|Blooming tree at the Wahkeena Trailhead|
After running a few errands on my Friday off - including navigating a surprisingly packed grocery store full of people panic buying, I needed a break from the madness. Although rainy weather was predicted all day, I grabbed my waterproof gear anyway and headed to the Gorge. I was getting a hike in no matter what!
|It's starting to snow!|
Not only was the day wet, it was also cold. Temperatures hovered near the freezing mark. Slushy snowflakes splattered on my car's windshield as I drove towards the Columbia River Gorge. Was hiking today really a good idea? Many times during the trip I nearly turned around and headed home. But physically and mentally I knew a good outdoor workout was necessary. I kept telling myself to wait and assess the trailhead weather before bailing.
|Big snowflakes against a foggy backdrop|
Whenever I need a quick hike, the Multnomah-Wahkeena loop in the Columbia River Gorge always delivers. A mere 40 minute drive from home and 5.5 mile trek, it's easy to fit into a half day. Traversing the Gorge scenic highway, although cold and wet, I deemed the weather acceptable for hiking and decided to give it a try. Having to use the restroom, I parked at Multnomah Falls to take advantage of their facilities. After a pit stop (which included washing my hands really well) I donned full raingear against the drizzly skies and headed towards the Wahkeena Trailhead.
|Huge cedar tree|
Rain fell steadily as I trudged along the tie trail between Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls. At Wahkeena Falls, a few soggy tourists posed for photos at the roadside viewing area. Adjacent to Wahkeena Creek's stair-step cascades, a pink blooming tree gave the only hint that it was nearly spring. Although my mirrorless DSLR camera is fairly weather-resistant, at this point increasing rainfall forced me to tuck it safely into my backpack. Being the photo nerd I am, I'd also brought along my pocket point and shoot camera. Having withstood many seasons of skiing photos in all kinds of weather, this little camera was better suited for today's wet conditions.
|Snowy view looking up a basalt cliff|
So dear readers, photo documentation of the hike was not lacking. From the road, I began climbing the Wahkeena Trail up a paved path towards the waterfall. Having taken hundreds of photos of these falls, I snapped a quick selfie as I walked by and kept climbing.
From Wahkeena Falls, the paved path climbed steeply through several switchbacks, framed by intricate rock walls. Although charred trees from the 2017 fire were still prevalent, green ferns and other vegetation indicated the forest was making a comeback.
|Snow beginning to accumulate|
It was then I began to notice the raindrops were beginning to get heavier. A few large soggy snowflakes stared to mix with the rain. As I climbed higher in elevation, the snowflakes became more numerous.
By the time I reached Lemmon Viewpoint, the precip had almost entirely switched to snow. Huge, wet flakes fell from foggy skies. It was so pretty! With my little point and shoot camera, I made a valiant effort to capture the lovely scene of snow falling.
|Trail sign is the only thing that isn't white|
Leaving the paved path, I climbed higher through partially-burned forest. Snow began accumulating in the tree branches and along the trailside. The snow began transitioning from slushy sleet to drier flakes.
|The higher I climb, the larger the snowfall accumulation|
I stopped at Fairy Falls and pulled out my good camera to capture this pretty little cascade. After a few shots, a young couple arrived and asked if I'd take their picture. I used the man's cell phone to snap a few images, then he offered to take a few photos of me. Not thinking, I handed the man my phone and he proceeded to snap a dozen pics of me in front of Fairy Falls. Later I realized not only had I touched a stranger's personal phone, I'd also let him touch my phone. With the Coronavirus scare just beginning, it made me think about how I needed to change my interactions with others.
Beyond Fairy Falls, I left the couple behind as I climbed higher up the Wahkeena Trail. Snow was falling heavily now, coating the forest and trail in a white blanket.
|Snow-covered vegetation makes a lumpy texture|
At the Wahkeena Springs junction, the surrounding forest was a world of white. The brown trail sign was the only thing of any color.
|The white-flocked trees were beautiful|
I continued my trek along the Wakeena Trail, heading for Multnomah Creek. The snowy weather was a pure delight. Frosty tree branches and bushes made beautiful photo subjects. My little point and shoot camera just couldn't do them proper justice. Since it wasn't raining anymore, I pulled out my good camera and put it to work documenting all this beauty.
|Happy hiker with snowflakes on her glasses!|
However, the wide angle on my point and shoot camera was good for capturing selfies!
|Pussy willows catching the snow|
Who would've thought I'd encounter such a snowy wonderland on the trail today? What a wonderful surprise!
|World of white|
As I meandered through this winter wonderland snapping copious photos, I temporarily forgot about the impending pandemic, frenzied grocery stores, and potential stranger contaminators. This is why I hike.
|Last autumn leaf|
The final half mile of the Wahkeena Trail as it winds downhill to Multnomah Basin is one of my favorite parts of this hike. Multnomah Creek is visible through the trees, and even with a forest full of charred trees, it is still lovely.
|Snow makes this burned-out forest look beautiful|
A fresh coating of snow made it all the more stunning.
After the final trail junction with Larch Mountain Trail, it was a steep downhill ramble along Multnomah Creek. Numerous fallen trees covered the creek, all casualties of the Eagle Creek fire.
As I descended in elevation, sadly the snow began to transition back to rain and the snowy landscape from white to green and brown.
By the time I reached Weisendanger Falls, only a light dusting of snow covered the side slopes.
|More snowy ferns|
Soon I had reached the paved path once again, this one switchbacking steeply down to the base of Multnomah Falls. The rain had returned in earnest, and I realized my mirrorless DSLR was quickly getting soaked.
|Gloomy Gorge view from Multnomah Falls trail|
So I hoofed it down the pathway as quick as I could, only stopping for an occasional photograph.
|Top tier of Multnomah Falls|
For a wet, crummy day, I was surprised by the large number of people visiting Multnomah Falls. Of course this was a week before social distancing was mandated.
|Multnomah Falls - the Grand Dame of Gorge waterfalls|
Despite the dreary weather forecast, it turned out to be a magic day of hiking in a winter wonderland. Looking back now nearly four weeks later, I'm glad I took a chance and went ahead with my plans. These images will have to tide me over for the next few months. I'm missing my beautiful Gorge Trails more than ever.