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The International Writers Magazine: Destinations (From Our Archives)

Day-Tripping Out of Portland: Six Striking Natural Wonders in 3 Days
• Tonia Hauser

all photos © Tonia Hauser 2015

Visiting the city? Take time to appreciate Oregon’s breathtaking beauty, just outside. Known for an artsy culture and an attempt to keep the city “weird”, Portland, Oregon is also an ideal destination for the outdoor enthusiast. Countless young adults flock to this Northwestern city, not only to experience the feel-good vibes and free minds, but to explore a land stunningly different from their own.

Day Trip 1: Waterfalls
Multnomah Falls

Nestled within the incredible Columbia River Gorge, this astounding waterfall’s close proximity to the city and paved access make it the most-visited. The upper and lower falls elegantly flow past flora-covered rock for over 600 feet; pinning Multnomah Falls as Oregon’s tallest. Reached by a brief, paved walk from the parking lot, a crowd of passerby’s is to be expected near the falls’ base. Feel nature’s absolute power and glory overcome as you attempt to grasp the immense beauty pouring from above. Take a 1/4-mile hike up to the Benson Bridge over Multnomah’s lower falls to enjoy a knee-wobbling view of the crest underneath and the misting force plunging from a vertical cliff overhead. Continue your journey to the tiptop or make your way down to the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, housing a gift shop, forest information center and restaurant.

Elowah Falls
A short and scenic drive past Multnomah, you’ll reach the trailhead of John B Yeon, leading to Elowah Falls. Wind through rainforest-like woodlands for 3/4 of a mile until the moment you halt, standing in awe as the sanctuary of Elowah Falls reveals itself. A force over 200 feet tall, Elowah dives over a yellow-green lichen covered cliff and into a striking amphitheater of boulders and rich vegetation. Tree branches and foliage sway in an impressive breeze put on by the dramatically tumbling cascade. Zip your raincoat and approach the base from a safe distance while you admire the mesmerizing haze flowing above. Past a sturdy wooden bridge, follow a thin footpath up and around a towering rock formation to your right. It’s a steep but worthwhile climb that brings you to an elevated view of the tumbling falls and surrounding canyon. In mid May, we saw only one couple hiking out on our way in, leaving our trio to frolic about the secluded refuge all to ourselves. If time allows, swing a left at the junction on your way back to continue your waterfall extravaganza. Heading up, this slightly longer hike leads to a view of Elowah Falls from above and ends at the double cascades of Upper McCord Creek Falls.

Punchbowl Punchbowl Falls
Less than five miles farther out of town, Eagle Creek Trailhead can be found. A healthy fear of heights is common, but if walking along a cliff’s edge with plummeting views sounds iffy, you should contemplate whether this adventure is for you. The 2-mile quest is simply stunning, especially in the spring. A well-kept path weaves into the forest and next to Eagle Creek before jutting alongside soaring walls of rock, an occasional shower seen running down its crags.

The woodlands open to cliff views of a deep gorge harboring Eagle Creek, now far below. A cable line is in place along the cliff throughout some of the narrower portions of the trail, for stability. After the breathtaking cliff-edge hike, follow a path down to your right for a distant overlook of the 100-ft. Metlako Falls. Back on Eagle Creek Trail, you’ll cross another creek by stepping from rock to stable rock in hopes of keeping your socks dry. Before reaching Punchbowl, sounds of rushing water are met with another downhill path to the right. A rather small standing area reveals a scenic and short cascade flowing into the turquoise of Eagle Creek, lined with brilliant green rocks and thriving life. Continue past this viewpoint and along the flat water’s edges until an even more impressive mossy rock face presents itself. Follow your gaze along the creek’s route to your left to catch a tranquil sight of Punchbowl Falls, seen through a split in the naturally formed “bowl”. To admire the name-giving view from above, trek a 1/4-mile up on Eagle Creek Trail. In the warmer months, this favorite swimming hole is likely to be crawling with bodies looking to take a dip in its refreshing waters.

Day Trip 2: The Coast

Ecola State Park
Even from the parking lot, the very first coastal view surrenders you speechless. Layers of ombré shaded mountain ranges roll behind Crescent Beach and enormous green-capped rocks jut from the Pacific’s icy waters. It’s a panorama I expected to see in an exotic location like Thailand and not on the coast of my own country. Known for some of the best trails along the Northwestern shoreline, Ecola State Park erupts with beauty and adventure.

Eight miles of the renowned Oregon Coast Trail and portions of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail lie within the park’s boundaries. From Ecola Point, one can hike a fairly tiring 1 1/4-mile trail down to Crescent Beach, or choose to travel on a 2.5-mile Clatsop Loop Trail to Indian Beach and beyond.It’s a scenic journey with oceanfront views and through forests brimming with some of the region’s oldest Sitka Spruce. Shortly in, you’ll come to three small, first-come-first-served camping shelters with bunk beds. Follow the trail to a lookout of the abandoned Tillamook Lighthouse, spotted amongst the Pacific’s vastness, atop a massive rock seemingly thrown out to sea. Behind the camping shelters, continue North for several miles of picturesque vistas. If you get a chance to walk along the coasts of Ecola State Park, prepare to be amazed by mollusk lined caves, tide pools and turquoise sea anemones beside vibrant orange and purple starfish.

Smuggler’s Cove – Short Sand Beach

smugglers Tucked away within Oswald West State Park lies a cliff and woodland lined cove frequented by hikers, surfers and everyday beach bums. This is an easy and charming trek through a coastal rainforest along Short Sand Creek. You’ll cross the creek via bridge, reaching Short Sands Beach by carefully maneuvering between several fallen trees. Visit this haven when the tide is down and the rocky edges’ caves are exposed. Neon green and stark white algae clothe the rock’s water-lined base and spread to shore upon stony areas visible at low tide.

Watch surfers glide atop waves rolling in as you take a sandy stroll to the cove’s facing side. A stream runs down a section of the harboring rock and in between pines, becoming one with the Pacific. The springtime air was too chilly for us to swim; though we did spot three-wetsuit wearing gents emerge from a distant rocky crevasse, waist-deep, just beyond the descending stream. An overhead view of Smugglers Cove can be seen from along the cliff tops by hiking North on the Oregon Coast Trail toward Cape Falcon.

Day Trip 3: Mt. Hood - Mirror Lake Trail

Traveling between rock faces, lush ranges and valleys, a small parking area is found sandwiched between Highway 26 and the fiercely rushing Camp Creek, harboring views that epitomize your drive in. Mirror Lake Trail is a heavily visited footpath leading to a serene sight of Mt. Hood and surrounding peaks hovering over a pristine mountain lake. Cross a slender wooden bridge above Camp Creek before entering the open forest. Vibrant hues of microscopic biomes contrast beautifully against redwood stumps, camouflaging rock fields, fallen trunks and bowed tree bottoms.
Mirror Lake

Pass over another bridge and on through deep woodlands before coming to a humbling scene on your left, framed between lush pines. Skies filled with rolling clouds can disappointedly hide Mt. Hood, but will really bring drama to this viewpoint. Shifting shadows entertain the eyes, bouncing around a distant gradient of mountainside successions. Traverse a gradual incline until the path skirts a creek. At the junction, follow a sign pointing you to Mirror Lake Loop. You’ll venture through a marshy area by taking a lengthy footbridge to one side of the lake. On land again, you’ll come upon wood framed steps built into the earth for taking a rest and soaking in the atmosphere. On a clear day, a remarkable mirror image of Mt. Hood can be seen perfectly reflected into the glass-like waters. Cloud-masked on our visit, the undisturbed lake still proved mirror-like with surrounding vegetation. The jagged peaks of Tom Dick and Harry Mountain can also be appreciated from the lakeside. Relish in the blissful moment of here and now, allowing your mind to meditate before heading back.

© Tonia Hauser  March 2015
Freelance Writer
B.A. Photography 

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