With so little time available for us on the coast we decided to just do a quick scout along the Newport harbor for future visits and hoped to find a fun breakfast spot. We hadn’t had high hopes since no one could give us good recommendations, but as we cruised along the harbor we saw a cute little bakery that ended up having the biggest omelets known to man. We noticed the special was a crab cake benedict – while the crab cakes sounded awesome (as it seems that crab is huge in the area) i wasn’t so sure about the hollandaise sauce. So I asked about the sauce – was it the usual? And what did we get? the actual recipe book! I had no idea what i was looking at (or what i don’t like in the normal sauce) so opted for a monster banana pancake instead but Barb did get the crab cakes and they were DELICIOUS (and the sauce was super mild).
So after our quick scout (we decided that a good amount of time could be spent working the harbor, local lighthouse, as well as many spots along the coast) that we’d get back to the Columbia River Gorge – as some hikes were calling us. It was finally sunny, and oddly we would have preferred some clouds…
After a few hours on the road and a quick stop to drop off our bags at our hotel (many of the spots are known for theft so we didn’t want anything in our car) we were back in the gorge and ready to start our hikes. We started out at Horsetail Falls, which we’d already stopped at, but we planned to continue on to Ponytail Falls. As we were preparing to head out Barb decided to leave one of her lenses in the car. Now Barb’s lenses are GOOD, which means they are pricey and heavy, and she didn’t want the weight on our hikes.
As we were preparing to take off I noticed a guy just laying down near the parking lot, not even looking at the falls. He had a hat on and normal hiking clothes on but it seemed like it kept looking around the parking lot and at the trailhead. After all the warnings about theft and teams of criminals i was super paranoid. It seemed like he kept watching us, which we were obviously photographers since we were carrying around our tripods (they are too big to put inside our packs) and it felt like we had big flashing lights around us, and even as we moved from the parking lot to the falls and back to our car i thought he followed us with his eyes. I eventually told Barb of my weird paranoia and convinced her to take her lens so at least if they did break into the car there wouldn’t be anything for them to take. I apparently was severely overreacting because right as we started up the trail we noticed he got up from leisurely nap to meet friends and start packing up his vehicle (what? Ok yes i was still watching him and probably making HIM nervous hehe). I decided better safe (and paranoid) than sorry (and poorer).
We made the quick .4 mile hike to Ponytail and had to wait out times without people. The hike itself is pretty cool – after some switchbacks that parallel the road it flattens out and then all of a sudden you are in a serene valley with a view of the 75 foot falls. The trail actually passes behind the falls and has a cave area (I believe the top layer is a lava flow that originally covered a lay of rock and soil that has since eroded away). The trail continues on so there were a lot of people hiking under and beyond the falls, and of course hanging out in our pictures. We were patient and captured a few without a soul in them.
Due to the bright sunlight we weren’t overly thrilled with speckled light and decided to continue on to our next big plan – Eagle Creek. This is another area that is known for its theft, so once again we debated if we should leave anything in the car but since Barb worked her magic and found us a parking spot literally in one of the first spaces off the trailhead we felt that there would be enough traffic that it shouldn’t be a problem. This was one popular trail!
The trail goes 6 miles in (actually beyond, as it meets up with the Pacific Crest Trail) but we were only planning on doing 2 miles using the most popular falls as our turnaround, which also happens to be one of the most popular hikes in the whole Gorge – which is obvious when you see how many people are on it on any given day. This trail is considered easy, except for the exposure and the via ferrata type cables on the cliffy sections (created by explosives back in the early 1900s – literally unchanged). I can see why they do warn parents to leave their kids at home (or put them on leashes)- there is quite a drop off and if you can’t stay on the 3′ wide trail it’ll be a rough day. Barb felt a bit nervous about those cable sections and had read (too much) about the danger. What didn’t help were the folks coming back down that also mentioned the scary cable cliff sections that only made us worry more. Ultimately we did both cable sections and expected much worse (visions of us clinging to rocks and going on tiptoe were quickly flushed out of our minds when we saw what they were really like).
We quickly worked our way up the trail and we came upon what looked like a spur trail but I didn’t see a sign telling us what was down that way (and no one seemed to be taking it or coming back from it). I noticed a guy hiking back toward the trailhead and as he passed I said ‘Hmmm i bet we could convince some strapping young man to hike down there and find out lies beyond’. He kind of slowed down and glanced back, and i was like ‘Now you really want to know what’s down there don’t you?’ and he answered with a sigh… ‘yeah i do’. So I said ‘well now you’re going to go down there, see it’s something awesome and come back and tell us.’ He laughed and said OK. He hiked down and within a minute gave me a thumbs up and the motion of “come on down!’ Barb decided to work some ferns (a whopping 4 photos i believe – yes i had to make fun of that miss Barb) while i went to check out what I soon found out was Metlako Falls. (NOTE: there is a sign pointing to another spur trail that leads to the same place just down the trail a bit – it apparently Ys and they decided that no one would want to find Metlako on the way UP, only on the way BACK. Whatever, we had a strapping young man to help us find it. )
Metlako Falls is a beautiful 100 foot falls tucked into a narrow valley. Now as was typical on this trip when at the official overlook there was too much greenery so you could barely see the falls (apparently the parks need to employ a permanent tree trimmer for us tourists and photographers). I kept looking to try to find a spot that would give the best vantage point and apparently found ‘the spot’ that everyone uses -I stuck my tripod over the cable railing (with the thought to keep you behind it) and of course I ignored the purpose of the railing and decided to hop over. No worrying, i had a few feet AND a tree to keep me from plummeting AND i decided to be extra safe and keep 1 leg intertwined in the cable so if for some reason I did end up getting unbalanced and start to fall my tangled up foot would catch me and I’d be saved (or i’d be footless, whichever) 😉 NO really, it wasn’t actually that bad, but i didn’t want Barb (or my mom or Bela) to find out I didn’t try to stay safe. I did I swear. AND i got a much better view.
I decided to not spend too much time in ‘the spot’ and catch back up with Barb so we could continue on with our hike. We’d already made it 1.5 miles and only had .5 to go to get to Lower Punchbowl & Punchbowl. As was our typical now we’d make it to a junction and we would inquire what was beyond – and if it was worth the effort. We were convinced by some gentlemen to make the hike down to the lower falls where we could also get a view of Punchbowl from below. Since we both were doing so well, we decided to go for it and happened to run into 2 guys coming back up (which of course we had to talk to) and found out that they were scouting out Metlako falls for a kayak run later in the month. I’m looking forward to checking that out on youtube this july! The trail did drop 300′ in just 1/4 mile, but we made it down with no issues.
There were plenty of people just hanging on the side of the river, so i decided to try to get a pic of the lower falls first (above). This did involve a bit of a scramble but I made sure to scout the situation before I went too far out (i had plans to swim to the shallow part of the river if i went in- not a big drop, no hydraulics, and nothing downstream to worry about hehe). I loved this area – it was so green and mossy and I can just imagine how awesome it would be to have it to yourself on a midweek day.
Those with a high tolerance for cold water can wade in to the center of the river to get a view of Punchbowl Falls. I of course had to do it as well. I had my chacos on – not sure if i planned that or if it was subconscious but either way i was prepared and after waiting my turn started the walk out. At first I was like – ‘What’s the big deal? It’s cold.’ but after a few minutes of slipping on the bigger flat rocks, and getting up to my knees i was like ‘OOOOHHHH yeah it’s F-ING COLD!!’ I stuck it out, set up my tripod, and snapped a few pics.
I enjoyed the moment out by myself in the river and then realized i couldn’t feel my toes and started working my way back. Another gal with her tripod then started working her way out to take my place. As I hit dry land a guy who had been watching came up to me and said ‘How did stay out there so long!? It’s freezing!’ and I was like ‘well i am a WW kayaker from IL, we’re used to being cold. Of course, i can’t feel my feet. But it’s ok.’ but really I just wanted the picture that badly. He then mentioned he had tried and had to come back without getting all the way out. So I showed him what i shot to give him motivation to get out there and said, ‘you going to let 2 chicks show you up? Man up. ‘ I may have laughed evilly at that point too, but in a nice taunting way to say get out there dude. I later saw him again only get part way out before turning around. I think having shoes MAY have helped… but i’m going to claim girl power. 🙂
At this point we figured we should start working our way up the evil hill to get back to the main trail. A few ferns tempted us to stop, which normally means we need a rest and we MIGHT get a picture. Oddly we didn’t need rests, but did snap a few quick ones and kept going up. It was then that we decided hiking at lower altitudes ROCKED as we made it to the top and we weren’t panting, who hoo!
Just around the corner we found the overlook for the main falls. We noticed a woman just randomly looking around and thought maybe we hadn’t found the overlook. We ended chatting with her and it ended up that she was hoping to find a better overlook because at the main one you CAN’T actually see whole of the falls! What the… why would they make an overlook where you can’t actually see the falls? Oh yeah, that’s because you USED to be able to see it but now there are BUSHES in the way. Barb seriously was thinking of getting some trimmers out. What a great view right? (this was taken with my iphone held up above my head)
I happened to notice that the overlook wasn’t actually on the edge and it seemed like there used to be a trail down to the cliff side. And me being me (i believe barb calls me ‘adventurous’ i’ll go with that), i decided to check it out . So after ducking under the cable railing – yes again- I scrambled down to the edge. (NOTE: although just now i read a warning to stay within the guardrails since they have accidents every year… sooo if you go, stay in the guardrails and hope they hire a trimmer.) I did make sure not to get tooo close and I had the perfect view. I couldn’t pass it up and Barb handed me down my tripod and I said I’d shoot for both of us as I had earlier in the day. It was lovely.
While i was being adventurous Barb was chatting up the realtor chic we’d just met. It seems that she had just got her Nikon D7000 (the same camera I shoot with) and had taken a 1 hour class (yes she loves her shutter priority now.. nothing wrong with that except she had no idea what it meant). She was informing us that it was ok she couldn’t see it, as it was ‘past peak’ time and she wouldn’t get a good shot anyways. I walked up right about then, and had to ask her to repeat that. I was confused considering the falls were completely in shadow allowing me to get my velvetly water that i like so much. Apparently she wanted her speckled bright sunlight. I may have made a weird face and said something like – oh well I think it’s quite good right now but that’s just what i prefer. I glanced at Barb and she gave me that knowing look and we both decided to let her revel in her ignorant bliss.
We had a few chuckles at her expense on the way down (I just couldn’t get over it) and we both were overjoyed with our wonderful hikes of the day. We made it down by about 6 or so and decided we had just enough time to head back to civilization to get ourselves a decent dinner (to go) and take it with us for our final sunset shoot – the Women’s Forum Overlook. The overlook as a lovely view looking out over the Columbia River and the Vista House. We spent the next hour smelling our food salivating as the light kept getting better and better.
Finally the sun set and we could get our last dinner in Oregon. It was a spectacular end to our trip.
The next morning we slept in (8 AM!) we packed up our things, grabbed a quick bite, and starting making our way to the airport. Ok so that took a bit longer than planned – evil gas stations no where near the airport. Mighty iPhone to the rescue- gas station found and return directions given, we check in and get through security. We didn’t have much time before Barb was boarding and we went our separate ways, with talks of where to next 🙂
And for those of you wondering why would I want to spend my birthday in airports (getting yelled at by stupid guys)? This is why- the view 🙂