I wonder if “gorge” and “gorgeous” are related*. They ought to be. One certainly is the other – especially here, along the Oregon/Washington border, the land of waterfalls, salmon, hiking trails, and rugged beauty as far as the eye can see.
So we’re here in one of my favorite states and my girl can’t move into the dorms until Wednesday morning. We’d planned to head to Corvallis early, but not with 4 big duffels, a small refrigerator, and several boxes of dorm stuff. Looks like we’re “stuck” in Portland – not a bad thing.
Yesterday was Portland for the needed coffee and shopping therapy. Tomorrow it’s supposed to rain, so that will be our running-around-for-random-dorm-stuff-we-need day. Today… it’s a good day for the Columbia Gorge.
Just 30 minutes or so from Portland, it’s an easy day trip. Even a half day is enough for us to get our fix before heading home and it’s easy to follow the E. Historic Columbia River Hwy from Corbett east until it meets hwy 84 again. Looking at the map now makes me realize how much more I’ve missed. I could spend months hiking and exploring both sides of that marvelous river and not tire of it.
We stopped first at the Chanticleer Point (also known as the Portland Women’s Forum). The first name, given to this spot by its original owner in 1912, is prettier I think. Here, the Chanticleer Inn once stood. Thankfully, the Portland Women’s Forum bought it in the 1950’s after the inn had burned down and preserved it from further development. This is one of my absolute favorite views. I’ve more frequently stopped at the Vista House seen on the right, but I sort of like it in the photo. This view is fantastic (and free with ample parking).
That beautiful octagonal building in the photo above (and below) is the historic Vista House at Crown Point. It was built 733 feet above the Columbia river in 1918 as a resting place for travelers. The chief engineer, Samuel Lancaster called this place an ideal site for “an observatory from which the view both up and down the Columbia could be viewed in silent communion with the infinite.” It’s served as a memorial to“the trials and hardships of those who had come into the Oregon country” and a “comfort station for the tourist and the travelers of America’s greatest highway.”
As always, it still is a free, relaxed resting spot here. There are bathrooms and a gift shop in the basement. Park rangers have information on the history and significance of the building and site, and the house itself sitting high on the hill, still provides stunning views of the Gorge from east to west and across to the Washington side. Annoyed by the lamp posts, I headed upstairs. From the top of the Vista House, the view is unobscured.
Just a few miles down the road just to the right of the old highway, sits a sign and a parking lot for Latourell Falls. The hike isn’t long. Go to the left and see a viewpoint, or loop to the right and follow the trail to this view.
The trail bends back and crosses a bridge, but many go down to the falls to stand on the edge or dip their toes in the pool. I got as close as I could without drenching myself and camera with the intense spray. I was where that lady is sitting on the edge of a log and I got wet. The man being photographed was nearly soaked.
Cross the bridge and turn left instead of right and you can climb/walk/hike over the slippery rocks mountain goat style right behind the falls. My girl did that today – on her own, looking beautiful and confident while I watched with amazement. There was a time she couldn’t have done that and though it seems far away now, it’s still there, in the back of my mind. A reminder of grace and gratitude. Life is good.
This is what I love about driving places in Oregon. This is entirely too typical. Whether I’m driving along the gorge or heading to the beach, these drives are just lusciously verdant. Though I’d worry a little about the lack of shoulder, this is a great road to bike.
I don’t have the slightest idea how we missed Shepperd’s Dell or Bridal Veil Falls. Both are there, right off the highway. Neither require intense walks. I’ve passed them and seen them multiple times… and yet, today, neither my mom nor my oldest saw them either. So we drove past looking for them both and didn’t stop until we hit Wahkeena – and we almost didn’t stop for long.
I’ve seen Wahkeena Falls many times, but never with construction around it. I almost walked away with photos of fences and hardhats around the creek running under the street and down the hill. From the road, I couldn’t even see the falls today. Foliage was full and the fences prevented me from walking to the left to get a good view. We almost turned away, but Tiara looked back and asked how to get to the bridge. She saw someone up there, so we walked a steep 1/2 mile or so to the bridge and found this beauty.
The falls themselves don’t seem too long. There isn’t the dramatic drop like Multnomah, but it does start up high above this point and just rambles down, falling gradually, hugging the curves of the rock, and trickling into a creek of mini-falls that wind all the way down and beyond the road. It’s a gorgeous area. From here, you can take the trail to Multnomah falls. The longer hike is up here. When the construction finishes, the shorter path is below.
Multnomah Falls may be the most well known waterfall along the Columbia Gorge, but is also, in spite of its dramatic drop, my least favorite. Perhaps I’ve just seen it too many times. May be I just prefer the underdog. May be it’s just overdone in photos and tourist brochures. Well, it doesn’t matter. It’s still pretty. You still have to stop and gaze and hike up to the bridge if you have the time and stamina for it. The view is spectacular – really. I just like the underdogs – they feel more special.
We ate at the lodge. It’s old and rustic. A fireplace sits on one end to keep it cozy in the winter months. The food is good, substantial, and reasonably priced.
Just past Multnomah lies the waterfall underdog still elusive to me. Next time I’ll be prepared… I hope. Today I wore cheap Old Navy flip flops and climbed rocks carrying an overly large orange Kate Spade.
From the road there’s nothing but a sign identifying Oneonta Gorge. Until today, I didn’t even know there were falls there. We pulled off and parked, then walked over to the old stone bridge and tunnel. Stairs went down to the shallow rocky stream below. Tiara went first, unimpeded and excited to explore. I followed. We love these kinds of places. Tidepools and streams, skipping carefully across rocks and climbing over tree trunks. It’s fun – even in flip flops.
The stream itself was easy enough to pass without getting overly wet. We walked on until we reached a large pile of tree trunks, slippery from years of wear, piled chaotically just the way they fell naturally, some straight and some at angles. Below were deep pools of icy water. Though there were places to hold on, it was intimidating and there were places to slip. A man passed us climbing onto the logs to look for the cell phone that had fallen three months before when he fell in and broke his collar bone.
I made it almost to the other side. Different shoes and more time I could have walked on with Tiara – a little way, but my mom was waiting and I didn’t want to leave her too long, plus people coming back soaked from head to toe said the falls is just around the corner, but you have to walk through deep water to get to it. That was probably the clencher. Flip flops – fine. Kate, may be. Waist-high water? Nope. Next time – on a warmer day.
The last falls before reaching hwy 84 is Horsetail Falls. It’s just there, on the side of the road with absolutely no hiking required, so at the end of a long day, it’s a nice little stop. The pool beneath it is larger than some and completely accessible so it’s possible to play in it and walk nearly all the way around it if you’d like. I just walked to one side.
Instead of jumping onto 84 for a quick drive back, we went back along the old highway the way we came hoping to catch Bridal Veil. We stopped at the parking lot for it, then a short walk to the viewpoints there. It was starting to rain (Oregon’s famous liquid sunshine), so we didn’t hike long. We just lingered a bit at the sunset over Portland and smiled at this “quiet giant” watching the river from here.
*So I looked it up and gorge and gorgeous are sort of related, but it’s a bit muddled.