Waterfalls and the Columbia River Gorge

Images of drizzly, gray skies come to mind when I think of the Portland area.  Although wet weather was a known, I failed to connect water and mountain and was surprised to find out that Oregon is not just full of volcanoes and mountains but also plenty of gorgeous waterfalls.  The autumn season combined with consecutive years of drought meant a lighter water flow, but every waterfall we saw was nonetheless a site to gawk at.  We also were fortunate to have weather in our favor; western Oregon does occasionally see sunny skies and brighter days and we happened to be lucky enough to experience pleasant weather during the several days we were there.

First things first, we spent a quick afternoon in Silver Falls State Park en route from Bend to Portland.  This state park is Oregon’s largest state park, and its popular 8.7-mile Trail of Ten Falls was not to be missed.  Its trails are typically packed on weekends, but we enjoyed a leisurely stroll from waterfall to waterfall on a quiet Monday.  Some falls were more powerful than others, and pictures of my favorite falls can be seen below.IMG_4331 IMG_4339 20150928_142359 IMG_4342 IMG_4344 IMG_4351 IMG_4354 IMG_4355

While in Portland I spent a day exploring the mighty Columbia River, Multnomah Falls, and Oneonta Gorge.  I drove to just outside of Troutdale, mounted my bike, and ended up cycling one of my most memorable bike rides along the new, smooth pavement with rolling hills and lush, green trees.IMG_4415

I had no idea that this ride was one of my friend’s favorite rides in the Portland area. Touring the route along the river by bicycle just so happened to be a fantastic idea and perhaps the best way to explore the area.  Before arriving to Portland I had no idea that the Columbia River was the largest river in the Pacific Northwest, the fourth largest river in the U.S., and that it separated Oregon and Washington.  I also had no idea just how beautiful the entire surrounding area was, especially on a picture-perfect day.

The Columbia River from the vista building, perhaps the most popular stop and viewpoint along the scenic highway:IMG_4441

Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall, was no doubt annoyingly crowded even on a Thursday. I stayed long enough to wait for the crowds to thin out a bit, snap this obligatory picture with my bike, and continue just a few more miles east toward Oneonta Gorge.IMG_4426

Oneonta Gorge is often overlooked thanks to Multnomah Falls, and it was so quiet and empty I had to stop a few times to make sure I was at the right spot. Finally I found the tiny staircase down into the gorge, not far from the historic Oneonta tunnel.IMG_4429

Down in the lush, green gorge was a creek dammed by trees and logs from previous flash floods.  Locals told me that there is normally an hour-line wait of people crawling and climbing over the logs on weekends to get to Oneonta Falls, and that I should take advantage of the rare serenity by going in.  I locked my bike to a tree, changed into my running shoes (packed specifically for this hike), and nimbly crawled over rocks and logs until I could crawl no further.  I didn’t want wet shoes or socks, so I took those off and carefully made my way through ankle-deep water.  Little did I know that this water runoff was from Mount Hood snow melt, and the ice-cold water numbed my feet to the point of where the pain was unbearable, so I quickly retreated.  I at least managed to take a couple photos from within the gorgeous Oneonta Gorge.IMG_4434 IMG_4435

The Columbia River Gorge lives up to its standards, and I think it has high standards due to its vicinity to other areas of interest throughout the state.  Beauty can be found in every corner in Oregon.  Volcanoes in the south, mountain ranges in the center, the coast in the west, and the mighty river and waterfalls in the north.

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