Day 1 – Getting Situated and a Quick Waterfall Hike
After quick introductions at baggage claim (I had never met my travel partner prior to this trip) – we grabbed our car from the rental counter and set out to get a quick taste of what was to come over the next two weeks. We chose to do a quick trip into Bridal Veil Falls – about 30 miles east of Portland along I84.
It was a quick introduction to not only the constant rain, but the plentiful moss and ferns that would become a staple of the trip. Down at the falls, there was a viewing platform that offered decent views of both sections of the falls. Nothing about the hike was too challenging, however, we did end up a little off trail getting back to the road – and there were a few steep sections that required grabbing hold of a few roots.
When we got back the car though – we got perhaps our first (and only) taste of Portland crime, when we returned to the parking lot to find the car adjacent to ours broken into – for the backpacks. We had clumsily left ours in plain view, and had lucked out not being the victims of this smash and grab. We had already been on the fence about returning our cumbersome and thirsty Toyota 4Runner – and now the desire for a locking trunk sealed that deal. We returned to the airport, switched out the truck for a Chrysler Sedan (with AWD) and got on our way to the evening’s AirBnB.
Day 2 – Multnomah, Wahkeena and LaTourrel Falls
Getting an early start for the day was crucial, as we wanted to make it to Multnomah Falls before whatever crowds might arrive on a Saturday in early January. The park averages 2 million annual visitors – and even just a few could make enjoying the 620 foot falls more difficult – particularly when it comes to getting photos. Even just browsing the images on Google Earth’s Streetview were a bit frightening – showing overflowed parking lots, crowded walkways, and minimal shoulder room on the bridges.
Luckily – we appeared to be one of the first few cars to the lot – and had no trouble finding some calm spots to enjoy the views and attempt some long exposure shots of the falls. If you’re more of an easygoing traveler, you could grab a bite in the Multnomah Lodge and relax around the lower walkways and pathways – but for those looking to actually hike a bit – there’s 11 switchbacks that will get you to the top of the falls with a nice workout as a reward. Logically though – the best views and photo opportunities will be at the bottom of the falls – the overlook was a bit underwhelming.
Continuing up the Multnomah Creek, you’ll be treated to the sounds of water flowing over mossy rocks and small cascades as you make your way up to Weisendanger Falls, another waterfall featuring a 50 foot drop. Despite its small stature, this waterfall was actually one of my favorites from the trip due to the way that it was sort of enclosed inside of a rock gateway.
A little bit past Weisendanger, we turned back to head out and check out a few more of the local waterfalls nearby. Like any hike – heading down proved quick and easy, especially once we got back to the somewhat paved switchbacks. By the time that we were heading out from the parking lot at Multnomah, it had already began to fill up – testament to the need of getting there early if you’d like to avoid the crowds – even in the offseason.
Just a short drive down the road led us to the trails for LaTourell and Wahkeena Falls – two very different waterfalls with one thing in common – lots of green. The trail to view these two falls is a good option for those looking for more of a walk rather than a hike. But – in our only really time experiencing this throughout the trip – we had to loop back and wait a few minutes in order to find a parking spot. Once we did though – we were treated to the falls shown below.
LaTourell was particularly interesting due to its unique basalt formations in the cliffs behind the waterfall. Formed of columnar basalt, the rock started its life as lava and took the unique and symetrical shape on when cooling in confined spaces. Combined with the bright mosses and lichens covering the wet rock faces – it truly was a waterfall like I had not yet seen, and definitely worth the visit. There was even a proposal that happened while we were there, which added to the magic a bit further. We called it a day from there and retired back to Portland.