Saturday, November 17, 2012

Still Halloween on Devils Rest

Fall is a wonderful time to be in the Columbia River Gorge.  The changing leaves, the mossy cliffs, the waterfalls gushing full, and the pumpkins.


I went for a hike last Saturday and found some unusual things in the woods.  Yes, it has to do with Halloween.  Intrigued?  Read on for the rest of the story!

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

A pumpkin in the forest??

After a week of solid rain, the weatherman promised a dry Saturday.  Upon hearing this, my friend Debbie and I made hiking plans.  I hadn't hiked the Oregon side of the Gorge for months, and was hankerin' to do so.  The trail of choice - the Wahkeena Trail, one of my favorite fall rambles.

Wahkeena Falls

Hiking Wahkeena Trail is an autumn tradition.  (Check out the blog post I did on last year's trek)  One of Gorge's loveliest paths, it begins at the lower chute of Wahkeena Fall's triple cascade.  After crossing a footbridge, the trail climbs up to an elegant stone bridge below the upper falls.

Hiking the leaf-covered Wahkeena Trail

From here, the trail switchbacks steeply up the side of the Gorge.  Most of the autumn colors were past their peak, and many of the leaves had already fallen.  But I still found lots of things to photograph.  Debbie had a new camera she was trying to get familiar with, and didn't mind my frequent photo stops.

Large yellow leaf

The first half mile of the trail is especially scenic.  It's lined by ancient mossy rock walls.  Green moss-encrusted Douglas Firs and big-leaved maple trees tower above.  Ferns sprout from everywhere, including the rocks in the wall.  It's an explosion of greenery mixed with fall colors.

An Oregon slug

Debbie and I kept leapfrogging a young couple visiting from Chicago.  We came upon the pair gazing at something on the side of a wall.  Turned out it was a slug.  They'd never seen one so big!  It was almost the length of my hand.  Of course we Oregonians are used to huge slugs, and this one wasn't the largest we'd ever seen (there's a reason these things are called "banana slugs")

Smilin' doggy

We ran into a ton of people and dogs on the trail.  Everyone and their dog was out. (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun!)  In the Portland area, a rain-free day brings outdoor enthusiasts out in droves.  An Oregonian's definition of a nice day is one where it's not raining.

Colorful leaves decorate this rock

Debbie, Bear, and I continued up the trail, following a cute rushing stream, lined with mossy boulders and fallen leaves.

Fairy Falls

One of the prettiest waterfalls, Fairy Falls makes a pleasant break spot as you're climbing the Wahkeena Trail.  Deciding not to pack a tripod for today, I have to apologize for this crappy image.  It definitely isn't up to my usual standards.

The forest is almost bare

Debbie and I climbed higher until we reached the intersection with the path to Devils Rest.  This trail is a counterpart to a beautiful viewpoint further west called Angel's Rest.  Devils Rest, however, has no views.  The track merely leads to a forested knoll. 

Time for some climbing!

But Devils Rest, at 2450 feet, is a good climb for folks wanting a bit of exercise.  That's exactly what Debbie and I were after today.  We took a hard right, heading towards the Devils Rest summit.

Cool mushrooms on an old log

After a tough ascent, the trail levels out and follows a forested ridge with occasional peeps into the Gorge far below.  Debbie and I passed by a downed tree sporting the coolest mushrooms I'd seen.  So we had to stop and capture some images!

Debbie photographs the elusive wild pumpkin

After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived at Devils Rest wooded summit.  I immediately spotted a small garden gnome stuck to one of the rocks.  Debbie and I had a good laugh and she snapped a photo of the little feller.  Then I noticed a flash of orange high up in a nearby tree.  Upon further inspection, we discovered a small pumpkin hanging from one of the branches.

Lots of pumpkins hanging from the trees

Debbie and I walked around the summit, and found a dozen pumpkins strung up in the trees.  Setting ourselves down on some rocks, I spied a pumpkin someone had placed on top of its mossy surface. 

There was even a gnome!

The elusive wild pumpkin!  We had another chuckle and proceeded to photograph these unusual sights.  It's not something you'd expect see to hanging from trees deep in the woods that's for sure!  I guess Halloween isn't over yet on the summit of Devils Rest.

Trying to stay warm while having lunch

It was a chilly day, and the temps got even colder the higher in elevation Debbie and I climbed.  By the time we arrived at Devils Rest, it was near freezing.  How did we know?  Small, white pellets started drifting down from the sky.  At first, I wasn't sure what to make of them, but it didn't take long to realize it was snow.  Grabbing a quick bite to eat, I put on hat, gloves and some more warm layers to help ward off the cold.

"Dr Seuss" mossy trees

The freezing temps meant no lingering at the top.  Debbie and I ate, drank some hot tea (a staple for these fall hikes!) and set off again.  For our descent, we decided to make a loop, and followed a different trail.  This path was one we'd taken just once before with someone else leading.  Although Debbie was a little worried about getting lost, it ended up being easy to follow.  Our trail of choice wound through more dense forest and past some moss-covered trees, worthy of a "Dr. Seuss" illustration.

Dense forest

After a steep downhill trek, our path popped back out onto the Wahkeena Trail.  Now all we had to do was retrace our steps back down the Gorge.  It was getting late in the day, and I was a little worried about beating the sunset.  I'd forgotten my headlamp and didn't want to try and pick my way through the dark.

Gorge view at sunset

About a half mile before trail's end is a wonderful overlook.  It gives visitors a panoramic vista down both directions of the Gorge.  On our way up, foggy, overcast skies didn't make this spot worth a stop.  But on the way down, things had cleared up enough to highlight steep cliffs on the Washington side.  Light from the setting sun illuminated these high mountains. Lucky me, I arrived in the nick of time and was able to snap off a couple of shots before the last rays faded.

Hike stats:  About 8 miles round-trip, with a 2400 foot elevation gain.  Great to be outside on a frosty fall day.  And bonus pumpkin sightings at our destination!


  1. I got a big kick out of the pumpkins and the gnome. Somebody had a sense of humor!

  2. What a fun surprise! I must say I've never found a gnome on any trail I've been on, but now you've got me thinking of perhaps coming up with surprises to leave for others...hmmmm...

  3. What a great hike and fun discoveries!

  4. Wonderful photos! Looks like you had a fun hike.

    Mine's here.


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