May 17, 2003

The Coon Family Hiking Club
Official Hike #1

4.2 miles - 2 hours 54 minutes

After hearing LeRoy's description of the Eagle Creek Trail, and Punch Bowl Falls, we decided to make that our first hike. And we are really glad that we did!

We drove east on I-84 from Portland, and turned off at exit 41 to reach the Eagle Creek trail parking lot. The road is a single lane for a while, with little turnouts for cars to wait in while traffic going the in the opposite direction goes by. This picture show the view looking back towards that road from the Eagle Creek parking lot.

The restroom was nestled into a very green and beautiful setting. It even had running water. Due to the recent rain, the tables you see in the foreground were quite damp, as were all surfaces exposed to the weather.

Here you see Eagle Creek flowing past the parking lot. This is the creek that flows over the Punch Bowl Falls. Our plan was to walk up to Punch Bowl Falls and back, which is a 4.2 round trip hike. Notice the lush greenery surround the river. For the entire hike we saw this type of beautiful growth!

As we are walking from our car to the hiking trail, here was the view looking back towards our car (the white van about 7 cars down the line). Things are really green, and for the moment the sun is actually shining. This is just a little after 09:00 and the trail we were heading for turned out to be quite empty. Later in the day things got busier, but we were already on the return portion of our hike before we started seeing many people on the trail.

This is the head of the trail, and this is Dotti and LeRoy standing by the warning signs. They said, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here!" Well actually they said we were using the trail at our own risk.

This trail was constructed before 1920 and has been a favorite of both locals and tourists ever since. I am sure that this will not be our last visit to it!

There was a guy in the parking lot, with a perpetual scowl on his face, and an orange vest on, who we think was connected with this sign. You can see some cars in the background, however, this was the last point on the trail where we could still see any part of the parking lot.

Just around the corner from that sign we found this bridge. We were walking east, and the sun was shining in our faces at this point. So, I crossed the bridge and took the picture looking west, to keep the sun out of the picture.

Off to the side of the trail at this point, Eagle Creek was flowing by merrily. You can see the white water created from the stream passing over stones in the creek bed. Also, it is easy to see how clear the water in this creek is, with all the rock lining the bottom of the creek bed easily visible.

Eagle Creek flowing through some very beautiful land, and right beside the path we were walking on.

LeRoy and Dotti with Eagle Creek in the background.

Al and LeRoy from the same perspective.

Dotti and LeRoy walking on the trail.

Just doing a rough count on the rings on this tree, I estimate that it is over 110 years old. It was cut and lying in pieces down below in the river. I believe that it was cut because it had become unstable on its root system and they were doing some preventive maintenance. During our walk we saw a great number of trees that had fallen over, with their roots pulled right out of the ground. With this tree, the roots were not visible at all. I guessed that a stump, with those roots still attached was located up the hill, and out of sight.

There was green growth hanging from a great many of the trees along our path. It gave the forest a bit of a creepy feeling, but it was beautiful too.

A picture of Dotti and Al, taken by LeRoy our son.

About a mile and a half into the walk, across the valley, and Eagle Creek, we saw Metlaka Falls, which is a "triple falls." So, we grabbed the chance to take some pictures. Here is LeRoy and Dotti.

And LeRoy alone.

Lastly, a zoom of Metlaka Falls themselves.

We came across this little falls that was about 15 feet tall, right beside the path. The runoff at the bottom went right across our path.

Here Dotti was leading the way, and I got her and LeRoy to stop for a quick picture. As you can see, the lighting shows that the sky was overcast at the moment. We had quite a range of weather during our hike. We started out with some sunshine, and then later a shower moved through and dropped quite a lot of water. Later the sun came back. Throughout the walk the tall trees were dropping water from previous shower bursts, and little rivulets, streams, and miniature waterfalls were presenting themselves all along the trail.

This was a little creek that crossed our path. At this point it created a little falls, which we thought was definitely worth a picture (or four).

Dotti and LeRoy are making the crossing of the stream. Along with the scenic background, notice that one of the large circular stones that have been placed across the creek has had its foundation washed away and it has sunk into the stream. Other, smaller, stones have been placed on top of it to allow hikers to cross without getting wet. When I stepped on the stone where Dotti and LeRoy are standing, I felt a slight give to it as well. It may not be too much longer before that stone will also have to be replaced by others.

LeRoy and Al, with the little falls in the background.

Al and Dotti.

We inadvertently walked past the unmarked cutoff trail leading to the bottom of Punch Bowl Falls, and instead came to a viewing point above the falls, about 2 miles from our starting point. If you look closely at the top of the falls you can see small patch of cleared dirt. (LeRoy told us that at least one of his cousins had jumped from that point down into the lake below. That is quite a drop!) This little pond gets quite busy in the summertime, with swimmers. In fact the Eagle Creek trail is one of the busiest of the Columbia Gorge hiking trails. That is one reason that we wanted to get this one in early, both in the season, and also in the day we took the hike.

Just as I snapped this picture the clouds covered up the sun, and a rain shower was getting ready to move upon us.

We continued up the path for a ways, as the rain started coming down in earnest. You can see Dotti has her hood on, and the background is dark, and her coat is wet. (Fortunately Dotti and I had water proof jackets on.) The temperature had dropped, and my hands were nearly numb when I snapped this picture.

At this point, we decided that since we had already reached our original goal (Punch Bowl Falls) and the weather was turning much worse, we would turn around at this point and head back to the falls, to locate the trail we had missed, and then back to the car. We would leave High Bridge, Tunnel Falls and all other delights of the upper trail for another day, and not overdo on our first official outing of the CFHC (Coon Family Hiking Club).

Here LeRoy is leading the way back down the trail. Carrying my walking stick, and with his hood up, he looks like he just might fit into the background of one of the Lord of the Rings movies; or perhaps we will see an Ewok around the next bend of the path.

Now we have made it back to the path to the Punch Bowl Falls path, and taken it down to Eagle Creek. We are actually looking over a short falls, from upstream. Punch Bowl falls lies behind the camera at this point. I felt this valley with the creek running through it was definitely worth a picture!

We actually had to walk out across stepping-stones into this wide spot of the Eagle Creek to get a view of Punch Bowl Falls, past the rock wall on the left. It felt a little precarious as I was balancing on the rocks, while trying to line up a good shot with the camera.

Note all the moss and other greenery that surrounds this area. It is really beautiful. Also, note that the sun has now come back out again!

The greenery surrounding the Punch Bowl Falls pool area is quite lush. I had to take this picture of the bolder that has been completely covered with growth. Also, please note the crystal clear water! You can see bottom as well as if there were no water at all. (Probably better, because the water magnifies what is below its surface!)

Dotti is working her way back across some stepping stone, which LeRoy kept reminding her were very slick at the time. She had been out a few stones farther into the creek, but this point allowed for a nice shot of her with the flowing water behind.

LeRoy is watching his mother negotiate the slick stones. Behind him you can see the green everywhere, and the mini-falls dropping just in front of the fallen tree, with the valley extending into the distance. The surface of all the stones are very wet from the recent rain shower, and we had to watch our step to avoid slipping.

A happy ending, as Dotti had made it back safely from her "perilous trip."

One feature of this trail is a run of fairly narrow ledge over a very long, and dangerous drop. In fact there are two such runs. Each of them is 100 feet or more, and the builders of the trail have nicely placed steel cables along the inner pathway, attached to hooks that are embedded into the rock wall. Here Dotti is holding onto the cable with the path, which headed back towards the car, going off behind her around the bend. At this point you see Dotti holding onto the cable. (She gave me a real fright at one point when she was not holding the cable and she momentarily lost her balance. Fortunately, she regained it in time.)

LeRoy and Dotti discussing a fine point of Quantum Mechanics, and its cosmic relationship to the latest black hole theory. Well, maybe not.

One of the anchoring metal hooks, that hold the safety cable in place.

The first of 3 pictures we took at this location. Here you see LeRoy and Dotti standing out on a ledge with a very long drop below them, enjoying the breathtaking view. Eagle Creek is far below, but not visible in this picture. Notice how every rock surface is covered with green growth of one type or another.

I included this shot because it gives a better feel for the cliff's height and sharp vertical drop.

LeRoy took this one of me standing on that same ledge. You can still see the rain on my jacket, and I had just taken my hood off. But the sun was out, and I was having a good time!

LeRoy walking along beside the cable run.

Dotti and LeRoy crossing the runoff from the little waterfall again.

One of the most striking things that I saw on our walk was the way so many trees were completely covered with green moss or other growth. It gave the forest a magical feel, and we felt like leprechauns, elves or fairies would be popping out from behind the trees at any moment.

It is a 4.2 mile round trip to the base of the falls and back. In addition to that, we went an additional distance of at least 0.3 miles, probably farther. So, officially we will call it a 4.5-mile hike, which we completed in 2 hours and 45 minutes, including all picture stops, and other stops for just plain gawking at the absolutely stunningly beautiful scenery.

We had a great time on our first official CFHC hike and we are planning to get one hike in each week whenever possible. At some point we plan to return to this Eagle Creek Trail and go to the top of it, but that is 13 miles one way to Wahtum Lake, and we will have to be in better shape to make that run. Before that, we may return to this trail to do a shorter run up to Tunnel Falls, which is only 6 miles one way and could more easily be completed in one day.