|Mighty Sandy River|
My long-lost hiking buddy Katie joined me for this latest adventure. Illness and trips (Katie) and a recovering foot (me) had kept us from hiking together for nearly a year. A long day on the trail made for a great opportunity to catch up.
|Last of the fireweed|
Last summer, I'd hiked this same trail on a very rainy day. Although the weather had been uncooperative, overcast skies had made for stunning photos of the falls and drippy green forests - not to mention the lovely pink blooming rhododendrons.
However, by August of a very dry summer, things were quite different. No more rhodies - they'd bloomed and dried up nearly two months ago.
|Where to cross?|
Katie and I set out from the trailhead, following the Sandy River's steep bank. About a mile and half down the trail, we came to the designated river crossing. Last year, the Forest Service had installed a rickety bridge here to aid hikers. But after the bridge was washed away in a freak rainstorm (sadly killing one unlucky person who happened to be on it) it never was replaced.
|Katie finds the crossing log|
So now where did hikers cross? Katie and I walked up and down the bank, scoping out the many bleached logs laying across the river. Our options didn't look great. But then I spied a large amount of footprints in the sandy soil, all leading to one large tree trunk. It appeared that was what everyone was using to cross. Slowly edging my way on top, I realized the tree was stable and getting across was a snap. As I always say, river crossings always look much worse than they really are.
|Rocks define the trail|
Safely on the opposite shore, I headed off to find the trail continuation. But Katie and I must've took a wrong turn, because it was nowhere to be found. After crashing around in the brush for several anxious minutes, I noticed a line of rocks outlining what appeared to be a path. Guess what? That was our trail! In no time at all, we were back in business.
|Thick, green forest|
Beyond the Sandy River Crossing, hikers reach a junction with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Here one has a choice - either to follow the PCT along the Sandy River to Ramona Falls, or take the scenic Ramona Falls trail to the same destination. Or you can explore both trails in a loop. Katie and I chose to follow the PCT first.
|Ultra runners at the falls|
The PCT climbs ever so slightly the entire 2 mile distance to Ramona Falls. Usually not an issue, but on a hot day, even a gentle climb turns into a sweatfest. My friend and I trudged along, wiping our brows, until the sign for Ramona Falls came into view.
|Ramona Falls in all her glory|
The best thing about waterfall hikes on a hot day is that the temperature is always about ten degrees cooler at the falls themselves. Approaching Ramona Falls, the chilly air felt heavenly. And the waterfall wasn't too shabby either!
|Katie gets goofy (can you guess her favorite color?)|
Just before we reached the falls proper, Katie and I ran into a large group of trail runners. A couple of the group members told us they were part of an ultrarunning "camp" which had started from Timberline Lodge that morning and run all the way down to here (which is quite a long distance, and elevation loss!)
|Lots of gorgeous tiers|
There was probably about twenty folks in the group gathered at the waterfall's base. A spirited bunch of ultra-fit people, when they lined up on the adjacent bridge for pictures, I offered to snap the shutter. I got handed about six cell phones! But I love taking pics of people and was happy to oblige.
|One large tree!|
After bidding our new runner friends goodbye, I got out my tripod and prowled around Ramona Falls for a good fifteen minutes, trying for that money shot. Katie ate a snack, and shivered in the cool air, dropping hints that she was ready to move on.
|Magical cedar forest|
So move on we did, choosing the delightful Ramona Falls Trail for our return. This path follows lovely little Ramona Creek through a fantastic old growth forest of firs, hemlocks, and cedar trees. Ferns and mossy creek banks add a magical feel to the woods.
|Cute little Ramona Creek|
Lots to photograph - I had to make my images quick, and hustle to keep up with Katie.
We passed by an area of the forest where the trees parted to reveal a tall cliff of light colored rock.
After nearly two magical miles,our trail again intersected with the PCT.
|Heading back along the PCT|
Which we followed back to the Sandy River crossing.
|Mt. Hood comes out for a visit|
|Back across the Sandy River|
By the return trip, we were pros at crossing the mighty Sandy River, and Katie practically galloped across the big log.
But the best part of the day for Katie was yet to come. A horse enthusiast since her childhood, we came upon a young lady riding a gorgeous brown horse. Katie just had to stop and meet her! She spent nearly fifteen minutes petting and talking to her new equestrian friend.
|Katie makes a friend|
Another great hike in the books for summer 2015. And good to catch up with one of my hiking buddies.
Stats: 7 miles, 1000 feet elevation gain
Note to my readers: I'm leaving tomorrow for a fun adventure and won't have access to a computer for several days, so I won't be able to visit your blogs. But no worries, I'll be back - and I can't wait to share my photos and stories with you.