Sunday, October 21, 2012

First Hike in Portland - Multnomah Falls

As we were avid hikers in the Basque Country, one of the good things we liked about Portland and the surrounding Pacific Northwest area was the fact that we could continue that here!  So, for our first hike as Portlanders, we decided to go with the classic Multnomah Falls 5 mile loop.

Multnomah Falls is a gorgeous waterfall that can actually be seen from the freeway as you speed by or you can take a closer gander by stopping at this strange parking lot in the middle of the freeway, taking a small walkway under the freeway and a train bridge and arriving at the base of the Falls complete with a restaurant, coffee shack and visitor's center.

From the highway you can see the top of the Falls - a good 620ft high!  However, the special part about getting close up is that you can see the base of the waterfall and not only feel the moisture hit your face but also see the 'bath' that goes along with the Native American legend of the Multnomah Falls.  According to the story, the Falls were created for a princess who wanted a secret place to bathe.  The waterfall is broken into two seperate falls which combine to make that total height - the first being the upper part that is 542ft high and the second that makes up the rest.  While gazing at the Falls from the base is an astounding experience that you must do with your head tilted towards the sky to get the full-scale of the natural wonder, you can also walk a few minutes to the Benson Bridge and check out the Falls from a dfiferent vantage point - right at the top of the second Fall, about 70-something feet up!

While obviously never claimed during Native American times, somehow the Falls fell into the ownership of Simon Benson for whom the bridge is named.  In the 1900s before his death he gave the land to the city of Portland and now it is part of the US Forest Department.  After getting to the bridge we continued on the steep climb to the top of the Falls for our first hike in the area.

Although rain was in the prediction, the heavy skies held off and allowed us a few good hours of goregeous views of the inner forest.  With Fall in full swing, the paths were covered with massive leaves in varying shades of pumpkin oranges and harvest corn yellows, fitting for the season.  While I love shockingly red leaves that dot the tree scene from time to time, the yellows and oranges are the more usual colors in our area and they are just gorgeous.

The loops lead us along the water through paths that wound between trees that you can barely see the tops of.  While the Basque Country has big trees, Joseba was astounded by the sheer size of some of the stumps of these ones.  Felled trees lay scattered around, still sprouting branches toward the sky and some of their broken bases were bigger than us!  It would take days to count how old they are by thier rings.

As we continued along we saw gorgeous cascades besides the main attraction as it seemed they were everywhere we looked!  Massive mushrooms growing high on tree trunks, leaves bigger than both of my hands together with spiky thorns on them and red-bodied beetles were among the beautiful things that nature revealed to us in the first few hours.

According to the map we got from the visitor's center when we arrived, the loop was a mere 5 miles and should have dropped us off right back where we started.  However, when we came to a 4-corner stop without the map hung up in its designated spot, we elected for a trail that looked like the one of the map indicated.  We soon found out that we were wrong.  We walked and walked, guided  by what we thought was the sound of the rivers but later lost any sound.  Soon we heard a train and again thought we were near the main highway to head back to the car but again the trail wound around and took us in a different direction.  After about an hour and a half of walking without knowledge of where we were, we finally emptied out onto a main road but still couldn't figure out where we were!

What started off as a short scenic hike had become quite a worrisome adventure and with the clock ticking we began to worry that we might not make it back to our car before the sun set over the Columbia Gorge.  We eventually started flagging cars down to ask for help but the first one sped by without a care in the world.  Luckily, the second car stopped and we asked him if we were near Multnomah Falls and he responded that we were kind of near but offered us a ride as it had started to rain.

Although we never got his name, the hero was a Netherlands native on a business trip to Hillsboro who just happened to like the Gorge area and liked to come to Multnomah Falls or Larch Mountain on his trips to the state.  Lucky for us he had all the time in the world and happily drove us all the way back to our car - some 15 miles from where he picked us up.

To this day, we really have NO idea how we got so far off trail.  With a map in hand and GPS on our cells phones we thought we were lost-proof but learned that it is not so.  Besides maybe the time we got quite off track in the Pyrenees a few Autumns ago, I don't think we had ever been so happy to see the car after a hike!  The worst was that we still had grocery shopping to do and were actually incredibly thankful that Safeway, a grocery chain, serves hot food at the Deli Counter!

A memorable hike for the books, maybe that whole getting lost bit was all worth the gorgeous scenery and amazing shots we got!


Mom said...

Sounds scary and fun. It's a beautiful place. We went there when you were younger. Pacific N.W. has alot to see. If you want to show Joseba big trees he needs to see the Redwoods (paul bunyan & blue) lol. Love

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