|Mysterious mossy forest|
After leaving Tom McCall Point, I headed west into the Columbia River Gorge to visit it's most beautiful and popular trail - Eagle Creek.
One of the very few Gorge trails that doesn't rise steeply from the Columbia River, this path stays relatively flat, following lovely Eagle Creek. It's a world of thick mossy trees, huge green ferns, churning rapids, and lacy waterfalls.
|Narrow path blasted into the cliff|
The sky started clouding over as I hiked down Tom McCall Point, so I knew it was only a matter of time before the wet stuff began to fall. Before heading up the Eagle Creek trail, I prepared for the worst by packing a rain jacket, and making sure my camera and gear were secure in several plastic bags.
Right out of the trailhead, hikers are hit with an immediate wall of green. New leaves burst from every branch. Thick moss drapes from several trees, giving the forest a fairy tale feel. Huge ferns sprout from canyon walls.
|Wildflowers line the path's edge|
Constructing a trail through this narrow canyon was an engineering challenge. In certain areas, the walking surface is a narrow shelf, created by blasting into the steep cliffs. Thick wire cables anchored into the rock provide hand holds for nervous hikers.
Even on this overcast, rainy weekday, foot traffic was heavy. Approaching the first narrow rock ledge section, I was met with a conga-line of people coming from the other direction. Since there's not much room for passing, I patiently waited at the end for everyone to pass. One annoying man stood in the middle of the trail for several minutes taking copious photos, before finally moving on.
But my patience paid off, and once all the hikers passed, I had the entire stretch of this narrow trail all to myself. Although perilous, this segment boasted some great views of the upper forested canyon walls and Eagle Creek, far, far below.
|Sturdy cables for chicken hikers|
In about a mile and a half a side trail led to a viewpoint of 100-foot high Metlako Falls. I was pleased to see someone had trimmed back the thick vegetation here, allowing for a much clearer view. And what a pretty cascade it was! Hidden back in a side canyon, it roars out of the cliffside. With the recent rain, it was flowing full. Metlako's silky white stream made a perfect photo subject. The overcast day helped too.
From Metlako Falls, I continued onward, stopping to photograph some lovely purple larkspur blooms popping up from the downhill side of the trail.
Shortly thereafter, I passed by a famous waterfall on this trail - Punchbowl Falls. There's a classic view of this cascade from its base that ends up on many calendars. But today, I wasn't up to hiking the steep trail down and wading in the creek to get that shot. (Check out this post if you'd like to see it) Instead, I tried getting a few images of the falls looking down into it's mossy grotto. Sadly, lots of bushes and small trees are beginning to block this view. (Is it legal to trim foliage in a national scenic area?)
|Sturdy bridge above a deep canyon|
From Punchbowl Falls, I continued my journey, ambling along muddy trails, crossing one sturdy bridge that spanned a very deep canyon.
|Drippy cliff face|
Although rain seemed imminent the entire time, for the first two hours raindrops stayed in the clouds. But around mile 3, my luck ran out. It started as a light sprinkle, but soon large, wet drops were splattering on my head.
|Puddles on the trail|
After attempting a few final shots of a drippy cliff face and gorgeous creek below, I cried uncle and packed my camera away. Realizing I'd already hiked 4 miles at Tom McCall Point earlier this morning, and would cover another 6 if I turned around now, the decision to head back was an easy one. Besides, both feet were hurting, and my stomach was ready for some beer and grub.
|Wonderful creek view|
I hiked the three mile return trip in alternating downpours. Although I'd donned a rainjacket and covered my valuables in plastic, it still was a soggy miserable trip. Today's cumulative 10 miles was the longest hike I'd done since bunion surgery. And my foot was feeling it. Never was I so glad to see my car!
Although I only processed a couple photos that day, now, weeks later, looking over all the images from this hike made me realize I'd gotten a lot of nice shots. These photos remind me what a truly gorgeous and special trail Eagle Creek is. And the inclement weather made for way better photographic conditions. I'm hoping to return on another soggy, spring day.
Sharing with: Scenic Weekends and Friday Greens.