Cliffs, moss, waterfalls

Punchbowl Falls along Eagle Creek trail
Punchbowl Falls along Eagle Creek trail

I need to be outside to feel completely right. Breathing fresh air brings me peace. I wish I could live outside – except for the dirt, ha! During the warm months I open up half the windows in the house, and they stay open -morning, noon and night- till November when I am forced to shut up the house again.

So it follows that in winter I tend to go a little stir crazy when the weather keeps me indoors too long.

Lucky for me, I do not live in New England right now, and going outside is pretty much a breeze. Wednesday the temps were in the 50s with fog and only a slight chance of drizzle. I picked a show-stopper of a trail to add some Zing! to my winter, and off I went. Well, I had a late start because first thing that morning I toured a home for sale in Estacada. I liked it so much I made an offer, and then heard it had sold 15 minutes earlier. Dang!

The beginning of the trail follows the creek before climbing high above it.
The beginning of the trail follows the creek before climbing high above it.

The Eagle Creek Trail is one of the most popular in the Columbia River Gorge because the trailhead is an easy 45 minutes from Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington, and also because it packs a lot of scenic beauty into a few short miles on a super easy trail. For these reasons, in warmer months the parking spaces at the trailhead are typically jammed, and cars line the sides of the road all the way out to the Interstate. I thought perhaps the middle of the day Wednesday, in February, would mean an empty trail but I was wrong. There were about 25 vehicles parked when we arrived.

Guidebooks caution that it’s not a good trail for children and dogs, and that everyone should use care. Much of the trail was actually blasted out of the side of a cliff above sheer drops into the creek. In 2009, two people died on this trail, one due to a 100-foot fall.

The trail was dynamited out of the side of a cliff.
The trail was dynamited out of the side of a cliff. The cable is there to hold on to.
Metlako Falls, the first big falls you can see from the trail.
Metlako Falls, the first big falls you can see from the trail.

My philosophy is that there is potential danger all around us at all times, and that a trail is actually safer than a sidewalk. As long as I dress right, bring extra gear, water, food, etc., and in this particular case if I stay on the trail, I am confident that it will be a safe hike. Using our smarts will keep many of us alive. You’d think that would mean after 7 million years of natural selection our human population would be filled with only brilliant individuals, but somehow…that is not the case. 🙂

From the trailhead, it’s a 12-mile hike to Tunnel Falls, which I have never seen because I have never hiked that far. There are spectacular sights along the entire trail, but so far I have only hiked in 2 miles to Punchbowl Falls and then returned. There is so much to see in such a short distance that I use the trail for day hikes when I don’t have much time to invest.

People ahead of us on the trail walk behind a waterfall.
People ahead of us on the trail walk behind a waterfall.
Trail is visible on the right, with Eagle Creek below on the left.
Trail is visible on the right, with Eagle Creek below on the left.

In the winter, there are waterfalls. And waterfalls, and waterfalls! They are astonishingly high, crashing down on both sides of the creek every few hundred feet or so. In some places you have no choice but to get wet because the trail hugs the cliff, and the falls spill down the cliffs. At one point near the beginning of the trail, a waterfall arcs over the top of the trail and you walk beneath it. (By the way, this is why Tunnel Falls has it’s name) The falls are so common that despite many of them being remarkable enough to warrant a postcard if they were solitary waterfalls in some other place…HERE most of them are not even named.

Lower Punchbowl Falls is a fun place to play in the water in the summer, and one can walk out into the creek and get a great view of the big falls. On this trip, it was too chilly to even consider going into the water for a view. It was lovely, and we watched others play around with each other and with their dogs. Despite the dog and child warnings, many people brought their dogs and children – and I’m glad. This is a place that really should be experienced by all.

The area above Lower Punchbowl Falls has a rocky beach area that can hold a lot of people who want to enjoy the shade and cool breezes in the summer. In February, there's just a guy taking pictures of his girl. :-)
The area above Lower Punchbowl Falls has a rocky beach area that can hold a lot of people who want to enjoy the shade and cool breezes in the summer. In February, there’s just a guy taking pictures of his girl. 🙂
This is me, bouncing down the hill to get a better look at the falls. So much for staying on the trail...
This is me, bouncing down the hill to get a better look at the falls. So much for staying on the trail…
Look at the falls! Are you looking? (My view from where I'm standing is the one at the top of this post - jaw-droppingly gorgeous.)
Look at the falls! Are you looking? (My view from where I’m standing is the one at the top of this post –  the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Punchbowl Falls.)
Heading back to the trailhead along these truly remarkable and beautiful cliffs.
The rocks, trees, and cliffs are adorned with luscious moss.

45 thoughts on “Cliffs, moss, waterfalls

    1. For some reason, I feel no anxiety on that trail. Typically I’m not good with heights, but climbing around in this place I tend to stay pretty calm. (If I had fallen, I would have just gone into the water. I was facing shocking discomfort, but not death, ha ha. Maybe that’s why I was smiling)

  1. Beautiful post Crystal 🙂

    The nature look at it’s best and I really love hiking through places like these.

    The images are really refreshing and the video shared gives a feel of the ambiance 🙂

    I totally agree with your views here, and really enjoyed reading “after 7 million years of natural selection our human population would be filled with only brilliant individuals, but somehow…that is not the case. 🙂 ”

    Just perfect…

    Thank you so much for sharing and hope you had a beautiful weekend 🙂

    1. Thank you Sreejith. Glad you enjoyed my little joke. I am so glad to hear the images were refreshing for you to see, because that means I was able to capture some of how it felt to be standing there. I was refreshed too.

      I worked on Saturday and had a great Sunday. Today (Monday) is a holiday so Tara and I are going to tour college campuses to help us choose the right place for the coming school year. Very exciting day ahead.

    1. Thanks for taking a walk with me Derrick! I think comfort level with any place is relative to how much it becomes commonplace to us. I spent a long time away from the woods, and later when I spent my first night out by myself – I was so scared I didn’t sleep at all. But I kept going back, and now I’ve become comfortable again. That’s all it takes: frequency. It is absolutely logical to feel safe in the environment you know.

  2. These photos make me want to run outdoors. Like you, I actually prefer the outdoors to in. (Just now began watching the Mad Men series!) I first tried winter hiking and camping while in college in the Berkshires and have to say, it was, and remains, one of the most remarkable things I ever did. We stayed out on the snow of Mt. Greylock (I know, not much of a mountain compared to the NW). That was more than 30 years ago, but whenever I reflect on the best times of my life, sharing a meal with friends, old and new, outside in the snowy woods, always ranks up there in the top 3. Such fun! xo LMA

    1. What a great story! Yes, it took a patient friend to teach me that I could go outside in the winter, and in the snow. I thought it was crazy at first. But when a person has a great experience like you did, it can totally change our perspective!

      No worries on comparing East coast mountains to West coast mountains. I’ve lived in New England a couple times, and found nothing to complain about when hiking there.

  3. You can’t imagine how much I’ve enjoyed your video!!!!!!!! First the waterfalls any your hiking, the squirrels and so on. But it was nice to see your days in Japan…. aren’t the toilets funny? they aren’t in all the places, but in hotels, as well at Kiyoumizu temple, I was there as well. Sedonia …wow!!!!! how nice, did you go to Brice Caynon), Zion…. you have made remember me my nice trps in many of these places! and CONGRATULATIONS for your nice video. My best regards.

    1. Ha ha, Rosa. You must have watched a lot of my videos. That is quite a compliment. Glad you enjoyed them so much. I have been to Bryce canyon but not recently. It sounds like you were able to visit, too! I have been to Zion recently, and Arches national park – I think I’ve got a video of the boys tossing a football there. You went to Kiyomizu temple? Isn’t it just wonderful? The photo at the top of my blog – the curvy paved road – that is at Kiyomizu temple.

      1. Yes!!!!! I almost was sure ths photo was from the temple. The trip I had when I visited Bryce Cnyon, as ell I sae Tha Grand Canyon, Yosemite and others…the trip was a jewel!!!!! it was in 1.999.

  4. When I come to visit, would you PLEASE take me there? Oh my gosh I would totally dig that place! Thanks for the audio of the falls.
    (don’t you love the presumption that I’ll come visit … without being asked!)

    1. You MUST visit, and I will make sure you see the absolute best that we have to offer! Of course you must assume you are welcome to invite yourself…. I will so drop in on you next time I’m over there. ha ha.

      Laurie I know you would love the hikes around here, and since you saw how great it is in February, just keep it in the back of your mind that you can visit here any time and see these places – no need to wait for a particular time of year. (am I being too obviously eager?) 🙂

  5. What a lovely trail. The photos are fantastic and the video brings them to life. Nice touch.

    I was in your fair town last weekend. Lots of gray skies and rain the whole time, which creates an appealing Pacific NW winter day.

    1. Bruce, I’ll try not to scold you, but I would have leapt at the chance to say hello in person. Next time, tell me when your flight arrives, or when your car arrives, and I’ll be part of the welcoming committee!

      Yes! We have had rain, and rain, and rain, and then suddenly – three days in a row of fabulous sunshine and all the daffodils are blooming. It’s a sweet taste of springtime a bit early this year.

      Thanks for the comment on the video. I tried so hard to post the one of Punchbowl Falls, but I could not make it happen. No matter what I tried, it put lower punchbowl up there. Ah well…if you watch all the way through, Punchbowl comes up next, so at least it’s sort of available. Though I can pass as an amateur photographer, my videos are usually pathetic – ha! But you are right: videos add a lot to being able to grasp the feel of a place.

      1. Well, that is so kind of you Crystal. And, so you know, I’d have said hello this past time had there been time. It was a quick family visit squeezed into a short weekend.

  6. A lovely walk! And we have had beautiful weather here in Oregon over the past few days, at least in the south. As for dogs, the odds of them falling off the trail are much smaller than they are for their two legged friends. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Curt I was wondering about that: aren’t 4-legged critters more stable than their handlers? Maybe putting up signs warning people about dogs falling is a way to tell people about the danger without insulting any delicate egos. They can say, “Oh, well I am being careful for the sake of my beloved Fido.”

      Yes, the weather turned spectacular here right after that hike. Today looks a bit foggy, but with three days of brilliant weather in a row, the trees are blossoming and bulbs are opening up. It’s getting colourful in Portland!

      1. I remember riding into the Grand Canyon on a mule once over narrow trails with thousand foot drops. We were assured that the mules were much more sure footed than we ever would be.

        We are still at least hoping for snow, here. We definitely need more in southern Oregon.

  7. Absolutely stunning scenery – I would love to go there. You are so lucky to have this on your doorstep. siiiiiiigh…. I can understand the warning for children, but dogs are probably much better at keeping on the path. Although maybe they could bowl over walkers on the path – mine’s a real torpedo when she gets over-excited.

    1. You and smelly dog and the gang would be fine there, I’m sure. I don’t even know how anyone goes over the edge because the path is wide, and there are cables to hold onto. Maybe those who fell had too many to drink before the hike?

      You are so right. I am very lucky to live here. :o)

  8. Hi Crystal,
    Nature … what a pleasure to meet her. I too love these walks and discover new places. Although it is a bit far from where I sit I also have amazing places nearby in the Pyrenees (border between Spain and France)
    A greeting

    1. Thanks, Sarah! I am still a little bummed about the house, but not terribly so. I don’t really want to move till Tara finishes school, which won’t be till the end of May. But I have started looking early because I want to get educated about what’s out there, and give myself lots of chances to find a brilliant place.

      The trail is magical – you are right. With the moss heaped over stones and dripping from trees, and the waterfalls sparkling down over everything, and wisps of fog drifting through, the crash of water tumbling in the canyon, the birds singing in branches above…. it is absolutely magical.

      1. At least you know there are good houses out there, waiting to be found. When you find the right place you might be glad this one fell through. 🙂

        The trail sounds amazing. I wonder what it’s like when there’s no-one else around? Do you think there’s ever a time (in daylight) when nobody visits, when the fairies can come out and frolic? 😉

  9. Gorgeous photos. I have noticed as I am getting older I am starting to develop a slight fear of heights I don’t remember having when I was younger. Your cliff photos are making me scared and excited all at the same time. Be careful! 😉

  10. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this post. Only watched part of the videos. Will watch more in a bit. I was enthralled with all the butterflies!!! The trails and the falls as well as the punchbowl are breath taking. Now the racoons distressed me a bit. I hope you don’t have a dog as racoons can do some serious damage. Loved living vicariously through your hike.

    1. Oh, thank you Marlene! Those videos just keep playing, one after another. I’m not sure how to make it stop after playing the first one. The raccoon video is upsetting, but fascinating. What a racket they made in my back yard. The butterflies were on a hike in northern California.

  11. Yes, nature does make me feel happier and breathe better when I have a chance to be outdoors. I enjoyed this post, Crystal. I noticed you on Pauline’s post with her lovely artwork. I think you may have said you agreed with my thoughts. It caught my eye. Your posts are interesting and this one really captured my senses. I was even a little worried about that one post where the cliff seems immediately behind you. Wow, beautiful photos!

    1. What a lovely comment, thank you! I am so glad you stopped by.

      Yes, in one photo, the cliff is right behind me. That was off the trail and I was not supposed to be there. Don’t tell anyone – shh! 😉

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