|Happy Father's Day, Bob!|
At 6:45 a.m., I was on the road to Oregon's Columbia River Gorge. An early start was mandatory today because the crowds are insane in the gorge on the weekends. The parking lot for today's hike is very small. I figured I should be there before 8:00 a.m. When I got off the freeway and drove past the trailhead parking there were four spots left in the lot. However, there were no restrooms at the trailhead so I had to drive 1/2 mile to Bridal Veil Falls area to use their facilities. When I returned to trailhead parking, there was one spot left. Mine, all mine. I was very lucky.
Today, I did not take a coat because the temperature was supposed to be in the mid-70s. However, I was questioning that decision when my car thermometer showed an outside temperature of 49 degrees. Brr! I geared up with hiking poles, and in the backpack had a hat with wide brim, trail mix, water, suntan lotion, extra pair of socks, first aid kit, and callous cushions. People were already circling looking for a parking space.
At 7:55 a.m. I crossed the street to the trailhead and pulled out my camera to take a photo of the trailhead sign. I forgot to put my disk back in after I downloaded photos yesterday. Arrgh! I couldn't take photos with my camera today. How frustrating is that? So, once again, I took photos with my cell phone, but can't get them to send to my email. I think the phone is too old. I tried to download the latest version of Firefox, but it failed: server is not supported. Sigh.
The day was mine to enjoy. I was not hiking with buddies today as they chose not to do this hike. And I didn't have to worry about taking many photos. At least I know I have some in the phone, maybe Verizon can get to them and send them for me. I'm at a loss as to what else to do to get those photos to my email.
An early start meant tranquility on the trail. I saw very few people on the way to the top. As an aside, even though we lived in Oregon over 30 years, this is one hike in the gorge we have never done. I was a little intimidated by the elevation gain (1,450') and the description that the trail steepened as it got closer to the top.
I started up that trail with no coat in the 49 degree weather and was sweating within 10 minutes. All my worry about a steep trail was for naught. The trail switch-backed up gently and I kept going and going, not feeling winded or overly tired. If I needed to, I stopped and breathed deeply for a couple of minutes. (Either the trail was less steep or I was in better shape than earlier in the week.)
Along the trail were tiger lilies in various stages of blooming and the columbine was at its peak. The air was butterscotch-and-vanilla scented making the experience even more delightful. I wish I could share the sound of the wind in the trees and the rushing gurgle of one small creek. Supposedly Coopey Falls was near the start of the trail, but I did not see it. That may have been the creek I heard.
A few people passed me on the way up: a mom with her 15-year-old son, a young couple, some hale and hearty young men, and a few twenty-something young ladies. I enjoyed my own pace.
As I neared the top, the winds became quite strong and chilly, but it felt good because I had become quite warm from hiking up the hill. When I came out of the forest close to the top, there was a field of large flat rocks and big boulders. I thought I had arrived at Angel's Rest. Folks were sitting on the rocks eating yogurt and settling in. I was so focused on not tripping on rocks, I didn't look around. But I saw others looking to the west and taking photos. When I turned around, the world was my oyster. The view toward Vista House, Portland and the West Hills was fantastic. Clear blue sky with the sun behind us made it even more magical. I can't recommend this hike enough.
What made me feel especially proud was looking across the Columbia River and seeing that I had hiked higher than the hills on the other side of the river. Wow. Pretty impressive accomplishment for so early in the morning. (As many of you know I am NOT a morning person.)
I quickly realized I was not at Angel's Rest. A number of through-hikers behind me kept on going. I followed. Soon we were through the rock field and back into lush forest. Angel's Rest certainly couldn't be too much farther, could it?
My Volksmarch instructions said just before reaching Angel's Rest I was to take a trail that veered off to the right. It didn't look quite right to me because it was a narrow ridge with a teensy trail through thick brush (including the dreaded poison oak), AND I could see drop offs in a couple of places through some rocks. Yikes!
I asked a lady if there was a trail there and she said, "Yes, it goes for miles." Alrighty then. My adventurous spirit took over and I braved the short stretch of ridge, then presto-chango I was back in deep forest.
My next walk instructions were to go left at a Y in the trail. The first Y I came to had a left turn that would take me off a cliff. A young couple was coming from that way and said not to go that way. Then I told them about my walk instructions. They said they had seen a Y in the trail ahead and had gone to the right on it, but the trail petered out into a bunch of branches. They hadn't tried the left fork. So I did.
The trail was absolutely beautiful. Soft, fine bark and pine needles made a cushioned path underfoot that was most welcome after all the mud, rocks and roots on the rest of the trail. I was up high, walking through a tall pine forest with views of the Columbia River far below. I was completely by myself and, I must admit, a little spooked. One of the Volksmarchers we hiked with had seen a bear on a different trail earlier in the week. Spring is when the bears wake up hungry and also may have cubs. So, I clanked my hiking poles together a lot so I wouldn't startle any bears unexpectedly. Didn't see any...it must have worked.
The tiger lilies were in full bloom; a lush understory of ferns and moss was a feast for the eyes, and tall trees kept the wind at bay. Did I mention it was really windy in the exposed areas I had already walked through?
The next instruction on my walk sheet was "Go 0.2 mi until you come to a makeshift bridge. Turn around and retrace your steps to the main trail." I walked and walked and walked. The last I checked 0.2 miles is 1/5 of of a mile. Not very far when you're hiking 6.2 miles. I'm a pretty good judge of distance and I can tell you there was no makeshift bridge. There wasn't a place on this part of the trail that needed a bridge. I heard no running water indicating a creek, and the trail and forest were pretty level. I finally got frustrated, turned around and went back to the main trail.
Holy cow! The place was packed. I found a flat bench-like rock to sit on. I wanted to change my callous cushions and put on dry socks. I was able to get one changed, but then a group of people with two dogs decided to hang around me and chat, so I ate my trail mix, waiting for them to move on. They kept talking and talking. I kept eating my trail mix.
They obviously weren't going anywhere soon. They didn't want to go the rest of the way up some boulders to Angel's Rest. The chill wind was blowing pretty strong in the exposed place I was sitting. I thought it felt great. The guy standing there chatting put on his coat.
Anyway, the people just wouldn't leave, so I changed my other callous cushion and sock, drank some water, then I scrambled up the boulders to Angel's Rest. Wow, impressive.
There is a 270 degree view of the Columbia River, Washington state hills and mountains, and it was glorious. Angel's Rest is a large outcrop of rock with brush and a flat area you can walk around. It's quite large. I heard if you walked out toward the end and followed a faint trail to the left, there was a bench. Really? Hmm, okay, I'll go see.
I asked a gentleman about the bench. He said there used to be one but he hadn't been up there for years. His young son said, "Dad, c'mon you've got to see this." So I followed them. Sure enough there was a bench. Two guys were hogging it. People were talking about taking their photos there with their dads, loud enough for the two guys to hear, but the two guys didn't budge. Jerks.
It was time to head down. My eyes and brain could only take in so much beauty at once. I carefully made my way back to the car. OMG, the parade of people coming up the trail was like a freeway. I'm glad I got there when I did. Unbelievable.
At the bottom I was shocked to see cars parked on both sides of the scenic highway, on both sides of a small side road, and on both sides of the road below the parking lot. When I got to the car, people were waiting for a spot. Two guys in a small car looked at me expectantly and no one else was around. I pointed to the spot and they were overjoyed. They got the spot when I left. I had been gone four hours.
The first thing on my mind was the bathroom at Bridal Veil Falls. I made it just in time. Whew.
In order to get to Cascade Locks for my hot dog lunch, I had to go 7 miles east on the Scenic Highway to reach eastbound I-84. Things were going swimmingly until about 1/2 mile before Wahkeena Falls. Traffic was at a standstill. Picture a narrow, two-lane scenic highway with very few turnouts, all available turnouts are filled with parked cars so people could get to Wahkeena Falls. I sat in traffic 20 minutes for that 1/2 mile. I thought surely once we got past the falls, traffic would move again. I saw people ahead of me making five-point turns to come back our way. No one was coming through from the other way.
After Wahkeena Falls, it's 1/2 mile to the granddaddy of the gorge falls, Multnomah. Traffic was again at a standstill. It was my turn to make a three-point turn and head back to I-84 west. I knew a secret. Three miles west on I-84 you can cross over the freeway at Rooster Rock and get onto I-84 east. You can only do this in a car, not an RV.
I made it to my hot dog lunch at 12:50 p.m. I was feeling energized and active, and I decided to do my last walk: a 5k in the town of Cascade Locks. All went well and it was time to go home. I was ready for a shower, a nap, and some relaxation.
However, when I got back to mom's I washed my hiking poles, and two pairs of hiking boots, then did one load of laundry. My sister was there as well.
Mom asked me to make cod lettuce wraps for dinner and they wanted it before "60 Minutes" came on. I told them no problem, but I was taking a shower first.
We finished dinner just before "60 Minutes." We had cod lettuce wraps served with avocado, tomato and peach-mango salsa, steamed beets, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. The strawberries were from mom's garden and she mashed those, plus cut up the beets. My sister made whipped cream for the shortcake. Mmm.
Now my blog is done and I'm heading to bed to read. We'll see how long I stay awake.
Happy Father's Day again. I hope you all had a memorable day.