Usually these lovely pink flowers don't unfurl until mid-June. But this year's early bloom had me traveling to Hood's west side on Memorial Day, hoping to catch some rhododendron sightings.
|It's rhodie time!
Ramona Falls was the trail of choice for my day's ramble. It's a very popular hike, so I rose early and was parked at the trailhead by 8:30 am. Even then, at least a half dozen people were already cued up at the wilderness permit box. No worries about being alone today!
|Sandy River in the morning
While filling out my permit, an older lady (well, older than me) asked if I knew the condition of the Sandy River crossing. She mentioned this was her first hike in many years, and was nervous about traversing it by herself. Always one to help a fellow hiker, I suggested we stick together until the crossing.
|Treacherous river crossing
Ramona Falls trail follows the eroded banks of the Sandy River for 1.4 miles until coming upon the infamous crossing. In years past, the Forest Service had installed a seasonal bridge to assist hikers across this strong, glacial stream. But after a freak heavy rainstorm in 2014 washed the bridge away (sadly causing the death of one unlucky person who happened to be on it) hikers have been left on their own.
Last year, due to the presence of two sturdy logs, crossing the Sandy was a snap. One log was large enough for people to walk upon, and the other was positioned slightly higher than the other, providing a perfect handhold. I hoped winter rains hadn't washed them away.
|Pink forest highlights
But unfortunately, they had. Although one large log still laid entirely across the Sandy, the other "handrail" trunk was gone. Another downed tree paralleled the crossing log for a short distance, but not enough to provide a continuous handhold.
Summoning up my courage, I clambered onto the larger downed tree. Carefully scooting my feet on its surface, I inched slowly across. Once the "handhold" log was no longer in reach, I had a 10 foot section that had to be traversed entirely balancing on foot. If that wasn't bad enough, it just happened to be over some large rocks, and the river's strongest current. I knew a fall here would likely cause broken bones - and possibly being swept downriver. Let me tell you, that was the longest 10 feet of my life!
|These flowers are whitish inside
But I made it! Now safely across, I shouted encouragement to my companion, worried how she'd manage the crossing. However, my new friend wisely decided to sit down on the log and butt-scoot across. A much more stable option, I bookmarked this technique for the return journey.
|Pretty in pink
Both now safely on the other side, my companion asked if she could stick with me to the falls. I was happy to have her company, but warned that I stopped a lot to take photos. I didn't know if this woman would wait around every time I took a shot.
|The bees were busy
After a bit of confusion finding the trail continuation, we plunged into the forest. Ramona Falls can be accessed via a loop trail, one path along the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) paralleling the Sandy River, and the return via lovely Ramona Creek. A 7-mile loop, it's short distance and relatively flat terrain make it a popular hike.
|Junction with the PCT
I was pleased to discover that the rhodies were indeed blooming! My companion found out right away how frequently I stopped for photos. But she seemed to take it in stride, and told me again how happy she was to have a hiking partner.
|Tall rhodie bushes
The forest was gorgeous - deep green foliage, brightened by many pink rhodie flowers. It was a slow 2-mile trek, but finally we came upon the PCT junction with the Ramona Falls Trail.
Ramona Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls on Mt. Hood. I love it's tiered cascades spilling down a steep, basalt cliff.
|Love the multiple tiers
I got busy with my tripod and camera, while my new hiking friend took a rest and had a snack.
|Selfie at the bridge
The area below Ramona Falls was a busy place. Seeing my large camera, I got asked to take a few people's pictures (I never mind doing this). Despite this, I did manage to get a selfie of my own in front of the falls.
|A beam of light illuminates the middle
Ramona Falls is inside a canyon area, and is usually at least 10 degrees colder. My new friend began to get chilled and wanted to start moving again. So I took one final photo. The morning sun had just began to crest over the clifftop sending a perfect beam of light across the cascade. A lovely capture, if I do say so!
|Lovely forest along Ramona Creek
Besides the waterfall, the best part of this hike is the return trip via Ramona Creek. This trail meanders through a lovely green, mossy forest with Ramona Creek, a beautiful fern-lined stream, gurgling nearby.
|More rhodies here too!
And of course there were more rhodies to photograph!
|Tall pink cliffs
Throughout the hike, my companion shared her life story with me. She'd been widowed at an early age, left with four boys, the youngest still a baby. She'd raised all four boys on her own. Her sons now grown, she finally had time for herself. Her husband had been an enthusiastic hiker, but since his passing, she'd never had time to go. Today was her first hike in over 20 years.
|These flowers sure brighten up the forest
My companion was happy I'd agreed to stay with her. She'd been nervous about being on a trail by herself - especially having to cross a raging river.
|Once again back across the river
Back at the infamous crossing, both of us sat down and butt-scooted back across the log. The log was tilted uphill, so it took some effort and arm strength. But we made it safely across once again.
|Not as easy as it looks
By now the area was swarming with people. We stood on the opposite shore watching several people navigate the downed logs. Although some of them didn't look capable of balancing, thankfully everyone I watched made a successful traverse.
|Mt Hood made an appearance
As we hiked up the Sandy's steep banks, looked behind to see a gleaming white Mt. Hood perfectly framed by the river's path.
|Sandy River and surrounding forest
But at the trailhead, the large gravel lot was now completely full. My new hiking friend again thanked me for taking her along. I told her it was my pleasure to help someone get back into hiking. As we parted ways, I hoped I'd given her confidence to try another trail.
Sharing with: Floral Friday Fotos