One of the first trails to be opened to the public was the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from Cascade Locks south. Although it had been cleared and deemed safe for access since June 2018, I chose a rainy mid-January day to finally check things out.
|PCT trailhead at Cascade Locks|
Only a short distance from the start of the Eagle Creek fire, the small town of Cascade Locks was greatly impacted. With the fire literally licking at it's outskirts, a large portion of of this sleepy burg was evacuated for weeks. Although thankfully no homes or businesses burned, the forest surrounding Cascade Locks took a direct hit.
|Lots of brown and black|
I began my reconnaissance at the Cascade Locks PCT trailhead adjacent to the famous Bridge of the Gods. After darting across the busy road leading to this bridge I followed the trail as it ducked under I-84 and climbed a local road to the trail's "official" beginning.
The fire damage started almost immediately. Blackened trunks lined the trail, with countless downed trees littering the forest floor. Many homes bordered this wooded area, and I was stunned to see how close the fire had come to their back doors.
|A few spots of green|
Lucky for me, the rain let up soon after I started my journey. But the damp weather created a thick fog that hung in the forest. With a backdrop of black, ghostly trees it created a downright spooky environment.
|Foggy, ghostly forest|
After winding through grove after grove of dead, black tree trunks, I started seeing small patches of white on the forest floor. Snow! Remnants of the last bout of freezing precip it created a tiny bit of beauty in an otherwise dismal scene.
|A bit of snow|
Despite the charred forest, I managed to find a bit of beauty in the raindrop-spangled branches drooping over my trail.
|Raindrops sparkle from bare brances|
And I was happy to find a few moss-covered trees that were somehow spared from the flames.
|Not all the moss got burned|
The untouched portions of this forest were wearing their best mossy winter green.
|Snow and moss|
|Loved this tree's mossy branches|
However as I approached the turn off to Dry Creek Falls I came upon a section of forest totally destroyed by the fire. Truly heartbreaking to see!
The PCT intersected with a wide road. A quarter mile romp up this road led hikers to Dry Creek Falls.
|Dry Creek Falls|
This lovely cascade plunges 74 feet from an impressive basalt cliff into the creek below. With the Columbia River Gorge boasting so many beautiful waterfalls, Dry Creek Falls often gets overlooked.
|Proof I was there|
I was lucky that day and had the area to myself for nearly an entire half hour. Enough time to take lots of photos (and a couple selfies to prove I was there).
|Dry Creek near the PCT|
When another party showed up, I took this as my cue to move on. Since it's only two miles to Dry Creek Falls from Cascade Locks, I decided to continue southward on the PCT. The Pinnacles, an unusual rock formation, was another two-ish miles away.
|More blackened forest|
Returning to the PCT from Dry Creek Falls side trail, I crossed the creek on a nice wooden bridge (which was somehow spared from the fire). However, it didn't take long before I was back in the burn zone, trekking through more forests of blackened tree trunks.
|Toasted tree roots|
One poor tree had it's roots totally exposed and burned.
|Lone tree with a black base|
Many trees only had their bases burned. Not sure if they'll survive or not.
|Finally the Pinnacles!|
Having hiked to the Pinnacles once before, I thought they were only a short distance away. But the "short distance" seemed to take forever to reach. About the time I was seriously considering turning around, I spotted their rocky peaks between the trees.
These tall moss-covered rock formations are a unique landmark. I was happy to see healthy, green forest surrounding the area.
|The Pinnacles close up|
After a quick snack break, I headed back, retracing my steps through the forest (or what was left of it). I found a few dented PCT trail markers that had survived the inferno.
|Surviving PCT marker|
Rain was threatening again, so I made haste back to the trailhead. Not many photo breaks on the return trip, but I'd pretty well documented things with my first pass.
|PCT bridge over Dry Creek|
It was a great day to be out in the woods! Although the fire damage was sobering, I saw signs of recovery, from ferns poking up through the underbrush to moss beginning to re-coat tree trunks.
Hike no 2 done! Nine miles through the always scenic Columbia River Gorge.