Waterfall Chasers

Trip Start Jun 22, 2010
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Flag of United States  , Oregon
Monday, June 27, 2011

Waterfall Chasers

After seeing Horsetail Falls, I knew I wanted to see as many of the area's falls as we could squeeze in. One of our Columbia Gorge guide’s outlined a 12 mile hike that sounded amazing. After packing up camp, we managed to get to the Eagle Creek trailhead a little after nine am and embarked on what may be my favorite hike ever. The fern lined trail followed the path of the creek and was often interrupted by small falls or bubbling brooks. I had read that the trail had a 1600 foot elevation change, yet it was so gradual I could barely tell we were climbing until we looked down at the creek below.

After 1 miles, we encountered Metlako Falls, the first large falls of the hike. A tall, yet narrow falls poured off the east side of the mountains into Eagle Creek.  After another half mile, we saw a sign for lower Punchbowl Falls. A short spur led us down to the top of the lower portion. Walking as far upstream as larger creek rocks would carry us, Upper Punchbowl Falls revealed itself. Moss covered cliffs lined the bowl shaped canyon, the falls swirling through a depression in the south end. Tall firs rose off the tops of the cliffs, the light shining through casting ethereal light on the canyon and water.

Apparently most people turn around at this point, but of course we wanted to see more. A little more than a mile later, Lowitt Falls spilled almost 100 feet down the cliff walls entering a small pool before continuing down another short drop into Eagle Creek. Here Lowitt Falls met the base of the more turbulent High Bridge Falls. A little further upstream, we crossed High Bridge walking 150 feet above the creek. We could hear the rush of another falls and glimpsed Skoonichuk Falls through the trees. After a couple of attempts we found a path to the water that offered a better look of the two-tiered falls.  The trail continued through several campsites before we crossed the creek on a more modest bridge. Although Grand Union Falls would be a destination in itself on any other hike, it was barely worth a pause after several miles of incredible falls and in anticipation of Tunnel Falls. I knew we must be close as I first heard the roar of the falls. The narrow trail appeared to be carved out of the cliff itself as we began the section of the route known as Vertigo Mile. We barely noticed the 100 foot drop below as Tunnel Falls appeared surging almost 200 feet down the velvety emerald cliff walls. About halfway up from the base, the trail continued right up to the side of the falls then disappeared into an actual tunnel dug out behind the falls. I emerged from the tunnel a little giddy. Then the spray hit my face, and I felt the power of the falls thunder past. The rush of the falls, the rush in my blood. I stood there just soaking in the moment, the surroundings, the feeling. I met Mike at a good vantage point and together we took in the awesome sight. A passerby encouraged us to walk another third of a mile to see Twister Falls. Holding onto cables, the trail became narrower and higher as it wound around sheer cliff walls. After a few minutes, we reached the apex of Twister Falls. At the crest, a large rock divided the creek as it spilled down crisscrossing before plunging into a valley so narrow that the base was lost from view. I was able to ride the high from the experience the whole six miles back to the car. The hike took over five hours but it was absolutely worth every step.

After a quick bite to eat, we drove into the town of Hood River for some beer and wine tasting. I had really enjoyed Springhouse Cellars Syrah at the Blues and Brews Festival and was eager to taste some of their other wine. Strangely a Thomas the Train festival was set up in front of the winery, but luckily the tasting room was void of Tomas enthusiasts.  Cary, the winemaker, was on-site and the tasting room host escorted us down into the barrel room to meet him. We sipped on a yummy Sauvignon Blanc while discussing their wine and the local industry. A couple bottles of wine in tow, our next stop was Big Horse Brew Pub. As we looked out onto the Columbia River, Mike enjoyed yet another sampler tray. Soon a little exhaustion began to set in and we headed west to our hotel.

We pulled up to McMenamin’s Edgefield, a beautiful old estate and farm that has been converted to a winery, brewery, hotel and spa. Several people sat on the rambling front porch, beverages in hand. After checking into our room, we went straight to the heated soaking pool.  After the long hike, it was wonderful to sit in the pool. I with a glass of wine and Mike with a cold beer, we couldn’t have planned it better. After a long soak, we showered and visited the Edgefield Tasting Room. We relaxed at a small table in the candlelit room and enjoyed an offering of their red wines. They were all smooth and nicely layered, and we bought several bottles to take home. Besides the tasting room, several bars and restaurants also lie on the property allowing easy bar hopping for the evening. Jerry’s Ice House, a tribute to the Grateful Dead was Mike’s favorite, and I finally had to drag him away for a late dinner before all the kitchens closed. Although most of the bars were still open after our meal, we were fighting off sleep and had to call it quits.

After a great night’s rest, we began the day back at the soaking pool. We checked out of our room at the last possible minute then walked the beautifully landscaped grounds before enjoying an early lunch on the patio. We wanted to visit a couple more waterfalls before driving into the city. Thirty minutes east of Portland, Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon and the second tallest in the US. All of this combined with a parking lot just north of the fall’s base explained the hundreds of people swarming the area.  The falls were absolutely majestic yet I felt the crowds detracted from the experience.  I was so glad we had taken the quieter hike the previous day and experienced the more serene side of the Columbia Gorge Waterfalls. Trying to tune out the sounds of whiny children, we climbed up to the bridge for a better look. A path continued another mile to the top of the falls, but Mike and I were ready to escape the masses.

Bridal Veil Falls was last on the list. Located a few minutes east of Multnamoh Falls, the small parking lot was not even half full. I chuckled at how many people probably drive out to just see the one waterfall when the area has so many to offer.  A half mile trek led us to a great vantage of the 120 foot falls, evenly divided into two levels. The water did almost look lacy as it cascaded into the brook below. A kiss to my husband at this romantic spot and a kiss good-bye to the awe-inspiring Columbia Gorge!  I will come back someday.
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Aunt Roxanne on

Breath taking falls, I wish I could hike and see them. To me, God is so visible in the beauty of nature and what He created. Enjoy your trip, it sounds wonderful...give Mike another kiss from his Aunt Roxanne

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