Hiking the Columbia Gorge

Columbia River and Freight Train

I had the privilege of hiking two different trails while visiting the Pacific Northwest’s Columbia Gorge recently. The trails were on opposite sides of the Columbia River, in two different states.

 

Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River

On the north shore of the river is the state of Washington, the south side is Oregon.

 

With the helpful emails and posts of fellow blogger and PNW hiker John Carr, both hikes were awesome, and the book he suggested, Northwest Oregon by William L. Sullivan, was great. His website, johncarroutdoors.com, is dedicated primarily to PNW hikes.

 

The first day, Athena and I hiked the Falls Creek Falls trail in Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington, named after the first Chief of the United States Forest  Service. This trail was enchanting due to dynamic Falls Creek that was present every step of the way. Sometimes the waters expressed a calm chattering, other times, passionately raging.

 

Two exquisite footbridges aided us as we traversed the trail.

 

Suspension Footbridge, Falls Creek Falls Trail

After marveling at the footbridge engineering and enjoying  many unfamiliar plants along the way, we hiked further and discovered the old-growth trees.

 

We were awed by towering moss-covered rock walls and magnificent old-growth Douglas fir trees.

Rock Wall, Falls Creek Falls Trail

 

Athena demonstrating the size of the old-growth Douglas Fir tree

I always enjoy hiking on familiar trails, observing each new season with appreciation, and warmly greeting the trees, plants, and wildlife as the old friends they are.

 

But it’s also really fun to be in a completely new forest, especially when it is a winner. Each turn of the path yields a new surprise…mystery and adventure.

 

As we continued along the trail, the sound of the water gradually increased until it was so loud we could no longer hear each other speak…and then, through the trees, we were astounded to see the crashing waters high above us.

Falls Creek Falls, Washington

The guidebook’s author described the waterfall perfectly: “The 3-tiered cascade starts with a hidden 50-foot falls, spreads across a 70-foot fan, and finally thunders 80 feet into a rock punchbowl.”

Falls Creek Falls

We had lunch at the waterfall, and headed back, completely satisfied and happy for the magic we had experienced.

 

The other hike occurred a day later in Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon. The High Prairie Trail on Lookout Mountain.

 

As we ascended, we came upon a few meadows, like this one. Although is was late August, there were still wildflowers.

Meadow, Mount Hood National Forest

 

As we continued, we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the Cascade Mountains and the Columbia River Plateau.

Mount Hood and Columbia River Plateau

That day it was 90 degrees F. (32 C.), so we stopped a few times in the ascent, finding rocks to sit on and marveling at the quiet magnificence.

 

More surprises prevailed as the close-up views of Mount Hood just kept getting better and better.

 

Mount Hood, Oregon

There is no place in the world like the Pacific Northwest with its endless waterfalls, gorgeous trails, and sweeping mountain vistas.

 

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

 

Columbia River Gorge

Sparkling Seattle

Seattle Space Needle

Seattle Space Needle

I like going to Seattle because I feel like I’m going to the future.  Here for the recent holiday, I was whisked around in my friend’s car and treated to many sights of this bustling city.  Even though I’ve been here many times, there is always so much more to see. 

 

Of course their iconic symbol, the Space Needle, has a lot to do with the futuristic feel of Seattle.  Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, it was built for the theme of space, science, and the future.  When you stand beside this spaceship-like structure pointing to the sky, it feels like it’s going to blast off and take you with it.  At this time of year it is topped with a brightly-lit Christmas tree. 

 

Seattle's Puget Sound Waterfront

Seattle’s Puget Sound Waterfront

There’s something, too, about all the water here that makes it a fresh place.  Could it be their notorious rain?  Built on the Puget Sound, Seattle is surrounded by inlets, islands, lakes, channels, canals, and waterways wherever you go.  The extensive network of bridges includes floating, suspension and drawbridges, some that have been recently built and some that are on the National Register of Historic Places.  Ferries are a common part of the Seattle scene, for commuters, locals and tourists; and all along the waterfront are dozens and dozens of ships and working docks in this busy seaport.    

Seattle canal

Seattle canal

Strolling through the Fremont neighborhood we came across a quiet canal with houseboats and businesses as well as mallards and kayakers.  We stopped after lunch at the Theo Chocolate Factory and enjoyed yummy samples of free chocolate.  Along a paved path, the sound of several seaplanes accompanied us as we bid soft greetings to number-fronted runners returning from a race.

It is always the case when I visit this city that I gaze in awe at the mountains.  My favorite vista in all of this region is the majestic sight of Mount Rainier.  I’ve hiked and explored it and have many happy memories of it, admire it from the airplane, and stop in my tracks when the weather is clear to see it standing high and mighty.  The Olympic Mountains and the Cascade Range are also a constant and grounding presence to this area.

My favorite Seattle experience this time was at the Seattle Center, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum.  It is an entire museum, just opened in 2012, dedicated to the exquisite art of Dale Chihuly.  It was such an incredible exhibit that I’m going to spend the rest of this week sharing photos with you.  This exhibit, too, has a feel for the future.  It is art with vibrancy and color, sacredness without religion, and expression in a medium that is not frequently used:  glass.

Chihuly Museum with Space Needle

Chihuly Museum with Space Needle

 

At the most northerly and western boundaries of this country, sparkling Seattle embraces the American northwest while looking upward, always, to the stars. 

Saturn in Seattle

Saturn in Seattle