Columbia River Gorge

Waterfalls!! Somehow these never get old.

A few weekends ago (yeah, I’m tardy on this post!) I hit the Gorge with several co-workers (Team Jive: Matt, Kevin, Phil, Christy, Michael, Erin and myself) to do a series of short hikes/waterfall stops. We happened to catch some amazing weather. Cold temps, but came right after a bout of winter weather in the Portland area (snow?!?! OMGWTFBBQ!!!). This made for some truly astounding scenery as most of the waterfall areas were frozen over.

First trail was up to Latourell Falls. Ordinarily this is a pretty easy trek, however on this day we had a wildcard: ice. Everywhere! Several sections of trail were completely frozen over, making for some pretty interesting ice patch crossings. I didn’t mind, it added some excitement to the day. ๐Ÿ™‚

The first of many icy spots

Trying to make our way down the trail (completely frozen) at Upper Latourell Falls. Me? I slid down on my butt. Bumpy but efficient.

Just as Kevin started sliding down.

Every single blade of grass, twig, string of moss… frozen.


The one little bit of sunshine we saw. ๐Ÿ™‚

Hanging out up at the top of Lower Latourell.

So cold, even the sap was frozen.

Wonky tree.

Lower Latourell Falls.

It had this kind of lit-from-within look. Beautiful.

Uphill trail covered in a sheet of ice? No chance. We improvised and climbed up a little cutoff… still plenty challenging, it was also frozen.

More frozenness.

After Latourell, we stopped off at Bridal Veil Falls, a short half mile hike off the historic highway. Took a couple shots and headed back.

Bridal Veil Falls

The team

An off-the-side-of-the-road waterfall that I forget the name of. Shame on me.

Since we had an out-of-towner with us, we decided to swing by Multnomah Falls just so he could say he’s seen it. Now, I usually love to make fun of Multnomah Falls for its numerous tourist trap qualities. Soft serve ice cream, espresso bars, gift shops, strollers and grandparents as far as the eye can see (which is still pretty funny). But on this day, I was actually once again amazed by this place, which I never thought would happen again. I’d never seen it frozen over. Gorgeous.

Multnomah Falls

Put a bird on it (see it?).

The freezing mist created big ole piles of fluffy snow at the bottom of the falls.

From the bridge, looking down over the lower part of the fall.

Last trek was out to Elowah Falls, about another 2-2.5 mile loop. More ice on the trails, although this one was more snowy than anything. We did come across some pretty rad icicles. I didn’t consider it at the time, but in retrospect, I probably should have been more nervous about one of these breaking off right over my head. ๐Ÿ™‚ Elowah was probably my favorite waterfall of the day, although it was SO powerful that the mist prevented me from taking many photos. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Only got a couple, and they didn’t really capture it properly, IMO.

Ice crossing! Pretty certain I scooted across this one too. I’m lazy like that.

Man-sized icicles!

What? This seems like a perfectly safe place to stand.

Traversing more ice. Thankful for that handrail right about now.

The bottom of Elowah

Elowah Falls

And, because sometimes I like to make an appearance on my own blog (so what?), here are a few of Kevin’s photos from the day:

Matt schooling me in something.

A perpetual state of wonderment.

A totally organic, definitely not posed, moment.

Stellar day. So glad we made it out on this day… I feel like we lucked out and got to see something pretty special. Even better that it was with an awesome group of people. Of course, after a day of chasing waterfalls, it only made sense to hit Hood River for some Double Mountain… and then SE Portland for some Cascade Brewing Barrel House… and then Cartopia for some Wiffie’s Fried Pies. #loveportland

Hiking and backpacking season is right around the corner! Been thinking about it a lot lately. Can’t wait to get back out there…

Angel’s Rest

Happy New Year everyone!!

Now that we are ushering in a new year, it’s time to reset the miles hiked/elevation gained widget on the right. How did 2010 wrap up?

21 hikes (including 9 overnighters)
181 miles
43,900 feet

Not bad!

After a three-month hiatus (man that was painful to type), we decided to start 2011 out right! On a frigid New Year’s Day, we headed out to the Gorge to get in our first hike of the year. It was sort of a baby hike, mostly because of my irrational fear of hiking at high elevation in the winter… I think I’m coming around to that idea though. Angel’s Rest seemed like a good first step to winter hiking, since it’s a relatively short/low hike, and there was a little bit of snow but still a very visible trail. As it turned out, the snow should have been the least of my concerns. The ice-covered trail and insane gusting winds were much more likely to cause damage!

Also, I wanted to note, I’ve noticed lately that when I shrink photos down a bit for display on the blog page, WordPress is making them a bit blurry. If any photos particularly interest you, I recommend clicking on the photo to enlarge (and get a clearer view).

Angel’s Rest
Columbia River Gorge (OR side)
Total hike distance: 4.62 miles
Total elevation gain: 1,733 feet
“Summit” at:~1,600 feet

Click map for full GPS data

Did I mention it was bitter cold on Saturday?? Probably not by back-home Michigan standards, but I’m sure I’ve gotten a little soft since moving out west. ๐Ÿ™‚ Temps were hanging out right around freezing (34 degrees or so), but the real kicker was the wind. It was a constant wind, but with gusts so strong they could knock a man down. Alas, we bundled up in lots of layers and headed up. Once we got into the trees, the wind was blocked pretty well (for a while) and we were quite comfortable.

After about a half mile we came to Coopey Falls, where we had a decent view, but an even better viewpoint was just a little ways further along and down a pretty steep (but short) spur trail. This takes you to the base of Upper Coopey Falls, a very pretty cascading fall. Well worth the extra few steps, although it was a bit tricky with the ice that had formed on the trail. Gotta be careful here.

Coopey Falls from the main trail

Upper Coopey Falls (forgot my tripod – this was the least blurry of all the photos I took here)

The steep cutoff that leads back up to the main trail

Feeding the upper falls… love all the icicles!

The next bit of trail was pretty straightforward, with several nice views across the Gorge along the way. We started to see snow around 900′ or so, and at about 1050′ things got really icy.

Looking across the Gorge

Onto some snow now, and even a tiny bit of sunshine

The snowy parts weren’t too bad, but the ice was killer. I couldn’t even take any photos of the real icy parts, since it was all I could do to just keep myself upright. The wind had also picked back up since we were more or less out of the trees, throwing another obstacle in the loop.

A glimpse at our destination

Rockslide crossing, not too far from the top

While certainly slippery and windy, for the most part the hike was manageable as long as we were being careful. How quickly things changed once we got to the very top! With no trees or rock for protection, that wind just blasted the hell out of us. Add that to the fact that the ground beneath our feet was a sheet of ice, and I began to wonder if I wouldn’t just be pushed along like a hockey puck right over the edge. So I clung to the rocks and stayed low to the ground instead. ๐Ÿ™‚ Am I being a little dramatic? Maybe, but I felt a bit like I was taking a hurricane to the face. We decided not to climb to the very tippy top since that would be a little too dicey. I also didn’t take many photos at the top since I really just wanted to get down.

I regret not taking video here, but you can tell by Paul’s pants and Buckley’s ears that it was windy. That is absolutely the stance we had to take, head and body weight straight into the wind, to not be blown over.

So, we headed back down the trail. Once we got back down a little ways back into the boulder field, we grabbed some rock and took a break.

Very nice views looking west over the Gorge

Break time on the rocks

Buckley hot on his heels!

Buckles hearts the snow

After a brief break, we headed down. I thought hiking up on the icy trail was challenging… heading down was quite the spectacle! I felt like Bambi on that ice. So many wibbles and wobbles and near-falls (well, some actual falls) and flailing my arms wildly to catch myself. I caught Paul laughing at me a couple times. It was like a perfect chute of ice, dare I say Olympic Bobsled-grade. Despite my clumsiness, the hike out was relatively uneventful, especially once we got back on solid (dirt) ground. Lots of people on their way up, glad we got an early-ish start.

Another westerly shot of the Gorge

Straight across the Gorge

Not sure why this was here, but it was a pretty little thing

Whoa heavy icicles! Crossing back over the top of Coopey Falls.

While this was kind of a n00b hike, it was a good one (for me) to get back into the groove. I agree with a lot of trip reports that call this a good bang-for-your-buck hike… minimal effort but stellar scenery and views.

Looking forward to getting out there more. I recently acquired some gaiters and rain pants, just a few more pieces of equipment and we’ll probably be ready for snow camping. If anyone has any good recommendations for winter camping, please leave them in the comments! ๐Ÿ™‚

Lewis River Falls

Sorry for the late-week post! I have been a total slacker this week. This post is actually from last weekend… this weekend my Dad visited from Michigan and we backpacked the Green Lakes area in Central Oregon, blog post on that coming in the next couple of days.

Last weekend, we did something a little different from our usual hikes and backpacks. We had another heat wave move through the area, and something about a steep, sweaty, dusty trail on a 98 degree day did not sound awesome. ย Instead of torturing ourselves, we decided to spoil ourselves a little and headed out to the Lewis River Falls area in Washington. What started out as my idea of finding a good waterfall/swimming hole and parking ourselves for the day with some beer did actually end up turning into a 5 or 6 mile hikey-walk. Ah well, at least I felt less guilty that way. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was, as we expected, an extremely hot and sunny day. The bright sunshine made it difficult to take photos of the falls, and for some reason I was feeling uninspired that day (photographically speaking). So, I’m not super proud of these photos, but wanted to share anyway!

We hit the stretch of river that includes Lower, Middle, and Upper Lewis River Falls. We started at Lower Falls, which is very close to the parking area and campground, so naturally it was also the most crowded area. We took a little scramble trail down to the water and proceeded to wade out to the waterfall, which was quite enjoyable. The water was moving pretty quick, but it only was only knee-deep in most places and the rocks weren’t too slippery. I did get off to a rough start though… I slipped and slid down part of the scramble trail on my butt, then one of my flip-flops came off in the water and got swept away by the river (dammit!), and finally I lost my balance for just long enough to dunk my camera (which was hanging around my neck) in the water for a second. After a brief heart attack, I checked the camera and it was fine. ๐Ÿ™‚ After my klutzy start to the day, it was smooth sailing.

Wading up the river to the Lower Falls

Playing a little tug

Slowly but surely making my way with one shoe

There were lots of kids cliff-jumping from the top of the falls down into the river (which was maybe about 40 feet?). It looked like a lot of fun, but I’m way too chicken to try it myself.

You can see the kid who just jumped toward the top

Getting ready to hit the ice cold water

We hung out at the larger swimming area for a little while, cracked open a beer and enjoyed the sunshine a bit.

Buckley taking a swim

Oh yeah, there was a rope swing tied to that big log teetering on the edge too (that the little girl is hanging on to). Looks totally safe and stable huh?

We headed another mile and a half up the trail to Middle Falls, slightly smaller waterfall but with less people. We cracked another beer here ๐Ÿ™‚ and played a little fetch with Buckles.

Buckley needed a little help climbing up on the slippery rocks ๐Ÿ™‚

Waiting until the stick got close enough to the edge that he wouldn’t have to jump in… cheater!

Our last stop was another mile up the trail to Upper Falls. By the time we got there it was 5pm or so; most people on the trail seemed to be on their way out, so we had this place to ourselves! Most of it was in shadows by that point though, so a bit cold for swimming (well, for us anyway… not for Buckley). We cracked our final beers and hung out for a while.

Endless games of fetch!

Just to show scale (you can see Paul and Buckley off to the left)

I believe these are Red Willowherb but am not certain… it was the closest match I could find but still not exact…

Almost naptime

We headed back out on the trail around 6pm or so and headed back to the car. It was a quick walk back as the trail is relatively flat the entire way.

Having a little trouble identifying these as well, but I think they may be Three-Nerved Daisy

Looking down at the river as the sun was going down… beautiful.

The last stretch of trail on the way out

Overall this was a great way to spend a really hot weekend, if you don’t mind the crowds and slow-movers on the trail. We’ll be back!

Oneonta Gorge

I didn’t realize how much I missed hiking until stepping into the Gorge after two weeks away from the trail. I think I actually breathed a sigh of relief.

Paul’s friend Ben came to visit us for the weekend from Michigan. Can we pause to reflect on that for just a moment? A friend… not a family member or anyone else who is legally obligated to spend time with us… came to visit! Ben told Paul when we first moved that he would be the first friend to come visit. Guess he was right! Who’s next?? ๐Ÿ™‚

We had a great time (hopefully Ben did too) gallivanting around the city for most of the weekend; bike ride to the A-Crop (I did not partake in this particular event), dinner in Directors Park, VQ brunch, farmers market, organic beer fest (with about 3,000,000 other people), Voodoo Donut, and of course, the Columbia River Gorge.

We decided to hit the Oneonta Gorge, starting at the Horsetail Falls trail, and then meeting up with trail 400, then the Oneonta Trail which took us up to Triple Falls, then back down to the 400 which took us the rest of the way down. So it’s not really a loop, not really an out-and-back… more of a wishbone shape. ๐Ÿ™‚ Unfortunately, although we had the GPS on, it did not get a good track (weak signal maybe). So, distance and elevation are estimates based on guide books we use, and the map is just pulled from Google (and then crudely marked up with Jing). Not at all accurate. But you get the idea.

Oneonta Gorge trail(s)
Columbia River Gorge (Oregon side)
Total hike distance: +4 miles (not including wading around the creek)
Total elevation gain: At least 500 feet, probably more with all the ups and downs on the trial

This is a sad representation.

If you don’t already know, summer just arrived in Portland last week (literally and figuratively). We’ve been dealing with unrelenting clouds and rain for months, but last week, this strange giant glowing orb in the sky made its debut. So what do you get on the first actual nice weekend of the summer, on one of the more popular and easy trails in the Gorge? Trails so crowded you are literally tripping over other people and kids and dogs and Grandmas on the way. Okay… it wasn’t too bad, but much more crowded than we are used to. I kid you not, there was actually one lady wearing a sundress and fancy high-heeled strappy sandals hiking with her family. She didn’t make it as far as we did, but still, it made me feel like a pansy in my cushy hiking shoes and synthetic fabrics. ๐Ÿ™‚

Getting our start on the trail

It doesn’t take long for a payoff on this hike, as Ponytail Falls (aka “Upper Horsetail Falls”) is about .3 miles in. Very close.ย  So also, very crowded. I couldn’t get any waterfall-only shots as there were people running around everywhere. Will have to get there earlier next time.

Ponytail Falls (Paul and Ben are across the way)

This guy walked in front of the camera at the last second!! Can we pretend he’s not there?

The rocky cavern under the falls

A short distance later, we came to Middle Oneonta Falls.

Middle Oneonta Falls

Making our way

The sun was beating down, so after what seemed like ages we reached Triple Falls. We’ve been here several times, but I’m always amazed by how cool it is.ย  Unfortunately, direct sunlight is no bueno for taking waterfall shots, so it’s a little washed out.

Triple Falls

When you hike past Triple Falls, there is a bridge that crosses the creek behind the top of the falls (you can see it in the picture). After crossing this bridge, there are several large boulders and downed trees along the water that are perfect lunch (beer) spots. I could spend all day here.

Break time

The little doggies we shared the space with.

Looking downstream at the top of Triple Falls

Looking back upstream at the bridge we crossed over

On the way back down we came across lots of cool wildflowers.

Tiger Lily


Red Columbine

Showy Penstemon

After we got back down to the highway and our car, we changed into sandals and spent a little time wading up the Oneonta Creek. I can’t believe we’ve been in the Gorge a gazillion times and never done this. Oneonta Creek runs through the Oneonta Gorge (natch), and near the road is pretty shallow. There are lots of boulders and trees and little rocky beachy areas to hang out in, mini swimming holes for the kiddies and dogs to go swimming in, and beautiful scenery all around. You can go as far or not far as you like.

There is a small stairway down and to the right to drop down to the water

In the creek

You can also wade all the way up the creek and climb over a log jam to a view of the Lower Oneonta Falls. It was still crazy busy there, I only had flimsy flips flops on and Buckley can be a handful around crowds – so we decided to skip the climb over the logs. We will definitely go all the way next time, as the lower falls are supposed to be beautiful.

Approaching the log jam

The boys up on the boulder – that’s about as far as we went

Buckley was loving it!

Looking back downstream

Off to the side we found a little rocky beach area with a pocket deep enough for Buckley to swim. Copious amounts of fetch ensued.

Maybe copious amounts of beer too…

And now, an absurd number of pictures of Buckley. ๐Ÿ™‚

He will not let that stick out of his sight




Buckley even got to meet another doggie friend who was willing to share his tennis ball.



A little game of tug for good measure

Looking back up the creek

While a relatively easy hike, it’s loaded with scenery and fun stuff to do and doesn’t take up your whole day (unless you want it to).

To celebrate the long weekend, we are heading out tomorrow morning to Shellrock Lake area for a two-night backpacking trip. Report soon, I promise not to wait until next Friday night to post!

Happy 4th everyone!

June Lake

Summertime finally made its long-awaited debut in the PNW this weekend! We had sunny skies, temps in the 70s and not a drop of rain. To take advantage, we headed north (well, north east) to Mt. St. Helens for some backpacking fun. My cousin Bobby decided to get off the base for the weekend, and drove over from Ft. Lewis to meet up with us.

We decided on June Lake as our camping spot after sort of stumbling upon it online earlier in the week. It’s a gorgeous spot, but for some reason there isn’t a ton of info on it out there and only small blurbs in our hiking books… which is a good thing, that means less people. ๐Ÿ™‚ We also added in a few extra miles by hiking from June Lake to Chocolate Falls after setting up camp.

I also want to note that the photos from this trip are not stellar. I forgot that I had set my ISO to 1600 for some night shooting last week, and forgot to change it. As a result, all of these photos are grainy and noisy. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

June Lake (continuing on to Chocolate Falls)
Mt. St. Helens, Gifford Pinchot National Forest
Distance to June Lake from trailhead: 2.8 miles out-and-back
Elevation gain to June Lake: 447 feet
Total hike distance (including loop to Chocolate Falls): 5.73 miles round trip
Total elevation gain (including loop to Chocolate Falls): 1,150 feet

Click map for full GPS data

The hike from the trailhead to June Lake is about 1.4 miles and very little elevation gain. Not much in the way of scenery (aside from a peek or two at the summit), but at least it’s short, so you arrive at the lake in no time.ย  June Lake is situated at about 3200′ on the south side of Mt. St. Helens. This is just about at the treeline, so the terrain is very interesting; lush forest and waterfalls on one side, dry and sandy terrain with small, scrubby vegetation on the other side, and vast, barren lava fields just beyond that.

Hiking in, pretty close to June Lake at this point.

Little baby trees on the dry terrain

The name June “Lake” might be a bit deceiving, it’s actually fairly small, more like a pond (although perfectly clear and still). A giant basalt cliff provides the backdrop for the lake, complete with a dramatic waterfall feeding into it. There are a handful of campsites scattered along the water and further back, but we scored a sweet spot on the water directly in front of the waterfall! We got there at about 2pm and were the first campers to set up. I was pretty shocked by this. I would bet this place gets more popular later in the summer, so it would probably be a good idea to arrive early to claim your spot.

The view from our campsite! For real?!

The water is actually much clearer than that… Buckley had just taken a run through it ๐Ÿ™‚

After setting up camp we decided to seek out a path over to that waterfall, as we had seen some people over there a little earlier. Well, Paul and Bobby (and Buckley) took one trail and actually made it over. I totally didn’t think they were going to find a trail the way they were going, so took a lower trail and dead-ended. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Oh well, at least I got some pictures of the guys over by the fall.

There they are!

Bobby actually took his camera with him over to the fall, so here are some of his:

Looking back at our campsite

This looks… scary

Looking up from the bottom of the fall

While I was stuck halfway around the lake, looking longingly at the waterfall that I could not reach, I saw some cool vegetation.

Fiddleheads everywhere!

And what the heyo are these? Whatever they are, they are everywhere and they hurt!

After returning from waterfall adventures, we set out on another hike to Chocolate Falls, which was about a 3-mile loop from our campsite. This extra bit took us through forests and over some serious lava fields to the falls.

Just starting

Getting into the rockiness now

After a while, the trail sort of disappears and you are left to navigate the lava fields by making your way from pole to pole.ย  DIY hiking, if you will. I love climbing over rocks, but after miles of it, the ankles and shins really start to scream.

Finding the poles

Just after that ridge, we were suddenly greeted by Mt. St. Helens herself! What a mountain. This is the closest we had ever been to St. Helens. It’s pretty majestic up close.

Making our way through the lava

It was kind of crazy to stand on St. Helens looking back at Hood… it’s usually the other way around

Mt. Adams peeking over

The rough terrain/heat/sun made it seem like forever (to me anyway), but we finally reached Chocolate Falls. These falls “shut off” every night, and every day around 11:30am they turn back on as the glacier above melts in the daylight. The water picks up a lot of volcanic silt on its way down, which often gives the water a brown, chocolate milk effect. It looked pretty clear when we got there, but it’s a cool spot nonetheless!

Bobby at the top of the falls

Chocolate Falls (I thought the rocks at the bottom sort of resembled big chunks of chocolate…)

Where the water comes from just before diving over the cliff edge

While at the top of the falls, we ran into a family of four that was on their way down after summiting earlier in the day. I chatted for a little bit with them, the dad going on and on about how breathtaking the summit is. He revealed that it was his 11th time summiting, his wife’s 2nd, and his son’s 1st time (he looked to be about 10 or 11 years old I think). I congratulated the son on his first summit and asked him how it was… he looked at me and gave me an “it was okay” shrug. Haha! The dad immediately scolded the boy and informed him that it was, in fact, the time of his life. ๐Ÿ™‚ Perhaps he will appreciate his accomplishment later in life.

Ready to head back

The way back was even more grueling, crossing lava fields with even larger boulders (and hence larger gaps between boulders). At some point I read a trip report that mentioned hikers were left to hop from boulder to boulder in the last stretch… they weren’t kidding! My ankles and feet were sufficiently thrashed upon our return, so we just hung out at camp for the night.

Getting firewood ready

Not a bad backdrop for the campfire, eh?

Getting that fire going

Completely pooped after a full day of hiking and swimming

We brought our usual freeze-dried meals along, but this time we also got to try some Army MREs – Meals Ready-to-Eat – that Bobby was nice enough to bring along. Every pre-packaged meal is 3,000 calories, so you can eat parts of it all day long to sustain.ย These things are kind of amazing. There is a main entree piece (such as Chili Mac, Beef Stew and Ravioli) and it comes with this crazy little heating bag. You drop the entree into the bag and add a little water, and this thing heats up to boiling to warm the food. Crazy! There are also little packages of cookies, bread, powdered beverages, etc. There is even a little condiment package included with the cutest little 1″ tall bottle of Tobasco. And you know what? The meals don’t taste half bad.

Everything fits into neat little packages

Going through the contents

Okay, one more look at the waterfall

A little further down the shore

Enjoying our fire, which eventually was roaring

As it got darker, the stars really started to come out. It’s been a really, really long time since we’ve been somewhere where we could see stars like this… the kind where you can just stare at the sky for hours and hours, and even spot the occasional satellite orbiting. It felt pretty good. I tried to take some astro-photos, but my camera is just not equipped for it I don’t think. I left the shutter open for 30 seconds but the photo below is all I could get. If you click on it to make it larger, you can see a little better… but it still doesn’t do it justice.

Tried to capture the stars…

After staring into the sky for so long that my neck ached, we turned in for the night. I have to say, this was the best I’ve ever slept outdoors. I don’t know if it was the rigorous hike, all the sunshine from the day, the white noise of the waterfall, or perhaps the beer (come on, you didn’t think we wouldn’t have beer did you?), but I slept like a rock. Usually when we camp, I inexplicably wake up a good 7 or 8 times during the night and readjust. This time, I woke up twice. Twice! It was amazing. We even got to sleep in later than usual, even Buckley was tuckered out. Here’s what he looks like first thing in the morning:


Once we realized we slept in (oops!), we made breakfast and packed everything up pretty quick so we could attempt to get the Zipcar back in time. I always dread that point in time when the realization that we’re heading back to reality sets in. We bid June Lake and the waterfall adieu and headed out to the car.

On our way back out to the real world

We will totally, absolutely, definitely come back here again. I am still shocked at how alone we were out there, given the gorgeous weekend weather and the easy hike in. Perhaps we will stay here when we inevitably attempt to summit St. Helens…?

Backpacking the Siouxon Creek

Another successful overnighter on the books! And, if you’ll take a look at the widget to the right… we have broken 100 miles this year!

This weekend we backpacked the Siouxon Creek in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest area in Washington. Another gorgeous riverside hike and campsite. While still a relatively easy (i.e. flat) hike, we did hike in a little further this time – a little over 3 miles to our site.

Siouxon Creek
Gifford Pinchot National Forest (Washington)
Total hike distance: 6.6 miles to campsite and back (the trail does go further than that)
Elevation gain: 456 feet

Click map for full GPS data

From the parking lot, the trail drops about 50 feet quickly to reach the water. From there on out, the trail more or less follows the creek. By the way, don’t let the “Creek” in the name fool you… this is no babbling brook. There are some pretty gnarly rapids at times, as well as very deep swimming holes around some of the falls. The trail leads through lots of deliciously mossy old-growth forest perched above the creek bed.

Crossing West Creek


Looking down onto the Siouxon Creek (a particularly narrow section)

After about two miles we came across the first big waterfall, Horseshoe Creek Falls. The trail crosses a bridge across the top of the falls, but there is also a small scramble track down toward the base for a view looking up – of course this is where I headed to take some photos.

Looking back up at Paul on top of Horseshoe Creek Falls

A swirling pool of turquoise water at the top

Shortly after crossing the bridge, there is a spur trail that takes you down to a lower viewpoint at the base of the falls on the other side. There are also some campsites here. Stellar views from these sites, if you don’t mind the constant misty spray from the plunging falls.

Another view of Horseshoe Creek Falls, taken from one of the available campsites

In about another quarter mile, another waterfall! This one is Siouxon Falls. There is a big swimming hole at the base, accessible by a couple of very steep scramble tracks. We didn’t go for it this time, conditions were sort of wet and the water is still ice cold.

Siouxon Falls

Of course, there is another grouping of campsites located here as well with great views, but it looked like a group of Scouts had beat us to it. According to our guide book there was another bunch of sites 1.1 miles further, so we forged on. Sure enough, after about a mile we saw some unmarked spur trails heading down to our left. We checked one out and found our home!

Our site

Just like on our Salmon River backpacking trip, we scored a spot right on the water. The site is huge, plenty of room for our gear and for hanging out. Plus, no one else seemed to have bothered to venture that far along the trail, so it was nice and secluded.

Surrounded by green… this photo is unedited, it was really this green.

Buckley taking a dip. A very quick dip… water was freezing!

After setting up camp and having a snack, we headed back out with our lightened packs to check out the trail beyond our campsite. We didn’t go too far, but did get to see Wildcat Falls (which I didn’t take a picture of, drat) and some more pretty scenery.

Lots of little tributaries to cross on the trail. It must be the kid in me, but I absolutely love to stomp through these with my waterproof boots!

Twisty tree

After our walk we settled in for the night – lots of freeze-dried food, trail mix, instant coffee and wine ensued. Sadly, the only thing we were without was a fire. After several days of rain, there was not a dry twig to be found. Even using firestarters we could not get a single thing to burn (maybe we should have gone back and asked the scouts for some ย help?). Luckily it was pretty warm, and it stays light out pretty late, so we hardly missed it.

Sitting by our would-be fire, using some nifty slings that turn our sleeping pads into chairs.

Of course we brought the PlatyPreserve, filled with a delicious 2008 blend called Momentum from Cor Cellars (one of the wineries we visited last weekend).

This gigantic tree stump served as a wonderful table top. I kind of want it in my dining room. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

I just learned these are called “nurse logs.” Fallen trees with new life sprouting from them. Something I’ve always loved, now I know the name.

The mighty trees surrounding our campsite.

After a glass of wine or three, I thought it would be fun to play with exposures. This is what you get. If you get motion sickness, look away.

After it got dark, we retired to our tent for the night. Unlike our last backpacking trip, this time we found a nice, level, flat piece of ground for our tent… so I had a wonderful night’s sleep listening to the sounds of the creek, without sliding to one end of the tent or having to negotiate the tree root under my back. Aaaahhh. We even got Buckley his own Thermarest doggy sleeping pad, which he enjoyed immensely. After a peaceful night, we woke up to the sound of rain at sunrise. That’s okay, still a soothing sound… plus, according to the forecast any rain was supposed to be done and gone by 7am. In reality, our soothing drizzle turned into an increasingly hard and steady rain. So, we packed up our stuff very strategically to maximize our dryness. And you know what, I think we did a pretty damn good job. Paul had the brilliant idea of purchasing a couple extra tarps ($5 each for spare tent footprints at Next Adventure, amazing deal!!) which really saved our asses. After successfully getting everything into our packs, we started on the hike back. By this point, I think the only word to accurately describe the rain is drenching. Aside from the downpour, all we could hear was the squish squish squish of each footstep. While this might sound miserable, it was strangely enjoyable. We were wearing waterproof foot gear, head-to-toe quick-drying fabrics, and had draped tarps over our packs to keep them dry… so really, what’s to worry about? It wasn’t cold, so all that was left to do was enjoy the shower. We were sufficiently soaked to the bone when we got back to the car. There was, naturally, not another soul around that morning, making it easy to conduct a quick costume change to rid ourselves of wet socks and skivvies. ๐Ÿ™‚

After dealing with that rain, I must say I feel a little more like a wilderness girl. Is there a patch or something I can add to my sash? The “packed and stuffed all my soaking wet gear and then marched back to the car without complaining and then got nekkid in the parking lot” patch? I’ll put it next to my “dug my first cathole” patch. Which I also earned on this trip. Google at your own risk.

Hamiltonย Mountain

A week after Eagle Creek, we decided to try Hamilton Mountain (also in the Gorge). Our friends Nikolos and Nate came with us for this one too. This is a good, relatively easy hike, although less scenic than other trails we’ve been on. I’m guessing it’s a lot prettier in the spring when the wildflowers are blooming.

Hamilton Mountain
Columbia River Gorge (Washington side)
Summit at 2,488 feet
Total hike distance: 7.4 mile loop
Total elevation gain: 2,058 feet

Click for full GPS data

This hike starts climbing right away, getting right into the switchbacks. Luckily we didn’t have to go far for the first payoff – only one mile in for the waterfalls!

One of the first spots to open up to a view

Morning sun

There are actually three named waterfalls on this section of the creek, but we only caught one. You can take a side trail to the lowest one, Hardy Falls, which we didn’t do. There is another trail that heads to Pool of the Winds, ย a really cool spot at the base of a fall where water plunges into an enclosed whirpool, forcing air to blow out through a big gap in the rocks. You can walk right up to it and feel the mist and air rushing out on your face, but it would be hard to take a picture without soaking the camera… so, I didn’t. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I can imagine this spot would be great on a hot summer day, to cool down mid-hike. We also passed Rodney Falls, which is just along the main trail.

Rodney Falls

Another viewpoint

We summited pretty quickly, so we grabbed a spot to hang out and Paul made another awesome trail lunch. The summit is covered in a lot of brush so views, especially to the west, can be obscured.

Looking east from the summit

One final shot at the summit before heading back down

The loop descends on the other side of the summit to a ridge with great views to the east and west. It then continues on to an old abandoned road, which takes you most of the way back down.

A solid hike for sure, but not sure I’d jump at the chance to do it again. Of course, Hamilton Mountain had the disadvantage of Eagle Creek still being fresh in our minds, which was just breathtaking… so perhaps I am being too hard on it. ๐Ÿ™‚