Hang in there - I have one more set of photos to share. Another autumn tradition of mine is to spend a day touring the Columbia River Gorge visiting as many waterfalls as time allows.
|Leaf stuck on trail sign|
A gloomy Saturday in early November had me debating whether to resurrect this annual waterfall extravaganza or stay home. Rain was forecast, and a large squall had just passed by. But I knew the days of leaf color were numbered. One good windstorm would clear the trees for the year. So although the chances of a dry hike weren't great, I decided to pack my camera bag and go just the same.
The steep cliffs and abundant rainfall of the Columbia River Gorge create many spectacular cascades. Although I've never met a waterfall I didn't like, I'll admit to having a few favorites. One of these is the elegant Elowah Falls. A couple of years had passed since my last visit. I decided today was a good day to get reacquainted.
|Fallen leaves decorate the trail|
|Sunny colors on a gloomy day|
After taking the necessary rainy day precautions (rain jacket - check, gaiters - check, pack cover - check, umbrella....you get the picture) I headed out into a still-dry forest. I was instantly captivated by the numerous yellow leaves amongst a stately Douglas Fir backdrop.
The trail to Elowah Falls is a mere mile and a half, and even with a few photo breaks, I was switchbacking down into it's mossy valley in no time. I followed McCord Creek's delightful fern-covered banks, now enhanced by golden fallen leaves and more yellow color in the adjacent trees above.
|Lovely color on the adjacent rock face|
But the best was yet to come - upon entering an enormous cliff-rimmed canyon, I gasped at the lovely shades of yellow, orange and green covering it's basalt walls. And front and center flowed Elowah Falls, her 289 foot tall cascade thundering into the creek below.
|Framed with moss and colorful leaves|
Of course the rain decided to time its return upon my arrival. As I was erecting tripod and camera for a photo session, the heavens opened up.
|A tall cascade!|
There's nothing more difficult than trying to capture a gushing waterfall in the pouring rain. Not only did I have to protect my camera from the waterfall's spray, I also had to shield it from fat raindrops above. Good thing I'd packed several microfiber cloths - they came in handy to wipe off my lens, which I did constantly between takes.
Due to it's height, Elowah was a difficult waterfall to capture. Not wanting to switch to a wide angle lens in the pouring rain, I had to make do with my 24-105mm. To get the entire cascade in the frame required a bit of distance (aka "human zoom") and in this narrow canyon, there wasn't a lot of safe places to set up a tripod. I tried balancing on a slippery slope above the splash pool, and when that didn't work, I set up on a creek bed below the footbridge.
|The lower creek|
Despite the "liquid sunshine," my time at Elowah Falls was enjoyable. But, finally tiring of the constant battle to keep my camera dry (and losing), I decided to pack up and head back to my car.
|More bright leaves|
Climbing back up through the lovely fall forest, I spotted a trail junction. Another 3/4 mile climb would take me to a second impressive cascade - Upper McCord Creek Falls. Should I go for it?
|Fog bank creeping into the Gorge|
Well.....you know the answer. Of course I took the upper path! Several years had passed since I'd hiked up here and I was due for a return trip.
I climbed through more dense, foggy woods until topping off on a high ridge. Gorge views opened up before me. Despite the low clouds and fog rolling in, this lofty perch offered some great panoramas of the Columbia River's Washington side. And all those clouds made for some fantastic photos.
|Trail to Upper McCord Creek Falls|
Beyond the viewpoints, the trail became a narrow ledge that appeared to have been blasted into the cliff side. Wobbly metal handrails offered some protection (although I shied away and stayed near the rock walls).
|Good thing there's a railing!|
But walking along this catwalk was kind of cool. Although the fog was creeping in, I enjoyed more views across the Gorge's green slopes. Approaching the canyon's end, I found myself looking down into Elowah Falls' mossy canyon, even spying the top of the waterfall itself!
|Lovely Upper McCord Creek Falls|
And then I came upon the lovely twin fans of Upper McCord Creek Falls. Rushing over cliffs trimmed in fall hues, they were even prettier than I remembered.
|Old pipe crosses the trail|
I had to photograph fast, as a fog bank was slowly creeping up the canyon. Not five minutes after my arrival, the entire waterfall became masked by a wall of white. About then a large group of hikers came tromping up the trail, and I smugly informed them they'd just missed seeing the falls.
|Trailhead water tank|
As I headed back down the trail, the rain decided it was time for an encore. Trying to protect my camera from further dousing, I made a beeline for the trailhead without many photo breaks. But despite the rain, an ancient wooden water tank adjacent to the parking lot caught my eye. What photographer can resist capturing such a mossy, old structure?
Fall is truly my favorite season to explore the Columbia River Gorge. Although beautiful year-round, the palette of autumn colors, green mosses and ferns, and gushing waterfalls (not to mention the smaller crowds) makes this the prime time to experience the Gorge at its finest.
Sharing with: Through My Lens