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.
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|
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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.