Watching Seasons Change in the Gorge

This will be something of an omnibus post, covering a bunch of short-ish hikes we took in the gorge over the fall, winter, and early spring: Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls; Hamilton Mountain and Hardy Ridge; Angel’s and Devil’s Rests; a loop around Wahkeena and Multnomah Falls with a short spur up to the Multnomah Plateau; and short trips to Wahclella and Elowah Falls. Because most of these hikes are relatively well-know, I’m going to keep my blabbering to a minimum, so it’ll be mostly pictures. Also, it’ll be in the past tense.

 

1. Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls – October 23

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In late October, my buddy had an out of town guest, so we decided to go on the usual out of town guest hike: Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls. It’s funny: I think I’ve been maybe a half dozen times in the last year, every time with someone visiting.

When we got to the trailhead around noon, it was crowded with two buses full of school kids with clipboards, watching the salmon spawn. We joined them for a bit.

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Then it was up to Punchbowl. The water was so low that we could almost walk all the way across the creek without getting our feet wet. Weird. I’d never seen it like that.

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From punchbowl, we hightailed it to Low Bridge, where we stopped for bánh mì and cheese puffs – a highly underrated combination.

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After the bridge, the autumn colors really started to pop. I love this section of trail.

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Tunnel Falls was, as ever, just gorgeous. One picture never seems enough…

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…and even panoramas don’t quite seem to get it.

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Given our late start, we didn’t have a lot of time to lollygag, but it was still wonderful to see our friend seeing it for the first time.

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On the way back, the light had shifted, bathing the golden trees in gold.

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2. Hamilton Mountain / Hardy Ridge Loop – November 29

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In late November, my dad and I spent a day rambling around Beacon Rock State Park in Washington: up Hamilton Mountain, down across Hardy Creek via Don’s Cutoff, up Hardy Ridge, and back to the car in the dark. There were patches of snow above around 2000′, and near constant ice. Winter was starting.

We got to the trailhead a bit after eleven. The gate for the upper lot was closed, so we parked in front of Beacon Rock. It was windy. Like: constant gusts of thirty or forty miles an hour. But as we climbed toward Hardy and Rodney Falls, things mellowed a bit.

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We took the shorter, steeper, more easterly route up Hamilton. The track’s gotten a little braided in places, and at one point we found ourselves on what turned out to be a use path with a little exposure. Nice views, though.

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The wind quit completely as we jotted north for the final climb, and we got some nice views of Hardy Ridge.

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The views south weren’t bad either.

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I always find Hamilton’s summit proper to be a little underwhelming, so, after saying hello to Table Mountain and Mt. Adams, we scurried further north to Hamilton Saddle.

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For whatever reason, the path between the summit and saddle held more snow than we saw anywhere else on the route.

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I really love the saddle.

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We rambled down Don’s Cutoff, north a bit to the upper crossing of Hardy Creek, then up to the Hardy Ridge Trail. I was very happy to see Boot Rock still holding down the fort.

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We got to Hardy Ridge just as the light was turning golden, and ambled through the ice toward Phlox Point, where we stopped for a late lunch, some hot chocolates, and these brownies my dad makes, which, as best I can tell, are essentially equal parts butter, chocolate, coffee, and rocket fuel. They’re fantastic.

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Basically every picture I took had Mt. Hood in it.

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We started back down around 3:45, figuring that we’d at least get back on official trails before dark. Nice sunset.

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We made it down most of the way to the lower Hardy Creek bridge before needing headlamps, then it was just a dark tromp down the Hardy Creek Trail and back to the car. It’s funny: I remember being totally terrified of hiking in the dark just a few years ago, but now I sort of like it – like hurdling through deep space or something.

 

3. Angel’s Rest / Devil’s Rest Loop – December 19

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The weather was supposed to be sort of icky early, so my dad and I got a late-ish start – just after eleven – and quickly made our way up Angel’s Rest, passing at least a dozen people and three dozen bags of dog stuff on the way.

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The trail had been mostly clear all the way up to Angel’s Rest, but we hit snow almost immediately thereafter, as we made our way up to the Foxglove Trail.

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We made it up to Devil’s Rest, where we interrupted some dude who seemed to be sleeping under an umbrella (!?), then quickly headed down the steep descent to the Devil’s Rest Trail. I’m always pleasantly surprised by the winter views here.

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Back on the Wahkeena Trail, we rambled west, up and down, as the afternoon wore on. For some reason this section of trail always feels a little longer than it actually is.

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We made it back to Angel’s Rest a little before four, where we had a late lunch and watched the sun set on the Portland city lights.

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Heading back down, we ran into a group of four teenagers frozen in the trail, asking if we had an extra light. We did – I always carry an extra cheap headlamp from Next Adventure, just in case – and I was glad to help, but man: ALWAYS BRING A HEADLAMP! We made it to the car a bit after five, and were back in town shortly thereafter, drinking Christmas beer.

 

4. Wahkeena / Multnomah Basin / Multnomah Falls Loop – January 1, 2016

Krista and I started a tradition a couple years ago of taking a “Hangover Helper Hiker” on New Years Day. This year, we went out for a relatively modest – but immodestly beautiful – variation of the Multnomah-Wahkeena Loop, with a quick jaunt up to the Plateau to see the Toothbrush Trail.

From the outset, the trails were pretty darn icy, and we ended up putting on Micro Spikes near the beginning of the Wahkeena switchbacks. People were making it up in tennis shoes, but… no.

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Once we put on our spikes, it was just damn pleasant walking on cold, crusty, dry snow and ice through a winter wonderland. It’s so nice to see the gorge finally with a coat of white!

After a quick hop on the 420, we made it to Multnomah Creek, which was, as always, totally beautiful.

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We rambled up the creek to the High Water Trail, then over to Multnomah Basin Road and the Toothbrush Trail. Every time I come here, it feels like I’ve found something magic.

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We ate some sandwiches and Snickers among the ornaments, then made our way back along Multnomah Creek.

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The trail was pretty icy between the 420 junction and Weisendanger Falls – we were, again, very happy to have Micro Spikes – but people were somehow (again!) doing it in tennis shoes. So I guess hike your own hike?

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The sun started to set as we descended the paved switchbacks to Multnomah Falls, but we happily made it back to the car just as it was getting dark, and returned home for some Traditional (in our house) New Years Gumbo.

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5. Wahclella and Elowah Falls – February 13

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The weekend before my birthday, Krista and I were both feeling sort of sick. For me, it turned out to be the beginning of a flu or something that lasted well into March. But we did manage to eek out a little trip to east, to visit a couple falls.

We started with Wahclella, a short ways up Tanner Creek. The parking lot was high season busy, and we passed at least two baby strollers as we walked up the stream.

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The creek was as high as I’ve ever seen it, and smaller creeks cascaded down the canyon walls. The snow was melting higher up.

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The falls were, as usual, beautiful. Someone had a selfie stick. Another group had a battery powered boombox and smelled seriously of marijuana. No matter, though. It’s sort of fun to be a tourist sometimes.

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We walked back in the rain, then drove back a short ways west to Elowah Falls. It had started to seriously rain, so we we scurried up quickly, through the still crowded trail to the somehow empty falls.

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We didn’t stay long, but did stop a few times on the way back. The trail was starting to take on that green reserved for Oregon in the spring. And there were even a few flowers, just starting to emerge from the winter duff.

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