Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Hiking We Will Go

My running partner Carissa and I tend to unknowingly live parallel lives.  Ironically, but not surprisingly, we both purchased the same book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Portland by Paul Gerald, with the intent of systematically hiking through the entire book.  When we made this discovery, we decided we should tackle some of these hikes together and chose Triple Falls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge as our first hike together.

TRIPLE FALLS (4.5 miles round trip)
Horsetail Falls where we started
Carissa and I (along with our seven children ranging in age from 20 months to 10 years) met in the parking lot of Horsetail Falls.  Our hiking book rated this hike as “moderate.”  I agree with this rating for adult hikers, but this hike via tiny four-year-old legs is definitely “strenuous.”  Take your time, enjoy the beauty around you and bring lots of snacks.  I will definitely take Curt back to this hike.

View four waterfalls in 2.25 miles:  Horsetail Falls where the trail starts, Upper Horsetail Falls that we hiked behind, Oneonta Falls that we viewed from a bridge over Oneonta Gorge, and Triple Falls, our destination point.
Triple Falls is a unique and beautiful waterfall – three separate waterfalls converge on the edge of a cliff and cascade over it meeting as one before they hit the pool of water below.
Triple Falls
Great picnic spot above the falls and a place for the kids to splash around in the ice cold water.  We spent at least an hour playing in the creek at our picnic spot before heading back.
The hike back down to the car took a fraction of the time to get to the falls, primarily because it was all downhill.
Multnomah Falls is just a few miles down the historic highway from the trailhead. The lodge boasts flush toilets and sinks with real soap for hand washing, a bonus for parents.  The kids love the ice cream cones and Italian sodas for sale at inflated prices.  I was tired enough to pay $3.00 for a cruddy cup of coffee and pretend that it was good.
our group at Triple Falls

There is no bathroom facility at the Horsetail Falls trailhead making it difficult to pee in public.
The trail is incredibly rocky and very narrow with steep drop-offs in many places.  When I replayed the trail in my mind that night, I thanked God for keeping us all safe.  Any kids that come on this hike need to understand trail safety and “hug the mountain” at every switchback.
The hike to Triple Falls is straight up the entire time making it exhausting to traverse with little people.  We took LOTS of breaks and did a lot of bribing to get them all up to the falls.

FALLS CREEK FALLS (3 miles round trip)
Alli at Falls Creek Falls
A few days after we hiked Triple Falls, my Mom and Terry chaperoned our entire family to Falls Creek Falls in Washington State.  We drove the Columbia River Gorge to the Bridge of the Gods and crossed over into the beautiful state of Washington and meandered through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest bordering Mt. St. Helens to get to the trailhead.  This hike was rated “easy” in my hiking book and I agree with that rating for both adults and children.

The grade of the trail and short distance make it conducive for people of all ages and fitness levels to be able to complete this hike.
Falls Creek runs along the trail making for a super scenic hike.  The creek is wide and full of rapids making it beautiful to look at and fun to listen to the rushing water.
If the distance is too short, you can add on an extra 3 miles by hiking the upper loop.
Falls Creek Falls is hands-down the most beautiful waterfall I have ever seen (to date).  It looked like something out of a movie – three-tiered, powerful, and mesmerizing in its beauty.  I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 42:7, “deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.”
The spot around the waterfall is great for picnicking and taking a break.  You could spend the afternoon watching the water if you felt so inclined.
Curt and I at the falls
Falls Creek is accessible to play and cool off in the early part of the hike.  We chose to conclude our hike by letting the kids frolic in the creek before packing up.
Stop in nearby Cascade Locks (just over the Bridge of the Gods on the Oregon side) at the little espresso/bakery/candy/restaurant/antique store underneath the bridge.  The kids LOVE the giant lollipops and Curt and I loved getting real coffee and fresh baked goodies.

I had a few cons written out and they got deleted.  GRRR!  I probably had more thoughts, but here are the two I remember off the top of my head.
This is a two-hour drive for a three-mile hike.  I would have liked the hike to be longer, but you can add an extra three-mile loop if you want the extra exercise.
Given the hike’s “easy” rating, I was slightly insulted when we started climbing the second we touched the trail.  But the climb was gradual and slow so I got over it.

RAMONA FALLS (7 miles round trip)
Grant and I at Ramona Falls
Alli, Katie and Paige went to a two-day camp hosted by our dear friend Molly so Grant and I took advantage of our alone time.  We drove two hours into the Mt. Hood National Forest to the Ramona Falls Trailhead.  He hiked this seven-mile loop two years ago with Grandpa Terry and was really excited to guide me along the trail.  My hiking book rated this hike “easy” and I completely agree.

The elevation you gain on the hike is so gradual that you don’t even realize you’re climbing.
The terrain is every changing.  I saw more geographically changes than I thought possible in seven miles.  Grant named each of the different terrains.
o Desert Land – a dry, sandy, desert-like patch of woods along the banks of the Sandy River.  We forded the river on a little footbridge through this desert area.
o Gnome Land – thick forest where moss carpeted both the trees and the ground.
o Rhododendron Land – tree-sized rhododendron bushes in full bloom lined the trail and filled the air with a fresh, clean laundry smell.
o Cliff Land – sheer cliff faces that appeared to be uniquely hand-carved lined a portion of Ramona Creek.  Grant and I spent some time trying to see pictures within the texture of the cliff’s surface.
o Creek Land – we followed serene and beautiful Ramona Creek for about 2 miles.  Clear pools and gently flowing rapids invited us to stop and play.
The trail is refreshingly easy on the feet.  It was either soft forest loam or clean river sand.  Grant actually hiked about five miles of the trail in his bare feet and never complained once.  It was a sharp contrast to the ultra rocky Triple Falls trail.
The longer distance seems worth the drive and gives a great sense of accomplishment when you finally return to your car.
Ramona Falls is different than most waterfalls.  Instead of cascading down in one forceful and concentrated area, it sprawls across the width of a cliff giving the appearance of fairies flying around sprinkling the rocks with water.
Tons of room for picnicking in the falls area.
along the Sandy River with Mt. Hood
Camping is easily accessible along the Sandy River for anyone backpacking this trail.

This is a long hike and takes a good four hours or longer to hike.  I didn’t allow for enough time for us to lollygag our way along the trail and we ended up race-walking the last three miles.
The loop portion of the trail isn’t balanced for beauty.  The Ramona Creek side is stunning the entire way.  The Sandy River side is boring.  If we hiked it again, we’d take the Ramona Creek side both directions.

I don’t often get time alone with each of my kids so to have an ENTIRE day with just Grant was a highlight of my summer.  We laughed and laughed at some note-worthy things.
On our way to the trailhead I encouraged Grant to eat one of the sandwiches I packed for him.  He was ¾ of the way through the sandwich when he declared, “No wonder this tastes so gross.”  Given the fact that it was a traditional turkey and cheese sandwich, I queried how it could be gross.  Grant’s reply?  “You forgot to take the paper off the cheese!”  Silly boy ate ¾ of a piece of a cheese before he stopped to examine the sandwich.
Grant was reading directions to the trailhead when he realized we would be starting our hike .3 miles from a campground our family is going to camp at next month.  We pre-viewed our camp site and were stoked to find it remote (park and pack your gear in), huge, and bordering a creek.  SCORE!
Photo Op #3
We stopped to play at Ramona Creek.  I wanted a picture of us balancing on a log over the creek.  Grant did not want to participate because he didn’t want to risk getting his shoes wet.  I talked him into trying, but the self timer cut off our heads on the first attempt.  On the second attempt, Grant lost his balance and fell into the water with his shoes on.  Even better, the self-timer snapped the picture right as he was falling and got a blurry shot of Grant’s frantic face.  He refused to try a third time, so I balanced on the log and he stood in the creek.
We brought the hiking book with us and followed the specific directions.  When we came to a junction in the trail, Grant and I both read the book incorrectly and turned left when it said to turn right.  Fortunately it was a loop so there was no wrong way, but we were so confused as to why none of the trail descriptions matched what we were seeing.  We hiked three miles to the waterfall and past before we realized our mistake and then we both couldn’t stop giggling.  All this time we thought the writer was the moron and instead it was us!
Horses are allowed on portions of the trail and they left frequent reminders of their presence.  I saw a pile and said to Grant, “Watch out for the horse poop.”  He hollered back, “Manure.”  I couldn’t help myself so I countered with “poop” and a game of back and forth was born.  We did this the entire seven miles and never seemed to think it was un-funny.
When Grant got tired around the 5 mile mark we made up silly songs about how he would never hike with his mother again.  We kept changing the lyrics and it kept our minds off the distance of the hike and our hearts happy.

MACLEAY TRAIL (4.5 miles)
Whitney, one of the girls I’m going to Haiti with, likes to hike.  We decided to spend the day getting to know each other by hiking the Macleay Trail located within the Portland city limits.  Katie came with us and it was great to have some concentrated time with her.  The hiking book labeled this trail “easy to moderate” and I would agree.

at Pittock Mansion
The scenery on this hike is nothing to write home about.  It’s basically climbing up a forested mountain foothill and occasionally passing a stream.  What makes this hike impressive is that this forest is located blocks away from downtown Portland.  What big city reserves a huge section of forest for the sole purpose of giving nature-loving people who live in the city a close place to come and enjoy?  

We started at the beginning of the Macleay Trail and hiked straight up for 2.25 miles to the top of the mountain.  On the way we crossed over a slow trickle of water called Balch Creek.  For years it was the primary water source for the entire city of Portland!  Can you imagine?  We passed the Audubon Society and saw some very large birds in cages (YAWN) and continued our hike up to the Pittock Mansion.

Katie and Whitney in the flower gardens
The mansion had extensive flower gardens and sweeping, panoramic views of the city.  Plus it was the final pit stop for The Amazing Race so I was excited to see it.  We picnicked on a bench in the far corner of the garden and followed a trail up to the house.  A lady stood by a doorway with the door propped open so we slid by her, said thank you and went inside.  We got some dirty looks that I assumed were because we had backpacks and muddy shoes from the trail.  We found out later, after we had explored every floor of the mansion, that it actually had an entrance fee of $8 per adult.  OOPS!  We all got the giggles and snuck out the way we had come only to find that it had started pouring rain.  We hiked back down the mountain in the cold rain, giggling the entire time about our accidental break-in.

APE CAVES (1 1/5 mile through a cave; 1 mile through the forest)
Over the past two years, we’ve heard lots of chatter about how cool the Ape Caves, located in the Mt. St. Helens National Forest, are.  We chose a Saturday to join our friends, Jon and Melanie and their girls, to explore the caves together.  Melanie is an experienced caver which is good since I’ve never been in one!

Dobson/Stilp crew at main cave entrance
I’m feeling lazy so I copied this description of the caves.  “The Ape Caves are the longest intact lava tube in the continental United Sates.  There are two different routes of exploration inside the cave, plus an above-ground trail connecting the main and upper entrances.  The lower cave is the easier and more popular route with its fairly level, mudflow-covered floor and unique features such as the lava ball wedged in the ceiling.  The upper cave is for the more adventurous.  This challenging hike climbs over large rock piles, scales an 8-foot lava fall and requires good balance and sturdy shoes.”

Christmas in July
Our group was 10 hikers strong and Paige, at 5 years old, was our youngest hiker.  We opted to skip the lower cave and tackle the upper cave while everyone was feeling fresh.  The caves (at least for me) were very intimidating for the first ten minutes or so.  Leaving the sunlit, mid 80 degree forest and descending down under the earth into a pitch black, 42 degree cave felt unnerving and a little bit scary.  We each carried a flashlight and added our cold weather layers once our eyes adjusted to the dark.

The first rock pile was the most intimidating and we all slowly and timidly picked our way up and over.  I’m not a big fan of bats and bats live in caves. Much to my great relief (and the relief of anyone who would have heard me scream bloody murder had I seen one), we did not encounter any bats.  We did come across one mouse who acted drugged and was running courageously in circles around our feet.  I was happy when he decided to stop following us and go back to his home.

me waving from the cave exit
Paige insisted on being carried over the first rock pile, but then she found her courage and did the rest of the cave on her own.  She was very resilient.  We had one sprained ankle and a few scraped limbs but overall, we made it to the other end of the cave and out into the hot sunlight in one piece.  The upper cave opening is ridiculously small.  It’s crazy to think that such a huge world existed below it.

The Ape Caves got one giant thumbs up from our entire group.  We will definitely go back!

Those are the hikes we’ve covered so far in July.  But don’t worry.  We plan to hike our way through August as well.  I’ll try to keep you posted!  A’hiking we will go!

1 comment:

  1. OH MY GOODNESS Jodi! This is incredible! You should write a book. Thank you for the info on the hike, we LOVE to hike and the Bozarths will certainly be gearing up and heading out for these amazing spots! We're some of those hikes that were 2 hours away in that book? Cuz I thought it was 60 hikes in 60 miles of Portland... and a 2 hour drive is definitely more than 60 miles, hmmm, maybe I read that wrong, I'll have to go back to the top of the blog and see the book's title.