July 9, 2006

The Coon Family Hiking Club
Official 2006 Hike #5

LENGTH OF HIKE 3.4 miles - 3 hours 38 minutes

1.7 miles to falls

Started: 09:11 AM
Arrived: 11:08 AM

Time up: 1 hour 57 minutes

1.7 miles return to parking lot

Started: 11:39 AM
Arrived: 12:46 PM

Time down: 1 hour 07 minutes

Total time Hiking to and from falls: 3 hours 4 minutes

Once again Dotti's brother Rip joined us on our hike, and his company was very much appreciated. He brought his camera along and so we had 3 shutters clicking during our hike. (He was kind enough to share his pictures with us, and some of them appear below.)

When we reached the falls we were amazed! How could such a beautiful falls be hidden from us for so long? Despite the unimaginative name of the falls, and the creek that flows over it, this is one of the most beautiful falls we have ever seen.

The falls itself is in three parts: the uppermost section is 50 feet tall, and it was visible from the trail, and we did get some pictures of it, but once we got to the base of the falls, that section was blocked from view; in the middle section the water spreads out over a beautiful fan that is 70 feet in length; and the bottom section is a straight drop for 80 feet into a rock bowl shaped drop pool. It all adds up to 200 lovely feet of falls.

The hike itself was great. It was only 1.7 miles from the parking lot to the base of the falls, with an elevation increase of 650 feet. That averages out to an incline of about 7.25%. (Multnomah Falls is just over 13%.)

We intended to get a nice early start on the hike, but we got started a bit later than we had planned, and then found that the drive took a little longer than expected. We didn't actually hit the trail until just after 9 AM, instead of the 8 AM that we were shooting for.

Even so it was still a fairly cool 70 at the start, and even when we got back to the car, it had only gotten up to 82 or so. (Later in the day it was up to 88, so we were happy that we weren't any later than we were.)

The trail was well groomed, and there was plenty of shade. Just before we came within view of the base of the falls, all at once the temperature dropped drastically. The cool wind pouring off the falls was exceedingly welcome. After spending 30 minutes taking pictures at the base of the falls, we had forgotten that we were in a cool envelope of very pleasant air, and it came as a rude shock to us when we exited it on the way and were hit with a blast of what felt like very hot air. But I as said above, it wasn't that hot, and we soon acclimated to it. Also, we quickly ran into a couple of butterflies that made us forget all about the heat.

I think that we will be doing this hike again before long, and next time we will probably do the side hike that will take us to the top of the falls.

We drove out Interstate 84 right past Exit 31 for Multnomah Falls. We continued past Exit 41, for Eagle Creek, where we have hiked to Punchbowl Falls, and Tunnel Falls. At Exit 44 we left the freeway and headed into Cascade Locks, where we got onto a steel bridge called Bridge of the Gods. Even without the name, the bridge is pretty cool, with an awesome view of the Columbia River that we crossed to get back to Washington State. We were on SR 14 for a bit and then turned onto some back roads, and the final 2 miles were on a gravel/dirt road. Even if we had never made it to the falls, the drive out would have been worth the trip. Trees, hills, mountains, rivers and falls all were visible from the car as we made our way here. Winged predators circled in the air, the day was perfect for a hike.

This view is back up the road we came in. It ends in a turn around loop that circles the shrubbery on the right of this picture. The trees are thick beside the road, and where the trees are not, shrubs are eager to fill up the free space. As you can see, direct sunlight is striking the branches of the trees, and that means the skies are clear.

With the back of our van open, Rip is getting limbered up for the hike. (Behind him is a car with inner tubes on top, which he told us he spotted later in the day, on our way home, miles away from here, stopped along the road, with the girls who were driving it hauling the tubes towards the water.)

Dotti caught me showing her how happy I was to see her standing there.

And she was happy to see me too. J Notice that, other where people are continually walking around the parking lot area, there isn't a bare patch of ground anywhere. Washington is a really green place, at least this part of it is.

I always enjoy this sight: a trailhead for a path that leads into a beautiful forest.

Somehow I think that Bilbo Baggins would have loved this place, even though he warned Frodo:

It's a dangerous business going out of your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.

Here is a path just waiting for a hobbit to come and start a fantastic adventure. As Bilbo learned, he just has to remember to not drink the water and never leave the trail, lest the wood elves take him away to their castle where the only escape is inside an old barrel floating down the river.

We didn't see any elves, or dragons this time out, but doesn't that trail look like it is passing through a door and through a wall? That is exactly how I feel when I am on the trail. It seems like we move from one world into another. Inside we are free from our other life, and we are in a new secret place, all our own. Who knows what we may find here?

And, even when hiking the same trail, just like magic, no two visits are even the same. One time the sky may be cloudy and it might even rain. On another a tree has fallen recently and a way past it has been cut through. The leaves on the trees may be new and green today, but next time yellow or red. They may have fallen to the ground and created a colorful carpet, or disappeared, leaving the trees that dropped them standing naked in the cold. You may be wiping copious amounts of sweat from your brow, or shivering from the cold. The streams may be angry and leaping against their banks, or they may be quiet and low, with their little tributaries freshly dried out, showing their bare stones and sand. What will it be like today? We'll just have to go and find out, won't we?

Dotti says, "Let's go! If you don't follow me, you'll be left behind!" Her sense of humor makes her such a joy to be around!

Do you suppose that if there were a creek feeding into this one that it would be the "Falls Creek Falls Creek," and if it had falls on it, that it would be called the "Falls Creek Falls Creek Falls"? Probably not, but Rip and I were discussing that on the drive up. J

We are about to cross the starting line, and the sign says that we have 1.7 miles to go. What it doesn't say is that we are standing 1,400 feet above sea level.

The standard list of rules, recommendations, and so forth; even a last little bit of bureaucracy. It is the door that we will be closing behind us as we enter our little magical world of the forest.

Rip and I both looking at the camera through our sunglasses. (I am still not sure how Rip does it that way. J)

Cameras would be playing a big part on this hike. We had three cameras going all along the trail. Rip took 46 shots on this trip. Dotti took 306, and I took 584 for a total of 936 pictures between us. (I intentionally cut back on this hike, because I had taken over 1000 pictures on the last one, and it took a long time to ferret through all of them.) It is nice when you have 3 different eyes looking at things and taking pictures. Not only did we have that going for us, but Dotti and I usually swap which type of lens we will take with us. This hike it was my turn for the wide angled lens, and Dotti used the telephoto zoom. Last time it was the other way around. This helps to get a variety of shots that would not be possible if we had the same lens.

The trail is calling to us. Wasn't there a fairy's wings that just flicked out of sight behind that bush on the right? The rich dark forest seems like it just might talk to you if you were patient enough.

Wearing my "official DWLZ.com ball cap," I am starting my stop watch. The time is 9:11 AM and the hike has officially begun.

Dotti turned here to explain that we are about to enter the "sun room" portion of the hike, which is especially pretty on a clear day. I really like that red shirt on her!

Looking up into the canopy of trees above us reminds me that we often live life almost looking at our shoe laces. There is a whole other world up there, from which birds look down at us and laugh. "Ha! They can't even fly. It must really be sad for them."

It is almost like the greenery is so anxious to expand that it pushes out everywhere as moss where something else green isn't already taking up the space. The effect is quite striking sometimes.

The bare tree in the foreground seems like it must have wondered here by mistake in search of its friends. Everything but the path itself seems to be covered in green.

While the tree holds his spear out to block our path, the creek meanders playfully behind him, sharing its space with rocks, logs, and leaves. While the foreground leaves screen our view, we still get a teasing glimpse of the beautiful spectacle beyond.

The zoom lens brings us right into the game that the frisky steam is playing with the straight-laced and unmoving stone. Splashing into froth, and jumping up in transparent sheets and drops, the wet water nymph laughs in her soothing voice. But, like a Buckingham Palace guard, the stony-hearted recipient of all the attention refuses to alter his phlegmatic attitude.

This was a point on the trail where a little side path led down to the water's edge. Looking up stream you can see a little rapids, and on the bank to the right the tree roots look like bones left in the dirt by a dragon, whose cave is just up and to the right. On the left the water lies calm and as clear as glass.

The water is so clear you are tempted to look for the coins in the fountain. On the other bank of Falls Creek the debris left behind by waters that were higher and faster moving than these. It is amazing how much a stream or river can change when the amount of rain up stream goes up.

Here I turned to look downstream from the same point where the previous picture had been taken. The sharp sunlight hitting the white foam of the mini-rapids stands in sharp contrast with the shadows on the right.

Zooming in on the mini-rapids also shows us once again how clear the still water is close to the bank. But once it gets to moving down the channel it because white and foamy.

Taking one more look upstream from the path to the "dragon's lair." The ground here is covered in green moss, showing how much rain this area gets; but today we enjoy the sunshine, which cuts through the shadows, creating sharp contrasts.

Dotti used her telephoto zoom lens to catch the water bouncing into the air as it jumps past the rocks and this wooden swimmer. At the Y that the branch makes, you can see a couple of spouts of water shooting up, frozen in their leap.

This is what the original picture looked like before I resized it for the previous image. See the individual drops hanging in air, and how the water spouts have turned into a watery butterfly set to take off? The sun's rays are bent and reflected as if they were passing through a diamond and they dazzle the eye. The arm of the branch seems to be caught in mid stroke as it cuts through the water.

Back on the trail again. The brown stump at the right is all that remains of a giant that held its head high with branches extended at the top of the forest canopy to get its fair share of sunlight. Now the young trees stand and gawk, as children often do. The trail pushes its way between them in search of our waterfall.

As we went along, the stream would move up close to the trail from time to time. The heavy shadows underneath the forest growth made the sunlit areas appear even brighter, and the camera struggled to try and capture both.

The growth surrounding the steam has it nearly as well enclosed as a drainpipe under a city street would be.

Dotti caught me in between my taking a pictures of the trail. It didn't crack the lens, but we could hear it straining in its mounting. J

Moving away from the water for a bit the trail cut back into the forest. On the right there is a stump standing several feet tall. It looks like someone started to cut it with an axe about half way up and then thought better of it.

Here is the stump closer up. The cut area seems to have been burned as well. On top, a branch is being held over the broken area to hide the nasty wound from our prying eyes.

Far too young to have died, but it was broken off nonetheless. The base of the tree is leaning at a very sharp angle. Did it grow like that, weakening the tree naturally, or did something push it over? Perhaps a bear scratching his back?

On a sunny day, the light and shadow form optical peaks and valleys in a forest, keeping the eye very busy.

Here's Rip sneaking up on Dotti, but she seems unaware. The temperature was just starting to rise a bit, and we appreciated all the shade on the trail. We felt warm whenever we walked in direct sunlight.

Turning back to the hill, this branch is doing its job, collecting sunlight to power the growth of its associated tree.

Most of the trees in this area are young and thin-trunked. The trees that have thicker trunks are mostly just stumps, like the one just to the right of the path.

While clear, calm water is beautiful to look at, seeing this water run under a log, slide over a rock onto a staircase of stones, churning its way down, level after level, white and frothing, is far more interesting.

Many times our view of the water had to pass through branches this way. Here the water looks almost like a plastic surface, with shining ripples frozen in place.

Rip called this the "dugout canoe." It looks like a fire left just half of the outer shell of a tree stump, and if the ends were closed off, it might make a workable canoe.

Once again we looked through the growth of the forest to see the stream.

Along with water and rocks, a stream bed always caries with it some trees. Trees lying across the water's path, tree parts shoved up against the bank, and branches floating by from time to time. The moss covered bank of the stream is a beautiful green, resting in the shade, while the bushes on the other side are basking in the sunlight.

A close up of the log trying to dam the creek. The trunk of this tree is splotched with patches of mossy green.

We sometimes forget that the trees standing so tall above us need to have a good anchor. The leverage exerted on its base by a tall trunk, whose top is being pushed by strong winds, is tremendous. The root system must be extensive and strong to withstand those forces. Here the path has worn down the dirt that once surround these roots, which are tough, unyielding, and branched in a similar way as the branches on the trunk high overhead are.

My lovely Dotti in her red shirt. She was kind enough to lower her camera for this shot. J

Two more one-time-giants humbled into broken ruins. Something cleared out all of the big trees in this stretch of the forest. Maybe the Forest Service replanted after a fire, because all of the smaller trees look to be about the same age.

Dotti leading the way!

Although this area is less densely populated with trees, the seem to be of various ages, as you would normally expect in a forest.

Looking up at the towering trees, and the blue sky. Awesome!

Once again just catching a glimpse of Falls Creek as it skips by almost out of view.

If you click here you will be taken to a separate page with some pictures of the suspension bridge that we reached after walking 0.4 miles from the parking lot.

Looking down from the suspension bridge we could see that the creek was quite a ways below us. On the right, the rock walls rising up from the creek bed were covered with moss, and on the left we were looking down on the green umbrella formed by leaves.

Here we zoomed in towards the water, while looking down from the bridge. The water closest to us is frothing white but it turns crystal clear after passing the moss covered rocks reaching into the stream near the top of the picture. It is amazing how water can change its appearance so quickly!

As we left the bridge behind us, we still 1.3 miles to go to reach the falls. The trail cuts through some low lying shrubbery here, and the sparsely spaced trees let a lot of sunlight in to bright things up.

Dotti turned around and I took this picture of her, with her back to the sun. The path here shows some large partially exposed stones. You have to watch the trail or these can trip you up.

Here's Rip with trees and other greenery behind him. He's checking out the sky with his sunglasses. J

Falls Creek cuts through the forest, and disappears from view from time to time, and then suddenly appears, as it is doing here. The water is fighting its way around and over some rocky obstacles, and it is turning it white, as if with anger at being slowed down in its rush to the sea.

This picture was taken from the same location as was the previous one, but the zoom lens was moved back to show a view approximating what our eyes were actually seeing from the trail. The water almost appears magically in the middle of the picture while disappearing from view at both its entrance and its exit points to this location.

Zeroing in on my favorite sight in all of the world: my Dotti's smile! The green of the forest appears to be draped in a background curtain just for her.

Another picture of Dotti is never too much. J My lovely wife seems to have a little secret that she is not sharing, but with that look on her face, I think she wants us to know it is there nonetheless.

Looking down from the trail, we once again see a patch of water. Where it is coming from, and where it is going, is not visible from here.

Using the zoom to draw in closer to the churning patch of white water. If only its drops could talk, what a story they would tell of their travels. From the sea, each lifted up into the sky to join its friends in the clouds, only to fall as rain in the upper regions of this part of the Cascade Mountains. After dropping from the sky, they came together, drop by drop from several locations. Some of the drops fell to earth, only to come down in several small streams, joining together in this lager bed. Others sank deeper into the earth, finding rock pockets to hold them, and then they were shot up and out of an opening, forming a spring that also drained into this creek. Each drop would have its own unique story to tell, but right now they are all too busy fighting their way past all obstacles to get back to their ocean home, and thereby completing another great cycle they are part of. Once they are home in the sea, it all starts over again.

The light strikes our view in patches, while the shadow dominates the green scene before us. Our path appears to be obscure, disappearing into darkness before us. Dare we go on? Might the Wood Elves be angered at our entering their domain? Gandolf is not with us to show us the way. Do we venture on, merely hoping for the best? We do!

Using the zoom lens we can see the water instantly changing from clear as glass to opaque white as it drops across the face of this stone. Moss, leaves, water and stone all join together in celebration of the sunlight striking them all, and making our view of them possible.

This was chancy I fear. The lens was put at great risk capturing this shot. J

These three baby trees look like javelins stuck in the ground to mark the path. Once past them, the trail jumps to the right, as if it was eager to do so, but the trees were thwarting its desire until their influence was cleared.

Here is my lovely wife, smiling sweetly, as she is surrounded by the forest. On the left stands a giant patriarch, with many years of life behind it. Right in front of it, there is a group of tree "children" hanging together, talking about the latest tree rumors. On the right there is a young adult standing in the sun, right beside an older brother that has been broken off before its time.

The energy that powers a forest is the sun, and each plant reaches up to capture its share. Behind Dotti you can see that the forest becomes almost 100% efficient, capturing almost all of the sunlight before it hits the ground, making the path appear to be entering a cave, where who knows what might be lurking.

Taken through the leaves, this photo of Dotti's shows how clear the water is in the Falls Creek. There are ripples and reflections, but the bottom of the creek bed is easy to see, and there are no muddy or cloudy parts of this stream.

Dotti wanted me to lean against this remnant of a fallen giant, so she could take the picture. When I pushed against the wood, it felt like it was going to give way. So, I just rested my fingertips on it and pretended to lean my weight against it. The sun was pouring down on my back through an opening in the forest cover.

Our trail took a dip here, because a depression, carrying a dry streambed, cut across it. A tree root climbed above the surface of its subterranean world on the ascending path in front of us.

Each part of the path was like a different neighborhood in a large city. Although throughout our hike, there were trees of various ages, bushes and moss covering many things, the way these things were arrange was unique at each point along the way.

Water is at the heart of all that we see. "All sunshine makes a desert," say the Arabs. The forest reaches its hands up for the sun, but its roots dig deep to feed on the water. Once again we can see the how the water changes from clear to opaque white, and back again, as its path changes from shallow or rocky to deep and unobstructed.

The slower shutter speed I used for this picture makes the water blur into an icy solid appearance. Motion is constant in a stream, but the exact contours of the water are never the same at any two separate moments in time. It is almost as if there were an intelligence connected with each drop of water, and some of them splash upwards, when others dive deep for a swim along the bottom. Water is always ready for whatever comes along, meeting each obstacle with determination and enthusiasm. No dam, no lake, not even a mountain, can stand forever in the path of water, because water will have its wearing way, even if it takes thousands of years to do so.

Rip, with backpack on, looks right at home with the greenery behind him.

The path continues, writhing this way and that, like a snake with a belly ache. Even the small trees in the foreground seem to be slithering upwards.

I spent a lot of years living in the Mojave Desert, and that may be why the mossy covering that adheres to so much in this Washington forest seems so strange and beautiful to me. This branch makes me think of Chewbacca's arm extending up for something just out of his reach.

It was a sunny day, as demonstrated by the patches of light appearing on the ground and on the leaves, but there was plenty of shadow as well. We felt a little too warm when walking in the sunlight, but we were pretty comfortable in the shadows. Fortunately, there was a lot of the latter on this trail.

This forest giant has a trunk of a monsters, but looking upwards we see that its branches are thin and seem to be stunted. Such a trunk should have huge and bulky branches, capable of supporting a large tree house. Instead these puny branches look like they would snap off if you tried to step on one. And yet, this organic structure, towering above us with such arrogance, cannot help but strike awe within us. It has flourished in a world that is set against it. (Most seeds never sprout, and most that sprout never survive past the infant stage.) Fire, saws, and time have passed it by, and it has continued to grow, and grow, and grow.

Most of the time on the trail, we don't usually look straight upwards; it is too humbling. Here we are, little creatures, only a few feet tall, wandering around the ankles of these giants. Their heads are in the clouds and they don't even notice our little selves.

A mater of life and death. A tree, once strong and tall, fell to earth, ending its life, but not its usefulness. The small and less impressive mosses have taken residence upon the surface of the tree remains, and continue on as if nothing were amiss. In the background, there are trees standing, and trees fallen. Moss, bushes, dead branches, and dirt have found a place to be. The forest is utter chaos, and wonderful order, slammed together in a mix so beautiful that it takes the breath away.

A little side trail cuts over to the Falls Creek and beckons to us. An ancient fallen tree reclines on the far bank of the stream, and greenery is found in every direction that you can look. We can't pass up an opportunity like this.

Moving over to the stream, once again the water shows its striking beauty. It is no coincidence that our favorite hikes all include water in them. If we were half an inch tall, this would be a multi-layered Niagara Falls to us. The water comes into the picture from the left and the top, with the bulk of the water going over the major cataract, into a huge drop pool. The rest gently routes to the right, and tumbles lightly into the stream moving to the right. Even with such a restricted view of the stream, notice that there is a patch of green moss calling out for our attention.

"Certainly you cannot be talking to me my dear man," is what Rip's expression seems to be saying. The sun is reflecting brightly in the left lens of his sunglasses, and the part of the trail we just walked turns right behind the tree behind him.

I was studying a most interesting species of arachnid and was about to share it with Dotti; but when she realized what I was doing, she quickly moved away, dropping her camera. Somehow the shutter released and captured this shot. Well, maybe not, but it could have happened. J

Rip was breaking into a rousing chorus of "The Happy Wanderer" as I snapped this picture. Either it was that, or he was catching his breath. J There were many occasions for going up and down on the trail, and here was a case where a switchback moved us downward, after we had just gone upwards for a while.

Dotti looks so tiny next to this moss covered trunk, which had fallen right across our path. Fortunately, the crew that maintains this trail cut the tree at this point, and left the path clear for us. Once again the dead tree's body provides a surface for new life, and the forest goes on, even as one of its old members had ended his life.

Looking back up the trail from where Dotti was standing in the previous photo. The interior of the tree looks solid, and it looks like it could have stood forever. But the roots gave out, or the ground that they were dug into over saturated. Something brought this formidable structure to earth, and the bigger they are. . .

Rip looks like he is finally warmed up. The air is feeling warmer, and we have ascended a few hundred feet as well. Our destination is not that far off.

Rip has done some of this kind of work in the past, and he has told us that cutting and maintaining these trails is as tough as it looks. It is not surprising that we have these sorts of quick changes in elevation along the trail, but what really is surprising is that we have so few of them! The forestry service puts a lot of work into laying out good routes for these trails, much as a highway engineer would plan out a highway. And then when the route is chosen, the path is constructed in such a way that it will stand up to the outrageous weather conditions that it will face in the nearly rainforest wet environment in this area. Sometimes these trails are closed because of landslides, or other similar events, but that doesn't happen very often; and when it does, they get the trails opened up again pretty quickly. (They don't have a big budget to work with, so I have always been very impressed with the results they get from that small monetary investment.)

The gate is closed. On a wet day, you can be sure that water is flowing down this small stream bed, but on this day it appears dry as a bone. The moss-covered fallen branch, crossing that bed looks like it was placed there on purpose to keep back any wayward hikers from taking that path to the Falls Creek view beyond.

The sun shines bright on our old forest path (sorry Stephen) and Rip is enjoying every bit of it.

There are two things about this photo that I find interesting. First off, there is a tree that is cut in order to keep the path clear. But the second thing is just a bit more subtle: the two sections of tree do not match. It is as if two different trees were cut and put in place here. Was the lower section attacked by something that stripped off its bark, and even damaged the structure underneath? When I lived in the desert, as a boy, I used to hit rocks into the desert wasteland with an old cracked bat that I had. After weeks of hitting rocks, the end of that bat looked a lot like this lower section of this cut tree. Did giants take it out for a little fun and then put it back? Things that make you say, "Hmm."

After looking at all of those dry pictures, it was time for a water interlude; don't you agree? The water in this picture is forming more types of relationships than we can find in a big city. There are drops flying off by themselves. There are groups of drops clinging together, and sheets of them moving nearly as if in military formation. There are frothing militants, and pacifist groups just lying on the stone and sunning themselves. For an "inanimate object" water sure does move around a lot. J

Here Rip was working out the square root of PI to a few decimal places. (He had to quit after he reached 1.77245 because we had to move on.) I'll bet you think I am joking. Well, you could be right. J

Dotti said, " Π R2 ? No way! Pie are not squared! Pie are round. Cornbread are squared." (Actually it was an electrical engineer I knew years ago that told me that, but I thought, after the last picture, it would be a good caption for this one. J )

This is the lower section of the tree that you could see in the last picture, in the background behind Dotti. This log has been here a while because it has had its color bleached out of it, and it has turned gray inside and out. Just look at the contrast that it shows with the reddish interior of the fresh cut log lying on top if it.

Looking up the upper section of the same fallen tree. I don't know which is more amazing, that these giant trees can grow so tall, or that they can ever be taken down once they do grow.

Dotti and Rip coming around a bend in the trail. Why is there so much brown in this picture? It is amazing how just a small change in location can change the amount of water that is present. When an area is slightly dry, the moss finds it harder to live. There is some moss on the right, near the base of the tree there, but this stretch of path is definitely drier than most.

We are getting higher up on the trail. Through the trees we could see quite a gap forming between this side of the creek, and the other side, and the creek bed seems to have fallen well below our position. The trees are thin enough to see through here, but green is still the "uniform of the day."

The path ran between two trees that seem to be sharing a root system. It was reminiscent of a hatch on a ship, with a "knee knocker" below, and a narrow space between the sides.

After Rip and I had passed by, the trees quickly stepped in the path and blocked Dotti's way. She was about to call for help, when they finally let her pass. It was a very close call. J

We haven't seen any signs for the Shire, but Bag End has to be around here somewhere. I can't think of a anywhere nicer to did a Hobbit hole. And if there aren't any elves here for Sam, I am sure we could entice a few to move into such a lovely wood. The trail is so inviting, and the trees so friendly, even Tolkien's Ents would be happy to live here.

Dotti and Rip walking between our giant friends. You can tell that our trail has risen higher because the trees are thinning out a bit, and the tops of distant trees are visible against the sky.

Rip's arm on the right shows that he was heading in the opposite direction, while Dotti, always on the lookout for Sasquatch, turned around just in time to see him wave at her before disappearing again into the trees. Unfortunately, Big Foot was gone by the time I turned my camera to capture his image. For some reason my camera always wants to point at Dotti and I have to really fight it to point anywhere else. J

Sun, shadow, green, red, and brown join together to express the past, present, and future in the daily struggle for life in the forest. The fallen tree provides a physical platform and nourishment to life today, just as it received from its surroundings when it was a small twig starting out in life. The sunlit pine needled branches reaching out from the standing tree, which is hiding in its own shadow, look like hands placed over the old friend in sympathy.

The floor of the forest covers a world of life, much as the surface of the ocean does. These gnarled, often kicked roots hint at the intricate, and massive root system excavated into the soil. Trees reaching 100s of feet into the air are held firmly in place by these roots which spread wide, and dig deep. When the wind bends the tops of these giants, the tons of force created are absorbed easily by these powerful foundational aids. We seldom see the roots, but the beauty of the mighty tree, pushing into the sky would be impossible without them.

"When a tree falls in the forest," goes the philosophical question, "and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" Is an observer necessary for anything to exist? Is the universe only here because we are present to observe it? It seems a bit arrogant to pose the question, but there it is, packaged up in the idea of a fallen tree.

How many trees can you count lying on the ground here? There are at least 6! When I think of the forest, I normally think of the trees standing, rather than the ones that have fallen. But every time we view a waterfall or a stream, there are trees lying in or across them. This high attrition rate makes the giant trees that outlive their fallen friends, continuing to grow taller and wider, appear to be even more impressive.

Speaking of giant trees, Dotti and Rip are standing beside a good example of one. It is so large that it appears to have absorbed another tree. It looks to be over 5 feet in diameter, and still going strong.

With the temperature warming up a bit, and the elevation increasing, we stopped from time to time catch our breath, creating another "photo op."

Dotti is standing on a point where the path takes a sharp turn, and is crossed by a dry creek bed. A fallen tree lies just to the left of her, and both shadow and sunlight are crossing her face.

While the hair grows grayer, and glasses adorn her visage, Dotti is a beautiful as she was in 1998 when she started Dotti's Weight Loss Zone. I am a lucky guy!

Looking out through the thinning trees, it is clear that we have climbed quite a ways up. We can look down on the tops of some trees, and straight across at the tops of others. The blue sky is pushing the horizon down to mid picture and our destination cannot be too far away.

We next came to another bridge. It was across a dry stream bed, that had the appearance of being very active at times. When you click on the thumbnail, you will be taken to a separate page where pictures of the bridge and dry gully are shown.

As we were departing the bridge area, Dotti snapped this picture of me. The burn mark on the tree on the right nearly looks like a huge fly getting ready to take off.

The foreground is in shadow, and the background in full sunlight, and the topographical realities are clear. The course for Falls Creek runs in the valley between the high point that we are standing on and the one colored in pastel green, visible through the trees. The air was warm, and we were happy to be standing in the shade.

The tree ghosts have left these bodies, standing out sharply against the blue sky, to mark their past existence. We are seeing more tree tops, and fewer tree bases standing even with us.

However, we are not out of the trees just yet. Our trail looks narrow and small as it moves past our tall friends.

Ever since our Larch Mountain Hike I have always taken note of these rock slides that we pass. The Larch Mountain rock slide was much larger that this one, and it had a real impact on our hike that day in 2003.

This rock slide was much smaller, and our hiking conditions were much better. We were not running low on water, drained of energy, and walking in very hot temperatures, trying to get up to the 4000-foot level. This time the rocks were just a visual curiosity, and not an energy draining source of heat. Rather than being parched in direct sunlight, this rock slide had shadow and even a moss covering in spots, and it was far less wide: very easy to cross.

The rock slide broke loose from above, and it when it gave way, the vegetation was knocked flat in this area. Trees, shrubs, and any other surface features simply disappeared, to be replaced by chunks of rock. It looks like one of those events where you wouldn't want to be present when it happened.

Dotti is looking up at the top of the rock slide and Rip is looking at the camera. J The path shows that some time has passed by since the rock slide occurred. We were not walking across loose stones, freshly placed. They are embedded, even up the hill and off the path. Dirt has worked its way in between the stones, and they are slowing in the process of being welded in place. One day, this area will probably be overgrown with trees, and nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the terrain. But that will be a long time off.

These trees stand, appearing like two door posts, still guarding the threshold of a now disintegrated house. The threshold was considered holy to the pagans, and that is why to this day a husband carried his wife over it on their wedding day. It was considered inappropriate for her to walk across the holy threshold, when she was about to lose her maiden status.

This is the second set of trees that we saw on this hike forming this configuration. Dotti took a picture of another set 25 minutes earlier.

Our path passed by a unique feature here. Suddenly our left side was pressed hard against a rock wall extending up far above us. The trees on the right marked off the limit of travel we had in that direction. I looked from here like we were going to be between a rock and a fence.

The rock wall displayed some very smooth surface area in the middle of the picture, and appeared to have been worked in some way, probably to provide clearance for the path. It isn't often when those who created these forest paths had to do such extensive reworking of stone, but we have seen it before: on the Eagle Creek Trail when we walked up to Punchbowl Falls the workers were forced to cut through stone for quite a distance.

The trees on the right are spaced out like fence posts for some a long forgotten coral built by the giants who lived up the mountain long ago.

Looking up the rock face, it appeared to extend out over our heads. I was telling Rip that it reminded me of a scene in my childhood favorite book, The Pilgrim's Progress, where the protagonist, Christian, found himself hard against a mountain looming over his head and threatening to fall upon him if he went any further.

Rip, looking deep in thought, as he walked past a point along the rock wall, where the path moved away from the rock a bit to pass a tree that had grown right up against it.

Dotti spotted it first. I had walked past this point and Dotti called me back, or I would have missed it entirely. This was where we got our first view of the Falls Creek Falls. As you can see from the picture, both Rip and I were very impressed with what we saw, and immediately set to taking pictures.

And there they are. The Falls Creek Falls is 200 feet in total height. It goes over a 50-foot drop at the top, and then fans over the 70-foot second section. It finally makes an 80-foot drop into a bowl-like drop pool. You can see the upper two sections from here.

The question was asked, where is the water coming from? The falls seem to spring magically out of the forest. We didn't take the extended hike to the top of the falls, and so the answer to that question will have to wait for another hike. (When I gave the answer, "rain," Dotti wasn't satisfied with it. J.)

Zooming in closer, we get a much better view of the upper section of the falls. There is fan-like quality to that section as well as the second section of the falls. With the trees completely surrounding it, this falls looks like it is perfectly placed.

When I made it around this corner, I stopped and turned around to take a picture. Dotti and Rip had stopped farther back to take some pictures, and wanted to wait for them to share this feeling. I had been hit with a blast of very cool air, right at the turn you see here. It was the "falls wind" that all waterfalls create, but the wind appeared before I could see the falls that created it. I think that was the first time that ever happened to me.

Normally, the falls are in view, and holding my attention as I approach. The cool wind comes later, when I get fairly close to the falls. This time, there was "tunnel" formed by some the trees that routed the cool air out to me, and it was almost like the cool feeling you get when you first enter a cave. But this was clearly a waterfall feeling, not a cave. And as the temperature had been climbing on the trail, the feeling was very welcome.

The falls were far too pretty to just put in a picture or two of them. So, I put in a number of shots of the falls on a separate page. When you click on this picture of the Falls Creek Falls, you will be taken to that page. Enjoy!

After 30 minutes of snapping pictures, we reluctantly headed back down the trail towards our car. We left the "tunnel" of trees and all at once were hit with the warm summer air. We had grown so accustomed to the cool falls wind that we had forgotten how warm it was outside this magical bubble of comfort.

Even so, the path was very pleasant, and moving downhill for a change was very nice.

The sun is grand, and the path is a delight, but Dotti's smile makes this picture simply radiate! Rip is deep in thought, contemplating what stands before him, unfortunately blocked from our view.

I took a side path to get closer to the water, and Rip followed me down and took this shot. The water shows its many faces here: a mirror; a window; and a curtain. Water seems so soft and so easily moved, but it wears down mountains and turns rock into sand, as seen on every beach around the world.

Back on the trail, Dotti has her lens cap on, and is ready to head back to the car. However, she has one more camera task on the trail today that she didn't know was coming up.

Looking through the forest where the path did not run. The trees are standing their long silent vigil, until they fall to the ravages of time. Pine needles, ferns, and leaves, join the moss in painting the picture green.

Another close up shot of the lovely Falls Creek.

These roots look almost like snakes writhing around on the ground. Between the feet of hikers and the water run off in heavy rains, the normally subterranean plant features have been uncovered, and even have air underneath them in spots.

Dotti, Rip, and I all took some pictures of the butterflies that Rip spotted shortly after we left the falls on the return trip. However Dotti's pictures were the best in my opinion. The one you see here was the "pick of the litter." When you click on it, you will be taken to a separate page of butterflies, flowers, and more.

On the drive back home we took Washington State Road 14 back home. It takes a bit longer than going via I-84 in Oregon, but it is a very scenic drive along a two lane highway.

In February of 1998, Dotti and I were coming back home from Spokane and we were snowed in at The Dalles. I-84 was closed. SR-14 would open and then close periodically, and so we didn't feel safe coming home that way. After 3 days of waiting, we finally had a sunny day greet us in the morning. We decided to take SR-14 home, because I-84 was still closed. An hour after we reached home and were settling in, Oregon finally opened I-84. We were happy we hadn't waited for that.

On our drive home after the hike, we spotted a viewpoint where we could see the Columbia River and the Gorge. We pulled in.

This picture is looking east, back the way we had just come. The rock wall on the left is covered in a wire mesh to protect the road from any falling rocks. There is a sign on the right telling us name of this location.

Zooming in a bit, we can finally read the sign easily: Cape Horn.

Looking east up the Columbia River Gorge, the Columbia River naturally dominates the scene, but the ascending walls of the Gorge, cut through the mighty Cascade Mountain Range, vie for our attention.

We can see a barge on the river, and off in the distance is the Bonneville Dam. Also, on the left, Beacon Rock is standing up to be counted. We have climbed Beacon Rock on more than one of our Coon Family Hiking Club hikes, and we have seen the Bonneville Dam on our many hikes to the Pool of Winds.

I imagine that Lewis and Clark were feeling pretty excited by the time they reached this part of their trip. They were nearing their goal of reaching the Pacific Ocean, and after wintering over 1805-1806, they would be heading back home. Their logs state that they were pretty sick of rain by the end of the winter. I think they would have been less unhappy if they had remained in the Willamette Valley, instead of spending the winter on the coast. With 90 inches of rain a year, and much of that in the form of drizzle, the coast is more than twice as wet as the area now covered by Portland. Their water logged spirits would have had some respite if they had come back a bit east for the winter months. But how could they have known this then?

My wide angled lens shows what the view was to the naked eye from where we were standing. The barge, dam, and even Beacon Rock are so far off that they are difficult to identify.

The old river bottom land that has been reclaimed by the dams upriver, and used for farming is very fertile. And what a lovely location for a home!

When I first saw this zoomed picture that Dotti took I was very curious about the white structure in the middle of the river, beyond the little peninsula jutting out between it and us. It was tantalizingly suggestive of an island castle, but upon checking up on that area of the river, I put that idea to bed as merely fanciful. There is no such castle. Also, the water around the "castle" is churning white. In these quiet waters that could only come from an engine's efforts. It is a ship. But if it were a castle, can you imagine living there? J

The level of the river used to be much higher. There are areas of Portland that are well inland today that were waterfront property in the pre-dam era. Much of what you see in this photo would have been underwater in the time of Lewis and Clark.

No swimsuits for these boaters. The temperature was a bit warm on the trial, but down on the water the air was cool, and the water spray would actually feel cold. But the sun, and low wind speed made it a great day for boating upon the Columbia River.

The barge is making its way down river, and Dotti zoomed in on the little river island. The trees are packed tightly together, and there is little wasted space on this high spot in the river's bed.

Looking down from our viewpoint, we see a house positioned in paradise. Can you imagine coming home to a location like this every day? It is no surprise that they have a large deck from which to view the awesome scenery surrounding their home. If it weren't for all of those tourists watching them, it would be perfect. J

A final look at the river, and the barge heading for Portland. It was a great day, and fun hike. It was also a shame that it was over.

Back to our 2006 CFHC Hikes Page