Columbia River Gorge

Gorging 2015

Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) atop Dog Mountain
Relatively speaking, my time spent in the Columbia River Gorge during my recent spring trip was short. Of all the things I “wanted” to do during my time in the Gorge, a return trip to Dog Mountain during the balsamroot bloom was at the top of the list. It’s been about 6 years since my last visit up Dog Mountain and, although I intended to return much sooner than this, something always happened to thwart my plans. To recap for the uninitiated, the wonderful meadows of balsamroot on Dog Mountain are reached after a 3 mile hike with a 2,500 foot elevation gain. The views don’t come easy!

Despite the legitimate workout it provides, this hike has become increasingly popular. Locals have almost swore off visiting on weekends due to the steady stream of people on the trail. This year, there were well over 50+ cars at the trail head at noon on a weekday (a far cry than my last visit in 2009). After two hours of slogging up hill, I finally made my return to the meadows. I’d like to say I felt inspired upon my overdue return to the meadows but…..I wasn’t. The flowers were in fine shape and any breeze was fairly manageable but I was obsessed with what time it was. You see, this day (the third day of my trip) was the first day where a reasonable chance for sunset was present. I planned on shooting sunset over Mount Hood and that required me to be mindful of what time it was and when I needed to leave Dog Mountain in order to make it to my sunset destination in enough time.
Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) atop Dog Mountain
Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) and Small Flowered Lupine (Lupinus micranthus) atop Dog Mountain
Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata) and Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja hispida) atop Dog Mountain
The end result of being so preoccupied with the time was feeling pressured or rushed when I finally did pull the camera out of my backpack. Whenever this happens, your odds of coming come when great photos is quite low. To be fair, this was self induced pressure so I won’t beat myself over this. As I’ve come to learn, visits to some locations just require more time to properly explore.

One location in the Gorge that is more amenable to a quicker visit is Wahclella Falls. All told, my visit about about 2 hours total from car to car. The falls are reach in just over a mile of trail and only 250 feet of elevation to gain. The parking area at the trailhead is small and unluckily for me, it was completely full. I ultimately discovered why on my hike in as dozens of elementary aged kids and their chaperones passed me on their hike out. Bad timing for parking at the trail head but good timing for my time spent at the falls.
Wildflowers at Puppy Point on Dog Mountain
Wahclella Falls, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Wahclella Falls, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Despite the occasional sunshine, it really didn’t impact my photography at the falls thanks to the high canyon walls which shaded the falls from any harsh, direct light. Spray can be a problem here if you’re shooting directly in front or towards the left of the falls but it’s not really apparent how much that threat is. I did happen to notice the indicators of a spray zone so I was pretty vigilant about keeping the front of my lens wiped dry and covered when not in use. I should have explored the creek downstream of the falls a little more but I was thinking about getting to my chosen destination for that evening’s sunset.

My last Gorge-ish destination was a return to Panther Creek falls over on the Washington side. I had a potential idea for a slightly different composition that I wanted to check out in addition to it just being a cool place to hang out. Well, my composition idea didn’t quite pan out and for whatever reason, the cliffy downclimb to reach the base of the falls just seemed different this time around. Maybe it’s age but I swear that there were more handholds to use the last time I was there. Oh well. I was still able to take a few photographs from the viewing platform by balancing my exposure with a graduated neutral density filter. I think I might visit Dry Creek falls instead next spring. I have a line on something interesting in that area that I’d like to check out…
Panther Creek Falls, Wind River drainage
Panther Creek Falls detail, Wind River drainage

Wind River Drainage

I’ve just returned from my annual spring trip south to the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood area. This year, I broke a little bit with my historical tradition and decided to visit mostly new locations. One such new spot was the Wind River drainage north of Carson on the Washington side of the Gorge. I had a number of locations in mind and ended up visiting Panther Creek Falls, Puff Falls, and Dry Creek Falls. Instead of my typical narrative, I’m going to provide some overall comments and remarks about each location-

Dry Creek Falls (Columbia River Gorge)
On my way to the Wind River drainage, I stopped by this waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge on the Oregon side. If you read any of the descriptions for this hike, it sounds a bit confusing (it was to me). Rest assured, it does follow the Pacific Crest Trail so it’s actually not bad at all. The trail head starts right next to I-84 but the sounds of the freeway don’t last too long. As with most Gorge hikes, the forest here is quite diverse and even has some good sized trees.
Dry Creek Falls with late afternoon light. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Dry Creek Falls. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Panther Creek Falls
Photos don’t do this waterfall justice. You have to stand in front of it! The Forest Service has built an observation platform for the waterfall and it’s pretty good. To get a lower perspective like these photos, you have put yourself at some degree of risk and down climb a 15′ rock wall. You must be absolutely comfortable with class 3 / 4 scrambling if you want to successfully make it down this rock wall. In general, I would not recommend doing it so just sit back and enjoy my photos!
Panther Creek Falls. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
Panther Creek Falls. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
Fall Creek Falls
What a great place! A moderate hike along a beautiful creek and aesthetic forest leads you to this huge waterfall. Down spray was an issue due to the peak-ish flows but I just took several photos to ensure a good shot. The forest holds a LOT of vine maple (as does the Wind River drainage in general) so this may have some tremendous fall color. I only wish there were a few more spots to enjoy the creek itself.
Falls Creek. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
Falls Creek. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
Falls Creek. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
Falls Creek. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
Falls Creek. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest
Puff Falls / Dry Creek Falls
An off trail hike quite literally up the creek itself to an unusually large waterfall. A loose trail exists along the right bank (east bank of the creek) for much of the way but you will have to get your feet wet a couple of times. Again, flows were pretty good but my 16″ rubber boots were sufficient. Down spray at the falls is a big problem because good compositions are confined to the areas that receive the most spray.
Falls Creek. Wind River Drainage, Gifford-Pinchot National Forest

2 days of Gorging – Part 1

I’ve decided that a couple days in May down in the Columbia River Gorge area is a good thing and so I made plans to go down this past week. The actual date was a little earlier than I would have liked due to other committments. Originally, I started doing this in order to photograph the endless field of Arrowleaf Balsamroot that blooms atop Dog Mountain, I’ve since then chosen to expand my itinerary to include other parts of the Gorge as well as neighboring Mount Hood.

At the last minute, I had to alter my plans and drop the Dog Mountain hike due to some highway construction located at the trailhead. I substituted the hike to Indian Point on the Oregon side in its place. The weather was forecasted to be mostly cloudy with a slight chance of thunderstorms for the second half of my time down there but it remained sunny and clear the entire time (horrible conditions for photography!) And now the photos..

Indian Point:

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Not many photos from this first hike. A detailed description can be found on the Portland Hikers website. Overall, a wonderful forested hike to a prominent point overlooking the Gorge. Views north to Mount Adams, and east to Dog Mountain..

Oregon Grape branch nestled at the base of a Douglas Fir. Indian Point Loop Trail
Panorama from Indian Point. Mount Adams in the distant center.
Lone tree growing from the top of Indian Point

Mount Hood sunset from White River:

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First attempt had a small cloudcap over the summit but hardly any color due to the lack of clouds. I hiked about 2/3rds of a mile up the White River looking for a composition and settled on this location. Turns out some better spots were located much closer to the parking lot!..

Sunset on Mount Hood along the White River
Mount Hood cloudcap

Multnomah Creek:

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One of the highlights for me. Multnomah Creek feeds the very famous Multnomah Falls and the portion of the creek upstream of the famous falls contains some AMAZING scenery and a number of waterfalls. I spent nearly 5 hours here and only made it about 3/4 of a mile upstream of the main falls. A full description can be found on the Portland Hikers website. It’s worthy of an entire day!..

View back down over Multnomah Falls
Waterfall just upstream of the famous Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Creek
Multnomah Creek
Multnomah Creek
Middle Dutchman Falls - Multnomah Creek
Upper Dutchman Falls - Multnomah Creek
Ecola Falls - Multnomah Creek
False Solomon Seal - Multnomah Creek
Rock Patterns - Dutchman Tunnel
Rock Patterns - Dutchman Tunnel
Oregon Oxalis
Nature's cathedral ceiling - Multnomah Creek

More to come in Part two!…

Back from the Gorge

Bottom of the lower Multnomah Falls. A cliched shot to be sure but I think it's required under Oregon law..
I’ve returned from my 2 day trek down to the Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood but have close to 400 photos to wade through. The weather did not go as forecasted so difficult lighting was present at every location I visited (i.e. sunny with no clouds!). I’ve gone through a fair amount of the photos but still have a ways to go. I should have a number of photos to share sometime this week!..

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