Thursday, November 17, 2011

Fall Gorge Tour 2011

Every year when the fall colors are at their peak, I take a photography tour of the Columbia River Gorge.  Autumn in the Gorge can be best described as having an artist take a paintbrush and apply brightly colored hues to the trees.  Pair this with steep basalt cliffs and numerous waterfalls, and you get scenery that is simply stunning.  After last week's hike, I knew I had to get back there soon before the leaves started to drop.

Bright colored leaves at Multnomah Falls

Last Friday, I had the day off of work.  The weather, although cloudy and cold, wasn't spitting moisture from the sky.  Time to pack up the camera and head to the Gorge!

Multnomah Falls bridge

Since I didn't bring my tripod on last week's hike, and regretted it, I made sure it was in my car this time.  But on the drive out I realized I'd forgotten something just as important.  My camera attaches to the tripod with a small metal plate.  Guess what got left at home?  D'OH!! 

Bright orange leaves at Multnomah Falls Lodge

I wasn't about to turn around and drive back through traffic to get said plate.  However, my goal had been to photograph lots of waterfalls.  Now that my tripod had been rendered useless, I had to switch gears and formulate plan B.

Classic Multnomah Falls photo

It was quite early in the day, so for my first stop, I swung by Multnomah Falls.  Early mornings are great for getting photos of the falls void of people.  The trees surrounding the old stone lodge were decorated with the most amazing colors!  I was successful in capturing many images of the lodge, sans humans.  (And was able to do so even without my tripod.)

Beautiful trees adorn the Multnomah Falls Lodge

It was a cold, foggy morning, but the fog just added a bit of mood to the scene.

Leafy staircase

After a extended photo session at Multnomah Falls, (even though I'd just been there last week, it was so stunning and uncrowded I stayed much longer than planned!) I drove a short distance up the road to check out Horsetail Falls.  But most of the leaves had either already fallen, or weren't very colorful, so I took a couple of shots and continued on.

Oneonta Tunnel

I originally hadn't planned on it, but when I drove by Oneonta Gorge, and saw the restored Historic Highway tunnel, I just had to stop.  Like the Mosier Twin Tunnels farther east, this tunnel was part of the old Historic Columbia River Highway.  It was recently uncovered and restored for walkers and bikers to enjoy.

Fancy stone railing

The Historic Highway's old stone guardrail was still intact.  It is such a beautiful piece of railing, with its graceful curved crossbars and decorative post tops. What wonderful workmanship!  I'm so glad some of these amenities from the past have been preserved.

Lovely red leaves

And Oneonta Gorge is a simply beautiful place.  A small creek dances merrily through the rocky bottom.  Leaves swirl in its waters.  The banks are decorated with a kaleidoscope of colorful leaves.  The rocky walls of the Gorge rise up near-vertical from the creek bed.  All the surrounding trees were in full autumn hues.

Bridal Veil Falls

After drinking in the beauty of Oneonta Gorge, I continued my travels westward on the Historic Highway.  I came upon Bridal Veil State Park, home of Bridal Veil Falls.  I've been all over the Gorge, and hiked most of its trails, but Bridal Veil Falls was one place I'd yet to visit.  Today was the day!

Beautiful cascade of Bridal Veil

A very short hike takes visitors to a nice viewing platform with a front-and-center view of Bridal Veil Falls.  And, oh what an amazing waterfall!  It was a elegant, lacy two-tier beauty that fanned out over a mossy-rocked cliff.  How had I visited the Gorge so many times and not ever stopped here?  Now I was really wishing for my tripod.

Forest fall scene

I did the best that I could steadying my camera on the viewing platform's railing.  I managed to get a couple pics of the falls to turn out nicely.

Columbia River view

Above the falls, Bridal Veil State Park had another trail that led visitors along the top edge of the Gorge's rocky walls.  A couple of viewpoint areas split off from the main trail gave fantastic views up and down the Columbia River.  One especially great vantage perched you out over the railroad tracks and practically on top of I-84.  Although the sky above was a drab, washed out gray, the trees below made up for the sky's lack of color.

Gorge view from Crown Point

I ended my tour climbing the winding road up to Crown Point, hoping to catch the grandest views of them all. But by the time I reached the famous viewpoint, the skies were filling with heavy clouds, and the light was terrible.  The above photo was the best I could do.  You can't blame a girl for trying (especially without her tripod!)

The Columbia River Gorge is such a special area.  It's my most favorite place in all of Oregon.  It is jaw-droppingly, stunningly beautiful.  Every season is a good season to visit the Gorge, but fall is by far my number one time for photographic exploration.  Despite forgetting a vital piece of gear, I was still able to produce some great images.  Take a look and judge for yourself. 

And if you've never been to the Gorge - come visit!

P.S.   Linda's Note:  The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area celebrated it's 25th anniversary today! 

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