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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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