Sunday, April 5, 2020

Surprise Snowy Hike

Oh how I miss the carefree "before COVID-19" days!  Stuck at home for three weeks now, I've been going through photos of my final hikes before everything shut down.  In mid-March news of the spreading pandemic was starting to take over the airwaves.  Although a few cases had been reported in Oregon by then, nothing had changed quite yet.  It was still business as usual.

Blooming tree at the Wahkeena Trailhead

After running a few errands on my Friday off - including navigating a surprisingly packed grocery store full of people panic buying, I needed a break from the madness.  Although rainy weather was predicted all day, I grabbed my waterproof gear anyway and headed to the Gorge.  I was getting a hike in no matter what!

It's starting to snow!

Not only was the day wet, it was also cold.  Temperatures hovered near the freezing mark.  Slushy snowflakes splattered on my car's windshield as I drove towards the Columbia River Gorge.  Was hiking today really a good idea?  Many times during the trip I nearly turned around and headed home.  But physically and mentally I knew a good outdoor workout was necessary.  I kept telling myself to wait and assess the trailhead weather before bailing. 

Big snowflakes against a foggy backdrop

Whenever I need a quick hike, the Multnomah-Wahkeena loop in the Columbia River Gorge always delivers.  A mere 40 minute drive from home and 5.5 mile trek, it's easy to fit into a half day. Traversing the Gorge scenic highway, although cold and wet, I deemed the weather acceptable for hiking and decided to give it a try.  Having to use the restroom, I parked at Multnomah Falls to take advantage of their facilities.  After a pit stop (which included washing my hands really well) I donned full raingear against the drizzly skies and headed towards the Wahkeena Trailhead.

Huge cedar tree

Rain fell steadily as I trudged along the tie trail between Multnomah and Wahkeena Falls.  At Wahkeena Falls, a few soggy tourists posed for photos at the roadside viewing area.  Adjacent to Wahkeena Creek's stair-step cascades, a pink blooming tree gave the only hint that it was nearly spring.  Although my mirrorless DSLR camera is fairly weather-resistant, at this point increasing rainfall forced me to tuck it safely into my backpack.  Being the photo nerd I am, I'd also brought along my pocket point and shoot camera. Having withstood many seasons of skiing photos in all kinds of weather, this little camera was better suited for today's wet conditions.

Snowy view looking up a basalt cliff

So dear readers, photo documentation of the hike was not lacking.  From the road, I began climbing the Wahkeena Trail up a paved path towards the waterfall.  Having taken hundreds of photos of these falls, I snapped a quick selfie as I walked by and kept climbing.

Fairy Falls

From Wahkeena Falls, the paved path climbed steeply through several switchbacks, framed by intricate rock walls.  Although charred trees from the 2017 fire were still prevalent, green ferns and other vegetation indicated the forest was making a comeback.

Snow beginning to accumulate

It was then I began to notice the raindrops were beginning to get heavier.  A few large soggy snowflakes stared to mix with the rain.  As I climbed higher in elevation, the snowflakes became more numerous.

Frosty tree

By the time I reached Lemmon Viewpoint, the precip had almost entirely switched to snow.  Huge, wet flakes fell from foggy skies.  It was so pretty!   With my little point and shoot camera, I made a valiant effort to capture the lovely scene of snow falling.

Trail sign is the only thing that isn't white

Leaving the paved path, I climbed higher through partially-burned forest.  Snow began accumulating in the tree branches and along the trailside.  The snow began transitioning from slushy sleet to drier flakes.

The higher I climb, the larger the snowfall accumulation

I stopped at Fairy Falls and pulled out my good camera to capture this pretty little cascade.  After a few shots, a young couple arrived and asked if I'd take their picture.  I used the man's cell phone to snap a few images, then he offered to take a few photos of me.  Not thinking, I handed the man my phone and he proceeded to snap a dozen pics of me in front of Fairy Falls.  Later I realized not only had I touched a stranger's personal phone, I'd also let him touch my phone.  With the Coronavirus scare just beginning, it made me think about how I needed to change my interactions with others. 

Snow-covered fern

Beyond Fairy Falls, I left the couple behind as I climbed higher up the Wahkeena Trail.  Snow was falling heavily now, coating the forest and trail in a white blanket.

Snow-covered vegetation makes a lumpy texture

At the Wahkeena Springs junction, the surrounding forest was a world of white.  The brown trail sign was the only thing of any color.

The white-flocked trees were beautiful

I continued my trek along the Wakeena Trail, heading for Multnomah Creek.  The snowy weather was a pure delight.  Frosty tree branches and bushes made beautiful photo subjects.  My little point and shoot camera just couldn't do them proper justice.  Since it wasn't raining anymore, I pulled out my good camera and put it to work documenting all this beauty.

Happy hiker with snowflakes on her glasses!

However, the wide angle on my point and shoot camera was good for capturing selfies!

Pussy willows catching the snow

Who would've thought I'd encounter such a snowy wonderland on the trail today?  What a wonderful surprise!

World of white

As I meandered through this winter wonderland snapping copious photos, I temporarily forgot about the impending pandemic, frenzied grocery stores, and potential stranger contaminators.  This is why I hike.

Last autumn leaf

The final half mile of the Wahkeena Trail as it winds downhill to Multnomah Basin is one of my favorite parts of this hike.  Multnomah Creek is visible through the trees, and even with a forest full of charred trees, it is still lovely.

Snow makes this burned-out forest look beautiful

 A fresh coating of snow made it all the more stunning.

Multnomah Creek

After the final trail junction with Larch Mountain Trail, it was a steep downhill ramble along Multnomah Creek.  Numerous fallen trees covered the creek, all casualties of the Eagle Creek fire.

Fallen tree

As I descended in elevation, sadly the snow began to transition back to rain and the snowy landscape from white to green and brown.

Weisendanger Falls

By the time I reached Weisendanger Falls, only a light dusting of snow covered the side slopes.

More snowy ferns

Soon I had reached the paved path once again, this one switchbacking steeply down to the base of Multnomah Falls.  The rain had returned in earnest, and I realized my mirrorless DSLR was quickly getting soaked.

Gloomy Gorge view from Multnomah Falls trail

So I hoofed it down the pathway as quick as I could, only stopping for an occasional photograph.

Top tier of Multnomah Falls

For a wet, crummy day, I was surprised by the large number of people visiting Multnomah Falls.  Of course this was a week before social distancing was mandated.

Multnomah Falls - the Grand Dame of Gorge waterfalls

Despite the dreary weather forecast, it turned out to be a magic day of hiking in a winter wonderland.  Looking back now nearly four weeks later, I'm glad I took a chance and went ahead with my plans.  These images will have to tide me over for the next few months.  I'm missing my beautiful Gorge Trails more than ever.


  1. Oh I am so envious of that walk. I am desperate to get out for a decent walk. The weather is gorgeous here at the moment and I had a list of new walks I wanted to try this Spring. Of course, those walks will not be taking place for many weeks to come. In the meantime I have to be content with fabulous posts like yours and my imagination.

  2. I like your photos of the inclement weather - not so sure I'd enjoy the weather itself. I can foresee that there'll be some problems when these restrictions are lifted and everybody heads out again. Best find some places that nobody else knows about for the first week or two.

  3. Oh those photos are beautiful, and the snow on the ferns are really lovely. Thanks for sharing. Stay safe.

  4. Wow, Linda, I am so glad for you and us, that you chose to go. I've just had a magical, snowy visit along the Multnomah-Wahkeena Trail.

  5. It's been such a dreary wet winter over here, barely any snow on my local hills. Now we have a long sunny period which isn't helping to encourage people not to visit beauty spots and parks en-masse to maintain social distancing. I'm about to post up some trips from many years back. Been enjoying looking through and scanning my old photos!

  6., beauty surrounds us every day, we only need to open our eyes to it.

  7. Hello, I always enjoy seeing the snow...on photos. Your hike looks great, beautiful scenery with the snow, trees and waterfalls. It is nice to see you and your selfies too. I have a photo of the last waterfalls from our trip there years ago. It is a beautiful waterfall. Take care & stay safe! Wishing you a happy day and a great new week!

  8. This looks like a great ramble through our beautiful forests, with fresh snow (and lovely waterfalls) as icing on the cake. I'm glad you had your hike mainly by yourself. I always prefer a quiet trail when I have a lot to think about, like in these scary times. I love sharing your hikes, Linda... and your beautiful photos.

  9. Who doesn't love a surprise snowstorm!

  10. Isn't it wonderful when stuck indoors we have these beautiful photos and read to look at Linda. You must have cabin fever by now surely. Take care

  11. What a beautiful snowy hike! I bet the scene is now eerily empty these days.

  12. What a lovely hike you had! Your snow photos are so beautiful! Stay safe! :)

  13. I know it seems selfish but I am so afraid we are going to lose an entire hiking summer.


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