“The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.”
Our second morning in Portland was an early one, and it found us at an Oregon icon: Multnomah Falls. This picturesque waterfall is the most visited recreation site in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, if you’ve spent any amount of time on instagram, you’ve probably seen many photos of Multnomah Falls, and for good reason. The double tiered, spring fed waterfall is dizzyingly tall, and the bridge halfway up its canyon makes for a beautiful scene. But much like other instagram hotspots, a picture doesn’t tell the full story of this waterfall. Even though it looks like it’s in a deep forest, Multnomah Falls is just a couple minutes walk from the Columbia River Highway, and viewable from a large overlook. You won’t get silence and solitude on your visit, but you will get a beautiful view with plenty of other people nearby to take your photo with the falls.
We arrived early, not to beat the crowds, but because we were planning to undertake a much longer hike starting from Multnomah Falls. We took two cars and parked them at different trailheads because we’d be doing a nine mile through hike, not a loop; then we enjoyed the view at the falls before heading uphill. I tried to take some long exposure shots yet again, but it was a rainy morning, and I had meager success.
Our trail led us over the bridge, where we got misted by the powerful falls. Then we set out on a long upward slog with many switchbacks. This section of the trail was pretty in its own right, but a little samey. The Columbia River Gorge was visible through a layer of tall trees, and we took an offshoot to look at Multnomah Falls from the top. After that, the path led us down into a lush valley fringed with ferns and moss-covered trees. A peaceful creek babbled beside the trail, and eventually led us to the inviting scene of Wiesendanger Falls.
We got sidetracked balancing on fallen logs across the babbling river as we tried to get closer the the waterfall. I managed to soak both of my hiking boots before we made it back to trail, and I paid for it with hellaciously stinky shoes for the rest of the trip.
Not long after our break at the waterfall, we headed on another uphill slog, although this time we were deeper into the woods and there were fewer other hikers. The trail was narrow now, and fringed with tall vegetation that brushes against our arms as we walked. Every so often, we would pass through areas that were dotted with beautiful wildflowers. Columbine, lupin, irises, and Columbia lily stood out brilliantly against a backdrop of charred trees that had been burned in a recent fire.
The trail climbed on, seemingly endless, passing through the same leafy scenery with the Columbia River twinkling from behind tall trees. I was beginning to think that there would never be an end to the uphill slog when Andrew excitedly announced that Angel’s Rest was just up ahead of us. From where we stood, it looked like a large pile of rocks, but as we descended towards it, I began to see a ridge taking shape and swooping out toward the river.
Once we were on the ridge line of Angel’s Rest, we were surrounded by awe-inspiring views of the Columbia River, which was shrouded overhead by dramatic clouds. We hiked all the way out to the end of the ridge and stopped to admire our hard-won view. It felt like we were on top of the world, even though the road was a mere 1,500 feet below us.
Everyone sat down and pulled snacks from their packs, but I scampered off to take pictures of our beautiful surroundings. When I returned to the group, a gorgeous Stellar’s Jay was lurking nearby, hoping in vain that Amy and Bonnie would share some trail mix with it. I was overly excited to see the vibrant bird, and I switched over to my 75-300mm lens to try to capture a picture of it. Of course, it flew away just as I lifted the camera to take a shot. Well I wasn’t about to give up yet. I hunkered down to wait it out, sure that the bird would return judging by its keen interest in our food. I wasn’t about to leave that spot until I had at least one decent picture of it.
A few minutes later my patience was rewarded and the Stellar’s Jay landed nearby again, just long enough for me to get exactly one good picture.
As we started our 2.5 mile descent from Angel’s Rest, the weather again turned to rain, and we were all relieved to get back to the warm, dry car that was waiting for us at the parking lot. We had a quick snack of Mount Hood strawberries, and then Vince and Andrew dropped the rest of us off at nearby Wahkeena Falls while they went to retrieve our other car from the Multnomah trailhead. I didn’t attempt many pictures at Wahkeena Falls because it was so rainy, but I couldn’t resist risking my camera at our next stop.
Latourell Falls was just a short walk from the road, but it was by far my favorite waterfall of the day. Its 224 foot stream cascaded over a staggering cliff of basalt columns, making for a stunning sight.
I couldn’t stop staring at the water dancing down from the top of the cliff, and for the second time in as many days, I was reminded of the south coast of Iceland. Latourell was easily amongst my favorite waterfalls I’ve ever seen, which is a distinguishing achievement considering how many amazing waterfalls I’ve seen.
As we hiked back to the car, the roaring sound of Latourell Falls growing quieter with every step and the rain picked up force. We had hoped to get at least a glimpse of Mount Hood, but with the rain and thick cloud cover, it was impossible. A quick stop at the Vista House viewpoint brought with it an even harsher downpour, and quelled our desires to be outside.
It would have been fun to keep going if the weather were nicer, but after nine miles of hiking and seeing so many beautiful sights already, we all agreed that it was time to head back to Portland and get some dinner. We ended our evening back at Amy and Andrews, preparing for the next day and hoping that the weather would clear up since we were planning to make a longer drive out to Mount St Helens.