But Thanksgiving weekend brought good news - a small portion of the Historic Highway had been reopened. Two waterfalls, Latourell and Bridal Veil, spared from the flames, were once again accessible to the public.
|Closer view of the falls|
After seeing a bunch of Latourell Falls posts from Thanksgiving weekend, I knew I needed to get my Gorge waterfall fix. So the following weekend, I made an early morning visit.
|And another close-up|
Latourell Falls, the closest waterfall to Portland, is one of the Gorge's great cascades. Plunging 249 feet over the lip of a tall basalt cliff this waterfall is a breathtaking sight. A short 2.3 mile trail loops around the upper creek, taking visitors to the waterfall's very top and past another smaller cascade.
|Latourell Falls is 249 feet high|
I decided to see how my new Fujifilm mirrorless camera would perform photographing waterfalls. From the parking lot, I gathered up my camera bag, backpack, and tripod and climbed a steep path to the first viewpoint.
|Creek below the falls|
But once at the overlook, I began fussing with my tripod and not paying attention to the open camera bag swinging from my neck. My brand-new camera rolled out, crashing onto the pavement. To make matters worse, my tripod then toppled onto the camera.
|Another view of this lovely creek|
Oh this day was not starting out well! Luckily, despite the hard landing, my camera still worked. It's lens hood had taken the brunt of the fall, and the tripod had only scratched the screen. I fired off a few test shots and then breathed a huge sigh of relief.
|Falls and footbridge|
This first overlook was definitely bad luck. Time to pack up and walk to the bottom of the falls. As I was stowing my gear, raindrops began pattering on the ground. Wait a minute - this was not in the forecast! Luckily I'd grabbed my rain jacket and backpack cover. (This is Oregon in the late fall after all, you never know when it might get wet).
|Underside of large auto bridge|
At the bottom of Latourell Falls is a lovely mossy creek and picturesque footbridge. Setting up my tripod on the bridge, I heard a clink. Another nearby photographer altered me that my polarizing filter had fallen off my lens and was teetering on the edge of the bridge. Stepping down to grab it, I slipped on the wet deck and almost went over the edge! Luckily my filter stayed put and after hoisting myself back up I was able to retrieve it.
|Gorgeous moss-covered trees|
Oh boy, what else could go wrong today? After spending a good half hour at Latourell Falls' base, it was time to move on. A footpath led visitors along the creek past beautiful moss-covered trees. The path then ducked under an old roadway bridge before switchbacking up to the Historic Highway.
|One leaf still hanging on|
Crossing the highway, the trail climbed steeply through a lovely forest. A few straggler yellow leaves still clung to bare branches.
|Collection of color|
I was having a good time capturing this most splendid forest when I noticed a red blinking icon in my camera viewfinder. Low battery? ...... Oh no!
|Fall leaves are almost gone|
With a little over a mile to reach the upper falls, I definitely wanted to save some battery power to capture them. So off went the camera, back into its bag and I had to pass by more beautiful sights that I couldn't photograph (about killed me!).
|Viewpoint at the top of the falls|
At the top of one switchback I noticed a steep side trail leading down to an open spot. Curiosity got the better of me so I gingerly climbed down to have a look. The tiny clearing gave a birds-eye view of the top of Latourell Falls. Although impressive, it was difficult to capture in a photograph. But the foggy forest surrounding this viewpoint was especially scenic. (Worth using a tiny bit of precious battery power to capture!)
For such a short trail, the upper falls seemed to take a long time to reach. As I finally approached the roaring upper cascade, my friend the rain decided to make a return appearance.
|Upper Latourell Falls|
Not wanting to further soak my new camera (it had been through enough already today!) I opted to snap a couple of quick hand held shots of the upper falls and call it good. Shorter and partially hidden in a shallow cavern, it wasn't as impressive as it's lower cousin anyway.
|Back past the lower falls|
Upper falls now captured on my memory card, it was a quick downhill march along the opposite side of the creek. A short distance from the parking lot, I got another great view of Lower Latourell Falls, this time from a side angle.
|Looking out towards the Gorge|
I liked this view of the falls. Surrounded by a mysterious mossy forest, you could also catch glimpses of the Columbia River through the trees.
|Fire damage on the Historic Highway|
Driving back on the Columbia River Historic Highway I passed several areas charred by the fire. It appeared the flames had hopscotched across the forest, torching some spots, while leaving other areas green and untouched. I pulled over and used my camera's remaining battery power to capture a few shots of the damage.
Very sad and sobering to see some of the beautiful forests reduced to black scars.
I'm grateful the authorities were able to open a small stretch of the Gorge Scenic Highway. Although a large piece of the Gorge will likely be closed for a year or two, it's comforting to know at least a couple trails were spared.
(And to continue my day of bad luck, once safely back home, I discovered my lens cap was missing.......Ugh!)