Ariel hiking behind Tunnel Falls

Ariel hiking behind Tunnel Falls

It was feeling like time to go out and spend a few days getting back in the swing of things by living outdoors some more. One of the most commonly talked about places ’round Portland is the gorge. The Columbia River Gorge. What’s all the hub’bub out? I dunno… Asking around to some of the locals experienced in this area, they suggested I go visit Eagle Creek Trail in the gorge. Alrighty! Let’s do it! It definitely turned out to be a spectacular hike… full of more awesomeness than I could have dreamed possible. Let’s photoblog it and story tell it! šŸ™‚

One of the many weeping walls that is like a mini-waterfall shower

One of the many weeping walls that was like a mini-waterfall trail shower

The way timing worked out, I did my food shopping and REI trip planning the afternoon of and wound up hitting the trail around sunset. I had a general overview of what gear I had (after having my pack and a bunch of little trinkets within it stolen back in Canada), so with a new pack and several other new items, I did a packdump at the trailhead and laid everything out out, carefully going through my arsenal and seeing what I had, what I didn’t, and where everything was. Turns out I had everything necessary to make the trip happen. A few things missing like a pack towel and whatnot, but nothing that was a deal-breaker. (It seems I have the capacity to sort of “zoom out” of something and simultaneously pick up on hundreds of details at once. Kinda like a savant, but not quite that awesome. šŸ™‚ Basically I can just look at my gear and see what I do and don’t have. Pretty spiffy.)

In any event, loading up my pack, I hit the trail eager to get back into things. My month(ish) long dry spell of no hiking was now officially over! Woohoo!! šŸ˜‰ The trek out was amazing and I was absolutely gushing over this place, and after about 3 miles in once I found a suitable campsite (it’s hard to figure out what’s around you at night), I sat down and recorded a video about the experience while it was all still fresh in my mind.

Now there’s TONS of waterfalls along this hike, one of which I had seen photographers shoot and post photos online for years. Turns out I had set up camp right beside it! The falls was Punchbowl Falls. I slept in that morning, allowing myself to get up when I naturally felt inspired to do so, and after talking to one of the fellow hikers who told me that the falls was literally right up the trail a bit, I grabbed my gear to go take a look. Turns out I had gotten there right at the perfect time as this gorgeous mist was developing over the falls with the sunlight streaming through.

Punchbowl Falls during a misty sunrise

Punchbowl Falls during a misty sunrise

I stayed at this overlook for a few minutes, watching as the fog got progressively more thick and extravagant. It looked really amazing, but looking back over the shots, it actually covers up the view of the falls and so I’m posting this shot with just a light air of fog over the falls. šŸ™‚

Heading back to camp, there’s a trail you can take down to Lower Punchbowl Falls so that you can see it from down inside the gorge. Now what this falls was famous for was that it used to have a log lodged down in the gorge, obscuring your view of the falls, as seen here. Also, if you click on that link, you’ll see that the photographer is actually in the water getting the shot and yes, this is what you had to do. The place I walked out, the water went up as far as my knees (fortunately no higher) and man, it was COLD this time of the year! It’s November.

Classic view of Punchbowl Falls while standing in bitingly cold water

Classic view of Punchbowl Falls while standing in bitingly cold water

As you can see here, the log is no longer in the photo. The river had pushed it out about two years ago. Either way, this is one of those places where you carefully walk yourself over the stones and into position, fire off a few shots, then get yourself out of the cold water and back onto shore. šŸ˜‰ Thank goodness for zip-off pants!!

Hiking back up, I found some sweet mushrooms on a log near my camp.

Fungus friends growing out of a log

Fungus friends growing out of a log

Here I was finding the 40D’s live view capability to really come in handy. (Live view is the ability for a DSLR to show the image on the LCD screen while you’re previewing, the same way point & shoots have been able to do for years.) Instead of having to look through the viewfinder, I was able to squat and hold the camera around my hips, lower than my tripod was able to go, focus, compose, and fire off this shot. Really handy!

Speaking of mushrooms, I’d passed some older women who were really familiar with the plant life and they started telling me which mushrooms were edible and which ones weren’t. I wasn’t about to eat any of them though… šŸ˜€

Strawy fungus

Strawy fungus

Speaking of people, it’s amazing how friendly and warm people are along the trail. Not only are they great company, but they wind up answering all my questions without me even having to ask! What’s the weather forecast like for today? Tonight? Tomorrow? What’s up ahead? Any scenic views? Waterfalls? How far? Any campsites? Ā I love how you can be out in the middle of nowhere and yet you still find ways of finding out important information. šŸ™‚

The hike through in the daytime was beautiful. Here’s a few shots of the terrain along the trail.

Sweet mossy trees, horizontal

Sweet mossy trees, horizontal

Backlit, the moss hanging off the trees looked so unbelievably spectacular. I couldn’t decide whether or not I liked the horizontal composition better or the vertical. What do you guys prefer?

Sweet mossy trees, vertical

Sweet mossy trees, vertical

For much of the trail, you’re literally walking on a trail that’s been carved out of the side of the gorge wall. Check this out.

Trail literally carved out of the side of the cliff... you can see how it looks like a chomp in the distance where the trail rounds the corner

Trail literally carved out of the side of the cliff... you can see how it looks like a chomp in the distance where the trail rounds the corner

In some of the tighter sections, there were actually handrails built into the cliffside.

Another set of handrails

Another set of handrails

Look at that sheer drop off the side. Yeah baby!!

One thing that’s handy about bringing a full-size tripod is that you can shoot some self-portraits. šŸ˜‰

Self-portrait hiking through the greenery

Self-portrait hiking through the greenery

The leaves I’d find on the ground were ginormous! Look at this!!

The leaves here we so big! Bigger than my head!

The leaves here we so big! Bigger than my head!

Most everywhere you hike (with the long exception of where the trail made a little bend and tucked itself inside the cliff you walk) you can hear the river raging below you. Sometimes you’re at a similar elevation. Other times it’s far below.

View down into a tight section of the gorge

View down into a tight section of the gorge

See those logs down below? They’re kinda hard to see so let’s take a closer look.

These huge logs look like toothpicks from so far away

These huge logs look like toothpicks from so far away

So cool… You can see how they got caught and all bunched together when the water level was higher. šŸ™‚

Some of the trail was on dirt-like terrain, and I especially liked sloshing through the wetness. Puddles are lots of fun to splash through and they actually clean off your shoes, unlike sloppy mud. I also found that even when you wear waterproof shoes, if you step in down to your ankles or so, the cold water actually cools off your feet. It feels like water going down into your shoe over the top, but your foot is still dry. Cold but still dry. Weird.

Other times you hike on more rocky terrain. The rocks make you really appreciate hiking boots with thicker and stiffer soles for support, as well as when the boots are taller for ankle support in case you roll your ankle.

Fallen leaves strewn along a rocky path

Fallen leaves strewn along a rocky path

I wound up hiking all the way back to Tunnel Falls and Twister Falls.

Tunnel Falls is this gorgeous tall waterfall where the trail actually follows into a tunnel behind/underneath the falls.

Hiking behind Tunnel Falls

Hiking behind Tunnel Falls

On either side of the tunnel, you’re in for a rainy splash-fest. When you’re actually in the tunnel, the ceiling above you is so saturated that it’s constantly dripping all over the place.

The view into the tunnel behind Tunnel Falls

The view into the tunnel behind Tunnel Falls

Just past Tunnel Falls is another falls named Twister Falls. I’m guessing it gets its name because if you look at it from the front, it actually falls in several split up flows that twist and swirl over one another. Really awesome.

The view from atop Twister Falls

The view from atop Twister Falls

Looking down from the top, see how it falls in several sections? Well this trend continues all the way down the falls as it hits each progressive layer on the way down, twisting and spilling over/under itself. Really cool.

Once I hit this falls, this was the point when I wound up turning around and heading back. All in all, I hiked a good 24 miles over one full day and one morning and one night. lol… Way more than I was intending to hike, but a great chance to get out. Looking at the GPS, I was surprised to see that my average moving pace was 3.9mph. Usually most hikes are at 2-2.5mph. 3mph is considered a pretty good pace and 3.5mph is really huffin’ it. I was surprised to see how fast I wound up going, even though I was packing pretty heavy.

So happy to feel at home amongst the moss and greenery!!

So happy to feel at home amongst the moss and greenery!!

Both nights I was camped, I wound up having some rodents come by and pitter patter around my tent. They wound up nomming on my trekking poles, presumably getting at the salt from my sweat, as well as chewing their way through a pouch on my hipbelt to get to a clif bar that I had stashed in there. Here’s a video I shot showing you guys what happened.

Once I finally got back to the trailhead, I started hiking back to my car, and along the way I saw this weird black thing lying in the middle of the road. I couldn’t tell what it was until I got right up to it and realized that it was a huge fish! Seriously! The thing was a good 2.5-3 feet long (and I’m not exaggerating in the typical fisherman story way when they go the fish was this big, no [spreads hands wider] thiiis big, no [spreads hands even wider] thiiiiiisss big!!) šŸ˜€ It was a monster black fish that either somehow superman’ed a good 15 feet uphill onto shore or fallen off the back of a truck. I gonna assume the former. šŸ˜‰

When I got back to my car, there was a big yellow school bus parked next to it. The big cheese. Next to it were a bunch of elementary school kids lined up, ready to go off on their field trip. It was so funny to come tromping back to my car and all of them turned and watched me. I did my best to keep a straight face but eventually just burst out laughing at the sight of having so many curious eyes turned onto me. “Hey what’s up guys?” šŸ™‚

On the way back into town, I decided to stop by another one of Oregon’s iconic locations: Multnomah Falls. I wasn’t really keep on going to check out another falls right off the bat if it meant I’d have to hike in a big distance, but with the weather still looking nice and about to start raining for a while, I wasn’t sure if I’d have another chance to see it, so I figured “what the hey” and went off to go see it.

Multnomah Falls from the parking lot across the highway

Multnomah Falls from the parking lot across the highway

The parking lot is right alongside the highway. It splits and the parking lot sits right in the middle of both directions. I parked my car and walked over to that little building on the left side of the image, looking for a trail map, distances, elevation gain, and the typical relevant info you’d find at a trailhead, only to find advertising type stuff. Nothing of use for this hike. Confused, I contemplated asking someone where the heck this falls was (still wondering how far away it was), until I looked around and saw the huge falls literally right across the highway. I lol’ed, grabbed my gear, and started making my way to the falls via the underpass beneath the highway. That’s one tall waterfall!

Multnomah Falls from the handy dandy entrance sign

Multnomah Falls from the handy dandy entrance sign

There’s still some fall color left in the trees here. Yay!

Along the way there’s a little river with a bunch of fish trying to swim upriver, but since they couldn’t go up this megafalls, they’d pretty much just sit and coast in the current.

Big 'ole fish in the water

Big 'ole fish in the water

These were the same type of fish that I think the kids came to see from that school bus I talked about earlier.

As I hiked up towards the falls, I had two main reactions:

1) Holy cow… there’s the bridge! I’m actually here now in real life after seeing this place in so many pictures!

2) Wait a minute… it’s not one falls… It’s two! In the pictures it always looked like one!

Oh... Multnomah Falls is actually in two sections

Oh... Multnomah Falls is actually in two sections

If you walk up those stairs in the distance, you get to a viewpoint where you can take the classic Multnomah Falls picture.

Looking up towards the Multnomah Falls bridge

Looking up towards the Multnomah Falls bridge

Y0u can hike up to that bridge which is only 0.2 miles up which I did. t’was nice. If you hike another 0.8 miles you can actually get all the way up to the top of the falls, but I passed on that offer. Enough hiking for now… šŸ™‚

Thoroughly satisfied with this trip and finally having given my chance to go through its process of post-hike stiffness and now readiness for the next leg of the journey, it’s time to return this laptop I’d bought (“rented”) for the marching band shoot the other day. With my laundry now freshly cleaned (things get wet and smelly more easily here and don’t dry out as quickly), time to wrap up a few loose ends, make another trip to REI and get my gear resituated now that I’ve had a chance to use some of the new gear and see what worked and what didn’t, and pick up the dude who’s flying in from NY this evening. It’s supposed to rain a lot this whole next week so I think we’ll be heading east over the Cascades into the high desert of Oregon and Washington.

I’m really liking leading adventure trips more and more now. Learning what to check in others to find their skills and experience, making sure that everyone is safe when we go camp in sub-freezing temps for example, and so on… So much exciting stuff to learn.

Anyone else interested in coming along on an adventure? I could use someone to push the button on the camera for me instead of setting the ten second timer and running out in front of the camera, trying to time it exact right. šŸ˜‰

I’ll be heading up to Seattle for a few days in about a week or so after I finish this stretch with the NY dude, I’ll be flying back to GA for a little bit over Thanksgiving, and I’ll be returning to the Seattle area in early December. Perhaps I’ll be settling down then. Who knows. I have no idea. Anyone up for some wintery adventures? Snowshoeing, winter camping, icey photo’ing, and cold weather goodness! šŸ™‚

3 Comments

  1. Fawn Hanon
    on November 7th, 2010
    1

    Hey Ariel, Love your videos/photos of the Gorge and falls round Portland, pretty amazing. So glad your sharing your experience with us, makes me feel a bit like I’m there. Look forward to seeing more of your adventures.
    love fawn

  2. Stacey
    on December 7th, 2010
    2

    Isn’t Eagle Creek Trail amazing? I hiked down that on the Pacific Crest Trail last year. I love the tunnel behind the big fall, such an amazing experience!

    In your video you talk about falling in love with being outside, and hiking. Have you ever thought of doing a long distance hike. Its an amazing lifestyle, and a beautiful adventure. Its a great way to immerse yourself in nature. I hightly recomend doing the Pacific Crest trail (PCT). I did the Appalachian Trail this spring (it goes from GA to ME), but I think the PCT holds a lot more beauty over all.

    Keep enjoying hiking!

  3. Ariel
    on December 7th, 2010
    3

    How would you compare the AT and the PCT? I looked pretty seriously into doing the AT back when I lived in GA, but after a while I realized I’m more into shorter hikes and more camping than long distance 2,000 mile trails. šŸ™‚

Leave a Reply