Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rainy Day on the PCT

Someone once told me "attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure."  Good spirits and the joy of discovery turned what could've been a miserable rainy hike into a wonderful day in the woods.

Lovely tiger lily

Although I've hit a lot of favorite trails this spring, my goal was to scout some new ones too.  A hike I'd had my eye on was the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) between Herman Creek and Dry Creek Falls. After hiking the PCT between Cascade Locks and Dry Creek Falls a couple of years ago, I reckoned it was time to check the next section off my list.


So that's how I found myself driving towards the Columbia River Gorge one stormy Friday in early June.  Although the wet weather forecast didn't look promising, I wasn't one to waste a precious day off sitting around the house doing chores.  Besides, that's what raingear is for, right?

Wonderland of moss

Luckily, the looming clouds weren't dropping moisture yet as I left my car, heading west on the Herman Creek Trail.  Enjoying the cool temperatures and cloudy conditions for photography, I paused to capture a large group of tiger lilies blooming under a powerline clear cut before ducking back into the forest.

Table Mountain view from a rare clearing

The dry weather didn't hold for long.  As I began the descent down to Herman Creek, large drops began to fall.  Leapfrogging with a group of young people, I left them for good when I stopped to don raingear.

Mossy talus slope

A multitude of colorful wildflowers lined my path as I followed the Herman Bridge Trail down to a dense forest, shaggy with moss, adjacent to serene Herman Creek.  Crossing the creek via a sturdy footbridge, I paused to take in the lovely scenery below.

Drippy sweet pea

Then, climbing out of Herman Creek's canyon, I intersected with the PCT after a tough mile.  Happily, the rain had stopped for the moment.  Off came my rainjacket - before I sweated to death!

Pacific Crest Falls

The trail then leveled out and I enjoyed a nice romp through quiet, fern-lined woods.  Crossing a talus slope, views opened up and I could see across the Columbia River to Table Mountain, on the Washington side.  The weather gods got my hopes up, teasing me with a patch of blue sky (or as I like to call it, a "sucker hole.")

Dense forest

I'd heard a waterfall named Pacific Crest Falls existed in a forested canyon along this section of the trail.  Sounds of rushing water alerted me to its presence, but I had to look closely to find the source.  Hidden high in a side canyon, I could barely make out its white curtain.  The surrounding terrain was steep and brushy, conditions I wasn't willing to traverse for a closer look.  This trailside view would have to do!

The Pinnacles

Beyond Pacific Crest Falls, my trail wound past an unusual group of tall basalt formations, dubbed "the Pinnacles."

Stonecrop was plentiful

A side trail led visitors past several pointy rock pillars.  A huge patch of yellow stonecrop flowers bloomed nearby.

More pinnacles

After spending a few extra minutes exploring these unique pinnacles, I continued on my way.  Although the weather had been cooperating, I noticed a large dark cloud moving in.  Soon, I began to hear raindrops pattering on the branches above.  Time to dig out the raingear once again!

Bridge crossing Dry Creek

I got my jacket and pack covers on in the nick of time.  The black cloud moved overhead and began to dump.  Although the forest provided some protection from the deluge, I still managed to get mighty wet (luckily only on the outside).

PCT trail marker

With the rain drumming on my hood, I kept my camera tucked away in it's waterproof bag.  So there were no opportunities for photos the rest of the way to Dry Creek Falls.

This way to the falls!

Although only 2.3 miles between Herman Bridge Trail and Dry Creek, this section seemed to take forever.  I was a happy girl when the bridge over Dry Creek came into view.  A quick quarter mile jaunt up an old road and I was at the base of impressive Dry Creek Falls.

Dry Creek Falls

Situated in a scenic rock-walled amphitheater, this cascade is anything but dry.  Plunging 74 feet out of a narrow canyon, Dry Creek Falls is one of the Gorge's lesser-known waterfalls.  A true hidden gem.

This waterfall did not disappoint!

Luckily, the rain began to let up just as I arrived.  Another photographer was set up nearby, and we exchanged a few pleasantries.  But he soon left, and I had this spectacular waterfall all to myself.

White curtain

It's a wonderful thing to be able to capture all the photos you want of a beautiful scene, and not worry about getting people in your images.  After a good half hour session, I grabbed a quick bite, and reluctantly started back to the PCT.


The rain held off for part of my return trip, enabling me to capture some of the lovely flowers I'd missed before.

Rain moving in

But of course, the rain wasn't done with me yet, and made another visit.  My raingear was getting a workout today!

Inside out flowers

However, this time around, I did sneak a few photos of the amazing trailside flowers while dodging raindrops.

Wild rose

Then, it was goodbye to the PCT, and hello again to the Herman Bridge Trail.

Back to Herman Creek

Herman Creek's beautiful mossy grotto was worth seeing a second time around.

Herman Bridge

As was the creek itself.  And the rain had finally stopped enough for me to get some decent shots.

Lovely Herman Creek

Aside from the waterfall, the highlight of my day was getting some great images of the wild tiger lilies as I passed back under the powerlines.  Oh how I love these cheery orange flowers! 

Only half a mile to my car now.  Homestretch!

More wonderful tiger lilies

Another successful day of exploration in the woods.  Just goes to show you should never cancel outdoor plans because of a little rain.  And to think I would've missed all this beauty if I'd stayed home.

Stats:  9 miles, 1200 feet elevation gain.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cape Lookout

When choosing a place to hike, I usually head towards the mountains or Columbia River Gorge.  Although a mere hour's drive from the Oregon coast, for some reason I seldom go there.

Beach view from Cape Lookout Trail son Cody happened to be in town one Friday in early June, was free, and expressed interest in hiking with his old mother.  Of course I wasn't about to pass up a chance to spend quality time with my kid!

Interesting patterns on these leaves

Not wishing to fight Friday afternoon traffic through Portland, I suggested heading west instead.  It'd been awhile since either of us had visited the beach - time to get our ocean fix!  Paging through my hiking book, Cape Lookout Trail leaped to the forefront. 

A lone wild iris

Cape Lookout's narrow, cliff-edged peninsula juts two and a half miles out into the Pacific Ocean.  Surrounded by a state park of the same name, it's a short jaunt past the town of Tillamook.  A perfect summer afternoon excursion.

Lots of salal

Heading westward, the city's hot weather gave way to cool coastal breezes.  Not a fan of high temps, I happily donned a long sleeve shirt at the trailhead. 

Cody admires a huge tree

The Cape Lookout trail began in dense woods of ancient spruce and hemlock trees.  Some of these trees were quite large and mossy.  Plentiful ferns and salal bushes covered the forest floor, accented by tiny pink candyflowers. 

Ocean glimpse

A half mile in, teaser ocean views could be glimpsed through a few gaps in the trees.

Unique flower

There were lots of unique flowers blooming, and hoping to identify them later, I photographed each one.

Boardwalk over muddy patches

 Portions of the trail crossed wet, boggy areas.  A boardwalk helped keep our feet out of the mud.


About a mile and half in, the trail passed by an impressive overlook.  High above the ocean, we looked down into a secret cove with the most stunning aquamarine waters.

Looking down into a secret cove

Then, it was back on the trail.  This time, we ran into a section of damaged boardwalk, forcing my son and I to tromp through the mud.  Oh well, that's what hiking boots are for!

Lots of mud puddles!

Nearing the end of the cape, the forest dwindled until we came out onto a wide open grassy slope. 

Nearing the cape's end

The views over the ocean were fabulous!  But don't get too close to the edge.....It was a long way down.

Blue eyed Mary

 More unique, lovely flowers were blooming on the steep cliff edges.

Fringe cup

And then, we came upon trail's end - a wide spot at Cape Lookout's very tip.  Despite heavy brush and trees on one side, it still offered an incredible vista.  The Pacific Ocean's blue waters stretched out for miles.

The ocean view extends for miles

There were a few other groups here - some sitting quietly enjoying the view, while one other group of young people were loudly socializing.  Kind of ruined the atmosphere, so we didn't stick around very long.

Enormous tree!

I usually don't mind out and back trails - you always see something you missed on the return trip.  In this case, it was an enormous spruce tree. 

Taking in the views

 And you get the opportunity to take in those lovely vistas a second time.

Wild lily of the valley

And photograph unique plants.

Octopus tree

After finishing our hike, there was still a bit of time left before dinner, so Cody suggested heading north to Cape Meares State Park.  He'd heard about their famous "Octopus Tree" and was interested in seeing it. 

Ocean panorama from Cape Meares

So I traveled the short 10 miles past the tiny towns of Netarts and Oceanside to the forested bluff of Cape Meares.  A quarter-mile trail took Cody and I to the tree's base. 

Cape Meares lighthouse

 It was the most unusual tree I'd ever seen.  A 12-foot-thick Sitka spruce, it had big, odd-shaped limbs protruding out from the base.  A fence with copious warnings kept potential tree climbers at bay (well, the honest ones anyway).

View towards Three Arch Rock

Octopus Tree now checked off our list, Cody and I wandered back towards the lighthouse.  Although the tours had ended for the day, and the place was locked up tight, we still enjoyed the marvelous views from it's perch.

Wild rose

Of course no hike is complete without a visit to the local brewpub, so before heading home, we stopped by the famous Pelican Pub in Tillamook for burgers and beer.

Parting lighthouse photo

A great change of scenery and wonderful chance to get caught up with my son!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Morning on the Deschutes

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Central Oregon, visiting my daughter and brother who are lucky enough to live in this wonderful outdoor playground.  I've already shared photos of  Mt Bachelor's rollicking pond skim in the prior post.  The following day, my hubby and brother decided to try their luck fishing in the Deschutes River.  This scenic waterway winds through the heart of Bend, making for easy access.

Rocky cliff reflections

Although not a fisherman(woman?) I am a photographer, and keen to capture some early morning light on the river, decided to tag along.

Lovely blue blossom

Riverbend Park was the perfect place to start our stroll.  After passing the restrooms and playground, a paved path switched to narrow dirt trail following the river's grassy bank.  Rocky cliffs from the opposite shore produced perfect reflections on it's glassy waters.

More beautiful (but unknown) flowers

Wildflowers were out in force!  I admired a patch of violet-blue blossoms, and captured several images of an unknown tiny mauve flower (gotta brush up on my Central Oregon plant id!)

Bright blue water

While my men searched the riverbank for possible fishing holes, I lagged behind, snapping away.

Riverside vegetation

Finally the guys decided to try their luck from a series of large rocks. 

Hubby fishing on colorful waters

I snuck a few images to document their attempts at landing the "big one."

Brother Dale fishing too

Even though fishing was slow, the scenery was fantastic!

Rollicking rapids

When hubby finally did land a fish, we all got a good laugh.  His "lunker" was a tiny trout, barely large enough to escape being considered as bait.  After a quick couple of photos, it was promptly returned to the river (my hubby's a firm believer in catch and release).

Tiny trout

Getting bored of watching the fishermen, I continued downriver.  Lots of interesting things to see - churning rapids, a long wooden bridge, and quiet pine forests.

Serene waters

Fed by snowmelt, the Deschutes appeared above capacity.  However, despite the high water, it looked peaceful.

Small rapids

By mid-morning the riverside trail became congested with hikers and runners.  Quite a few dogs also tagged along, some staying at their master's sides, where others roamed as far as their leash allowed.

More lovely wildflowers

By then the men decided it was time to pack it in.  Although only bagging one tiny fish each (which were promptly released) both hubby and brother said they had a good time.  And I did too.