Friday, July 11, 2014

Rainy Ramona Falls

I'd been wanting to hike the trail to Ramona Falls.  But both planned visits ended up either cancelled or changed at the last minute.  Finally, in desperation, I did something I usually try to avoid.

I hiked it on a rainy day.

Follow the sign

Two weeks ago, I had a Friday off from work.  Perfect time to visit Ramona Falls!  Since this trail is very popular, I was stoked to tackle it on a weekday when it wouldn't be so crowded.  As Friday neared, I checked the forecast.  Why did it show those pesky rain clouds???  Ugh....

Droopy waterlogged flowers

Would my Ramona Falls trip be foiled yet a third time?  Thursday night, I hemmed and hawed, totally on the fence whether to go.  Finally I decided, there is no perfect time to visit.  If I wanted to see the falls, I'd better just bite the bullet and do it.  So on Friday morning, I packed up my raingear, and plenty of plastic garbage bags, and pointed my car towards Mt. Hood.

Sandy River's rocky banks

Ramona Falls is located on Mt. Hood's west flank.  The path to the falls crosses a wide, bouldery Sandy River and then climbs through some very lovely fir and hemlock forests.  Rhododendrons bloom in large numbers during early summer.  A 7 mile loop and about 1000 feet of climbing make this moderate hike a very busy trail.

Rainy blossoms

Through intermittent showers I traveled, until reaching the trailhead's large gravel parking lot.  Only occupied by a handful of vehicles, the rain had obviously scared off most hikers.  Although the skies were dry as I started down the trail, I wore my rain jacket and clutched an umbrella - the latter a last minute grab from my car.  (A very wise move I'd find out later)

Severe erosion on Sandy River's banks

In the beginning, the Ramona Falls Trail ambles through a forest of hemlock and alder.  Bright yellow-green moss carpeted the forest floor.  It wasn't long before the steep, bouldery bank of the Sandy River came into view.

The Sandy River originates from melting glaciers high on Mt. Hood.  The water itself is very milky in color, due to fine glacial silt suspended in its currents.  Heavy winter rains often cause huge amounts of water to scream down its channel, transporting large boulders and undermining the riverbanks.  Most of the year, the Sandy is a large rocky outwash plain, with a small channel winding down it's middle.

The very skimpy hiker bridge

My trail followed the top of the riverbank.  The scenery here was quite dramatic.  I passed by places where tree roots had been so severely undermined, the trees had toppled into the river.  Everywhere carpets of moss dangled over the bank.  Some of these steep slopes didn't look very stable, and I shied away from the edge.


After following the riverbank for a mile and a half, the trail took a bend, and crossed the river.  I remembered that during summer months, the Forest Service installed a temporary bridge over the Sandy to enable hikers to cross.  I was envisioning a nice sturdy, high log bridge.  BUT when I reached the crossing area, I was disappointed to find the bridge was narrow and rickety.  Worst of all, it didn't reach all the way across the Sandy's churning waters.

Shiny wet blooms

It appeared as though I'd have to hop across the final quarter of the crossing distance.  I was a bit nervous about rock-hopping on a very damp day.  But as with most river crossings, they always look worse than they actually are.  I jumped the bridge gap no problem.  Climbing the steep bank up the other side, I was met with two surprises.

The first - RHODIES!  Lovely pink rhododendron blooms were popping out everywhere.  So bright and pretty, I whipped out my camera to get some shots.  That's when surprise number two kicked in.  It began to rain.

The bushes were everywhere

Good thing I had my umbrella!  I quickly popped that sucker up, and ducked myself and my camera underneath.  Now protected, I was able to get some images of those wonderful raindrop-spangled rhodies.

Forest accents

I meandered through rhodie alley, taking copious shots, and admiring the wet, uber-green forest.  The umbrella worked wonderfully, keeping my head, shoulders and camera dry.

The trail I was following became the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)  It paralleled the Sandy River here, on its way up to Timberline Lodge.  Through gaps in the forest, I caught glimpses of the Sandy's steep, gravelly banks and churning waters.  Although only a mile and a half in length, this path seemed to go on forever.  It probably didn't help that it was also gradually uphill the entire way, which I know slowed down my pace.

Ramona Falls peeks through the trees

But finally I began to hear rushing water.  I came to a wooden stile, designed to keep horses out, and knew the falls were just beyond.  Winding down the trail, I caught a sneak peek of Ramona Fall's sheer white curtain through the trees.

Ramona Falls in its glory

There it was!  At 120 feet in height this cascade stair-stepped across a rocky cliff, creating lovely water patterns.  Ramona Falls reminded me of an elegant bridal gown, with numerous lacy trains.

Cascade close-up

My tripod, which I'd carried the entire distance, decided to give me issues, so I spent most of the first 15 minutes dealing with that.  About the time I got it to behave, the rain, which had quit for a short while, decided to come back for another visit.

So I ducked myself and my tripod under the umbrella and attempted to get some long exposures of the falls.  I did manage to get a couple photos I liked, but most of them ended up being flops.

Footbridge and falls

Cold, wet and hungry, I finally decided to throw in the towel.  Putting my camera inside my backpack (the driest place at the moment) I gobbled down a quick P B & J, drank some hot tea, and admired the gorgeous waterfall before me. 

Charming Ramona Creek

After filling my belly, and donning another layer, I decided it was time to head back.  Everything was beginning to get wet, and I wanted to protect my camera as much as possible.  For the return trip, I decided to follow the Ramona Falls Trail and make this hike a loop.

Gorgeous forest on the return trail

Best decision ever!  The Ramona Falls Trail was a true delight.  It followed lovely little Ramona Creek, as it wound through the mossy forest floor.  Large ferns overhung it's banks, and huge lichen-draped douglas fir trees stood tall and proud above the trail.  Everything was an uber-bright color of green.  Scampering downhill, I occasionally stopped and admired the tiny white rapids that churned beside me.

More rhodies - just because!

And....there were even more rhodies!  I couldn't resist just a few more photos.  I got my camera wet for these shots, but don't you think it was totally worth it?

Droplet-spangled flowers

I ended up back at my car with most of my gear totally soaked.  But I didn't care.  I'd finally made it to Ramona Falls.  And although the weather was less than ideal, I'd still had a great time.  And I even managed to get a couple of good photos.

Moral of the story - conditions are never going to be perfect.  Don't wait for the right moment - do it now.  You'll be glad you did.

Sharing with:  52 Photos Project and Weekly Top Shot


  1. That's a good lesson to learn! Lovely scenery and those rainy flowers are gorgeous!

  2. That looks as if it was quite a hike and the bridge does look a bit scary. Good for you that you didn't let it keep you back . Your shots are just wonderful... love the rhodies, and the shots you got of the falls are wonderful. Great shutter speed, and wondering if you used a special filter on those. The rain is not as easy to hike in, but the effects are beautiful. Enjoyed your hike immensely

  3. Hello Linda
    fantastic shots .. the waterfall is breathtakingly beautiful
    regards Frank

  4. I love your style! And I so agree.. Just go and do!
    Your images are wonderful.. gorgeous captures of the falls, creeks, rhodies and trails.
    Dynamite post!

  5. Totally worth it!
    Nice job capturing these gorgeous scenes, Linda!

  6. Great advice! It was worth putting up with the rain to see this beautiful waterfall and the pretty rhodos.. I love the scenic trail too. Gorgeous photos..Happy weekend!

  7. Oh how I wish I could hike with you!!! The scenery is always breathtaking!!! You are one lucky lady!!

  8. fantastic images of the falls. glad you finally got to go.

    the rhodies are lovely with the water droplets on them too.

    great post, enjoyed hiking with you.

  9. Yup, just do it! Now's the perfect time :)

    Spectacular photography. I can't even pick a favourite. I do love the waterfall shots. Silky! What a great way to spend time.

  10. Linda, I am so glad you ventured out in the rain, as I absolutely love the rain and rain photos, and yours are gorgeous! Thanks so much for sharing.

  11. Beautiful falls, lovely rhodies (I am so missing their blooms), gorgeous creek and forest photos! Crazy, crazy hikers bridge:)
    PS: I like your umbrella in rain idea! Do you use the garbage bags to protect your camera?

  12. Linda, Your photos of the wet, misty hike to Ramona Falls are brilliant. I'm kinda glad I could go with you just by reading the post so I didn't have to brave the rain. Seeing the wonderful photos you take with the tripod I (almost) am convinced to carry mine. Lately, though, I haven't even been taking the big girl camera on my hikes. Too much weight for this old woman! Keep hiking and sharing!

  13. Gorgeous falls! Thanks for sharing your wet journey♪

  14. You still got some nice pictures- nice saturated colors in those conditions

  15. Such a beautiful hike, and made more interesting with the rain highlighting the rhoddies! Beautiful shots and well done on persevering with the tripod!

  16. It seems like it rains a lot on the days we want to do something too. You still got some beautiful photos.

    You need to get a dry sack bag for your camera. I have one that I always keep my camera in when it's in my backpack or caching bag. They aren't expensive and they work well.

  17. Sometimes, we get wonderful surprises! I know that hike was well worth it!

  18. Gorgeous, maybe especially because of the rain. This is a loop I would like to do some day...we hardly ever get up to MT Hood. The middle Cascades, yes, they are closer.

  19. Thank you for coming by sharing your creative photography on the Weekly Top Shot, #143!

  20. I'm not a fan of hiking on slippery, soggy trails but have to admit you got some gorgeous photos!

  21. This is my official favorite photo series and story for {at the water's edge}. Glad to have you back, Linda! So happy you braved the rain. Those falls are quite spectacular!

  22. Very nice post. Really enjoyed it and would love to get back to Mt. Hood someday.

  23. I love going out in the rain! These are gorgeous shots, and the rainy skies helped make your Ramona Falls photos a bit unique, since everything was dripping wet. Lovely!

  24. Week after week you stun me with your hikes and photography. So glad you didn't let the rain stop you from sharing the stunning Ramona Falls and rhodies. Spectacular!

  25. What a pretty hike, but the waterfall is spectacular. Nice job with the long exposures!

  26. I know I'm glad YOU did! This reminded me of my two wet hikes in the Smokies this spring. Good memories...sometimes it's that extra obstacle that makes it all even more worth it.

  27. I'm putting a link to this post in my waterfall post on Thursday.


Don't be shy! Please leave a comment.