Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dry Creek Falls

Stupid government shutdown!  I had a Friday off, the weather was perfect, and I'd made big plans to hike around Coldwater Lake at Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.  BUT - you guessed it - due to our elected official's ineptitude, I was pretty sure the road to get in there was closed.  Not wanting to drive the 2+ hours to find out, I needed a backup plan.


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.

Golden ferns

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.

PCT sign

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.

Leaf-littered bridge

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.


  1. Beautiful photos of the falls, but my favorite was the mossy tree. Someday I'd love to go hike a section of the PCT and put my hand on one of those signs.

  2. Pretty waterfall!
    As a government employee, I think I speak for my co workers when I say that we didn't expect people not to hike the trails. After all, there's no way to close them off. But those signs had to be posted so people knew that if they got in trouble out there, or needed a clean bathroom, or saw litter around, there was no money to pay people to do these things. Also since people sue for everything these days, if they hurt themselves back there when the area was technically closed, at least it was posted closed so they would have less leverage to sue.
    Glad you had a good hike!

  3. Your second choice was NOT second rate. Absolutely beautiful photos of this lovely place!

  4. Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for your comment from a federal employee perspective. Please know that my frustration was with our elected officials in congress and not with any of the hard-working federal employees impacted by the shutdown. As a local government employee myself, I truly understand the trials and rewards of working for the public, and appreciate all that you guys do.

  5. Thanks Linda, I knew that was where you were coming from. We were super annoyed too!

  6. Linda, that's too bad about the government shutdown. I got lost in your beautiful photos!!! I felt as though I was taking this tour with you. Thank you so much for sharing the beauty around you.

  7. Amazingly beautiful area... even it was plan x.

    The waterfall is spectacular!

  8. Oh My! The falls are gorgeous!
    I love that moss covered tree.

  9. Linda,
    I LOVED your plan C! The dell and golden ferns are SO beautiful; the waterfall too--and no cliffs to scare me away:)

  10. These photos are gorgeous! I'm going to have to keep these falls in mind for next summer. I love char-burger..they have really good breakfast. Cascade Locks also boasts a neat drive up restaurant that has great milkshakes!

  11. Beautiful shots- that mossy tree is impressive!

  12. I've enjoyed several books by PCT thru-hikers so like seeing photos of that trail. I'm close to the AT and know that feeling of wanting to hike parts of it, but knowing I'll never make the entire 2,184 miles!! And always remember, ANY day in the woods is better than a day in the office!

  13. I'm glad you didn't let the gov't shutdown stop you! That must have been so frustrating, though. You got some really lovely photos, especially the moss covered tree and the waterfalls. So pretty!

  14. Such beautiful photos!!!

    The way they handled the government shutdown with barricades at trailheads etc was such a stupid, childish reaction to real economic issues that our so called leaders refuse to face head on...(both sides!)

    Glad you boldly went where the government tried to keep you out of!!!

  15. Beautiful as always. It would be wonderful to have as many amazing options as you do. Our drought conditions are further limiting choices. So hard to believe, after all the closures at the beginning of the year because of flooding.

  16. Beautiful lush photos! I do hope you will share with I Heart Macro:-)

  17. Wow! Gorgeous shots Linda! I forget how enchanting and beautiful and LUSH the forests are back there. Although I don't miss the rain rain rain, I am excited to see these trails again!

  18. Looks like you had a great day even if it wasn't what you had planned to do.

  19. So pleased I wasn't visiting the US during the shut down. Visitors don't have your knowledge about these hidden gems.

  20. It rained here this morning in the Smokies from 4 to 6 AM and of course this is the one day we won't be hiking to a waterfall! IT's been very dry here so I envy you that gorgeous waterfall. Putting this one on my list for sure! I like a good mosey.

  21. such a beautiful waterfall. Love the nature in your shots. :)

  22. I'm glad you took the time to take photos here! I loved seeing these photos.

  23. Those ferns are amazing -- as is the waterfall. Great post Linda! Glad your plan B worked out so well.

  24. Beautiful shots...I love all the photos from the woods. I wish I could spend more time in the woods, but I am surrounded by urban!

  25. Linda, I'm so pleased you shared the love up-close with I Heart Macro this week, and hope you will join us again:-)

  26. I'm glad you hiked it - it's a beautiful trail. I love how green everything is, especially with the touches of fall color.

  27. Your plan B's are always amazing-actually they are better than most people's plan A! Love the waterfall and of course the mossy tree!

  28. Your photos are so gorgeous, and the trail looks amazing!

  29. Amazing shots of the falls!

    PS I blamed the government shut down for why I got so behind blogging and reading ;)


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