Friday, June 23, 2017

Strawberry Island.

One of my favorite things about living in the Pacific Northwest is how even after almost ten years of living here and what feels like countless hikes, there are still new gems to find and explore. Strawberry Island, in the middle of the Columbia right at the foot of the Bonneville Dam, feels like one of those places. Before finding it online the night before, I had never even heard of it; the only other souls I saw while I was there were some fishermen on its perimeter; and goddamn was it lovely.

Finding these kinds of little-known treasures is especially joyful these days when so many of the popular areas and hikes are getting overrun as our population booms. I realize I'm part of that population boom, but I am all for trying to limit parking at Dog Mountain, or new rules trying to curb crowds at Opal Creek and Detroit Lake. Too many people is not only irritating, but often dangerous, and almost certainly harmful to the land and wildlife. There are definitely reasons why the areas that are so popular are so popular, but there is so much else to explore! Seriously. Didn't see a single other hiker here.

The trailhead for Strawberry Island is located behind a baseball field in the tiny town of North Bonneville, off of Highway 14 on the Washington side of the Gorge. (Pro tip: If you just type Strawberry Island into your Google Maps--which is technically called Hamilton Island, but Strawberry Island is way more fun to say--it will take you to a parking area near the dam that appears to be primarily for fishermen. While this is also close to the trail, the actual trailhead is most easily accessed in the town.) As soon as you take a few steps, you get the feeling of this hike: wide open fields surrounded by views of the Gorge on either side of you. And it is just utterly pleasant.


This is a nice, peaceful 2.8 mile stroll, almost entirely flat, which made it the perfect walk for my rusty hiking muscles. No crazy drop-offs or rocky terrain also made it easy to walk with two energetic puppers. But it was still a decent enough walk to make you feel like you had accomplished something by the end.


Other pluses of this trail: even in mid-June, there were a ton of wildflowers, and quite a variety, too. And I am a sucker for wildflowers.






Last big plus: The trail is extremely well marked. I started by trying to closely follow the directions on Oregon Hikers Guide, as I often do, but then realized I could just put my phone away and follow the markers, which immediately made the stroll much more relaxing. Even signs for the trailhead are well-marked in town once you get off the highway. Well done, North Bonneville!


Once you complete the first long straight stretch, you can keep going straight through some forestation for a viewpoint of Beacon Rock through some trees. While the viewpoint itself was fine, I mostly enjoyed it for some shade, and for the feeling of being at the very tippy point of the island! There are some benches scattered along the trail, although a few of them are very overgrown. 


Halfway through the loop, there is a slight incline where the trail also gets wider and more gravelly, and here at a higher elevation is where you really get lovely views of both Beacon Rock and Hamilton Mountain on the Washington side.


Here you're walking right alongside the Columbia, and straight ahead you'll see the Bonneville Dam and the parking for fishermen. The trail starts to curve around at this big rock that looks like it's smiling at you, and after that the trail gets slightly more boring, but you're in the final stretch. Once you pass the backyards of a few houses, you'll know you're close to the ball field and the trailhead.


Lesson learned: Bring sunscreen!

Highlight: Feeling like this was exactly the right kind of hike I was looking for for my first hike of the season. Also, getting to take lots of great selfies with the dogs.


Info: From Portland, you can take I-84 to the Bridge of the Gods in Cascade Locks and then turn left towards Vancouver. Drive just a few miles until you see the sign for North Bonneville, by a gas station. Since crossing the Bridge of the Gods will cost you $2, though, you can also just take Highway 14 on the Washington side, which is what I did. Slightly curvier and slower, but still a lovely drive. Once you turn into North Bonneville, turn right onto the main road, following signs for the ball fields. No fees.

Post-hike chowdown: This hike was close enough to Portland--around an hour's drive--that I didn't need to stop anywhere to eat, but since this is close to Cascade Locks if you do take the Oregon route, I will once again mention the Eastwind Drive-In, a must stop. Cheesy potato rounds, man. Do it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

PCT 2016: Thoughts and fears.

Hello, little hiking blog! I have so much to say to you! 

I know we haven't talked in a long while, but it's two and a half weeks until I leave for 400 miles of the Oregon PCT all at once, and while my friends have been so kind and encouraging in listening to my PCT thoughts and fears, having a neutral place like you to really just LET IT ALL OUT, YOU KNOW? might be helpful.

Also! I have done SO MANY great hikes in the last six months as part of my PCT "training," and during most of them I've said to myself, "Man, I'm going to get back home and write all about this trail for that hiking blog I always mean to write in so I can remember every bit of this," aaaand I never do.

But for posterity, some of my favorites have been (pictured below in this order):
  • Cape Falcon, on the Oregon Coast
  • Wildwood Trail in Forest Park, Portland (all 30+ miles of it!)
  • Falls Creek Falls in Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington
  • Saddle Mountain in the Coast Range
  • Cascade Head, on the Oregon Coast
  • Mosier Plateau, on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge
  • Coyote Wall/The Labyrinth, on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge
  • Hamilton Mountain, in Beacon Rock State Park in Washington
  • Tom, Dick, and Harry Mountain in Mt. Hood National Forest

And that's not even all the hikes I've done, just my favorites! I have seen a lot of cool things and LET'S JUST ADMIT IT, I am pretty badass.

Some of those were tough, some were longer than any other day hikes I've done before, some I carried my very heavy pack on for practice. BUT the fact remains that I've never done a long distance thru hike like I'm about to do with the PCT. So let's talk about some of the things I'm anxious about! 

I should say the list of things I'm excited about exceeds this list, I think, which is why I think getting this list out of the way first is important. I am afraid:
  • That I will fall. That I will fall a lot. I had a hard fall on the Hamilton Mountain hike that fucked up one of my ankles for a while and made a huge bruise/hard bump on my shin that is JUST just starting to go away after a month and a half. I went on a hike yesterday where I fell twice and my body feels a little broken. So, this is not an unfounded fear. I don't know if I just have lazy feet or what, but I know when I fall on the PCT, I won't be able to take rest days to heal like I can with day hikes, so hopefully none of my falls will be too traumatic.
  • That I will forget to bring something really important, or bring the wrong things. I am particularly worried about this in regards to clothing.
  • That I will be generally bad at setting up/breaking down camp / look fairly stupid with my gear in general. I am by no means a gear head and most of the supplies I need for this trip I've bought brand new and am just learning how to use properly.
  • That my pack will be too heavy and I'll hate it and be miserable.
  • That I will miss Kathy too much.
  • That I will be hungry all the time. And miss real food too much.
  • That I will miss my animals too much.
  • That I will miss my general "real life" too much.
  • That I will run out of water at points, or that I will fuck up or lose my water filter somehow.
  • That Cliff, my hiking companion, will tire of my company after a while.
  • That the landscape will be that Cascade alpine and/or high desert landscape, dry and sandy and hot, the entire time, and that I will get tired of it and long for the rainforests and waterfalls of the Gorge and the Coast.
  • That fjording streams or crossing snow patches will be scary.
  • That I will shit or bleed all over myself at some point. JUST BEING REAL HERE PEOPLE.
  • That it will rain a lot when I'm not expecting it to rain much at all.
  • That the mosquitoes will drive me crazy.
  • That I won't be able to finish the entire thing.
  • Bees.
  • That sleeping alone in my tent at night may be scary sometimes. Mainly because of bears.
  • Bears.
Phew! That felt good. Now I can focus on the awesome. *brushes shoulders off*

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Silver Falls / The Trail of Ten Falls.

Silver Falls is my happy place. The largest state park in Oregon, driving into it drapes the same deep sense of calm and happiness over me that entering a national park does. 

Once navigating into the right parking lot at the South Falls entrance (there are a lot of parking lots--it can be a bit confusing), there's this wonderfully grandiose sign welcoming you to the South Falls Historic District, like you're about to enter a town or something, but really there's just an equally grandiose lodge and a little gift shop. It is all very WPA-y, and we all know how I love the WPA. Thanks for all the good times, FDR.

Foxgloves across from the lodge.

There's a viewpoint from the top of South Falls here, and then the Canyon Trail begins, dipping down rapidly to take you to the bottom of these falls. And here is the point where you can NO LONGER BRING DOGS. If you've brought a dog with you, just ditch them here! Or you could be a rebel and take them with you, although FYI, Silver Falls is a busy place and there are rangers around like whoa. Or you could also just research your trip beforehand and realize that dogs aren't allowed before you leave your house. This was my course of action, but many other people at the trail head opted not to do this and were quite grumpy about the anti-dog forces of the universe.

On the day that I hiked Silver Falls this month, I was on a mission and tried to run by South Falls and subsequent Lower South Falls as fast as I could. One, because it was REALLY crowded, one of the first times I've ever been slightly annoyed by other people on the trail. Normally, I'm one of those peeps that actually finds other trail trekkers comforting, especially when I'm walking alone. The other reason for my rush was that I'd already seen these falls before. But still, rushing past was an arrogant move on my part, because these two falls are absolutely spectacular, and you should stop to wonder at them each time you see them.

See the little people along the fence? That's how big this sucker is!

South Falls is one of those glorious waterfalls that you can walk behind, a classic Northwest thing that never gets old to me. And then after a bit of walking and some stairs--which can be kind of treacherous, be careful! You might almost slip and twist your ankle while two old ladies pass you by, not that this happened to me!--you arrive at Lower South Falls, which is not quite as dramatic as South Falls but still takes your breath away because it's just so pretty.



You walk behind this one too, duh, but the path behind this one is narrower and tends to be much more wet than the rest. This month Oregon is in a state of drought and it hasn't rained in for-ever and our snowpacks are sad and pathetic, but the path behind this waterfall was still all deep puddles. But on a related note, know that in all my photos, the waterfalls and streams would be much more robust in higher water season.

After this I stopped to breathe a bit. The reason I was in such an arrogant hurry was that I'd done this part before--twice. After these falls and a bit more walking, you have the option to return to the parking lot via the Maple Ridge Trail. Don't get me wrong, this loop is still a totally worthy hike. It works out to be around two miles, and Maple Ridge is almost all uphill all the way so it definitely gets your blood bumping.

But this time I was determined to do the whole thing--The Trail of Ten Falls, the reason this park is so popular. Finally doing the whole loop was sort of a present to myself for finishing my first year at my new job. So I kept on left to continue to the next waterfall. This portion of the trail was perhaps the quietest of the whole trail in terms of other hikers, and it stays pretty flat and calm, following Silver Creek. I was really in my happy place here.


After quite a bit of this, the next batch of falls come all in a bunch and while I was excited to document each and every waterfall at the beginning, to be honest, they all started to blend together after a bit. I started asking myself, "Wait, what number waterfall was that?? Six? Seven? What's this one called??" before eventually realizing I didn't care that much. They were all pretty.

Lower North Falls.

To get to Double Falls, you have to take a very short trail off the main path, but it really only takes five or ten extra minutes so you should do it. Somewhere among these smaller waterfall stops, there's also a very Memorable Tree on the trail. In my opinion, every hike should have a Memorable Tree. And this is a good one! 

Trees, man!

Twin Falls was pretty much impossible to see from the main trail, unless you wanted to go off trail and really get up in there, which I'm never too fond of doing because I am boring and scared. And then after that, it's onwards to North Falls, the other falls that people really come to the park to see. In the stretch between Twin Falls and North Falls, though, the trail becomes narrow and slightly unkempt, at least at this time of year, completely taken over by salmonberry bushes. 

Really, the whole trail was overtaken with salmonberry bushes, and herein I learned what a salmonberry was. As I kept passing them I thought they were golden raspberries, even though they tasted kind of weird, but then at least three different people I passed talked about "all the salmonberries!" Congratulations, Pacific Northwesterners! Aren't you just soooooo good at nature!

The unripe ones were quite tart; the ripe ones tasted much more like blueberries than raspberries. So anyway, overall these were enjoyable to see and taste, but in this stretch, you were literally pawing your way through them, and all the billions of spiders and other bugs that probably reside in them, and it was not the best.

Salmonberries, with North Falls in the background.

Once I got to North Falls, though, all the trampling through salmonberries was worth it. While not quite as high or majestic as South Falls, the thing about walking behind North Falls is that the amphitheater of rock is so huge and deep that it's truly overwhelming. Here are some of my attempts at capturing it:

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
I HOPE THE EARTHQUAKE OF THE CENTURY DOESN'T HAPPEN RIGHT NOW. OR MAYBE THIS IS A GOOD PLACE TO BE IN AN EARTHQUAKE? I DON'T KNOW. I AM SCARED ABOUT THE EARTHQUAKE.

This is where the canyon section of the loop ends, which means you have to, you know, walk up out of the canyon. This meant stairs. Now, along with being bad at keeping track of the number of falls I was seeing, I was also bad at keeping track of the mileage of this trail, maybe because my guide book told me this loop was 6.8 miles but all the signs said it was 8 miles? I don't know, whatever, I think I'd hiked 4 to 5 miles at this point, after not going on a real hike for a few months, and I was getting tired. So when I saw these stairs I said some not-so-nice words to them, even though I knew it wasn't their fault.


Looking back on the trail map, it looks like there's supposed to be another trail from here that leads to Upper North Falls, which I must have missed. So maybe I only saw nine falls and not ten. I guess this means I just have to go back sometime, which is fine with me. But I still completed a long ass loop so I'm still counting it as doing the whole thing, goshdarnit!

There's a large parking lot by North Falls, so if you don't have time to do the whole loop, seeing these falls is still easy. Or if you have been on the trail for a while and you're tired or broke your leg or are currently being chased by a hive of bees, you can get off the trail at this point and call a friend to come pick you up, by the off chance you have a friend with a car that happens to be near Silver Falls State Park. But if completing the loop, take a sharp right right before the parking lot to continue up to the Rim Trail.

The Rim Trail (where you CAN take dogs, FYI!) is pretty straight and narrow back to the parking lot. It follows the main road pretty much the whole time, so the nearby traffic takes you pretty solidly out of the alone-in-nature hike feel. And while this section is still pretty, parts of it were so straightforward that I actually started to get bored and anxious to reach the end. But after the up and downs of the canyon, my legs at least appreciated it.


Lesson learned: While I attributed it to my out-of-shape hiking legs, I stumbled quite a few times over rocks on the Canyon Trail. This would be a good hike to wear actual hiking boots on. Meaning, I need to buy actual hiking books.

Highlight: The amphitheater behind North Falls. And the sense of accomplishment of doing the whole thing!*

Info: From Portland, you can arrive here by taking I-5 South towards Salem, or taking I-205 to 213, which in my opinion is the much more scenic route. Either route takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours from PDX. I started my loop at the South Falls parking lot, but it can also be started from the North Falls parking lot. There is a $5 parking fee, which you pay at a machine that takes cards or cash. I highly recommend actually paying this fee, as I saw many cars getting tickets. As I stated at the beginning, dogs are not allowed on the Canyon Trail, but are allowed on the Rim and other smaller trails around the park. Relatively nice bathrooms are available at the South Falls trailhead, and the gift shop, if open, sells snacks.

Post-hike chowdown: If you take the I-5 route from Salem, you will pass right through the town of Silverton, which is the absolute definition of charming. Seriously. Gilmore Girls could've been filmed there. While I've never really stopped to spend much time there myself, there are a number of cafes and restaurants here to satisfy your hunger.

* Minus that pesky Upper North Falls I guess, but who's keeping track.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tamanawas Falls.

Here's something funny: in both my Oregon hiking guidebook and on every website I perused, Tamanawas Falls on the northeast side of Mt. Hood was listed as "easy." I...would disagree with this. But perhaps when you are comparing trails to others in the vicinity that regularly crest mountain ridges at thousands of feet in the air and stuff, "easy" becomes a relative term.

They are also real into Robin Hood around these parts, which can never be a bad thing.

I mean, there were many easy and pleasant parts of it. For instance, a few feet away from where you park your car off of US 35 in Mt. Hood National Forest, you get to traverse a high bridge over the East Fork of the Hood River, swiftly running glacial waters colored a very pale and cold-looking silt-tumbled grey. I love a good bridge! I have probably mentioned this fact before in this severely neglected blog, but it's worth repeating. Who doesn't love a good bridge! And there's even another great one on this trail to come!

New addition to hike photos: dog!

In fact, I should state right off that even beyond the bridges, this is an utterly fantastic and enjoyable trail, and I loved it. There were just some less "easy" parts of it. After you cross the bridge, you follow the East Fork as it, in turn, follows the highway. Even after you eventually take a turn deeper into the woods, you can still hear the traffic along the highway for a while, which doesn't particularly bother me, but I know for some real escaping-into-nature-is-my-jam folk, it might. But don't worry, it'll disappear soon.


Being as late August and September are some of the driest times of the year to visit Mt. Hood--we went to make the most of an Indian summer heat wave--the beginning of the trail here was very sandy, and there were portions both here and later on that included extremely steep drop offs. As in, trip or make a wrong step a foot or two in a bad direction, and bye bye it is for you. I've obviously walked on trails like this before, but there were parts that seemed particularly harrowing, which I probably only felt more acutely because of the very big and strong dog now traveling with us.

You soon reach the second lovely bridge, which is smaller but feels sturdier than the first one.


Past this bridge is where things really begin to get lovely. From here on out the trail closely hugs Cold Spring Creek, which is pretty much magnificent. The further along you walk, the more it goes from calm and pretty to white water-y and a little intimidating. The trail continues to climb slowly in elevation, and while a lot of times you're climbing over rocks, there are also these pockets where all of a sudden you're enclosed in soft green and it feels like magic. I always feel like I'm walking into the Secret Garden or some type of Disney movie in these magic spots on hikes, which are also always hard to accurately capture in pictures.


There are multiple spaces where the riverbank flattens out, practically begging you to rest and bring a picnic there, and there are some mini waterfalls along the way that are just real great.


We passed a few older couples on their way back from the falls, as this is a there-and-back hike, who were overjoyed with the final payoff and really built the whole thing up for us, as excited tourists who don't spend enough time in the woods really like to share their happiness here in the Northwest. The second couple said, "The falls are great...if you make it." IF YOU MAKE IT. We were already getting a little tired at this point, since we are weaklings, and now we trudged forward with the knowledge that we might not even make it! Awesome!

We also passed one woman walking by herself with some serious walking sticks who didn't say a thing to us. We assumed she probably belonged to the only car in the parking lot that actually displayed the Forest Pass like you were supposed to, as opposed to the rest of us slackers.

Things only really felt bleak when all of a sudden the trail became a path through a mountain of boulders.


I had read that you had to do a scramble over rocks if you really wanted to get to the falls, and considering we couldn't even see the falls yet, I thought this was the start of the scramble, and these were some seriously big rocks, and we are not scrambling people. Alas! This was just part of the trail, and not a bad one at that, apart from the REALLY SCARY BEES AND BUGS that were delighting in the open sunny air. BEWARE THE REALLY SCARY BEES AND BUGS.

After a bit more walking, you finally see the falls, which drop an impressive 100 feet. And they are, indeed, great. They appear somewhat suddenly, and the height really does take your breath away for a second.

Tamanawnanwasnas Falls!

The trail continues to narrow the closer you get until it just sort of disintegrates, and this is where the actual scrambling part happens, where you can apparently walk behind the falls and it is splendid. Which, you know, we didn't do, because we are not scramblers.

Instead we stood as close as we felt comfortable and let the enormous shifting spray from the falls tinkle over our sweaty faces. On top of this, out of nowhere, there were a million butterflies dancing around our heads, no joke, because the Northwest is just a stupidly beautiful place. Although to be honest, I couldn't always tell whether those tiny wings flapping past my ear were butterflies or the aforementioned scary huge bees, so I was a little more anxious about the whole situation. But for normal people, it would've been fantastic.

But this really did feel seriously awesome.

Then we turned around and went back.

An example of "not necessarily easy."

This was the only serious outside-of-Portland hike we've done this year, and only the third I've done in the Mt. Hood area in all the years we've now been here (the others being the popular Mirror Lake and the crazy amazing Lost Lake). I feel like I always say the same things when we actually get out on a hike together: why don't we do this more; we need to do this more. The fact is that we did do this more when we first lived here, when I wanted to explore every acre of this new land. I still want to explore every acre, but completely unsurprisingly, real life settles in more and more, and there seems to be less and less time and energy for things like exploring. I originally was planning on making some renewed hiking promise to myself after this wonderful day last week that we drove to Mt. Hood, but a few days later, I think what I want to say is just how glad I am that we get to have any of these wonderful days at all.

Lesson learned: Buy a forest pass, dummy.

Highlight: Seeing our dog, who has arthritis, jumping up rocks like a champ. Also, seeing fantastic views of Mt. Adams on the way back to Portland through Hood River, which we only realized afterwards was actually the faster route.

Info: Coming from Portland on 26, pass Government Camp to turn onto 35 North. Travel until you see signs for Sherman Campground. The easily visible trail marker will be on your left right after. From Hood River, travel 25 miles south on 35. Northwest Forest Pass required. While other Forest Pass hikes I've done have included honor-system pay stations at the trailhead, this one did not, so if you are a truly responsible citizen, you should stop at a ranger or information station to get one. (We did not get a ticket.) There was a porta-potty in the parking lot, but a safer bet would be the public rest stop at Government Camp. Hikers and dogs only

Post-hike chow-down: Government Camp is the closest town, where we have stopped at the Mt. Hood Brewery before, although there are surely other options in this little alpine hamlet as well. We did not really have a post-hike chow-down this time, but on the way out of Portland, we did have a pre-hike breakfast of boba tea and a breakfast baguette at Best Baguette, which was the perfect fuel, and where we also learned that one breakfast baguette is most definitely enough for two people.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Wahclella Falls.

Wahclella Falls is the only hike I've now completed twice. And I might take my dad there when he visits next week and complete it thrice! Although I haven't decided yet. Normally with hikes, as with books and other things, no matter how much I liked one, there are so many amazing and tantalizing OPTIONS out there that it's hard for me to repeat. But Wahclella Falls is so simple and easy and lovely that it's hard to resist.

It's in my beloved Columbia River Gorge, although a little further out from Portland than the cluster of ridiculously beautiful and ridiculously popular hikes in the Multnomah Falls area. To get there, you push on on I-84, past Eagle Creek, until you reach the exit for the Bonneville Dam, roughly 30 miles from Hood River. This is still only an hour or so from Portland. There is not much off of this exit, except for the Bonneville Dam--and if you have an interest in fish ladders and big scary dams, go to it!--and the parking lot for this hike.

It starts off on a wide flat path right along this lovely little stream.


And who doesn't love flat paths alongside lovely little streams?? THEY ARE THE BEST! Although, is "stream" the right word? I always feel flummoxed about the correct river-ish word usage anytime I'm next to a river-ish thing. Is it a stream? Is it a creek? Is it JUST A RIVER?

Anyway.

When you haven't even been walking along this stream/creek/river very long, all of a sudden you are walking by this rather impressive mini waterfall shooting down over some sheer rock to your left. This is mainly impressive because you are literally right next to it, could reach out your hand and get wet, and it almost feels bizarre. This picture doesn't really do it justice, but believe me--it is RIGHT THERE!

WHATTUP, WATERFALL RIGHT IN MY FACE!

Wahclella is a balloon trail, meaning, it looks like a balloon--starts off as a straight trail with a loop trail at the end. Once the peaceful, stream-following path (seriously, so peaceful!) diverges off into the two trails leading to the left and right side of the balloon, it does start to get slightly steeper, and rockier, and thinner, but it still isn't too horrible. While it's a loop, and you can start it whatever way you want, I recommend heading left. This trail goes up, and up, and up away from that river-ish thing. Most of the time through the trees you can see the trail on the other side which you will be following back around in a little bit, and it seems pretty far below you at times.

Oh hey, gurl! We're going to be walking where you are soon!

There's also one brief set of stairs on this path. I always really enjoy these things on a hike: 1) stairs, 2) bridges, and 3) if you're really lucky, a boardwalk over soggy or sensitive vegetation. Boardwalks are the best! But stairs and bridges are always good too. They're good landmarks and help break up the hike, and also makes you wonder each time, "Who the hell built these things?"


As with all good waterfall hikes, the best part about coming up to the Main Event is that you can HEAR it before you see it. And Wahclella Falls, as with most waterfalls in the Gorge in the spring, was really roaring this day. It's also surrounded by a semi-circle of huge rock walls and a great little waterfall pool, all of which elevate the sound of cascading water. (Such a great sound! Although kinda scary sometimes too!) The waterfall was so full this day that most of the rocks around the whole area--which you do have to somewhat trickily navigate to make your way to the other side of the stream--were pretty soaked. But I was able to precariously set up my camera and successfully self-time a picture of Kathy, myself, and my mom. Success!


Such a great waterfall.

While somewhat rocky, this whole area around the waterfall and its pond also has a decent amount of open area, and it just screams, "I'm the perfect place for a pic-a-nic!" If you feel inclined to bring along a pic-a-nic basket. I haven't, in either of my two times there, but I've envisioned it.

After scrambling over some rocks you walk over a small but sturdily built bridge to the other side of the pond, to start your walk around the other side of the balloon to get back to the string.


Once over the bridge, the stream is full of HUGE boulders, but is also relatively shallow and calm, and it's a perfect place for wading around, or letting your dogs wade around. If your dog isn't old and arthritic like ours, and can go on hikes. :(

Continuing on the trail, this side is almost the opposite of the trail you were just on. Instead of being surrounded by trees, you're out in the open, a huge wall of rock to your left. This is my favorite part of the trail. The landscape is so interesting and wonderful, and since it's not as steep, you also really have the chance to look around and enjoy it.

What was so lovely about this walk too as opposed to the first time I walked it was that the trail this time was covered in little pinkish purple wildflowers EVERYWHERE. On this side of the trail, they peeked up on the riverbank and between every rock near the cliff wall, and there were LOTS of rocks, and lots of flowers.


Too quickly, you're at another bridge, which connects you back to the main, more forested part of the trail which will lead you back to the parking lot. This bridge is a lot higher than the little one near the falls, and the view of the steam from it is pretty awesome.


There is one tricky part once you're over the bridge, where the trail seems to fork, and you swear you're back at the fork at the beginning of the balloon, and should go left--but going left actually just leads you to a kind of scary edge-of-a-cliff dead end. After going right and switchbacking just once or twice, you're back at the actual fork.

It's only a mile to the falls and a mile back, so all in all this hike shouldn't take more than an hour. But there's so much bang for your buck to it. I think it's the perfect waterfall to take visitors, or people who aren't in the mood for a mega-hike. The fact that apparently not as many people know about it is just an added bonus.

Lesson learned: There's no restroom at this trailhead, which was okay since it is a relatively short hike and we could survive until we drove to Hood River for lunch. However, peeing before you leave for a hike, or stopping somewhere before the trailhead where you CAN pee, just in case? Always a good idea.

Highlight: I did this hike the first time by myself, so it was really fun to take Kathy and my mom there. And, the aforementioned wildflowers.

Info: Heading east on I-84, take exit 40 for the Bonneville Dam. At the stop sign, take a right. There are actually two different trailheads here--head right for the parking lot for Wahclella Falls. The Northwest Forest Pass is required here; if you don't have it you can drop off a $5 fee in an envelope in a box at the entrance. Since there's not actually a forest ranger patrolling here or anything, these fees, as with most state parks and forests in Oregon, operate on trust. Since I have a guilty conscience, we paid the $5, but it's up to you if you want to take the chance. Hikers and dogs only.

Post-hike chow-down: The closest town to this hike is Cascade Locks, just slightly further east on I-84. There you'll find a number of solid American-food-esque burger joints, inns, and pubs, along with the East Wind Drive-In, a classic type of American institution. Kathy and I vet their burgers and their milkshakes. Limited seating inside, but it's the perfect type of food to grab and eat on the banks of the Columbia River, just feet away. You can also take the path we did this day, and drive on for 30 miles to Hood River, where the aforementioned Full Sail awaits, along with many, many other brewpubs and more diverse restaurants.