Second choice? The Columbia River Gorge. Although a designated National Scenic Area, main access was from an interstate highway. With no easy way to close roads, I assumed the trails would still be open. Besides, it was a lot shorter drive than MSH.
|Barge approaching the Bridge of the Gods|
So plan "B" became a hike up Nick Eaton Ridge. I pointed my car towards the trailhead, located just east of the town of Cascade Locks.
Nature was calling as I drove into Cascade Locks. So I stopped at the Char-Burger Restaurant, located at the foot of the Bridge of the Gods. After using their facilities, I felt obliged to buy something. A giant oatmeal raisin sandwich cookie called my name (filled with cream cheese icing!). A little bit of heaven, I now had my day's dessert.
|Barge crossing under the bridge|
Exiting Char-Burger, I stopped to check out the famous Bridge of the Gods. Spanning the Columbia River, it forms a vital link between Oregon and Washington. It's also the official Pacific Crest Trail crossing. My timing was good, as I got to watch a huge barge cross under the bridge's steel span.
|North end of the Oregon PCT|
Onward to the day's hike! But I'd forgotten one minor thing - the trailhead for Nick Eaton Ridge was adjacent to a Forest Service Campground. Arriving at the access road, I was dismayed to find it barricaded. Since the campground had been closed, the road was also closed, preventing hikers from reaching the trailhead. Arrghhh!! Foiled again by the feds!
|Lush, green forest|
Okay, plan C?? I racked my brains for nearby trails. Then I remembered driving by the PCT trailhead next to the Bridge of the Gods. I'd read of a short hike on the Oregon PCT to a place called Dry Creek Falls. This was the only gorge waterfall I'd yet to visit. Well, today would be the day!
|Gorgeous yellow leaf|
So I backtracked through Cascade Locks until I came to the PCT trailhead, adjacent to the Bridge of the Gods tollbooth. Pulling into the parking lot, I immediately noticed yet another sign announcing this facility's closure. Although the bathrooms were locked tight, I didn't see anything preventing people from parking or accessing the trail. Pooh on the feds! I was hiking the PCT today whether they liked it or not!
|A scattering of yellows and oranges|
I'd never hiked the PCT from its northern terminus in Oregon. Heading south from the Bridge of the Gods, I ducked under I-84, and followed a road until I picked up the trail's continuation into the forest.
Oh, it was a lovely, mossy green forest! Ferns sprouted from the ground and the undergrowth was thick and lush. I was hoping to catch a little fall color, but it was still too early.
|This old tree is heavy with moss|
There were, however, some small patches of yellows and oranges. Enough for a few photographs.
|Colorful forested dell|
And I ran across a patch of ferns that had already turned into golden browns and yellows.
Since it was only a mere two and a half miles to the falls, I took my time moseying through the forest, snapping photos of everything that caught my eye.
|Old road to the falls|
After a little over two miles, the trail intersected with an old road. The road paralleled a cute rushing creek. At road's end was my destination, Dry Creek Falls.
|Dry Creek Falls|
Approaching the waterfall, I was amazed to discover such a tall, full cascade. It plunged 50 feet from a slot in the adjacent basalt cliffs. Green moss lined the walls, giving everything a springtime look.
|Rocky stream below the falls|
When I left my home that morning, I wasn't planning on photographing waterfalls, so didn't think to bring my tripod. I was sorely wishing I had it now. But I made do with propping my camera on my backpack and setting the self-timer. I also dug out my Gorillapod, which worked well for horizontal shots.
|Interesting basalt rock amphitheater|
A gorgeous waterfall - definitely a hidden gem. I spent at least an hour sitting at its base, enjoying a scenic lunch (and a most excellent cookie) and taking tons of photos.
Finally, I packed up and headed back down the trail, retracing my steps back to the Bridge of the Gods. I passed by a cool, sturdy wooden bridge spanning Dry Creek.
|Official PCT trail sign|
Beyond that bridge, the PCT continued southbound, heading towards California. Someday I'd like to travel this trail all the way through Oregon. But today, I needed to head the opposite direction.
|Still lots of green in this forest!|
The hike back was uneventful. I arrived back at the trailhead, happy to see that my car was still there. And - it had been joined by a few other vehicles. More folks decided to defy the government and go hiking anyway. Yeah!
Although Dry Creek Falls was impressive, the rest of the trail wasn't anything spectacular. If it wasn't for the shutdown, I'm sure this trail would've stayed on my "unhiked" list. But sometimes a setback provides an opportunity, and even though I didn't get to hike my "A" nor my "B" options, it was great to get outside and explore more of Oregon's beautiful scenery.
Sharing with: Weekly Top Shot. and I Heart Macro.