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Archive for the ‘Waterfalls’ Category

Upper McCord Creek Falls

Upper McCord Creek Falls

Early autumn is a perfect time for hiking in the Pacific Northwest. The bugs have died down, the weather has cooled, but the sun is still shining. And thus my husband, Gary, and I headed out Tuesday to enjoy the outdoors. Looking through 100 Hikes in Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington by William L. Sullivan, I noticed two short (2-3 mile) hikes in the Columbia Gorge, so close to each other that they were together in one entry. Wahclella Falls and Elowah Falls. Despite our proximity to the Columbia Gorge, we’d never hiked either trail. Time to check them out!Columbia Gorge

Elowah Falls, Columbia GorgeThe first one as we drove east through the Gorge (Oregon side) was Elowah Falls–with a bonus falls available (Upper McCord Creek) with a little extra uphill walking. The trail headed gently uphill, becoming a bit steeper on the Upper McCord part. It passed through shady forest, unfortunately close enough to hear the freeway sounds for much of the way, but finally heading back into the woods a bit. The McCord part opened up to a nice view of the Columbia River with Mt. Adams in the distance (I was thankful for the railing here, as the dropoff was steep.) before arriving at a nice, though rather small, waterfall. We explored a bit, then headed back toward Elowah Falls. As we neared the cascade, we could feel the temperature cool, until we came out in the rocky area below the falls, a fine place to rest and enjoy the view.

Elowah Falls hitting the rocks

Elowah Falls hitting the rocks

Elowah Falls itself tumbled down from the cliff like a long, feathery tail, its pattern constantly changing, fascinating to watch.

Wahclella Falls, Columbia Gorge

Wahclella Falls

We left Elowah Falls, deciding to drive the three miles or so to Wahclella Falls and see what it was like. We were glad we did. The Wahclella Falls trail began as a gentle stroll along lovely Tanner Creek. We watched a pair of dippers zipping from rock to rock in the stream, whistling merrily. Sunlight sparkled on the creek, but the path was shady most of the way, a good thing as the afternoon was warming up. The path climbed higher above the creek before dropping back down to the falls area. Which was beautiful. Wahclella Falls poured into a deep pool, which emptied into rambling Tanner Creek. We sat by the falls and ate our PBJ sandwiches, then wandered on–with many photo breaks along the way. Gary had to explore a little cave near the river–apparently it went back quite some ways, but wasn’t high enough for easy exploration. We meandered on through the rocky little valley, across the creek and back up to the main trail. It is a hike I certainly plan to return to–a little gem I am so glad we discovered.

Cave near Wahclella Falls

Cave near Wahclella Falls

Amazing that we can live in one area for so many years and yet miss out on nearby places of beauty. Why had we never thought to hike those trails before? It’s a reminder to me to watch for beauty all around, for even the familiar places we take for granted may be wondrous if we keep our eyes and hearts open.

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fern, mossy tree, Falls Creek Falls Trail, WALast month my husband and I stayed at Paradise Creek Campground along the Wind River in SW Washington–a gorgeous place to stay and enjoy nature. I wrote this review of a hike we took, and I am now finally posting it. Better late than never!

The Falls Creek Falls Trail began quietly, through woods filled with ferns and mossy trees. Not as many flowers as the Observation Peak hike, but plenty of twin flowers, salal, and Oregon grape–the last no longer in bloom. We climbed gradually, following the splashing creek and working our way to the falls. The last third of a mile to the falls climbed more steeply before dropping a bit to a wonderful viewpoint. A refreshing breeze hit my sweaty face as we approached, and I was ready to drop onto one of many rock “chairs” to enjoy the view and rest in Creation’s beauty.Falls Creek, WA

The falls itself consisted of three cascades, but only two could be seen from the viewpoint. The upper of the two spread out with many fingers of water tumbling down the rock face. The fingers joined together into one long cascade as the lower falls crashed into a shaded, rocky pool surrounded by green moss. We ate our lunch here, joined by a cheeky chipmunk looking for handouts. We gave him a couple of nuts and a blueberry, figuring those were natural foods for a chipmunk. He ignored the berry, but stuffed the nuts into his cheek and scrambled off to eat.

Falls Creek Falls, WAAfter a rest we headed up–and I do mean up–to the Upper Falls Trail. The connecting trail was steep, but just a warm-up for the trip to the top of the falls. What a relief when we made it to the top. A nice view, but nothing comparing to Observation Peak. Still the trails around it were nice–level paths through open woods with sunlight and lots of green plants. A pleasant change from the grueling uphill to get there.Lower falls, Falls Creek Falls, WA

As we headed back down the steep, narrow trail, the squeal of brakes warned me that a mountain biker was behind us. How he made it safely down that treacherous trail I don’t know. but tracks we noticed on the way up indicated he wasn’t the only one.

The upper loop back was far from the cool stream, and the heat of the day increased until I felt my body could easily replace a room radiator, and sweat dripped off my hair. When we reached the trailhead, I collapsed into the truck and flipped on the air conditioner. Okay, I’m spoiled, I know. But it certainly felt good!

Falls Creek rapidsFalls Creek Falls Trail is a beautiful hike, but my recommendation for all but those working on stamina training: stop at the falls. It’s the highlight of the trip, and the Upper Falls Trail adds little to it. Is there a metaphor for life here? Not sure. Maybe just that effort and reward are not always equal.

 

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Multnomah Falls, OregonLiving just east of Portland, Oregon places us in close proximity to a couple of top Oregon destinations: Mt. Hood and the Columbia Gorge. Thus when we had a brief visit from a Japanese friend, who wanted to see the forest, those two options came to mind. The Gorge is closer and warmer this time of year, so we settled on a trip to Multnomah Falls.

Crown Point and Columbia Gorge, Oregon

We hoped to take the old Columbia Gorge Highway, which winds through the woods and past several waterfalls, but that was not to be. A “Road Closed” sign greeted us near the Larch Mountain turn off. We had to be content with viewing Crown Point from the distance.

Wahkeenah  FallsOver to I-84 we drove, and east toward the falls. We tried a turnoff a mile or so before the Multnomah Falls parking lot and were rewarded by a view of Wahkeenah Falls on our way to Multnomah. We spent a few minutes beside that beautiful little falls cascading down the hill.

Then on to the biggie. Multnomah Falls had, as usual, lots of visitors snapping family photos in the mist near the falls, hiking up to the bridge, paying outrageous prices at the snack bar, and buying souvenirs in the lodge. We joined those hiking beyond the bridge, enjoying the rare sunny December day. We stopped to admire the powerful Columbia River below and enjoy views of the falls through the trees. So much water: truly an Oregon gift. We may not always appreciate the rain, but it does help create this beauty. I wouldn’t trade it for all the sunshine in California. (Or even Australia…)Multnomah Falls

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And now for another waterfall hike!

After a few gray, rainy days, the sun burst out on Wednesday. Perfect timing, as my brother was in town, and we all (brother, husband, and I) wanted to go hiking. So out the Columbia Gorge we headed, winding along the old highway past Multnomah Falls, with its usual crowds, on to Horsetail Falls, where the hike begins.

We started at Lower Horsetail Falls. I watched a car stop in the middle of the road in front of the falls. A young man hopped out, struck a pose, then jumped back in the car after the picture was snapped. Silly tourists.

Like most hikes around here, this one began with an uphill climb. However, the breeze blew cool and refreshing, giving me energy to keep going, even when the menfolk disappeared around the bend. I enjoyed the lush woods, the ferns growing thick on the hillsides, and the tall trees shading the path. I had fun testing my new camera, a Canon Rebel DSLR T3i, on sights big and small.

After a few switchbacks, we came to a fairly level stretch, a nice place to catch my breath and watch the sunlight flickering through the maples. Soon Upper Horsetail Falls loomed up ahead through the trees. The trail went right behind the falls—what fun!

Next we descended toward the Oneonta Gorge, crossed by a footbridge. We paused to stare down into the deep canyon and at another falls pouring through the narrow banks. Then back up again, out of the gorge and uphill for another mile to reach Triple Falls, a picture-perfect place for lunch. Sunshine, a cooling breeze, a crashing waterfall: what more could we ask for?

It was all downhill after that, an easy ramble to the old highway, a walk along the road and through a tunnel back to Horsetail Falls. A beautiful day for a beautiful hike!

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