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Treachorous Trails, Wonderous Waterfalls & Spawning Salmon

October 20, 2011

I love hiking.

It’s been years since I have really taken the time out of my schedule to plan and go on hikes, but since I have returned to Oregon I have rediscovered my love for it. Being in nature, surrounded by trees and streams and the sweet smell of pristine forests is better than any form of meditation I know.

Recently, I decided to take a hike up Eagle Creek Trail along the Columbia Gorge. The trail, which is a well-known hiking spot among Oregonians, is carved into the cliffs of the canyon. The highlight of the trail — beyond the untouched wilderness — is a string of waterfalls along the creek.

I chose the trail, in part, because it is considered a relatively easy hike that takes you to Punch Bowl Falls, one of the major attractions on the path. And the climb itself really is easy. The 2.1-mile hike from the trailhead to the falls only gains 400 feet in elevation. The real challenge is that the mud-covered, rocky trail often winds around the cliffs several hundred feet above the stream. In several places, cables have been installed into the cliff to help hikers negotiate the narrow and steep paths.

I, of course, have a fear of heights.

Amazingly enough, I didn’t mind the drop-off as much as the fact that my dog had absolutely no fear. In several places, he would strain against the leash to look over the edge of the cliff and attempt to happily follow his nose down an unseen path.

I discovered that most people who take the trail head straight to the top of Punch Bowl Falls, but I found the view to be disappointing, at best. Cables keep hikers back from the edge (and signs at the trailhead remind hikers that cliff diving into the Punch Bowl Falls is strictly prohibited) and you only get a glimpse the very top of the falls through the foliage.

The best view of the falls is found by heading down a side trail to lower Punch Bowl Falls. The side trail takes a steep and slippery path down the mountain to the rocky creek side. By following a bend in the creek, you find yourself at the bottom of the 30-foot falls.

After I reached Punch Bowl Falls, I decided it was time to turn around for the day (rather than continuing on the additional 4 miles to Tunnel Falls) and make a quick side trip to see the 100-foot Metlako Falls. Again, you can’t really get close to the falls, but you can still take some great photos from the designated viewpoint.

As we left the trailhead and headed for the parking area down the road, Cooper started barking at the sound of splashing along creek. As we stepped a little closer, I realized that the noise was caused by spawning salmon. The creek was thick with dying fish making one last attempt to propogate the next generation of fry, and the air was heavy with the smell of dead and rotting salmon. Cooper sat creek side, whining and wanting the chance to investigate the action a little closer.

I definitely plan to return to the trail again, maybe with the goal of making it to Tunnel Falls. When I make that trip, though, I probably won’t bring Cooper. I don’t need the added stress of keeping him safely on the trail during the 12-mile round-trip hike.

Cooper looking over the edge of the trail

Metlako Falls

Spawning salmon

  1. Beautiful, I love hiking in the mountains, I have never been to Oregon, but it is on the agenda and I can’t wait.

    • Oregon is absolutely beautiful. I grew up here and then moved away for 15 years. When I returned, I realized just how much I missed it. There is no place like it if you like hiking and being outdoors.

  2. Susan Berger permalink

    That is one cool trail! Bet Coop had a blast…

    • He absolutely loved it. Although, by the time we were hiking out, there were a lot of people and other dogs on the trail, and it was driving him nuts that I wouldn’t let him go play with all the other doggies. 🙂

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