overhang. Hikers are discouraged from going down there.

The main trail passes next to a high gorge with a narrow rocky trail. Here is a place to definitely use the guard rail for safety. The drop is frightening for just about anyone. At the end of this section is High Bridge which crosses over the creek far below, leading you to the west side of the creek.

A long walk later and you find the first allowed camping areas. Skooknichuck Falls has brought the creek back to being nearly even with the high trail. Beyond this area, you cross back over to the east side of the trail. Many waterfalls keep the trail alternating to be high above the creek or close to the same level.

Soon, you see the high rock trail disappear behind Tunnel Falls and emerge on the other side. Follow this on up to a tiered waterfall ending in a long drop. May hikers pause here, since there are plenty of places to sit and rest. It is often the turning back point for those on a simple day hike. The trail continues on over many such beautiful places and on up to Wahtum Lake.

My Cover Story

I first discovered the Eagle Creek trail on a high school field trip with a greenhouse class. I was not part of that class, but was invited there by my Cover Story girlfriend. I’m same-sex attracted, which is a more specific way of saying what other people mean by “homosexual” or “gay.” I’ve always struggled with same-sex attraction, and my high school girlfriends were usually mostly for the purpose of appearing to be something other than what I was.

We walked along the trail and I was enthralled with the beauty of the place. I had never really made any advances towards this poor girl. I had not really done much to give the impression that we were a couple. I just went along with whatever she wanted. We went to the secluded area beneath High Bridge. She had been pestering me to kiss her, an idea that didn’t much appeal to me, but it obviously appealed to her. My reluctance only fueled her obsession with it. She handed me one end of a cherry whip and instructed me to start eating it. She put the other end in her mouth and worked towards meeting me in the middle. Before we got there, I pulled it out of my mouth and dropped my end.

“Why did you do that?” she demanded.

My answer was hurtful and demeaning, but I was angry at her for trying to manipulate me.

I said, “Because I’m not ready for what happens in the middle.”

She claimed she was going to kill herself and climbed up a rock over the creek. I managed to talk her down.

On the way back down the trail, she started complaining about how much her legs hurt. She knew she couldn’t go on anymore. I don’t know what she thought I was going to do about that. I couldn’t carry her. We couldn’t spend the night there. There was another couple with us, and the three of us convinced her to keep walking. We were late getting back to the bus.

This girl had some sort of menstrual problem for which she took “the pill” to regulate her cycle. Even though she was LDS and we were active in the Church, she took some kind of pleasure bringing out her little pill dispenser so everyone would know that she was “on the pill.”

I wasn’t very happy about that. Whenever I saw her do it, I would ask her to stop showing it to people, but I wasn’t with her all the time and had no idea who was seeing it and what she was telling them.

Her parents seemed to want to match us up sexually. On a trip to the coast with her family, they arranged for us to sleep out under the stars and seemed to be encouraging us to share a sleeping bag. I couldn’t believe it. Once again, I insulted her by preferring to sleep by myself on a mat with just my coat over me. Her parents seemed insulted too. I heard from a friend of hers that the doctor had told her that her menstrual problem could easily be solved by getting pregnant and it all started to fit. I was being set up.

I emerge from the tunnel behind Tunnel Falls. The wet shirt is from water dripping from the ceiling.What they didn’t know was how hopeless it was to think that they could get me to be sexually interested in their daughter. It was nothing against her, but my eye was on her older brother, a young man who was already under Church discipline for his promiscuous ways with the girls. He was magnificent to look at. Whenever he was around, I couldn’t think of anything or anyone else.

She eventually got her way as far as kissing went, though. I finally got goaded into showing her just how well I could kiss and she was ravenous for it. I never liked female lips before, and it wasn’t helping to feel pressured. Later, I found out that she told someone that when I kissed her, it made her feel dirty.

I fortunately left her behind. She found a man much older than she was and I couldn’t have been happier about that.

Carl and the Rahkshasa

I often took friends up on hikes at Eagle Creek. It is a glorious place and it helped me. One friend was a student at my high school. I’ll call him Carl. Carl was an intellectual type and I usually got along well with them. I had often asked him to go camping with me, but it wasn’t until we were out of high school. We had a mutual friend named, Sybil. Sybil was a fun girl, engaged to be married to a pilot.

Carl and I were fans of the old Night Stalker series, starring Darrin McGavin. It was about a Chicago tabloid reporter who somehow always ended up reporting on the supernatural. One episode was about his encounter with an evil being known as a rakshasa. A rakshasa had the ability to shift shape and appear to be someone you know and trust, just long enough to get close enough to you to kill you. In this episode, a sweet old lady played by Ruth McDevitt was approaching the reporter talking to him. He decided that it wasn’t his friend from the office, but the rakshasa he had been pursuing, so he killed it with a crossbow.

Our friend, Sybil, was going out of town on the weekend that Carl and I decided to go camping at Eagle Creek. We went down to the hidden area where my old girlfriend and I had spent the afternoon a year or so before. Another friend had also joined us. It was there I learned about mixing peanut butter in with canned beef stew to give it added flavor. Tasted great.

We started talking about Night Stalker and rakshasas. Being so close to the creek can play tricks on your ears. The water falling over all those rocks seems to mask all sorts of sounds and create others in your imagination.

From somewhere up on the trail, in the dead of night, we heard Sybil calling to us.

“Carl! Rex! Are you down there?” she would call, but we would not answer. It was impossible that Sybil would be up on the precipice calling down to us. We hadn’t told anyone where we were camping. No one could get up Eagle Creek trail in the dark, especially sweet little Sybil. It had to be a rahkshasa.

My relationship with Carl was somewhat rocky. He seemed to have a mean streak where I was concerned. One night, when he and I were out late at night in the city, he ditched me by disappearing down a street. I didn’t think I had said anything to offend him, but when I tried to find him, he was gone. I decided to return to his house where I had left my bike in his basement. We had turned off the light in the basement when we left, but it was on. I knew he was down there, but despite all of my knocking, He didn’t answer. I walked away and came back a few minutes later. Someone had opened the door and put my bike outside.

You would think I would never come back for more of that treatment, but I always felt friends, especially male friends, were a scarce commodity, so I would do just about anything to keep one.

Carl joined the Church and I was able to baptize him. It was a neat experience, but our friendship sharply declined after that. He found another male friend in the Church and never really seemed to have the capacity to be close to more than one person at a time. I always felt that he was pitting friends against each other. When I later fell in love with Barbara, I found out that he was angry at me over my engagement because he had been interested in her.

As we got older, one night, Carl and I relived some of our former reckless days by running around at night in a graveyard. It was a hot summer night. When we returned to my house, I invited him in back to see our new above-ground swimming pool. The water was warm but inviting, so he suggested we go in, even though neither of us had swim trunks with us. His suggestion was that we go in naked. I was in favor and we had a nice swim. Despite my same-sex attraction, I had no sexual feelings for Carl. I wanted his friendship only and enjoyed that. We went into the house and showered in the basement before getting dressed.

When a career decision made me move to Ohio, I decided that in parting, I had to tell Carl, whom I had always considered to be my closest and oldest male friend, about my same-sex attraction struggles. I cried when he said that as far as he was concerned, I was the same Rex I had always been and me being same-sex attracted didn’t matter to him in the least.

I went to Ohio on my own, before my wife and children could join me. I got a call from my wife saying that Carl had come to visit her and expressed concerns about her being married to me. He claimed to her that I had seduced him into skinnydipping in our backyard pool all those years before, just to get a look at him naked. I was hurt that he would think these things. The true rakshasa of Eagle Creek was revealed.

An almost aerial view of the gorge near High Bridge.

Trail of Inspiration

Throughout my unmarried youth, I had visited Eagle Creek many times. It has always had a calming influence on me. As I climb it’s often steep and hazardous trails, I feel like I am climbing towards heaven, being wary of the cliffs and forbidden places.

I had been called to serve as the president of our stake’s Young Adult group. At that time, shortly after the change from the old M Men and Gleaners program, the local stake’s single adults younger than 26 were led by a president and two counselors. I had that position in our stake and also the region, which took in the Vancouver and Longview Washington stakes. It seemed rare that a man who was not a returned missionary would hold such a position, but the Lord had seen fit to call me to it.

I had the growing impression that the Lord wanted me to marry Barbara, but those feelings had not been confirmed. She was a rare woman of physical beauty and inner beauty that everyone who gets to know her immediately recognizes.

There was a young man in another stake that had caught her eye, a law school student with a bit of the showman in him. That stake was having a temple trip to Oakland and Barbara signed up to go with them.

I missed her terribly while she was gone, though I didn’t really know it. I was just feeling low and lonely. I called up one of my counselors and asked him if he wanted to go on a day hike with me up Eagle Creek. He invited along a young woman from our stake and the three of us started up the trail.

Normally, when hiking up Eagle Creek trail, I would be completely preoccupied with nature’s beauty around me. Walking along those trails is like reading the scriptures–there is always some new discovery, some new beauty to savor, some new truth to relish. This day was different. I didn’t see much of anything but my feet. My two companions detected my dejection but seemed to know more about it than I did. The young woman revealed to me the insight that she had that I didn’t.

“You miss Barbara,” she told me authoritatively.

She was right. I missed Barbara. I couldn’t imagine life without Barbara. For me to miss Barbara, and even feel like I was in love with Barbara, was a different sensation for me. I didn’t know if I was capable of being in love with a woman. I had always been in love with men before. I walked ahead to be alone and prayed. I knew from that time on that Barbara was the right woman for me. We were in love with each other, and it appeared that everyone knew it but us.

The next day, the other stake had returned from their trip to the Oakland temple and I anxiously awaited Barbara’s return. It was Easter Sunday, 1977, and Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments was showing on television. I invited myself over to Barbara’s apartment to watch it with her. One by one, her roommates went to bed. During the scene where Moses and Zephorrah decided to get married, I kept throwing pennies at Barbara to get her attention. I knew what I had to do, but couldn’t work up the nerve.

Eventually, the movie ended and I got up to leave, car keys in hand. I fidgeted. I finally said that I had to go and asked, “Where are my car keys?”

Barbara replied, with an edge of suspicion in her voice, “They’re in your hand.”

I lost my courage and left. I had barely gotten a few blocks away when I stopped at a pay phone and called her. She was waiting for my call. I asked if I could come back and talk to her. I returned to her apartment, asked her to marry me, and got an, “I think so,” from her. It wasn’t exactly a yes, but we’ve been married over two decades, so I think I can rightly assume she meant yes.

I would frequently return to Eagle Creek in the early years of my marriage. It was a beautiful place still.

Not having dealt effectively with my same-sex attraction, I struggled to maintain the image Barbara had of me of a man with great self-control, who didn’t ogle women like the other men we knew did. She would often boast to her friends about how her husband never looked at other women in parks or walking down the street. She didn’t know that I was looking, but not at women.

Our marriage was a little rocky, but probably not more so than other couples we knew. Despite everything else, we had firm testimonies and a strong sense of commitment to each other.

I find it to be true that when a difficult issue exists in a person, it cannot be dealt with any other way than through it. It’s possible to repress it for a time, to pretend it doesn’t exist anymore, and in my case, to even forget that it had ever existed. Such a course may seem effective, but it is not likely to last.

Camp Disappointment

I worked as a warehouseman for a grocery/variety store chain. One day, while lifting a large case of cash register tape onto a dock, I injured my back and began three agonizing years of recovery. During that time, I wasn’t able to do my hiking and visit my favorite trail. I was barely able to walk most of the time. After three years of legal battles, poverty, pain, heartache, I won the right to have surgery on my back and retraining as a computer programmer.

At the trade school I attended was a young man who was charismatic and beautiful to look at. I became smitten with him as my repressed same-sex attraction resurfaced with greater power than it had before.

I recommended him for a job with my first programming employer and we began working together. As with most of my problems with same-sex attraction, when it came to men, I had double intentions. A large part of my feelings for this man, whom I will call Albert, was genuine love for him, a desire for his welfare, and my need for an appropriate friend. The other side of it, though, was that I had a full-fledged crush on him.

At first, he was resistent to my appeals for his friendship, but he eventually succumbed. Our relationship was good and strong, but much of it was unhealthy. He was quite unreliable, and his promises often turned to disappointment for me.

I had told him of my love for hiking and camping, and invited him to go camping with me at Eagle Creek. He agreed and we made plans.

In my sick mind, this man was flawless. He could easily disappoint me, because of my high expectations for his time, but I almost felt he could do no wrong. On the night before we were to go camping, he called my house and left a message. The weather report called for rain and he didn’t want to camp in the rain.

He could have done almost anything to me and still held my adoring attention, but to cancel a camping trip because of rain was something I could not possibly respect, especially in soggy Oregon.

A high waterfall plumments from a tributary into Eagle Creek.So disappointed was I, that I proposed that we spend the night at his house and at least hike the trail the next day, if the weather had cleared up. He reluctantly agreed. Barbara was highly suspicious of my motives by this time, and rightly so. She did not know about my same-sex attraction, but felt jealous of my interest and the stock I placed in having Albert’s time and attention. She agreed to the proposition of me spending the night at Albert’s house, even though we barely lived a mile away.

The next day, Albert and I drove to Eagle Creek and started out on our hike. Normally, there would be very few things that could distract me from enjoying the beauty of the high overlooks, the cool shade, the babbling sound, the magnificent vistas, and the towering waterfalls along the Eagle Creek trail, but for Albert, I would have done almost anything. He was a distraction I could not resist. He had a way of looking at me through mesmerizing eyes and melting me to a puddle. I was enthralled to be with him, to listen to his voice, to talk with him of Jesus, and to worship him instead of Jesus. I was earning the consequence of not appreciating Eagle Creek’s beauty that day.

Despite my fallen opinion of him for having cancelled the camping part of our outing, he had won me back easily. It would prove to be the pattern for our entire relationship, until the day he lost his job, probably due to my distractioins.

With Albert gone out of my life, I was broken and lonely. In my despair, I returned to my prayers and scriptures. I knew I could not have Albert back in my life. His last day on the job included a good-bye with a finality that left no room for contact.

Dancing on the Precipice

I began looking for Albert’s replacement and found someone who was enjoyable, but not given to Albert’s longing looks and melting expressions of love.

Since I judged everyone by whether they loved Eagle Creek as much as I did, I invited my new friend to go backpacking up beyond High Bridge with me.

Jeff was someone whom I settled for. Half of the time, I wasn’t even sure he knew my name. He was given to breaking out into loud peels of laughter with no apparent punch line.

We set a date and I packed my pack and found one I could loan him. I arrived at his job after work and we set out for Eagle Creek.

At Eagle Creek, you aren’t allowed to set up camp until after High Bridge, which itself is beyond what I called Pigout Rock. Because of this, if you don’t get to the trail early enough in the day, other backpackers will have taken the first legal camping spot.

As we arrived at the trailhead, it began to drizzle. It was still early enough to make it past High Bridge and be assured we wouldn’t have to trek farther up the trail before sleeping.

My pack was fairly heavy, as usual. I like it that way, because I had fun carrying things I liked having with me. I packed well, making sure my sleeping bag was well guarded from the rain.

Jeff had not packed the borrowed pack well. His sleeping bag, also on loan, hung out. Within a couple of miles, the drizzle had turned into a downpour. The air had grown cool, and the wet packs were all the heavier.

I have always considered myself somewhat of a weakling, so I was easily disappointed by anyone who appeared weaker or more finicky than me. Somewhere after Sorenson Creek joined Eagle Creek, Jeff started to whine.

His pack was heavy. He was wet. He was tired. He had to rest.

I looked at my watch and saw that we had almost no time to get above High Bridge, if we were to get there before dark. I disliked setting up camp in the dark, but even moreso, I despised setting up camp in the rain in the dark, especially when it was unnecessary. All we needed to do was keep going. I wasn’t tired, a wimp like me, so how could this man whom I elevated like I did every man, be tired and whining like this? Didn’t he get it when I said we couldn’t afford to stop?

I stopped anyway. I was the wimp. After all, I was giving in to a wimp, so what did that make me?

I gave him about sixty seconds to catch his breath and then goaded him into continuing.

Two minutes later, he was whining again, so I let him stop. When he started to take off his backpack, I began to hate him.

“We don’t have time for you to take that thing off and put it on again. Leave it on,” I insisted, but it was too late. He’d dropped it to the ground and nearly collapsed on top of it.

After what seemed like forever, amid the noisy rainfall, I was able to convince him to keep going if I would carry his pack as well as my own, so he could keep moving. His pack was all the heavier, owing to the soggy sleeping bag that dangled precariously from the frame.

I had to keep him moving. We were approaching Pigout Rock and just beyond it, the beginning of the gorge over which High Bridge crossed. That part of the trail was treacherously narrow, with a high drop-off and sharp rocks underfoot.

If I had to set up camp in the rain in the dark, I would do so, but I did not want to cross that section in the dark and plummet to my death with both our packs.

Jeff straggling behind me, still whining, I navigated the high cliff trail in the twilight and got us across the cliff, my pack on my back and his carried in front.

I managed to get him to resume responsibility for his pack and hastened along, hoping to get at least a few moments of disappearing dusk in which to gather some dry kindling to start a fire.

We reached the campsite and were pleased to find it available. I tried to get Jeff to either set up the tent or search for dry sticks under the duff. He preferred instead to stand and shiver while I did all the work.

I collected enough dry sticks to get a fire going and set up the tent. Jeff started to throw his sleeping bag into the tent, so he could get inside it. I pointed out to him that it was soaking wet, but he didn’t care. This I couldn’t allow. He could whine all he wanted, I wasn’t going to let him put that bag into the tent until I had dried it by the fire.

Tired of his moaning, I put my dry bag into the tent and let him get into it, only after he changed from his wet clothing.

I cooked us a dinner, dried his sleeping bag, put up a tarp, and changed my own clothing while Jeff cowered in the tent.

You’d think that I would not be attacted to a man like that, but in my desperation and also born out of my frustration, my attraction to Jeff was growing by the minute. Negative emotions, as much as any other, can fuel an obsession, and it was no different for me. I was doing all of this work for him and enabling his peevish behavior for many reasons, not the least of which was my hope to win his love.

Finally, after all the work was done and the rain assuaged, Jeff came out of the tent and I laid out his sleeping bag for him in the tent.

We turned in for the night and I slept well.

I did not fare so well the next morning. I woke up earlier than Jeff. I’ve always been an early waker. Jeff was asleep and I began watching him. I was trying hard to like him, but his whining had sorely disappointed me. Many say that same-sex attraction is born out of envy, but as I lay there looking at Jeff, there was not one thing about him I envied or admired, and yet the physical attraction was mounting as I looked.

Perhaps it was the case that as disappointed I was in him, that part of me still viewed him as being better than me, simply because he wasn’t same-sex attracted. One of the pillars of some of the therapies for helping same-sex attracted men deal with attractions is the suggestion to get to know such a man better, and the attraction should dissipate. It wasn’t working with Jeff. I had gotten to know him, was not impressed, and yet was filled with physical desire for something from him.

What that something was eluded me, because I was not at a place in my life where I consciously admitted to myself about my same-sex attraction. I wanted him to get up. I’m not one to sleep in, and when you’re camping and you have things you want to do, it’s right to get up and get to the business of making breakfast and breaking camp before you do it. To wake Jeff up, I started out by poking at him. Then, I began resorting to tickling him, which made him smile and laugh. He had a loud laugh and I had heard other campers come into the area after we had arrived.

Though his laughter jolted me with fear that someone else would hear, I was so aroused by the activity of tickling him and getting a reaction, that I kept doing it. Suddenly, in a burst of energy I never imagined he possessed, he was on top of me, holding me down and tickling me back.

My arousal was suddenly complete and I thankfully panicked, grabbing him and using my superior strength to throw him off of me as I scrambled out of the tent. He laughed all the louder and came out after me, tickling me until I convinced him to stop. My fears were realized when I saw that a man and his sons had pitched their tent not far from ours and they were all watching us with disdain. I’m sure they surmised we were two gay men having a romp in the woods with each other and I was mortified.

I did my best to be civil to Jeff for the rest of our outing. We hiked higher up the trail to Tunnel Falls, where a rocky trail goes through a tunnel behind a high waterfall. On the way back, as we passed by our campground, I noticed the man with his sons were still there and they turned to watch us suspiciously as we hiked past them.

In the months that followed Albert leaving my life, I gradually stopped looking for a replacement for him. Men like Jeff helped me see that I was looking for something elusive and relatively unimportant.

Punchbowl Falls is a favorite with local hikers. The bare spot to the left is where many hikers jump into the icy waters below.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

It became good to invite men to go hiking up Eagle Creek with me without having it in the back of my mind to attempt a seduction. Such a companion on one of those trips was Steve. Steve was a much younger man that I worked with. When he was a boy, I had been his Sunday School teacher. I had found him to be a thoughtful and intelligent boy then, and he had grown to be somewhat of a prodigy.

He and I planned a trip up Eagle Creek. It was a pleasant time. We had planned to have a separate tent for each of us, but ended up in the same tent together.

I laid down in his tent and we were talking. I must have dozed off, but continued to talk. He made note of some of the strange things I said while falling asleep, something about a seal having come up the trail to visit us. Though it was uneventful, it was something I greatly appreciated. It was nice to be able to enjoy the beauty of the place without all of the baggage.

The Lord’s Scoutmaster

Somewhere during the Albert era, while I was in great turmoil over his fluctuating devotion to me, I was called to be the ward Scoutmaster. It had been a frightening thought, not because of anything but my intense dislike for teenage boys. I had been serving as the ward Sunday School president and all of my experiences trying to get the youth of the ward into class had left me with a bad taste for teenagers. The last thing in the world I wanted to be was a Scoutmaster.

I had to admit that the call came from God, because as I walked along a beach with another friend, I heard the Spirit whisper to me that I would be called to be the Scoutmaster. I argued with that voice, and even though it clearly and unmistakeably said, “I will call you to be my Scoutmaster,” I didn’t want any part of that responsibility.

When the call from the bishop actually happened, I accepted as I always had, but I had a plan. My plan was to be such a terrible Scoutmaster that the parents would call for my replacement. I knew of at least one man in the ward who wanted the job, and for all I cared, he could have it.

At my first summer camp, within a couple of weeks after being called to the position, was a young man named Job. Job and I had a rocky start. It was his father who, as a member of the bishopric, had pushed for me to be the Scoutmaster, and part of me thought that since Job already didn’t like me, I could get a good start on my plan by feeding our incompatibility by being extra demanding of him.

He rebelled as hoped, but somehow his father didn’t flinch in his support of me being the Scoutmaster. I had to work harder to be more unpalatable to the rest of the boys.

Job was actually only 11 at the time, so not part of the main troop.

For the older boys, we had planned a fifty-mile hike, starting at Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood and going north along the Pacific Crest Trail to Wahtum Lake, and down the Eagle Creek Trail to the Columbia River.

I had begun to warm up to the idea of being Scoutmaster and was really looking forward to this trip, especially since Job wasn’t going to be there. At another campout, I had a major dispute with Job over free time and him disappearing for a while to go fishing.

One thing that had really helped me start to get comfortable with being Scoutmaster, and even being Job’s Scoutmaster, was that Job’s father never lost faith in me. Even though it was his son I seemed to be having the most trouble getting along with, when other parents and leaders became frustrated with some of my methods, Job’s father always came to my defense.

As punishment for Job’s disappearance, I banned him from the next campout. His father mildly expressed his displeasure at this tactic and then immediately followed up by saying that he and his son would support me and accept this discipline. The man had true integrity and I admired him for it.

The fifty mile hike began at historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood and descended through some beautiful country. We passed through rocky canyons and high vistas of the landscape beneath the white-capped peak. After descending along a small stream, we crossed one fork of the Sandy River as it flowed from beneath a glacier. On the other side was a wide shelf guarded by an old Forest Service cabin. We went past Ramona Falls, up over another hill, and across the other fork of the Sandy River. The ascent up Bald Mountain and then down to Lolo pass seemed to go on forever.

The trip that far took three or four days, and my muscles ached. I stopped trying to feel clean as I would wash up in the mornings and within ten minutes be drenched with sweat.

The trail winds through trees and spotty sunlight.At Lolo Pass, a paved road passed by our campsite for the night. One of the fathers appeared with milk and brownies. More than half of the boys begged him to take them home, while four of them decided to stay with me–Stephen Dixon, Chris Willoughby, Ben Henwood, and Troy Kerth. Part of me was disappointed, because if they had all decided to abandon the trek, I could have too. Still, I was enjoying being a mountain man. Barbara had always dreamed of being married to a rustic sort of guy and I was becoming the man of her dreams.

The next part of the journey for the stout ones who remained took us up into the Bull Run Watershed, where strict adherence to the trail was required by law. Portland’s drinking water comes from the resevoir and it is jealously protected from any influence that might foul it.

This leg of the journey was to be the most in miles and our desire for a longer rest got the better of us when we discovered that a steep trail would lead us down to the Lost Lake Resort. When the five of us arrived at the resort and sought the use of a group adirondack cabin, I found that my muscles had all hardened into immoveable steel. I could only walk with tiny, slow and excruciating footsteps. As difficult as it was, my desire to wash my hair overpowered the discomfort of movement. I laid down to rest and didn’t get up until morning.

The next morning, my backpack seemed forty pounds heavier. I thought I maybe should have inspected it to see if the boys had pulled one of those legendary pranks where they put rocks in the Scoutmaster’s pack. There were no rocks, though. My pack was only full of my own belongings.

The prospect of returning up that steep trail to the Pacific Crest Trail in the Bull Run Watershed was more than any of us could bear. Our evening’s destination was Wahtum Lake atop Eagle Creek. One could either climb the trail or one could follow a paved road that we believed to be more gradual a climb.

If we had been prone to delay gratification, we would have climbed the steep trail and then enjoyed the mostly level Pacific Crest Trail, but we thought that if we took the mostly level road and then climbed the last bit of road up to Wahtum Lake near the end of the day, we would have arrived unscathed at Wahtum Lake.

Such is the problem with doing the easy part first. It usually isn’t easy, and the hard part is always there waiting.

The road from Lost Lake to Wahtum Lake seemed easy enough at first, but then we realized that we were drinking more water being out under the sun and walking on blacktop than we would have been under the verdant shade of the forest above us. By the time we reached the turnoff for Wahtum Lake, we were out of water and our feet had the beginnings of blisters, caused by the hot sun on the blacktop soaking up into our soles.

There was nothing else to do, but walk. The boys had begun to complain. The road was even steeper than we had imagined, and though we reasoned it was only a mile and a half when we did our computations earlier, we had no idea how a mile and a half of walking on blacktop at a steep grade would feel. I wanted desperately to drop my pack and somehow live without it, but to remove it would have called for stopping and moving muscles other than my warmed up legs.

I believe it to have been a miracle that we made it hours later to the Wahtum Lake campground and descended the long staircase to the lakeside campsite there. Years later, to allow vegetation to regrow, those lakeside campsites were closed.

Our little blisters had grown ten times their size and had burst open. The searing pain of removing my socks made me nearly pass out.

I did my best to take care of my wounded feet and then crumpled onto a log. After a long rest, I slowly set up my tent and got inside. The boys were more resilient than me and they got some playing in before we slept for the last night on the trail.

In the morning, I was rather excited to have reached familiar ground–my old beloved Eagle Creek Trail. The Pacific Crest Trail splits off at that point and travelers can choose one or the other. Most choose Eagle Creek because it is more scenic at that point.

Our rides would be waiting for us late that afternoon at the bottom and we were in a hurry.

Somehow, the joy of being back home (on Eagle Creek Trail) allowed my mind to ascend beyond the now routinely mindless moving of my legs and think about my strange lot as a reluctant Scoutmaster who had begun with disdain for adolescent men. The adversities the five of us had faced seemed to cement us together and I felt a growing realization that I was indeed called of God as Scoutmaster to those boys.

As I walked along, my bleeding feet still hurting, I felt oddly peaceful and turned my mind back to the miraculous day the Spirit warned me I would be Scoutmaster. I had been praying to know how to win over the boys I had originally pushed away and the same voice that whispered to me those months before returned. It’s message was not new, but the emphasis on one word flooded my heart and mind with light. “I will call you to be my Scoutmaster.”

I pondered over that profound thought. When I was called to be the Lord’s Scoutmaster, I was not called to be a Scoutmaster in the Lord’s Church, thus making me his. I was called to be Scoutmaster to the Lord, to conduct myself as if I was a Scoutmaster in the Nazareth First Ward in the first century, given the care and training of a young carpenter’s son. That morning, beneath the trees, with the babbling stream in my ears, I recommitted myself to always ask myself, before dealing with any boy in my troop, “What would I do if this boy was Jesus?”

Though I had to stop a couple of times to repack gauze around my bleeding blisters, my pack was light and my feet seemed to float.

Looking out from Inspiration Point, I saw hills and forests stretch out before me like a future filled with joy and I had hope for myself that I would cease to offend the Lord by neglecting my duty to him and his sons.

Over the following months, I did my utmost to fulfill the commission I received on Eagle Creek Trail at Inspiration Point. I often reminded myself of who it was I was serving, and I even found a heart to love young Job.

These were days before the Boy Scouts of America wisely adopted a two-deep leadership rule, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to take a minimum of two boys on outings. Up until then, almost all of my disputes with Job had been about fishing. I didn’t like fishing and he liked little else.

So, I called one day and invited Job to come with me and one other boy on a hike. Job, to my dismay, said, “Only if I can bring my fishing pole.”

I let go of my stubbornness and said he could.

We hiked first and enjoyed the trail up Wahkeenah Falls and down past Multnomah Falls. After that, Job fished in the stream near the road while the other boy played energetically nearby.

The local seminary teacher had a tradition of giving out points for things like being on time for class and participating. Near the end of each year, she asked the ward members to give items and services for an auction that the youth could bid for.

At the top of a waterfall, a wide rock bench is the perfect place to stop for lunch.I donated an overnight backpacking trip up Eagle Creek trail and was surprised when Job mustered every point he had to win that trip. He and his friend Tim accompanied me up the trail about a mile beyond High Bridge. Job, of course, brought his fishing pole.

There came a time when I needed a new Senior Patrol Leader to go to camp a week early and participate in their excellent training program. I selected Job.

His week there was somewhat traumatic for him. He loved his family and suffered from homesickness. With the prospect of a second week at camp, this time being leader instead of being led, Job was waning in his desire to stay. The newer, younger boys were not too easy on him.

I will always remember, standing in the Blue Spruce campsite at Camp Baldwin, and hearing Job say to me, “Brother Goode, I just want to apologize to you for how I behaved my first year here. Now that I’m in your place, I know how it feels, and I’m so sorry.”

I don’t remember how I answered him, but he did a magnificent job that week.

Not long after that, I was released from my calling as Scoutmaster to be the Elders Quorum President in that ward. Job’s family moved to a neighboring ward, and it became some other Scoutmaster’s task to finish up with Job’s work at receiving his Eagle Scout award.

One night, I got a phone call from Job. He had earned his award and was inviting me to present it to him at a Court of Honor for him.

I stood there, proud and humble at the same time as I handed the award to his father in front of a large gathering of family and friends.

After the ceremony, Job was socializing with the young women in his ward as I passed by and smiled.

Job called after me and came to me. He threw his arms around my neck and pulled me to him.

“Thanks for letting me fish, Brother Goode. I love you.”

Somehow, that embrace seemed like the embrace of a carpenter’s son, and the words pierced my heart.

Stephen Rex Goode


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3 Responses to “Trail of Memories”

  1. Northern Lights » Blog Archive » Setting Up in the Rain and the Dark said:

    […] when he cut off all contact with me. I went looking for a replacement. This is all told in my post, Trail of Memories, under the section, “Dancing on the Precipice”. Rather than rehash it here, I want to […]

  2. Rex Goode » The Longest Nights of Human Experience said:

    […] Pacific Crest Trail from Timberline Lodge down past Lost Lake, Wahtum Lake, and the amazing Eagle Creek Trail. I was just on the Eagle Creek Trail a couple of months […]

  3. Springs Of Water » Hurts So Good said:

    […] ed was Eagle Creek, in the Columbia River Gorge. It is a beautiful hike full of grand vistas and breathtaking waterfalls. (For more about Eagle Creek, see “Trail of Memories“.) […]

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