June 3, 2006

The Coon Family Hiking Club
Official Hike #4

LENGTH OF HIKE 2.3 miles - 1 hour 43 minutes

Latourell Falls derives its name from the creek that flows over it: Latourell Creek. The creek in turn derives its name from a local Railroad Station named for Joseph Latourell. He was a postmaster when a post office was established in the area in 1876.

There are two major falls associated with the Latourell Creek. The creek first flows over the Upper Latourell Falls, and then works it way down to go over the more commonly known Latourell Falls.

The Latourell Falls trail is a loop that runs for 2.3 miles. It starts in the parking lot, situated at the eastern end of a pretty concrete bridge, which crosses the Latourell Creek, and from here you can just catch a glimpse of Latourell Falls, which is the major Columbia River Gorge falls that is closest to Portland, Oregon.

Rip beat us to the parking lot, but he said he enjoyed the scenery so much he hardly noticed the wait. We had a great time, hiking, gawking at the many interesting sights, and visiting with Rip.

It was a pleasant 62° when we arrived for our hike at 9 AM. By the time we finished up a little before 11 AM, it had only warmed up to 67°. It was sunny, and we had great hiking conditions.

Dotti took some pictures from the car as we were driving to the trail head. She caught a freeway sign, that showed our exit. We were moving upwards on the map, on Interstate 84. If you take Exit 17, it runs up along the Sandy River for a ways, on a pretty little road, that connects up with the road where our trailhead is located: the Columbia River Scenic Highway (The bypass loop shown on the right). It is a very nice drive, but we were going to be a bit late, so we waited to hit Exit 22. We still would have to drive a few miles to along the highway, but they would be very beautiful miles.

Exit 22, at Corbett is where we decided to get off. It was a tough decision. We could go east up to Exit 28, and drive back west for 2.8 miles, or we could take this one and continue on east until we ran into the falls. This way was shorter in miles, but probably took longer for us to traverse. Fortunately, the right lane was clear behind us, and I was able to change lanes easily, and get on the off ramp when we made up our minds to take this exit.

Dotti took a number of very nice shots of the road we were on, but we couldn't include them all here. This one is special for a several reasons. First off, it was Dotti's first time of taking a picture of a deer with her new camera. I saw the deer in the road ahead and I slowed down, and told Dotti it was there. She quickly grabbed her camera and set to work to capture it in her camera's memory stick. The deer ran off the road to the left and she snapped 3 pictures of it on that route. This one was the best. Also, this picture shows the beautiful road we were on, with the sun streaking the areas between the shadows showing that we had a clear sky. This road was originally constructed in the very early 1900, and is pretty narrow in spots. (There was one tunnel they originally built that had to be bypassed and abandoned because our cars today are just too wide to fit through.) But it runs through some beautiful terrain. Lastly, you can tell this is the late spring, because all of the trees are exploding with greenery.

Here it is the sign marking our destination. The concrete bridge is moss covered and ornamented in ways that modern bridges seldom are. The lush greenery was a preview of what we would be looking at throughout our hike.

This sign listed the rules that people have made necessary over time, in order to keep the place beautiful and safe for visitors. It basically boiled down to treat the place in such a way that it is no worse off for your having been there; respect the other people, the buildings and other structures, the animals and the land. Most people who hike this trail do that naturally. But there are some people who need to be told.

Rip was checking out Dotti's camera and he snapped this picture of me, while I was taking one of him. The 62° temperature was still feeling pretty cool to me, because I hadn't started moving around much. So, I had my raincoat on as a windbreaker. I was wearing my "Got Oxygen" tee shirt underneath that we picked up last year at Multnomah Falls.

Here is the other end of that pictorial exchange, where I took Rip's picture. It is a good sign that we wouldn't be facing rain, seeing the sunglasses that Rip has propped up on his head. In fact you can see some blue in the sky reflected in them.

I had to make a run to use the facilities (the story of my life these days) and to get to them, I followed this path that led down under the concrete bridge. (I had gone under the bridge and turned around, looking back, when I snapped this shot.) It is an indication of how wet this area is, when you look at the rocks and even they are green.

Stepping back under the bridge for a moment, I took this one looking down the length of the bridge. Even a scenic spot like this is not completely free from vandals as you can see on the end wall, but fortunately most of them are not fond of the forest and keep their destructive ways in the cities.

The bridge seems much shorter looked at this way, but they concrete supports form an interesting pattern.

Once again moving to the northern side of the bridge, I looked back west, the way Dotti and I had just come. The green trees, and the green moss clinging to the concrete structure all shout out that it is spring!

After I finished with the restroom, I popped my head up to see if I could take a picture of Dotti and Rip who were waiting for me. Rip was ready with the camera, and he snapped a picture of me.

Still I got a picture of Dotti looking pretty, and Rip with a camera to his eye. Other than right up close, it is impossible to see the ground anywhere around us. The green covers everything.

Here is the start of the trail. As you can see, it wastes no time moving upwards. The entire elevation increase was around 480 feet for this hike, which is quite a bit less than the Multnomah Falls hike. It was a noticeable incline in the beginning, but overall it wasn't bad.

At the start, it was asphalted. I think that was so wheelchairs could readily make it up the scenic viewpoint up the trail a bit. Once we got past that point, the asphalt went away.

The most beautiful thing I saw all day long. You can see that Dotti is already having a good time visiting with her brother Rip. She was readying a fun day of hiking.

Rip was thinking of a punch line of a joke that he wasn't going to tell us as he was looking across the Latourell Creek valley. His pack was on his back and he was ready to get started.

This how the trial looked after we passed the viewpoint: packed dirt, surrounded by lush greenery.

I shed my raincoat before we left, because I knew I would be overheated very soon, and then would have to carry the coat the rest of the way. What we decided to do for this hike was for Dotti to use her wide angle zoom lens, and I would use my telephoto zoom lens. That way we would take different shots, and hopefully cover the hike better, with a more interesting mix of pictures. (Next time we will swap.)

One guidebook said that many people turn around and head back to their cars for more film when they hit this spot, because the view is so nice. In this shot Latourell Falls in the background is a little washed out, but Rip and I came out okay. One of the things I like about the trails in the Columbia River Gorge is that the materials that they use to build the walls, bridges, hand rails, and steps all fit in very well with the surroundings. They don't class at all, but blend in, as if they belong their.

Behind Rip you can see most of Latourell Falls. At the top of the falls, you can see that the rock has been worn down into a saddle shaped depression. The water leaves the upper basalt creek bed, and begins its 249-foot drop behind the tree branch in this picture.

The rightmost edge of the "saddle" goes off the top of the picture, but please remember this location later on when you encounter that cliff top, where there are some little flowers planted on the edge of the precipice, and I took a picture looking down at the bridge—just to extend this even farther into the future—where even later we would be taking pictures from the base of the falls.

Dotti and Rip in front of the falls. We were just starting out and already had our appetites wetted for some great scenic views.

Here's my lovely Dotti moving quickly through down the trail. She had stopped to take a picture and she was catching up fast. The greenery was at its peak of growth as you can see.

I was completely taken with this hunk of wood. It looks like a right hand being held up, whether to say stop or hello I do not know. The "hand" is wearing a glove of moss, and the top of Latourell Falls is visible behind.

Dotti and Rip had a lot of fun on this hike, catching up on news and making plans for the future. (They kept talking about white water rafting, and you may be seeing some of that on one of these hiking pages this year. It may not be a hike, but it is close enough.)

Look at the trees in the background. Their trunks are nearly as green as their leaves. It is amazing that only a few miles down to the east of us, the same Columbia River Gorge turns into a dessert with bare and deal looking rock where here lush forest rules. It is all a matter of rainfall, and we get a lot of it here.

This stump, left where a tree once stood, is so bright red inside, you would have thought it was bleeding. Moss still grows on its bark, and the shrubbery around it seems to be trying to cover it up. The forest is a continuing tale of birth, growth, and thriving, but followed by death. Life is all around us, but that which has given up life lies underneath it all. This tree once stood tall and proud, but no longer. It severed its purpose and now it is gone, replaced by other, younger trees. Life goes on.

This was one my favorite views of the day. In the background the wooded northern wall of the Columbia River Gorge ascends in our home State of Washington, where a very nice looking home is tucked away in paradise. The beautiful Columbia River reflects the green from the Washington hillside in its tranquil waters. The tops of the trees in the forest growing on the old river bottom land are below us, and the sharp edge of the basalt wall stands on the left, where a stubborn squat tree clings to the cliff edge in defiance of anything the Gorge can throw at it. Bring on your nearly hurricane force winds," it shouts. "Send your ice, and your snow; just try and dislodge me from my perch!

It is amazing to me that solid rock, formed from lava so hot that it rock flowed like the river of water before us, and in molten floods that were thousands of feet thick, cooled until it could move no more, and finally becoming cold stone, could sustain so much life. Look at the trees, and the moss grabbing their piece of this rock surface. The struggle for life is exciting to watch.

The actual path runs up to the sign and then does a switchback to the left. A pseudo trail, muddy and steep goes up the bank straight ahead. I am not sure it is a shortcut, or if there is a viewpoint at the top of that hill, but something has led a number of people to tackle that path. In fact so many have gone up there that it was decided to put up a sign (Please Stay on the Trail) to hopefully stop that activity. We were not feeling frisky enough to attempt an uphill extra curricular excursion anyway, so the sign was wasted on us.

Rip has a great sense of humor, and we always enjoy having him along on our hikes. And of course it always does my heart good to see Dotti laughing and having a good time.

The trail behind is so wrapped up in the surrounding shrubbery that you can't even see it.

Once again looking into Washington State. It looks a lot like a golf course but I am not sure. It would be a great setting for one.

That's a Go! The long fern branches in the background look soft and friendly. They look like they would wrap around you and keep you comfy.

A place for weary travelers to rest, and contemplate their surroundings, which include a steel cable, placed to keep hikers from going over the edge.

A hike isn't a hike without some water flowing by, and Latourell Falls hike is no exception.

Rip having a good time. The shady path kept his sunglasses up most of the day, but the bright sunshine was always a threat of coming out and bringing them down.

Don't you hate running into slugs? This 3-inch beauty caught Dotti's eye and she snapped his picture. It looks like he has settled onto some good eating, with only one drawback: it was in the middle of the trail. What were the odds that he would finish eating before getting stepped on?

See the beautiful lady with the big smile on her face? Dotti is having fun, you can tell. We are nearly at the Upper Latourell Falls, in fact the stones beneath my lovely wife's feet are a little damp from the falls spray.

Even the dead tree lying on its side is covered with life, and the everywhere green leaves are reaching towards the sky to capture the sunlight to convert it to more growth.

This is the bridge that crosses the Latourell Creek near the Upper Falls. It is surrounded by green, both in the foreground and the background.

We took a number of pictures of the Upper Latourell Falls and I have placed them on a separate page. When you click on the picture to the left you will be taken to that page, where you can see these lovely falls.

Here I am standing on the bridge below the Upper Latourell Falls. There is water beneath the wooden platform beneath my feet, and green all around me.

A very nice thing about having another hiker with us, is that we can have some pictures taken of us together. I am so proud of my wonderful and beautiful wife, and I love to have pictures of us together.

The spray from the falls has dampened everything behind us, and supplied the moisture needed for the moss thickly coating the rock wall behind its source. The log looks like it is in the middle of a rainstorm, perpetually wetted by the spray.

My idea of paradise: my beautiful woman, a lovely waterfall, green trees, and all situated within a perfect setting.

Crossing the bridge at the base of the Upper Latourell Falls. If you look off in the distance you can see that even the branches of the trees are covered in green moss, as if Chloris were madly dashing about working her magic.

One of the most interesting things about creeks and waterfalls is the fact that the water flowing in the creek, seems to be of a much smaller volume than the water seen going over a falls. This gently flowing stream hardly seems large enough to supply the upper and lower Latourell Falls, but it is.

Rip still has his glasses up, and he is enjoying the hike.

Dotti and I both took pictures of these leaves. The water droplets, while clumped up, were still clinging to the surface; they sparkled like jewels, and really caught our attention.

Dotti caught me stepping back on the trail after taking a shop off to the right of this picture. It is very striking the way the dead logs, like the one on the extreme left and the one on the right behind me, are still supporting so much life. The green will not be denied.

Even though the plants on the left and on the right of the path are different, their greenery blends into a well matched package. Even the moss on the tree trunk in the extreme foreground wants to join in the green parade.

Brother and sister having a great time together on the trail.

The branches on this tree have no leaves or pine needles, but they are green nonetheless. It is almost spooky seeing so much moss around.

I thought it was very interesting the way my camera caught Dotti's lens with its unusual color pattern.

One of the struggles that trees have in a heavily populated forest is trying to get to the sunlight. This tree has reached out its branches, right across our path, like a thirsty man trying to catch rain drops in his hands.

Dotti's smiling and Rip is looking a bit mischievous, as we take a picture break.

We walked right through a tree. It may not be as cool as driving a car through a tree, or riding a small train through a tree, both of which Dotti and I have done in the Sequoia National Forest, but still it is pretty cool.

Dotti asked me how I felt about my 55th birthday coming up in August, and then snapped a picture.

With all that moss, this tree looks like it has on a frilly blouse.

Rip and I taking a moment to discuss whether what we perceive as the color green truly exists, or is it a wavelength of electromagnetic energy, that our brains have merely created the concept of color generally, and the color green specifically, in order to interpret it. Rip is looking back at Dotti to see if she will save him from this crazy man.

This is another item that both Dotti and I took pictures of because we each thought it was very interesting. These roots look like someone's arms reaching out of the ground, grasping and pulling who knows what up from underneath. The roots are tough and durable, because they have taken a lot of foot traffic over the top of them, and they still hold tightly to their earthen prize.

"Are you sure," I asked. "Hmm. Let me think about it," Rip replies. Don't you just hate coming into the middle of conversations that way?

The edge of a 250+ foot cliff—the same cliff I mentioned early (picture number 16). These flowers are living on the brink, physically located several feet above the top of Latourell Falls. The actual falls are to the right, and outside of this view, but they were nearly invisible anyway because of the plant covering between us.

Thought I was crazy coming down here, because it was a bit of tricky path, and the drop was quite unforgiving of mistakes. However, I was wrong, because I hadn't been here long and Rip followed me down.

This bridge will be revisited later in the hike, but we will be 250 feet or so closer to I then. The path that leads off the top of this picture goes straight to the parking lot, and many people, including ourselves on previous visits, walk down to the bridge, and turn right around and go back to their cars, without ever even realizing that the Upper Latourell Falls existed.

The beautiful Columbia River Gorge as seen from the top of Latourell Falls. The Columbia River shows first green and then blue-gray as you move your eyes left to right over the picture, and the refection of the Washington mountains gives way to the reflection of the sky. The tall columns of basalt pushing down into the river almost look wooden from her, like a giant wall to hold back King Kong. The layer of basalt above is more worn down and rounded by weather but both speak of a cataclysm that surpasses all volcanic events but one. From Idaho to the Pacific Ocean lava like this flowed across the land, and left layers like the ones you see here. Even on the west end of the Gorge, here where the trees grow thick as blades of grass in a lawn, you can see this wonder. On the east end, it fairly shouts at you, because it is dessert with no trees, and only denuded land. The layer upon layer of hardened lava cannot be missed.

But today, it is the trees that control the view, and the Oregon forest at our feet rushes up to greet us like old friends. I love this part of the world more than any other I have seen.

I snuck up the hill from the edge of the cliff before Rip did, and so he was able to take this shot of my lovely Dotti and I sitting on a bench at was the "official" view point area.

I am always set for great wallpapers on my computer with Dotti in my life! I used this one for a while as my wallpaper because it shows Dotti expressing interesting emotional feeling. She was between laughing and taking me to task for something that I had said. I love that playful side of her.

Dotti once again caught me on the trail.

Here was a little friend we met on the trail. I didn't point him out right away to Dotti, since she isn't really fond of the insect world, and I wanted to get a picture of him before he either flew away, or left this world.

Rip working his way up a steep incline. You can see that his sunglasses are reflecting the forest mostly with little sky, due to the angle of the hill and his body position ascending it.

Something out of fairytale don't you think? There should be some elves and wood nymph to great us. Perhaps the dwarves have a mine nearby, and the fairies will be flying along dropping their dust upon our heads so that we can fly. Maybe not, but it doesn't seem all that impossible when you are on a trail like this.

Caught between two cameras and no place to run. Poor Rip.

With head down he had resigned himself to his fate. He had to get shot from both sides.

Okay, I am writing my letter to Santa Claus this very minute. I am going to ask him to give me a house just like this, in just this type of location. Can you imagine living in setting? Trees, falls, rivers, and a fireplace too. Yep, I think heaven will be a lot like that.

Another shot of Rip being double photographed. On this stretch of trail the trees have backed off a bit, but the bushes are nearly as tall as trees.

Our house is only a few miles from the Camas smoke stacks that you can see in this picture. Camas, Washington is right next door to Vancouver, just east of us, and we live on the eastern end of Vancouver, right next to the line between the two cities. The hill that you see behind the stacks stands between us, but as you can see these falls are not all that far from our house. We are almost in view of them.

It looks like Rip was starting to work a bit of a sweat as we move upwards for a while. We are nearly done with climbing though, except for a short one right at the end.

Dotti's sharp eye caught this guy, I had walked right over him and didn't see him at all. If it weren't for the yellow outline, he would be really hard to spot. If he didn’t move, he could look like a stick to a predator, especially one that is color blind.

Rip and I conversing as we walked. The path was too narrow to walk side by side but that was no impediment to our ability to communicate.

All of these moss covered branches reminds me of how a woman's hair looks when she has just come up from under the water and it is hanging down over her face as just starts to fling it back over her head. So many branches, and each has on its own moss coat.

I am not sure of what was going on here, but it looks like I was singing "The Happy Wanderer." And I think my hair adds a little more gray between each of the pictures. What do you think?

"If Aristotle said it, it probably has some merit. Now it might not be right, but at least it was intelligent." I am trying to remember Rip's exact words here, but I am not sure.

We have a flower page later on, but this shows how flowers were often popping up to brighten our way. These white flowers were especially evident nearly everywhere we went on the hike.

This is an interesting tree. In part it looks like a swimmer bent over with his hands high over his back, set to dive into a pool for a race. If your imagination turns it another way, you could see a football punter who has just lofted a record breaking kick, with his left kicking left vertical, and his back arched so far over that he has his hand held up just before he falls on his back.

As a tree, it is just amazing to me. The main truck grew straight up for a few feet, and then for some reason did a 90° turn and started running parallel to the ground. As the same time another trunk oddly comes out of the side of the main trunk and heads straight upwards. When the horizontal trunk has competed a several feet of travel it stops and sends up to smaller limbs reaching for the sky.

Is it two trees joined together, impacting each other to create this weird looking object? Was there some outside force put upon the tree in its youth that is gone, like a fallen tree that has rotted away? The "main trunk" looks split. Could there be three original trees in there? Things that make you say, "Hmm."

This is the same tree from another angle. The path nearly does a 180° turn around it. Dotti looking pretty in the background, and Rip looking like he wishes I would finish up already.

We liked this tree and so here is a shot of me taken from the original angle.

You guessed it, the same tree. This time Rip is helping it out for a bit, because it looked tired holding that position.

Here are a few pictures of a bleeding tree. It looked like it had been shot in two places and had sent out streams of sap from each wounded area.

It took some doing on this trail to find a spot where you would only have one tree in the background. But we did it!

The dynamic duo stand poised for action. We have a viewpoint here that has no long range view, because the trees are so thick that they block it. That's okay, the trees make a good view on their own.

"If I were you, I wouldn't look behind yourself," she said with an evil laugh. What terrors await the unsuspecting photographer as he turns around to meet his fate?

It was nothing, just a couple thousand pounds of metal moving by at highway speeds. No worries.

In fact the road looks empty. "Safe as houses," as the British say.

Well, there were a few cars on the road, but we had no problem getting across safely. The bridge that you see in this picture is the same one as we were looking at the start, but this is the east end of it. We will be walking under it later on, as we approach the base of Latourell Falls.

Across the road we found that there were some steps, helping us on our way downward.

Here is Rip taking in the view as we headed down. There was a picnic area that we were approaching and some children at play.

It seemed that this road was appropriately named, considering where it was located.

Dotti was searching for her next photo subject. The sunlight was pouring down, but the temperature was till in the 60s. It was lovely weather for a walk.

Rip had stopped to say something to Dot, and so I blindsided him by taking a snapshot. Even here in the park area, the trees are pretty thickly packed.

A Boy Scout troop had taken the picnic area over and they had their flags on display. The little girl seemed to be on an important mission.

Leaving the picnic area we entered the forest again. The trail was working its way back to the concrete bridge and then on to Latourell Falls. Dotti waved as I took this picture.

Here I captured two flowers in one shot. The one in the front is very pretty, but the one in the back is simply stunning.

You can tell that we are getting close to the end. Once more the trail has turned to asphalt.

Dotti took this picture and it caught a flower in the foreground, Latourell Creek cascades over a small rapid and is framed in the bridge's west concrete tower cross members. At the far right our trail continues on towards the falls.

Looking up at the bridge from the north side. The bridge has 3 arches and we can see the one on the east end of the bridge, and part of the arch of the main span. This middle arch is quite a bit larger than the other two arches are. Looking at it from the side, you would say that the weight of the bridge is shared by 4 points: the two end anchors, and the two towers. (Each anchor and tower has a left and right component, but we'll ignore that for now.)

The arch is a concept that is thousands of years old, and it is very effective at allowing an engineer to take a force that is out over a river, and direct at a supportive column that is a significant distance away. Right at the middle of the bridge, when a heavy truck rolls over it, its force of thousands of pounds, pushes down on the vertical concrete pillars that are connected between the road and the arch. The pillars push down on the arch. The arch pushes down and out on the supportive towers, and the towers push down on their foundations into the earth. It is a sort of inverted Golden Gate Bridge, which uses cables above the road to transfer the forces to the towers.

Our trail now runs right beside Latourell Creek.

Just looking at the water you would never know that it had just passed over a 249-foot drop. It has left no visible mark upon it.

There is something about water that seems so attractive. It makes otherwise dull and unattractive rocks shine, and the sunlight then dances off the formally drab surfaces.

We are getting close now, bridge on the right means that we are within view of the falls.

Like the kid who just accidentally put a baseball through his neighbor's window, the water on the right seems to be pretending like nothing is going on, and all is calm. But in the background to the left, you can see the spray from Latourell Falls touching down.

Click here to go to our Lower Latourell Falls page, where we have some pictures of this lovely falls.

Rip and I were at the base of the falls. I was trying to keep my camera dry and he was taking in the view. Dotti was standing on the bridge when she took this shot. This bridge is the one that we saw from the cliff top earlier.

Once I had everything dried off, I snapped this picture of Rip with the falls behind him.

Looking back at the bridge, that we just crossed. It seems a lot larger when we are nearly 250 closer to it.

I climbed up this rock, just to see if I could, and Rip joined me for this picture. We were getting really close to the end of the trail by this time.

Dotti said to look like "King of the Mountain" and this is the best I could do. Sorry.

Now doesn't the bridge look so much nicer now? My lovely girl can brighten up any picture.

When you click on this image, you will be taken to our flower page for this hike. Dotti took a lot of very nice pictures that are on display there.

Leaving the falls behind us, we returned to the parking lot. We had had a very nice time and got to see some spectacular scenery. It was hoping for hikes like this that started us hiking.

Back to our Coon Family Hiking Club Page