|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.")
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.