Thursday, March 5, 2015

Hiking Columbia River Gorge: Lower Eagle Creek

The Eagle Creek Trail was ground zero for the massive wildfire that scorched thousands of acres in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area in September 2017. The fire was started along the stretch of trail featured in this blog post, and sadly this trail will likely be closed for some time, possibly years.
Life happens, the years fly by, and suddenly you realize it has been far too long since you hiked a favorite trail. Does this happen to you too?

After driving down from Seattle on a Saturday morning, it's close to noon when we hit the trail at Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. We decided on Eagle Creek thinking it'll be less crowded than the Wahkeena Falls-Multnomah Falls-Angel's Rest trails because it's farther east from Portland.

Nope, apparently Eagle Creek is the most popular trail in the Gorge. When we arrive, there are so many cars parked that we have to walk about 1/2 mile to the trailhead.

For those of us who grew up in east Multnomah County and remember parking close to any trailhead in the Gorge, and then hiking  in relative solitude, the current reality takes some adjustment.

But any day on a trail is a good day.

We start out along the creek and soon climb gently through forest dripping with  moss.

While the trail is plenty wide and there is a cable handrail against the basalt rock walls, walking along the ledge portions of the trail does require being careful and watching your step. Because, well, accidents do and have happened here.

We meander a little over a mile through forest and along ledges, cross a pretty stream, and take the  Lower Punch Bowl Falls Trail cutoff at about 1.5 miles along.

From the cutoff trail, it's less than a quarter-mile down to a rocky beach area below the falls. Many hikers only go as far as the Punch Bowl Falls, as do we today because of time limitations.

And then we step over cobbled river rocks as far as we can get to a decent view of the basalt "punch bowl" into which Eagle Creek tumbles. 

We pass a half dozen or so rock cairns, one of which now bears a stone I carefully added. I love that cairns, or stupas as a Zen teacher I know calls them, are all over these days.

Behold the obligatory Punch Bowl Falls shot.  Because it is indeed breathtaking up close in its natural gorgeousness and power.

As we head back down the Eagle Creek trail, I follow my former high school classmate and hiking buddy Colleen and her trooper of a little dog Marley, my models today. :)


Along an undercut rock wall on the trail, we pass beneath a light waterfall streaming down from the cliff above. 

So there are a few spots along the trail that can be dicey in slick or icy conditions, but on a dry, warmish day like today, ambling along the Eagle Creek trail is a pleasant, easy walk.

After Hike Eats
Who's not hungry after a hike? Afterwards we drive back west on I-84 and cut south into historic downtown Gresham.  The small town where my father had a couple businesses and I spent so much time as a girl is now considered a charming destination. 

Main Street, Gresham, Oregon
Colleen suggests we grab a bite at The Local Cow, a cute little burger bar on Main Street that serves high-quality, Oregon pasture-raised beef.  (And, I discovered, is located in the same building/space where my father operated an office supply business many years ago.) Excellent little beef sliders, great mixed green salad, and refreshing Spire Mountain pear cider

Happy trails and thanks for visiting Pacific Northwest Seasons!  In between blog posts check us out on FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter for more photos and Northwest news.
When You Go
While any time hiking in the verdant mosslandia of the Columbia River Gorge is wonderful, anymore I suggest going on a week day if you can. If it's just weekends for you, go early. 

From the Portland area, travel east on I-84 to the Eagle Creek exit, about a mile past Bonneville Dam. To the Punch Bowl and back from the Eagle Creek trailhead is about 3.4 miles, although we added almost a mile with having to park so far away. You can continue on for several miles, or as a backpack, all the way to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, as I did when I was in high school. You'll need a Northwest Forest Pass to park or risk a fine.


Ron Mitchell said...

Thanks for bringing back a good memory!

Anne said...

These are beautiful shots. But the very end got me....I used to work at Gresham Office Supply after school. I must go have a meal there and see if the ghost of Margaret Maybee lingers.

jill said...

Hey Ron, I remember seeing your post about hiking Eagle Creek last year! You went a lot farther I recall. Safe Travels.

Anne, I know! I used to work there too. It looks very different now of course and they punched back the wall and exposed the old fireplace. You should go on your next trip south.

Anonymous said...

Great photos! Your story reminds me of a backpack I did there in early April about 11 years ago. We hiked to a camp about 5 miles up. Flowers were blooming along the ledges and elsewhere, and of course, there are waterfalls. We had rain in the evening and overnight, so dinner was a quick effort to get food in, then jump in the dry tent. I loved hearing the stream at night. I need to go back there! Thanks, Jill. Betty

Greg Smith said...

Hi Jill - My name is Greg Smith and I too am related to Hans Martin Hanson. Enjoy your blogs! Interested in comparing historical notes. Skoal Greg

jill said...

Hi Greg, so nice to see your comments! I'll try to contact you for followup by other means. Was with my uncle Bob yesterday who I am pretty sure is your (deceased?) father's first cousin. cheers.

Marie said...

Thanks for sharing these gorgeous photos Jill. I just feel like crying right now; I'm feeling so upset by this fire. :(