On Saturday morning after waking up and a great breakfast from Eleanor at the Cabin, Chris, Toshi, Emily and I headed around Mt. Hood down to the Columbia
River Gorge for a hike I had found in one of Jason’s books up Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls. Chris had done the hike several times before and knew some secrets the book didn’t tell so he was to be our guide. We got to the trailhead around 1pm and to my amazement I found that I had forgotten my approach running shoes…. This posed a HUGE problem. Nobody else had a size 10 shoe and I only had my Mick Fanning Reef flip flops or my ski boots… I chose the flip flops. It was about 50 degrees out and rainy so I made sure Emily wore my REI gore-tex jacket and I through on my old EMS one as well. The hike was a 12 mile round-trip hike out to Tunnel Falls and back.
I’ll be completely honest right now when I say I was really nervous about it. I have extremely tough feet but 12 miles over volcanic rock and terrain in flip flops seemed to push it a bit, but I wasn’t about to cancel a beautiful hike because of my mistake and was determined to suck up any pain that might occur from me being a dumb-ass. At first I started off switching back and forth between barefoot and the flip flops but then just chose to keep them on because the rocks were so sharp. My feet were definitely soggy and cold and I know my body was working extra hard to keep my extremities warm. I the beginning of the hike the sun was out occasionally as it was also at the end of the hike but in the middle deep in the forest it was cold and pouring rain so all of us were a bit cold and wet but ultimately it was all worth it and I can safely say that it was one of the top 5 best hikes I’ve ever been on.
The hike itself followed Eagle Creek deep into the mountains surrounding Columbia River Gorge. The trail was mostly perched on the steep slopes of the hillsides above the river and often had steel cables bolted into the wall for safety. The trail was very busy with a lot of people who gave my feet funny looks as they passed by in their mountaineering boots… Many of the walls we walked around were dripping water off the top overhangs so we were actually walking behind tons of little water falls on the way up (weeping walls). We continued on to Punchbowl falls which was a 25 foot waterfall into a pool of water below. We scouted it out and noticed a perfect place to cliff jump there possibly later this summer when it was warmer and the water was less dangerous.
As we continued on the trail become a lot steeper and elevated above the river which funneled through a chute that kayakers were taking. We stopped several times to check out the kayakers from a bridge up the trail. We were also trying to determine how high of a cliff jump I would be from where we were standing. I was estimating 100 feet but I couldn’t tell for sure. Check out the picture here, blow it up, and look at the top right corner to see a man standing on the trail for a reference scale of how big the area was. The kayakers looked like they were having an amazing time running the rapids. One flipped his boat and almost got pulled back but righted himself just in time.
We continued on and after a while of sludging through the rain we came upon Tunnel Falls. There is absolutely no way for me to justify the beauty of this place in words. It was absolutely amazing. Due to spring snow melt and the rain all morning the raw power of the water pouring over the edge 50 feet above you to 50 feet below you was amazing to behold. The best part is the “tunnel” part – a hole blasted in the rock for the trail to walk directly behind the waterfall. Blow up the pictures again here and look closely at them to see how big the falls were compared to our bodies. It was absolutely nuts! I actually got so close that I stuck my head into the falling water briefly for a few shots. This is usually where people turn around and head back but Chris took us a little further up the trail to another awesome waterfall gushing over a ledge right next to us from a different tributary of Eagle Creek.
By this time I was getting really cold as was the rest of us so we picked up the pace and actually made it back to the car in about half the time it took us to get to Tunnel Falls. Thankfully the half inch piece of leather holding each of my flip flops together actually held (I will forever by Reef products now). When I got to the car the leather had rubbed through some of my skin on my feet and they were bleeding. It felt so good to occasionally stop in creeks and waterfalls on the way back to cool my sore feet off.
We decided to take a small trip on the way back to Multinomah Falls because there was so much water we guessed it would be much bigger and powerful then when Kenny and I saw it last September during the dry season and we were right. On the way Emily and I decided to stop to get gas and while we were Chris and Toshi passed us only to be pulled over on the highway by a dumb cop that obviously didn’t have his bifocals on and couldn’t read chris’s inspection sicker or something leaving Chris with an unnecessary warning. Emily and I did get a laugh as we drove by them pulled over though!
After checking out the falls Emily and I thanked Chris and said goodbye to Toshi and took off to Portland for a wonderful dinner at Steamers (I’m in love with Pacific Northwest Oyster Shooters now) and overnight at a motel there. In the morning we got a quick breakfast and I said a painful goodbye to her. It really sucks living so far away from her but hopefully this trip led her to fall in love with Oregon and possibly visit again soon!