May 29, 2005

The Coon Family Hiking Club
Official Hike #2

LENGTH OF HIKE 4.2 miles - 2 hours 23 minutes


Punchbowl Falls CFHC Hike #1

Punchbowl Falls CFHC Hike #2

This is the third CFHC Punchbowl Falls hike. We also did a Tunnel Falls hike that included the hike to Punchbowl Falls as part of it.

We actually ended up doing this particular hike because LeRoy suggested it. He likes this hiking trail best of all the ones he’s been on, and Dotti said that she agrees with him on that. I also love this Eagle Creek Trail, and I think the Tunnel Falls hike rivals even the Silver Falls trail for waterfalls, and it one of my favorites. It was nice having our son with us, not only for the enjoyable company, but also adding support for the name of our hiking club. J

We have done all of the Punchbowl Falls hikes in either May or June, but we did the Tunnel Falls hike on my 52nd birthday on August 23, 2003. (Cool birthday present!) The trail looks very different from hike to hike. Sometimes it is rainy and others it is dry as a bone. When the sky is dark and gray, the trail looks completely different than it does when the sky is blue. The time of year not only impacts the amount of rain and the temperature, but it changes what the plant life looks like as well. So, although we have been here before, we still had surprises awaiting us.

Looking down from a little hill, where the restroom was perched, towards our white van off in the distance. If you look carefully you just might spy LeRoy patiently waiting for us.

Back down at parking lot level and once again looking towards our van and LeRoy. The trailhead is off to the left, and out of view.

This is the opposite direction, and is the road down which we came to get to our parking place. If we hadn’t arrived early, we would have been fighting for a place to park, and possibly would have been a half mile or more up this road at an auxiliary parking lot. There is a stretch of the road that is one lane total for both directions. We always hope that we won’t run into oncoming traffic there.

Getting off on the right foot for a hike often begins right here. It is usually a sign of a popular and busy trail when they have restrooms available. When they have nice ones like these it is usually only for the busiest trails. The Eagle Creek Trail is indeed one of the busiest hiking trails in Oregon.

The greenery is just about taking the place over isn’t it? The Columbia River Gorge has some extremely beautiful forested areas.

Can you tell Dotti is ready for the hike? She is already having a great time! I can't think of anything that warms my heart as much as seeing Dotti smile like this.

Such happy smiles. J We are all set to have a great hike.

LeRoy's turn behind the camera. He caught this picture of his parents, who were ready to hike.

Looking from the van towards the trailhead. You can just see Dotti, who was getting off to an early start. She is up by the trailhead marker. The trail at this point gives little hint of what wonders that lie ahead along its more than 13 miles of length. However, it does flaunt its incredibly green cover even at the beginning.

While Dotti waits behind the trailhead sign, LeRoy is catching up. Note the wide smooth surface of the trail at the start. They have put a great deal of work into maintaining this trail, and I don't mind at all the $3 parking fee to help support that effort. Later on there are places where the trail is not as wide and smooth as it is at the start, but I think they do a marvelous job at keeping the path clear and ready for hiking!

Back to back my wife and son stand waiting for me. Dotti found those cute pants for hiking, and the cuffs just jump out at you. They remind me of when I was a kid running around in blue jeans that Mom always bought too long for me, and she would roll up the cuffs like that. The sign warns hikers that from December to March they pretty much let the trail go, and you are on your own to get around or over “downed trees, slides, washouts and other debris.” Maybe one day we will try a winter hike up here; it might be interesting.

Dotti caught me here after yelling, “Stop!” I look stiff as a rail.J The trailhead is behind us now, and we have officially begun our hike.

My handsome son and I sharing a happy moment on the trail. The forest forever is reminding us of the cycle of life with things like the dead tree stump to the right, surrounded by green life exploding everywhere.

We could be in the Shire, as we head off for an adventure like Bilbo or Frodo. Eagle Creek is just below the trail at this point, but we will leave it far below us later on.

There is nothing like the relaxing sound of water dancing down a streambed like this. Water magically changes from being as clear as glass into frothing opaque white foam, and then back again, all in an instant.

The wooden bridge, where Dotti and LeRoy are walking in this picture, told us that our hike was nearly over when we hit it on the way back. Here we were only thinking about the little wonderland around us.

Water is so soft that even a clump of grass can deflect it, but over time it can wear sharp and jagged rocks into rounded objects that are smooth and that even look polished when wet.

A fairytale world where at anytime you might expect to see a leprechaun poke his head out of the undergrowth, or a fairy flitter by on her tiny wings. The elves must be around here somewhere! The deeper that you go into the picture the more lush the greenery appears.

A baby waterfall dropping almost covertly down the rock wall beside us. At the bottom, after running for a while as a thin sheet, it breaks up into tiny discreet streams.

This is a continuation of the previous picture, and you can see what became of the streams that fell onto this rock surface. Ultimately the water will find its way into Eagle Creek, and then on into the Columbia River, to be returned to sea from whence it had risen as vapor some time before.

Dotti and LeRoy up ahead, waiting for me to catch up. Notice the small trees on the left digging into the steep rock wall extending up from the trail.

In areas where the sun does not hit the tree trunks directly, they are covered with this moss. Depending upon the amount of rain at the time, the covering may appear either green, brown, or a mixture of both.

This log was extending out over the trail quite a few feet over our heads.

Dotti’s cuffs really jump out of the picture because they are so light in color compared to her dark outfit. You can see one of the fallen trees that the trailhead sign was referring to. At this time of year they cut them up and clear the path for you.

More of the mossy growth on the tree trunks. It looks as if the trees were cold and had put on some coats of green.

Dotti has now taken off her raincoat and you can see her tee-shirt, that she purchased during the DWLZ conference this year. It says, “Got Oxygen? I climbed 620 feet to the top of Multnomah Falls.” We are approaching the thirty-second anniversary of when Dotti and I first climbed Multnomah Falls together, and we can’t seem to get enough of those falls.

This tree gives the impression of someone being stuck in the ground head first with his legs up in the air kicking.

Father and son. LeRoy sure is a handsome lad isn’t he? (Of course that is my unbiased opinion. J)

Arche de Triumph? No, but it is interesting.

Dotti found that walking stick the other day, and it is made of hardwood, but it almost feels like it is made of bamboo because it is so light. In spite of that, the wood feels very strong.

No, Dotti doesn’t close her eyes when I am taking her picture. Well, not too often. J

We are starting to get up above Eagle Creek now. We are looking down into the little stream valley and there, on the opposite bank, is a pretty little waterfall.

The waterfall once more, with these two very attractive people standing in front. Dotti looks like she is really enjoying herself!

A stump that appears to have been there a quite a while. The forest is a perfect recycling machine for all of the life that is native to the area. Trees grow up using the debris left from previous trees that have fallen and decayed. Sometimes the young trees don't even wait for the older ones to turn back into top soil, but dig their roots directly into their dead ancestors lying on the ground. Every living thing that we see is at some point in that never ending cycle.

Just around that bend lies the rest of the trail. (Much like the old, cliché, but true, "Today is the first day in the rest of your life.") The plant life is thick and green, and contrasts nicely with the reddish trail.

Trees have fallen, and water is falling, and it is puddling up to prepare for its migration down a small stream. The little concave impression in the rock wall behind it is dark and almost seems to be the opening of a cave.

This miniature waterfall is fed by a stream that is hiding beneath the plants that extend down the hill right up to, and even over, the top of the falls.

The falls in the last picture are taller than they appeared before. LeRoy and Dotti braved the water to pose for this shot. J

The green is magically bright as it covers this hillside. The changes that we saw in the surrounding terrain as we walked along were quite pronounced.

Looking up at a towering basalt wall. My imagination is taxed by the task of picturing what it must have been like when that wall of lava was moving into place so long ago. Now the trees, moss and other vegetation cling to it, and call it home.

The hard work that went into creating this trail must have been backbreaking. Working through solid rock in many places had to have left the men exhausted by the end of their workdays.

LeRoy leading the way, with Dotti hidden behind him. While there was a place or two along the trail where we saw some damp ground, our hike this week was much dryer than the one we had the week before at the coast.

A sheer rock wall to the left of the trail, and a pretty good drop developing off to the right. In the name of safety, this part of the trail requires your full attention.

Looking down at Eagle Creek. It didn’t take long to work our way up from creek level to this vantage point.

Once again the rock wall is seen, and it even overhangs the trail a bit here. Off to the right the drop has become even sharper. It definitely took a lot of work to cut through this part of the trail.

The chipped rock surface is wet here from a flow of water from above. On the left you can see the steel cable that has been put in place as a safety measure for those who might have a problem with heights and with the sharp drop to the right.

The well anchored cable continues on around the bend in the trail.

The many aspects of this part of the trail all vie for our attention. The moss covered rock wall presses in on the left, with its cable supported by iron rings imbedded into the wall. The wet rocky path demands care of those who are to transverse its surface. The cliff drop-off sports tree tops and implies danger to anyone who doesn’t watch his step.

Dotti is neatly hidden behind the tree as she snaps a picture while LeRoy contemplates the beautiful scenery before him. The cable runs beside the trail just in case.

The cable appears to come to an end just as the path hits a very narrow spot, but it actually continues on to just before the leftward bend in the path ahead.

This looks like something from Journey to the Center of the Earth, with Dotti and LeRoy walking along a narrow rock ledge with a rock wall extending upwards on the one side, and deadly drop falling away on the other. The trees that manage to grow into that stone wall, and hang on for so many years are absolutely amazing.

A couple of trees, that had fallen from the cliff face or from above it, are seen laying with their tops in Eagle Creek far below us. The water moves from left to right, changing as it flows from having a calm smooth surface, to being broken up by the rocks downstream, and creating white foam markers behind each of the blocking stones.

As we reach the end of the first cable, the rock wall on the side is so light in color it almost looks like falling water. The trail takes a sharp left turn ahead, and we have safely crossed the narrow ledge once again.

At least we are getting close to having safely crossed the ledge once again. J Our happy wanderers appear to be a little more serious at this point in the hike. We have walked a ways, and we have gone up as well, so we are feeling the energy drain just a bit.

LeRoy and Dotti taking a moment to enjoy the wonderful view. The basalt wall behind them is very interesting how it leaps upwards, and at the same time sweeps out and over the trail. Architects work very hard to try to make buildings appear this beautiful, and here molten rock has frozen, been carved by water, broken up by plants' roots, and now chisled through by trail blazers, and we get to enjoy it.

Dotti just spotted an elf up the tree and was trying to coax her down. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to, so we couldn’t get a picture.

This is a point on the trail that is really nice, because the little “platform” of rock that LeRoy is standing on extends out from the trail, and the sharp drop is easily visible from the point of the trail that I was standing on. Dotti is stepping up to join LeRoy.

Here Dotti and LeRoy are taking a moment to look back at the camera for this picture. This is a squirrel’s eye view of the canyon below, as we are standing even with the upper branches of some giant pines whose roots are in the canyon floor below. Awesome!

Moving the view of the camera up a bit, you can see the far side of the long valley we have just walked up.

There is something about looking down a long ways and spying the tops of trees.

Leaving the narrow ledge path behind for a while, we head straight into the dark forest.

Here we go again with cable number two, for another narrow rock ledge path. This photo lends the strange feeling of walking through half of a tunnel. The left side is curved upwards and over the trail, as if it were going to join up with a similar wall on the right, but instead, there is sharp drop off.

So, what do we look at? The beautiful Eagle Creek valley ahead and to the right, or the sharp rock wall leaping upwards to the left? Or perhaps the little narrow path straight ahead? Notice how rough the path surface is. The boots that I now have for hiking, I acquired because of this very trail, but for the stretch of it up near Tunnel Falls. The rocky surface of the path at that location pushed up into the bottoms of my feet when I wore tennis shoes, and it was quite painful. With my boots on there is no problem with stony paths.

My thoughts keep going back to those brave and hard working men who cut this trail into the solid rock!

Dotti has spotted something down off the trail, and LeRoy is on his way up.

Looking across the canyon. Pine trees growing everywhere, even in places where you would think it is impossible. The basalt wall displays a long horizontal crack that runs for quite a distance. I think the line was originally formed when the basalt was cooling, as it often breaks up into layers and even into columns sometimes. With a dividing line existing between layers of the rock wall, the water running down the rock face would have accumulated in the crack, and in wintertime, it would freeze, breaking some of the rock away, enlarging the crack. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. J

Here we reached the end of our second cable. Every time I pass this point on the trail I am reminded of when Dotti stumbled right about here, and it sent my heart right up into my throat! It is a dangerous part of the trail.

Looking across the canyon once more to see the large number of pine trees growing in bunches, while the long crack in the wall is easily seen.

Notice how the crack in the wall follows the water carved indented section. There also is a fallen tree lying in the water’s drop path. The tall pine tree in the center of the picture gives scale to the view, showing how thick that lava flow really was.

Looking north down the Eagle Creek canyon. Our van was waiting patiently for us in that general direction over a mile away and a few hundred feet below our current position. It feels a bit strange looking down on the tops of tall trees this way.

I like this picture. It gives me the impression of coming change, as we move from the bright path into the shadowy world waiting around the bend.

These two trees look as if they are bending over, and reaching out to pick something up, or to grab something walking by unawares. Since they were distracted in the other direction, they let us pass by safely. J

The dark stretches of path seemed almost magical, and the “little people” seem less unlikely along here.

My son and I in front of Metlako Falls, which was pouring into the Eagle Creek. The very tall trees rooted into the precarious cliff edge stirs some of the same feelings that one has watching a tightrope walker.

This is my favorite picture of LeRoy on this hike, and Dotti took it. His happy smile backed by this tremendously beautiful scene of misty sky, lush green forest and waterfall. Sometimes everything just comes together. J

This could have been taken in the tropics, with the waterfall and so much heavy green growth around it.

Another picture of LeRoy, this time with me in the background fiddling with my camera.

Yours truly looking like I was really enjoying myself. That was probably because I was!

This was an artistic experiment. Dotti was trying to get LeRoy to point to the tree and then get a picture looking down his arm at it.

We just couldn’t get enough of those falls. I moved up the hill a ways to take this shot looking down a bit. It was nice seeing all the smiles that were popping out on this hike!

Focusing on getting the falls and a bit of Eagle Creek exiting the fall pool area.

Another shot of Dotti and LeRoy, with you guessed it, Metlako Falls in the background.

This shot included a bit more of the exit path that Eagle Creek took leaving the fall pool area.

A tree showing us a few of its roots. The cable fence is intended to keep us happy hikers away from the cliff edge, and any possible path of descent to the bottom of the canyon.

A parting shot of the base of the falls as we were finally back on the way to Punchbowl falls.

This sign has seen better days no doubt, but it still shows us that we have a half mile to go to get there.

The trail continues on, peaceful and beautiful. The air was cool, and the forest sounds surrounded us. It was a perfect day for a walk!

The fallen trees that cross the trail are moved or cut, and the remaining parts remind us that each one of the trees that we can see around us are moving through a life cycle. They grow from the small to the large and in the end fall to the earth, to return to that from which they sprung. There is always to be seen the young and malleable, the hearty specimens in their prime, and the unmovable old giants. Just like with people the cycle must run, and the only way to have the vigorous individuals in plenty is for the adults to produce offspring. Otherwise, they will be displaced by others who will. The forest reminds us that life is a continual struggle and always will be.

My son and lovely wife are just behind and coming along nicely. There is no rush, because the morning is still fresh, and we are nearly to our destination.

I took this picture looking up from the middle of the path. It is an interesting study in perception, as all parallel lines appear to be converging to a point in the distance. Looking up makes us feel small, as the trees are so much taller than we are, and yet we were looking down on trees as tall as these not long before from the cliffs. Would the trees have felt small if they had been able to see us way up there? The gray sky was bright enough to provide the light we needed without being overly bright and taxing our eyes. Very nice!

The forces involved in bending this tree base had to have been great, but they were applied over time, and only a small amount at any given instant. The result is a large tree that reaches for the sky, while being rooted to earth at an angle.

This crossing has always caught our attention, and we stop to take pictures every time we pass this way going up the trail.

This picture, looking up the stream from the crossing, is filled with many interesting things. The water of course is dancing down the stones happily, turning white in the rapidly changing streambed terrain, and then back to clear as crystal moments later. The moss is covering the rocks and climbing the tree trunks. Fallen trees crisscross the scene, and water worn rocks appear in various sizes. Lush greenery closes in as the stream fades into the shadows.

Dotti and LeRoy negotiating the stone path, checking to make sure that they don’t step on a rock that will roll, rather than providing a firm understanding. J I think those yellow cuffs are really cute on the pants that Dotti is wearing.

Dotti and I both used this little puddle beside the creek to wash off some of the lingering mud from the Ecola Park hike the week before.

We did see a bit of damp ground during our hike but it was fairly rare, and usually caused from flowing water, rather than a recent rainfall.

My lovely wife nearly at the top of Punchbowl Falls. I can hardly believe that it has been nearly 29 years since we got married! Those years have flown by in wedded bliss.

Here is a pointer to a trail leading to the base of the falls. We have taken that trail before (see the links at the top of this page to see pictures of that trail), but this day we were just looking to do the basic out-and-back hike, and to not get too carried away with extending the hike, and so we passed it by.

Another shot of my wife and son, looking just a bit more tired than they were earlier on. Two miles of uphill walking can tend to do that. J

Every turn the trail takes is another addition to the enjoyment that we have shared on our hike.

Dotti is hidden behind the turn, and LeRoy is coming up the trail. The heavy forest has broken off to the left and the cloud filtered sunlight is brightening up the view.

Now Dotti has cleared the turn and catching up on the inside.

The moss covered tree on the right reminded me of a wishbone, and I asked LeRoy if he wanted to take one side and I would take the other and we could make a wish. J

Well, here we are. This is the viewing area for Punchbowl Falls.

We can see how this falls got its name: the falls come over the rock looking very much like punch being poured out from a pitcher into a punchbowl. LeRoy said that his cousins had said that they have stood on that little patch of ground just above and to the left of the top of the falls, and jumped into the water below. The waterfall is about 15 feet tall, and that “platform” is another few feet up, making the jump somewhere around 20 feet. I don't think I would try it.

The falls is surrounded by a rock wall that forms a cup with an exit to the north where Eagle Creek continues on its path.

While we were looking at the falls, I turned around and spotted this little guy as he was landing on the rock, which was only a couple of feet behind us. I covertly turned my camera around and took a “best guess” as to whether it was pointing at the bird or not. I got lucky.

As busy as this trail is, I am sure that they have a problem with people wanting to set up their camps anywhere there is an opening in the forest, even at the Punchbowl Falls viewing area. (However, all is not lost for the would be camper, there are several authorized camping areas up the trail a ways from here.)

Dotti and LeRoy, looking a bit tired, all set to head back down the trail to the car.

Looking between these two trees, seeming like pillars in a Greek temple, a small patch of Eagle Creek is just visible among all the heavy forest growth.

LeRoy and I were seeing if we could slide the trees over a bit, but we didn’t have much success.

Click here and you will be able to visit Dotti’s flower page for this hike, where there are pictures posted of many of the flowers that Dotti spotted along the way.