My trip to the Pacific Northwest was a challenging one to say the least. The planning was an overwhelming task in and of itself. I was overloading on information regarding the where what and how of the places I intended to visit. After months of preparation and anticipation I arrive in Seattle just in time to sleep a few hours so I can start my journey at about 5am. The majority of day 1 was overcast. Furthermore I was seriously disappointed to learn after a long drive out of the original itinerary that Heather Meadows and Bagely Lake were snow covered. I descend the mountain licking my wounds. I did marvel at Nooksak falls though. I saw some places of interest like Rockport Rain Forest but was growing very tired. I napped next to a rushing river to wake up to my pleasant surprise a break in the clouds. It was a wonderful turn around as I beheld and adored Rainy Lake. The great peaks of the North Cascades were revealing themselves in good fashion. Many times I thought I heard voices when in fact there was no one near. The sounds of rivers and waterfalls was producing that which sounded like a multitude of people talking.
Day 2 started with eager anticipation of the Enchantments. The weather started cool and clear. By the time I reached the higher elevation haze was taking over. After a 4 mile rather difficult hike to Colchuck Lake, the sun was cloaked and so was the appeal of the so called enchantments. The name of the mountain for me on this day was mount injury.
The sprain in my knee was progressively getting worse as I was finishing my 8 mile hike before noon. I later learned that a person puts 4 times their weight on their knees when hiking down steep terrain. This hike was similar to the 5 mile round trip “Rainbow Falls” in the Smoky’s in that the trail had a lot of rocks and tree roots. I had the same sprain in that trip, but it was slightly more tolerable. I thought it was driving without cruise control (constant pressure on the pedal for over 1000 miles that tweaked my knee. More than likely what happened to me in TN was the same case in the Enchantments. I stiffly managed a 3 mile hike later that day on some steep terrain in Wallace Falls. It probably took me close to double my average time to complete it. It was a nice place albeit somewhat crowded. I only made it to lower falls from which middle falls could be viewed from afar. It was a rich rain forest with the clean and clear Wallace River running in the midst of it. On my return trip a local with his small dog slowed his pace to converse with me all the way back to the trail head. This helped to put my knee situation into perspective.
Day 3 I woke up to a sorely sprained right knee. I was quite concerned at this point about it. I remembered Much Afraid’s journey on Mt Injury which I read a few days before and her hobbling up the mountain as a result. I also recalled that she was healed almost instantly by the Shepherd shortly thereafter. I tried to compose myself to take things in stride so to speak by praying for a speedy recovery. I put muscle rub and bought a wrap for my knee which I promptly applied. I believe that the combination of prayer, the right attitude, knee wrap, careful steps and minimal hiking distances in day 3 caused my knee to be a non issue the rest of the trek. By day 5 my knees were just fine (Praise God). Under overcast skies I entered Mt Rainier National Park via the North entrance. As Sunrise Road steeply climbed in elevation I began to rise above the clouds. The views of the glaciers and Mt Rainer from close to 6000 ft elevation were awe-inspiring. A walked a little bit in the snow with temperatures in the 40’s I think. I loved viewing these great mountains mostly sun lit in early morning rays and long streaks of white clouds hovering well below their peaks. It did not feel like summer, but more like early spring. The snow was wonderful, but it completely covered all my chances to see the flowery alpine meadows that I greatly anticipated on this trip. Heather meadows (snow) Mt Rainer’s meadows (snow) Canyon Creek meadows (snow) and Hurricane Ridge (melted snow, patchy flowers being eaten by a herd of deer.
I was pleasantly surprised by box canyon. A deep and narrow canyon lined with fine green mosses and smooth black rock. The river rushing inside was a powerful sight. After returning from so called Paradise Resort (snow covered), a bear crossed the road right in front of my car as I was winding down the mountain. I quickly pulled to the side pointed my video at the small bear (brown in color, but probably a black bear in species). I was able to clearly record I few precious seconds before he entered the woods. That was a rush. Later that day, I really enjoyed getting my feet wet for the 1st time of the trip at the bottom of a semi small picturesque waterfall. The sun was shining nicely at this point. I was impressed with Lewis Falls. I thought the falls were smaller. It was both wider, taller and more elaborate that I estimated. The lighting was kind of hazy at this point though. It was really neat to get on top of the falls area for an interesting perspective how all the water was joining together before the plunge. I arrived on the north side of the Colombia River quicker than I expected. I wish I could have hiked up Beacon Rock, but I wanted to assure a good recovery of my knee.
Day 4 I arose to perfect weather. It was about 50 degrees with a light breeze and completely clear skies for the entire day. The 1st half of the day were water falls in the famed Colombia Gorge’s south side, and the 2nd half I traversed around majestic Mt Hood. The Multnomah met my expectations exactly. I was there early enough so the throngs were not yet there. As I was still being cautious with my knee I did not walk the very steep path to the top of the falls. The next stop at Oneonta brought on a confusing circumstance to me. I began the hike expecting to reach my desires destination on the Oneonta Gorge, but instead I hiked about 2 miles from one parking lot to another 1 down the road missing the gorge altogether. The hikers I asked on the trail did not help me to find what I was looking for. The trail however went thru a lush forest with 2 waterfalls. One of the falls is called Ponytail falls which shoots straight out of a cliff. People can walk right behind the fall on the trail. I wanted to get a different angle of the falls and the proceeding river that the main path did not afford. I made my way down a steep bank with all my camera equipment on me. I slipped on my hind down some 5 feet or so and thankfully stopped sliding. The bottom was still quite a ways. I slightly scrapped my back legs and got dirty. I was filled with fret when I tried to climb back up the bank. I did realize how steep of a climb it was to get back on the trail. I prayerfully and carefully climbed from one foothold to the other. I was extra concerned because of my slip on the way down. I was thinking it would be a way worse if I slipped on the way up. I was also worried about my equipment being damaged. After clinging to bits of rocks, roots and ferns I made that final pull to safely get on top. I quickly said aloud to myself “I am never doing that again”. My mind exaggerated the danger, but it was indeed a precarious position to be in.
Now I am in a parking lot not knowing how far the other parking lot is down the road where my car was. I was surprised to see Horsetail Falls right at this parking lot. I was still a bit shaken and disoriented, but I still videoed and photographed the nice waterfall. I now walked down the road and see Cottonwood in abundance whirling in the breeze brightly sunlit on the side of a cliff. I was captured by this unique display, but almost kept walking without capturing it. I am glad I did video it. This brought the attention of a married couple inquiring what I was looking at. After a nice exchange, I kept walking past a tunnel when I saw a blessed sign indicating “Oneonta Gorge”. I was not yet sure that this is what I was looking for. I meandered a bit on the river’s edge when a man in a group of people navigating on top of a big log jam greeted me from afar. I hollered my questions to this man to see if this was indeed the gorge I searched for. I said I would go back to my car to change into my water shoes. I later spoke with this group in the parking lot and they further confirmed that this was the awesome place I had researched. At the beginning of the trek I got my feet wet in about a foot of cold water and then carefully made my way over this log jam. It was technical in some places because of all the irregular directions the tree trunks were stacked in. After this the gorge narrowed with bright green mosses and vegetation decorating its walls and clear flowing water with a few patches of rock islands here and there. The next and last challenge of this hike is the passing of the stomach high cold river for about 70 feet while walking on the slippery rock bottom of the river. At this point I needed to hold my backpack and tripod with video camera over my head until I crossed this frigid pool. A slip could have risked damaging my equipment thus my concentration on every step. Now I was facing this marvelous water fall at the end of this narrow canyon. What a treat to be here without anyone else in sight. I read that photographers could face the prospect of people annoyingly being in their shot. There was a group of like 7 people coming out when I entered and many more groups on the way in when I was good and ready to exit this slice of paradise. While I was there I walked near the bottom of this tall and powerful fall and felt it rushing spray and energetic wind speed that it generates. It was an experience like I never had to that point.
Later that day I was enriched with multiple views (angles, distances and varying foreground features) of Mt Hood the 11k plus ft prominent peak in Oregon’s Cascade Range. I believe it is Oregon’s highest mountain. Oregon has a number of other impressive and prominent peaks in the same vicinity like Mt. Washington, Jefferson, 3 sisters etc. I got to view this in excellent clear weather from Dee Wright’s Observatory on the following day. I ventured deep and high on both the east and west sides of Mt Hood thru rough gravel forest roads to get closer to this mountain that seemed to beckon me closer. I beheld clear views of the great bright white glaciers surrounding this peak in the setting of vivid cobalt skies.
Day 5 was nearly identical in weather perfection to the previous except for that the temperature were a little warmer due to a heat wave. The temperatures started in the 50’s and rose to the 80’s. On a day were I would encounter many waters the 80’s were very adequate. This was a day that began about 4:30am like 1 or 2 other mornings. The latest I slept was until 6 am by sheer accident. That particular morning I woke up with a start, and thus hurriedly prepared to catch up on the day’s itinerary. It turns out that I really needed to catch up on sleep before I would enter the final days of my excursion. During the early morning of day 5 I revisited Clear Lake and the McKenzie river from last September’s Authentically Awesome trip in CA, OR and NV. In contrast to overcast and rainy conditions on September, I now saw this place in summers’ beautiful cool and clear morning. I was curious as to why the waters of Clear Lake and the McKenzie looked more strikingly azure the last time. It was no less attractive as it was now graces with the rays of the morning sun. This time I explored further up the river as well as further down it to Carmen Reservoir. The Sky and Heaven Falls adorned with rain forest trees, vegetation and mosses on its’ steep banks makes it one of my all time favorite places that I have been impacted by. The falls were now fuller of water due to snow melt. One of the falls that had 2 separate strands of cascades in September now had 3 full and wide strands of cascades. One of the reasons the water was more blue in McKenzie last time was that the rapids were not as forceful thus allowing for calmer sectional pools where one may see the blueness of the clean clear McKenzie River. When I was in the region the last time I essentially made the most efficient route to Crater Lake thus bypassing thousands of places of utmost interest as a result.
The Central Oregon Cascades is a region that is exceptionally blessed with grand and diverse opportunities to explore, observe, absorb and experience pristine wilderness. It is not necessary to travel long distance from one desired location to another. There are many places like the McKenzie Falls that a long hike is not needed in order to reach. On the other hand the region contains vast amounts of incredible wild spaces that it would take a multitude of lifetimes to get acquainted with all its’ aspects.
Less than one hours’ scenic drive from McKenzie I arrive at Proxy Falls. The hike lead me thru an area of volcanic rocks among other features before I heard the roar of the lower falls. I was astonished at the height of this fall which fell in sections on various rock formations creating an interesting effect. A hike down a steep bank gets you to the river that proceeds from the fall. In this place are many charming pools and miniature waterfalls surrounded with rich green plant life. The water is very clear here as with almost all the places I went to on this trip. As was a recurring theme on this journey, I found myself alone with no one in earshot or sight allowing me to fully absorb the magnificent appeal of this place. I would sit on a log in the midst of a gently passing stream in the canopy of the gorge while a few yards away a powerful waterfall was happily and actively plunging creating a whirling mist that dance wildly as it gloried in the beams of pure sunshine making its way down the canyon.
I later sat on a log facing the big waterfall as the cool mist would sprinkle me. As I was making my way out others were making their way in. The upper falls were much smaller, but still interesting and filled with water. I hiked up to the middle area of the falls and found a ledge where I could place me head beneath a portion where it trickled water. It was very refreshing as the temperature was about 80 degrees.
By the afternoon that day I had arrived at the head waters of the Metolius River. This is a spring fed river where wild flowers of all sorts are found along its banks or on grassy islands in the river itself. Down the road and down the river, the gentle narrow stream of the head waters becomes much wider and strong rapids with beautiful clear pools on rocky shelves near its shores. I had often said that the McKenzie was my favorite river. After visiting both the McKenzie and the Metolius in the same day, I updated my favorite to be the Metolius. The McKenzie is set amidst a deep gorge lined in rain forest with strong rapids and at least 2 major cascades. The main thing that attracted me to McKenzie last year was the true blue tint of its water. I found that the Metolius has an even bluer tint in the water though it lacks the dramatic surroundings of the McKenzie. The Metolius had the extra appeal of flowery banks and grassy flowery islands. I only saw but a very small section and was hooked. The perfect sunshine shining overhead illuminated the excellence of this place sublimely. I jumped and fully immersed myself in the cold 50 degree water in a pool section. It is the coldest, yet the most exhilarating water I have ever been in. I loved swimming in the Florida springs with its 72 degree crystal clear water. This however being a river felt like a more enlivening experience. I had to immediately come out of the water as my body went numb. I needed a few moments to catch my breath from the shock I just endured. A few minutes later I had that similar feeling after coming out of Florida’s springs. It was way more refreshing and cleansing than the best shower one can take. I had effectively cooled off, and thoroughly enjoyed the mid 70’s climate in this region the rest of the day. A place that I spent much time researching and preparing to visit and hike was blocked by a lengthy detour. Therefore, the place called 3 pools and Opal Creek had to be forfeited. It was still a very fulfilling day. I have more than enough reason to want to revisit this region of Central Oregon.
Day 6 was the least desirable of the journey. In fact this was the other of the major let downs. There was thick fog for the 3 days I was to explore the coast of Oregon and Washington that never abated. A few miles away from the ocean the sky was clear however. The features of sea cliffs, sea caves, haystacks etc. that I did see were in this gloomy setting and limited distinct visibility. I still made the most of my time in Ecola where I hiked down a steep hill off the trail to reach a secluded cove. I saw others on the hill, but none dared make their way down where I was. On the return up the hill I used the aid of a long make shift rope that was tied to a plant to climb back up. At the time of going up I was not sure if this rope would hold so I did not fully depend on it. I later went to Indian Beach were many Surfers were catching some small waves that were breaking pretty far from shore. The wave was semi-clean, but not impressive at all. Thanks to my GPS, I left the coast to reach a place called Saddleback Mountain. It is one of the high peaks of the mountains near the coast in the area. The drive was on a drudging 7 mile rocky, narrow, windy and steep road. The full hike to the summit is a challenging 2 miles according to description. Fortunately there was a view point after a half mile hike that I opted for. The views of both Saddleback Mt and the surrounding area were wonderful. All things were clearly seen with the perfect weather. Once again I had this place to myself as I absorbed the beauty of green forest mountain ranges and colorful wild flowers decorating the nearby cliffs. When I was good and ready to return, others were approaching as was the pattern.
Day 7 I went to Ruby Beach for starters. I walked the beach in a mystical thick fog. The following day (Last day and chance for the coast) I went to the Cape Elizabeth area on 2 separate occasions and was totally skunked. It was a serious waste of time and effort. I actually parked my car on the sand in early morning fog and slept to the crashing of small crumbly breakers. I was expecting Hoh Rain Forest to be more dramatic, nonetheless it was a fruitful experience. Walking along the shores of Hoh River framed with mountains was a delight. I almost skipped the Sol Duc section due to so called time constraints. This place has hot springs within a resort that I planned on going to. Instead I stopped at a small but strong water fall along the Sol Duc River to take a dip. I entered in at 3 different spots in this place. In one case I entered a portion where the river runs as a deep rapid allowing myself to be carried by it until I reached a particular rock on the edge where I would grab on to and pull myself out of the river. The Sol Duc Falls was a fascinating triple strand cascade gushing into a narrow and deep canyon. It was awesome. All my hikes after day 2 seemed easy and short relatively speaking. The rewards surely outweighed the labor to reach these places like Sol Duc Falls. After getting stuck in traffic in Port Angelus for almost an hour, I finally reached Hurricane Ridge. The perfect blue skies were replaced by hazy and lazy skies. At over 5000 feet this ridge allows great views of glaciers and the waterway to the north that divides Washington and Canada. I saw a herd of deer the likes I have ever seen. There was probably like 30 deer in plain sight scattered on this hill top.
Day 8 I have the preoccupation that I have a flight to catch that evening. I overslept somewhat, but that was a blessing in disguise. I now returned to Quinault for the second time in as many days. I literally looped around the Olympic Range in a full circle at this point. The day before I stopped briefly to see a narrow strand of fog on the lake as clear skies and sun prevailed all around it. Now on this my last day, I did the loop drive from North Shore to South Shore Road. Quinault River was similar in appeal to that of Hoh. There were some nice waterfalls found near the road side. I took a short 1 mile loop hike in a rain forest to discover magnificently towering trees like Spruce and Hemlock. As I was getting closer to Seattle I did a zigzag route visiting numerous places that I found advertised on my GPS. I unfortunately missed the Wolf Haven (Sanctuary for Wolves) because I arrived past the time of the last tour. I went to a wetland wild life refuge and walked the 1 mile loop and saw very little. I was about to leave when a hummingbird zipped by me followed by another. Then I heard a sound and discovered Barn Swallow nests. I then saw a few otters in the duckweed. The weather was close to 90 degrees in these areas near sea level (Heat wave). I was almost frantically looking for a good place to take a dip since I had a plane to catch and no place to take a shower. I went to different lakes and rivers but the places were so incredibly crowded that I did not care to go in these waters. I was jaded from my excellent experiences in pure rivers with little to no people around so I was turned off by the multitudes in these less than perfect places. I only refreshed myself in a limited way in a bathroom in Saltwater State Park which was located about 15 minutes from the airport. I thank God for the opportunity to see but a glimpse an amazing region called the Pacific Northwest.
Dionisio Kamanel Jr.