Like a homing pigeon, I'm drawn to the western Columbia River Gorge's abundant waterfalls and lush green riot of moss and ferns whenever I visit Portland. I always try to sneak up for a hike along the Gorge's many trails, some I've walked since I was a girl and some for the first time.
On a rainy morning recently I hiked to Wahclella Falls, a first for me. When I was growing up in east Multnomah County this trail near Bonneville Dam wasn't open for public access, but now it's quite popular. Of course. It's easy, relatively close to Portland (about 30 minutes east up I-84), and gorgeous.
When I get to the trailhead around 8:30 on a Saturday morning, there's only one car in the parking lot. Anymore that's pretty unusual on a weekend.
After layering up in fleece and a water-repellent shell, I start up along swollen Tanner Creek through a forest of moss-encrusted trees. It rained heavily the last few days, so there's a lot of water rushing down the narrow canyon walls into the creek.
Pretty quickly I cross a small bridge with a waterfall (Munra Falls) gushing beside the trail with the intensity of a fire hose.
|Looking back down Tanner Creek to Munra Falls and bridge on the right.|
It occurs to me that hiking after a heavy rain in a slide-prone area is not the safest place to be. (Same goes for those icy days when traversing sections of trail with steep drop-offs.) Just the day before a woman had been killed by a landslide on the Oregon coast. So I proceed with caution, a little more quickly than usual.
|One of several slides across the trail.|
Ephemeral waterfalls that aren't there in the drier months have sprung all along the trail, mingling with remnant patches of snow from a few days earlier. After a very dry 2015, it's fantastic.
Not too far from the Main Event (Wahclella Falls), I come to a fork in the trail and decide to stay high. From here it's not too far down to the end of the loop trail.
I can feel and hear the falls before I see it. And then there it is, flowing full throttle.
With the rain coming down harder, I don't linger too long after taking a few shots. It's hard to capture the falls with all the mist and rain.
|Looking back up the trail|
Of course I can't resist stopping to take more shots along the way. I especially love the vibrant aqua green-blue of the creek between the mossy rocks.
And the moss!
Traffic is picking up on the trail on the way back. I'm always slightly surprised at how many more people are on the trails than when I roamed the Gorge as a teenager.
'Twas a short hike, but I need to return to Portland to meet up with some friends. I drive back west on I-84 along the Columbia River happy and refreshed from this morning dose of nature nourishment.
Do you have a favorite hike in the Columbia Gorge? Would love to hear in the comments below.
When You Go
The trailhead is about 30 miles eastward up the Gorge from Portland. From I-84, take Exit #40/Bonneville Dam. Turn south at the stop sign and drive about 100 feet. Stay to the right, which takes you to Wahclella Falls trailhead.