Category Archives: Waterfalls

Elk Cove and More

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My vacation is winding down, so I really wanted a wilderness experience.  As I get older, I seem to have fewer and fewer of them, and that’s a shame.   I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, but yesterday I sought to rectify that absence and headed to the north side of the highest mountain in Oregon.  The drive is long but the hike is shorter and easier than many approaches.

From the Vista Ridge Trailhead, the trail goes through half a mile of typical Cascade forest, then emerges into a charred landscape left over from the Dollar Lake fire in 2011.   The underbrush is thriving, but here are few trees left alive over ten feet tall.  Lots of silvery trunks make for an odd atmosphere, but I find it fascinating.   Once I climbed out of that in a couple miles, the wildflowers started dotting the sides of the trail. I’d worried I was late, but not at all.   Once I hit the Timberline Trail, I had a quick decision to make about finding a campsite.  I chose to seek a new spot in Elk Cove, a big open meadow below the steep slopes of Mount Hood abutted by the massive talus slopes of Barrett Spur.

Once I made camp, I snacked and headed out on a hike to points east.  Three stream crossings later, a couple of which are tricky, I made it to a nice set of rocky slabs above Compass Creek Falls.  It’s hard to get a straight-on view of the falls, because it’s below the trail.  I found a nice flat rock and napped briefly in the sunshine.  Sleeping in the sun feels like vacation.

The flowers along the trail kept surprising me.   Yellow, lavender, red, white, pink, orange.  It’s such a treat to catch the mountainsides bedecked in coat of many colors.  My walk back to camp was uneventful other than starting to see a lot more people.   It was a good day.

My only disappointment was when I realized my camp was too far in the shadow of a massive ridge to see the comet Neowise, but that was a small price to pay for the lovely vista I had while eating a mediocre freeze dried dinner.  An early evening ramble along a user path in the meadows let me see a different perspective of creek and flowers and mountain above.  I took a series of photos and eventually wandered back to my tent feeling intoxicated by the beauty of the area.

I woke early today and headed out, knowing I had business to attend to at home, but also knowing my legs might not be up for another side trek.  I am already thinking about my next visit to the area.

 

 

Dry Creek Falls

Hello! It’s been a minute. Or two years, but hey, who counts?  I have been spending more time on Instagram as I’ve been trying to really learn photography.  Check it out if you like. @joshbakerwriter.  So it may seem a bit ironic that I am back on the blog using only cell phone shots. Ha ha. Life is funny. My wife and I spent some time out in the Columbia River Gorge this week.  There are so many pretty places out there. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many popular trails are closed, but we still found some great spots.

Dry Creek Falls is roughly a 4.5 mile round trip hike from Cascade Locks.  The forest shows signs of the Eagle Creek Fire in the first half, yet it still manages to be green in both the canopy and the ground cover.  The slopes are steep but the trail is not.  This is an easy hike for the two miles or so to the small babbling brook that is Dry Creek.   The falls are a few hundred yard up a side trail.   Yes, it’s worth it.

If you are looking for additional exercise opportunities in the area, consider a walk around Blackberry Beach or a ride on the nearby mountain bike trails.  One could also put in their kiteboard on the Columbia there. Whatever your flavor, Cascade Locks probably has it.   Have fun out there, and stay safe.

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Columbia River Gorge Tour #2

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The creek below Wahkeena Falls

Initially, Denise and I headed for Latourell Falls.  The sky was foggy, the temperature cool, so I was not overly excited, but I wanted to stretch my legs and take some photos with my new camera.   Once we got on the scenic highway at Corbett, plans evolved.  We stopped at first great viewpoint,  known as the Portland Women’s Forum Viewpoint.  Not a bad seat in the joint.  I’d never been to the far end to the parking lot before, with slightly better views of the river and a classic look at Crown Point.  From there, we drove to the nearby Vista House atop Crown Point, then dropped into the trees on the winding road to the first big falls of the Gorge.

For a few reasons, we didn’t set out on a real hike at Latourell Falls, which I’ve previously documented on this site.  Instead, we strode up the first steep pitch to a nice viewpoint of the falls, then turned back.  I was thinking Shepperd’s Dell would be our next spot, but I forgot all about Bridal Veil Falls State Park!  Silly me.  It isn’t dramatic from the road, but this is a hidden gem with two very different trails.  Since Denise had not seen the river overlook trail, we skipped the waterfall trail and ambled about the meandering flat trail.  There are views of the mighty Columbia in both directions, and great head-on looks at the Washington side of the Gorge in the Cape Horn area.

Shepherd’s Dell is not much of a spot to hike, but it has a cool falls, which is made more mysterious by upper reaches I’d never before noticed.   The watercourse almost corkscrews. Cascades are visible through the trees along the highway which are invisible from the trail itself.   This is a great little spot for a rest.

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Wahkeena Falls

Like its big brother Multnomah Falls, Wahkeena Falls is a popular spot, and with good reason.  The falls is not one clean plunge, but a couple of horsetails and a cascade below to boot.  The base of the main falls is easily accessible by paved trail.

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Fern gully

Knowing this, we cruised up there.  It only takes a few minutes.   I was impressed by the flow and the breeze which that created.  I didn’t dally long by the falls proper, but continued past.  We hiked up about 11 switchbacks to Lemmon Viewpoint, which took perhaps 20 minutes.  I didn’t remember how tough the trail was, but it was easy, and the views were great.  It was a nice capper to another great tour of the Columbia River Gorge.

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Lemmon Viewpoint and Washington

Note:  In double checking spellings of a couple waterfalls, I stumbled on a cool site for waterfall lovers, Northwest Waterfall Survey.  I knew a number of the names, like Ecola and Mist, but was not aware of Dalton, Little Necktie, and a few others.   Just when I needed new ideas for local exploration!  Happy hikes, everyone.

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East to Beacon Rock

 

 

 

Off the Beaten Path Waterfall Stash

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On the hike up, I enjoy geology on parade

 

I just wanted to get out of the city on a hot afternoon. Without meaning to, however, I found a series of tiny cascades in the Columbia River Gorge.  The primary trail I hiked ends in a nice spot, but ever inquisitive, I wanted to see what was around the corner.  I continued up the bedrock of the stream.  There were a couple of herd paths around logs and tiny cliffs, but it was almost as easy to clamber over rocks and logs, or simply hike in the very shallow water.  Every turn offered a new gorgeous scene, with water, rock, greenery, and sky all vying for my attention.

Many of the spots seemed more dramatic due to the volcanic rock over which the water flowed, and on which I trod.  Eventually, I sat on a mossy boulder at one point and simply took it all in, walking down only after I’d enjoyed the quiet canyon for almost an hour. It may seem strange to not mention the name of the trail, but I’d like to keep this a hidden gem.  What about you?  Do you have special places in the wild you would prefer to keep secret?

It’s Not just for Hiking Anymore

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View from my office this afternoon

It has been far too long since I wrote a significant post.  I could have  posted about this hike or that, yet my life isn’t that simple.  I work more than 40 hour a week, and I have other interests besides hiking.  Shocking, I know.  I learned today that I won a juried photography contest (a shot from a local hike), I have been working on a collection of poetry, and I am trying to attend musical events when I have the energy for local heroes and national stars alike. An ingrown toenail is also a big reason I have put off big hikes.  I know, excuses, excuses.  Enough about that.  Let’s go somewhere!

 

This morning, I helped hang an art show which will benefit Alzheimer’s research, then caught a lunchtime concert by Franco Paletta and the Stingers, a summertime series of outdoor shows in the park by our neighborhood library.  An outdoor adventure seemed like great way to top the day.  I decided on the kayak, and went for a jaunt upstream on the Willamette, paddling solo past Elk Rock Island, taking in a view of scrubby cliffs, including what in the winter is a sizeable waterfall but is now little more than a trickle bound in slimy green verge.

Then I met Mr. Heron.  He eludes me much of the time. When I’ve walked along the bank to capture his image, he spooks and flies away in that dinosaur way.  In the kayak, however, I got within thirty feet from two directions.  He seemed curious but never left the spot behind a giant log in the rocky shallows.

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The shoreline crags of Elk Rock Island were teeming with swimmers and fisherfolk, and I was glad to have a view of that rocky world rather than be among them.  The river itself had occasional wakeboarders and tubing boats, yet it still seemed serene. A new perspective is almost always a good thing.  Look for more water adventures in the future.  Happy summer.

Gorge’s Greatest Hits: The Oregon Side

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It was a long week at work and I was exhausted, so I was slow moving yesterday morning.  In the afternoon, however, D. and I headed out for a Gorge exploration in my new vehicle.  We ended up hitting on a Gorge tick list of sorts, starting with the short hike to Bridalveil Falls, and ending in Hood River for a pint on a patio.  We had our son’s new dog, which kept things interesting but fun.  There were lots of clouds on the west end of the gorge, and we walked in the rain a bit at Bridalveil Falls, but we saw sunshine as we neared Hood River.  At Starvation Creek Falls and Mitchell Point it seemed especially bright.  It was a good afternoon and evening, reminding me how much I have to be thankful for.  I am a lucky man, indeed.

 

Finding the Rock of Ages

Looking east

Looking eastbound and down…

 

To heck with waiting for sunny skies.  It was time to climb.  So it was that I headed out the gorge last weekend, rain gear in tow.  I headed for a trail that is slightly off the radar for most hikers.  The Rock of Ages trail is unofficial.  It veers off of the Horsetail Falls trail just before Ponytail Falls, a nice hike I’ve documented in this cyberspace before.  What I couldn’t decide was how far to hike.  The views would come relatively early, but the trail continues for miles.  Because it is unmaintained, some of the route is a bit rough.  It felt steep and slick, with poor footing on occasion.  Of course, the ground and foliage were wet.  Under dry conditions, footing would have been much better.  As it was, I slipped a few times, falling on my backside at least once.   Keeping it interesting.

The route splits a couple times after rising above the top of Ponytail falls.  I took the first unmarked junction and headed for the ridge to the left.  Through the Douglas firs, there were a few nice views, but this was not what I came for.  Onward, upward to the Rock.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I was briefly concerned about my route, but it all worked out.

Rock of Ages is an arch of volcanic rock perched on the rim of a steep forested ridge in the middle of the one of the prettiest areas of the Northwest.  Emerging from the forest, one first sees a sort of steep amphitheater, decked in various hues of green and flecks of gold from the stands of alder and maple far below.   Then there is the arch, large enough to walk through to the cliff’s edge, where hikers can look out over the gorge and the massive Columbia River.  My eyes were drawn along the line of cliffs extending to the east, including St. Peter’s Dome, and across the river, the massive plug of Beacon Rock.  Even on a gray day, the views were amazing.

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After photographs and some philosophical contemplation, I continued upwards.  Shortly I found a rockpile to scramble which gave a new perspective on the area.  More fantastic vistas of rock and river.  From there, I headed into the woods, unsure how far I would get.  The way was not clear at multiple points, and I had to be careful, steep as it was.   One of my trekking poles broke after an especially firm use. It appeared I would then have to traverse a steep slope below a spiny ridge.  I knew the best part of the hike had probably already passed. It was misting steadily, and although I was not uncomfortable, I worried about my footing.  When hiking solo, especially off the beaten path, I try to minimize risks.  I decided to turn back, happy with what I’d already seen, but already planning a return on a drier day.

 

Aqueous Veil of the Bride

Bridalveil Falls

Bridalveil Falls

Ho hum, another waterfall run.   The Bridalveil exit off Highway 84 eastbound signals the beginning of the Columbia River Gorge.  It offers immediate access to the old highway and a high density of mountain and waterfall hikes.   Bridalveil Falls had escaped my attention until recently.  A short downhill hike takes one to a viewpoint of the falls pouring into a pretty little canyon and a babbling stream.  For some reason, I only took a few similar photos.  Oh well.  Nice spot.

Back at the trailhead, a mostly paved path leads to bluffs overlooking the Columbia River.   I realized I’d seen the railings on the these bluffs from the highway, but never knew how to access them.  Now I know.

Multiple layers of lava rock: Washington

Multiple layers of lava rock: Washington

For some reason, I took a lot more photos on this casual walk than when I saw the waterfall.  Across the river, there is a cool perspective on the volcanic layer cake of the Washington side.  It’s funny to realize a railroad and highway are squeezed in there.

Just one of many moss covered promontories

Just one of many moss covered promontories

Great views are in abundance, especially to the west, with Sand Island in the river and Crown Point looming in the background.   Both of those spots I had seen recently from a different perspective on my Rooster Rock venture.  This was a nice visual cross reference.

Sand Island in the Columbia

Sand Island in the Columbia

The views are more open than most in the Gorge, and with little effort expended, so that was a treat.  An origami mobile hanging from a tree at one viewpoint prompted curiosity.    Who would have gone to such efforts and why?

Oregon origami, oh my!

Oregon origami, oh my!

Both paths at Bridalveil offer great walks for those who don’t want to put forth a great deal of effort, yet still want some great views.  For an introduction to the west end of the Gorge, one could hardly do better.

A Five Falls Loop at Silver Falls State Park

I hadn’t been to Silver Falls State Park in almost 20 years, somewhat pathetic considering it is Oregon’s largest state park at 9000 acres.  The park boasts many waterfalls, and one hike connects most of the big ones.  I headed there this afternoon to see some of these falls. I didn’t have time for the entire Trail of Ten Falls, but I created a loop hike of my own that visited 5 falls.  In the early afternoon I parked at the North Falls Trailhead. The small lot was close to full, so I felt lucky to get a spot.

My first waterfall was Upper North Falls.  It is less than a quarter mile up a spur trail that is virtually flat.  The falls are 65 feet high in broad punchbowl formation.  It’s not the most dramatic waterfall, but it is very pretty setting, and the large pool below was surely tempting for the swimming-inclined.

Downhill the trail splits, and I opted for the Canyon Trail rather than the Rim Trail, on which I would later return.  Shortly there was a view from above of the North Falls.  It is a good sized beast at 136 feet, and the trail starts higher than the top  Thus I found myself descending a considerable set of stairs a switchback before sliding behind the falls.  Way behind.  Approximately 50-60 feet of horizontal rock extend overhead from the trail as I gawked at the falls. Not too shabby. That’s when my camera died.  Brilliant.  I took only mediocre cell phone shots from there to the end.

I spend some time at North falls, then motored onward. There is a junction a bit over a mile down the fern and fir coated canyon.  For now, I moved past, barely spying the relatively diminutive Twin Falls around a rocky corner. I opted to continue to Middle North Falls and was pleased with the choice.  The main trail did not go behind the falls, but a side trail did, and only a few people wandered down there, making it a very peaceful setting. After relaxing and enjoying the views for a while, I retraced my steps to the last junction from there.  The side trail climbed a side drainage to the barely-there Winter Falls.  A short distance above that, Above that, I veered left on the Rim Trail, which headed to the North Falls Trailhead through a beautiful forest with a couple of great views toward North Falls.  Another great afternoon in the woods.

Great Falls of the Potomac

Here is a simple plug for a spot to hike and picnic if you are near the District of Columbia.  The Potomac River splits Virginia and Maryland, and a great falls crashes along for hundreds of yards.  When I visited there with my family recently, I also saw kayakers playing in the froth, and climbers scaling the taller riverside crags.  Do not expect much solitude, but visit expecting a unique spot close to the nation’s capitol.

Great Falls