It’s Fall Adventure Week!
Fall in all its splendor is absolutely one of my favorite things which is why we chose to get married during this season 24 years ago. Ironically, our wedding took place in Palm Springs, California where there’s virtually never any sign of fall. However, with a few choice decorations, we made it happen anyway. Now that we have retired to the Pacific Northwest, we have no trouble experiencing the “real deal” when we celebrate our anniversary. Beginning in October, there are options galore. I always get excited with the anticipation of the season long before it arrives. So, last spring I planned a Fall Adventure Week that would take us to all our favorite places in Oregon. First on the list was the Columbia River Gorge.
We started off by returning to our favorite cabin in the woods which is actually on the north side of the river in Stevenson, Washington. Each morning we woke up to this view of the river just beyond, fixed breakfast, and set out to enjoy the best sights along the Historic Columbia River Highway which was completely open for the first time since we moved here. This area suffered the ravages of the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire that burned 50,000 acres and multiple landslides last winter forcing the closure of many trails and roads. It is still a long way from recovering but was finally quite accessible. This afforded us the opportunity to check out even more waterfalls than before. The vertical basalt walls along the Columbia River Gorge are graced with the greatest concentration of waterfalls in North America, particularly on the Oregon side.
Of course, we began with the iconic Multnomah Falls. Fortunately, we had visited during a quiet period in the spring when we captured this photo of this single drop “plunge” waterfall rising 620 feet. Since it is the most popular, most publicized, and so easily accessible, it draws an overwhelming number of tourists making it virtually impossible to enjoy most of the time. It was pretty busy during our visit. We had taken many great photos of the falls on our previous trip, so we decided to ignore the crazy crowds and focus our photography on the small things that are often missed or ignored. I think we were pretty successful.
Horsetail Falls is also a single drop waterfall 176 feet high. Like many falls along this highway, you can drive right up to it. It plunges over the cliffs with impressive force — a beautiful sight set amongst the emerging colors of fall.
A pleasant stop between falls is Oneonta Gorge with its namesake creek meandering between the massive moss and lichen-covered basalt walls that form a slot canyon. There are actually four major waterfalls along the creek, but they are quite inaccessible except for one hike extending from another upper level trail. The stone railing and stairs from the roadside down to the creek have been blocked off with a very ugly black chainlink fence due to the fact that the area is extremely slippery, unstable, and downright dangerous. However, with a very tall tripod and some ingenuity, you can still capture some of its beauty.
Wahkeena Falls was a new and surprising experience for us. Reputedly, its name is a transliteration of a Native American phrase meaning “most beautiful”. Regardless of how accurate this information is, we couldn’t agree more with this description as we quickly discovered that it was really our favorite above all others — even the mighty Multnomah. Wahkeena is a 242-foot “tier” waterfall with, as you might surmise, separate falls that cascade down the face of the cliff one after the other but can be viewed all at once. It is also located right off the highway with a variety of attractive views.
For added adventure, we made the short hike to a bridge with a viewpoint between the tiers of the falls.
And, once again we kept an eye out for the little things.
Then there was this guy. Hope he made it across the trail. Lots of his cousins did not. 😦
This (not really a) path was a lot steeper than it looks and it led nowhere except the abyss. :-0
Nevertheless, Norman decided to make the precarious descent for just one more shot over the edge!
Culminating our exploration was a brief stop at Vista House which sits atop Crown Point 733 feet above the Columbia River. This eye-catching Art Nouveau building houses a small museum with a very interesting collection of comparative photographs and other artifacts and serves as a memorial to Oregon pioneers. It has also been derisively referred to as a rather expensive “comfort station” for travelers on the Columbia River Highway.
From here you get a spectacular view of the Gorge.
And, if you’re lucky, you get your handsome husband to pose for you in front of its gorgeous fall backdrop reminding you of all the many reasons you married him 24 years ago.