Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ramona Rhodies

It's rhodie time on Mt. Hood!

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.

Rhodie twins

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

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


  1. I have to say, that waterfall takes my breath away and I would say it is the most beautiful one I have EVER seen!

  2. It certainly was worth the hike, but I'm afraid my days of balancing on logs and fallen trees are over. Wouldn't it be easy to wade across the stream at a different spot or does it just look crossable? Cool of you to help a fellow hiker.

    1. My photos don't show it very well, but the Sandy River is a extremely fast-moving, cold glacial stream. The current is so strong, you could get knocked over trying to wade across, especially this time of year.

  3. Awesome Linda. I think butt-scooting my way would have been the only way I got across the logs. I'll have to google the falls to see just where this is.

  4. Awesome waterfalls! What a great one to photograph!! :)

  5. Lovely photos...worth the challenging crossing! Such a beautiful waterfall. The best displays of Rhododendrons I've ever seen was one year when my daughter was attending OSU, the campus is loaded with enormous old rhodies.

  6. i'm sure you made your new hiking friend's day. glad you enjoyed your hike. it was certainly fruitful with all those beautiful flower photos and the images of that waterfall... oh my goodness it was breathtaking. loved the touch of light running through it. have a great night~

  7. Linda, your photos are breathtaking! The flowers, the green, the water, and seeing the bees is so nice! We need them.

  8. What an amazing hike - that waterfall is stunning. But I wouldn't like that river crossing!

  9. Awesome rhodies and a great place to hike. many times it's the people with you who make the hike a lot of fun.

  10. I just love going along on your hikes. that is one gorgeous waterfall. love the light beam.

  11. What a beautiful place to hike through. And how wonderful that you helped that lady. That kindness will surely be returned to you one day.

  12. Wow, Ramona Falls is beautiful! Love the flowers too!

  13. Log crossings are scary! I use the butt scoot method often.

  14. WOW!! That certainly is a difficult crossing over the river but the flowers make it all worthwhile.

  15. Those cascading waterfalls are magnificent. You captured them beautifully.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  16. Uma bela e fantástica caminhada que proporcionou fantásticas fotografias da natureza bem como de maravilhosas flores silvestres.
    Um abraço e bom fim de semana.

  17. Hello, Linda! Another great hike, the rhodos are gorgeous. I love the beautiful waterfall. I think your hiking companion had a great idea with the butt-scooting. That would be my choice. Your photos are all gorgeous. Thanks for sharing your hike! Happy Friday! Happy 4th of July weekend!

  18. Fabulous pictures, as always, but those waterfalls are really special! And good for you to help another person get back into hiking. :-)

  19. What a lovely hike!!! And you got some great shots of those beautiful "Rhodies"!!!

  20. I've done the butt-scoot many times. Balancing over a torrent is very scary - just thinking about it throws my balance off! How lucky to see both the lovely Rhodies and that amazing falls. I'm glad you got started before the swarm of people arrived.

  21. My kind of river crossing. That's what upset me so much about the film "Wild"- there was nothing in it as good as your photos for this post and it certainly didn't feature scenery or waterfalls to equal the ones here. In 2,650 miles! It wasn't really a film about the great outdoors at all in that respect. "The Way." a recent Martin Sheen film gave a much better account of the scenery walked in that movie.
    P.S. Your bee might be a hover fly going by the yellow and black stripes and cluster eye display unless you have different bees in the USA from us... which is entirely possible :o)

  22. That was so nice of you, Linda, to let the inexperienced hiker stay with you for the entire hike. I hope if I am ever in that situation someone would do that for me. The river crossing looked perilous. I hope that a better span bridge can be reconstructed there soon if this is a popular hiking area. The wild rhododendrons are beautiful! I used to have a very large rhododendron in my front yard in NY and I loved its bloom time. Can't have one here as the deer would eat it!

  23. Wonderful set of pictures. River crossings should always be taken with care.

    Hard to believe I spend a month in Wales ones removing rhododendrons from hillsides and woods where they were a pest species - pretty, but pesty!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  24. No words to explain the beauty of the flowers and the waterfalls. Crossing the river looks very adventures.But it would have been interesting to do so...

  25. Hey Linda, looks like you hike a lot, take lots of pictures, and then blog about the experience...just like me! Anyway, love your blog and it was a pleasure hiking with you on Coffin Mountain. May our paths cross again and for the time being: Happy Trails!

  26. Lovely shots!
    Thank you for joining the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

  27. Spectacular scenery, and amazing flowers. The PNW is quite the country!

  28. You're right, the waterfall with a shaft of sunlight shot is superb!

  29. What a great hike! I love the rhodies and the waterfall is magnificent.


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