Gorge waterfalls are at their finest this time of year

GET OUT! A series of adventures in the Gorge

Wachlella falls  is one of dozens of waterfalls lining the Oregon side of the Gorge between Troutdale and Hood River. During wet months – and particularly during consecutive days of heavy rain like this week – the waterfalls are at their most magnificant. 
Wachlella Falls is one of the more dramatic and accessable falls  in the area. An easy mile hike leads to the thundering falls as seen at left. Below is Murna Falls, just a few hundred yards from the trailhead, located off I-84 at exit 40.

Photo by Adam Lapierre.
Wachlella falls  is one of dozens of waterfalls lining the Oregon side of the Gorge between Troutdale and Hood River. During wet months – and particularly during consecutive days of heavy rain like this week – the waterfalls are at their most magnificant. Wachlella Falls is one of the more dramatic and accessable falls in the area. An easy mile hike leads to the thundering falls as seen at left. Below is Murna Falls, just a few hundred yards from the trailhead, located off I-84 at exit 40.

If solitude and self-reflection beneath the awe-inspiring thunder of a waterfall bursting at its seams sounds like your thing, this is the best time of year to take a hike in the Gorge.

Wildflowers, sunny skies, lunch breaks the shade and dipping hot feet in cold streams is long gone for the year; but what you sacrifice in pleasantries of sunnier months you make up for in the wet season with empty trails through mystical foggy forests, cascading streams, monster-sized mud puddles and moss-covered cathedral walls spilling rainwater from every crack and crevice.

It’s no secret that waterfalls in the Gorge can get monstrous this time of year, but the prerequisite dose of wet clothes, cold hands and soggy boots seems to be enough to keep the masses away until things dry out for the summer.

Of course, you’ll hear no complaints of this from those who enjoy the lonesome melancholy of hiking through the mist, footsteps silenced by the splattering of rain on everything under the sky and the distant roar of the destination — the violent twin of an otherwise friendly waterfall, enraged by days of steady rain that few places on Earth can handle as well as the Pacific Northwest.

The Columbia River Gorge has dozens of named waterfalls in close proximity; close to 100 on the Oregon side alone. With a series of storms forecasted to bring several inches of rain to the Gorge this week, a visit to any number of these waterfalls will be well worth the wet hike to get there.

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Wachlella Falls is only a mile hike from the trailhead (I-84 exit 40, south side of freeway opposite Bonneville Dam), and if you catch it in the middle of a big, wet storm, this in-your-face waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the Gorge. The trail is straightforward, well-kept and of moderate grade appropriate for hikers of most ability levels, which makes it very popular during summer months.

Hikers first cross a footbridge with Murna Falls cascading just an arm’s length away into Tanner Creek, which is fed by Wachlella Falls. During heavy rain events several other unnamed seasonal waterfalls appear and trickle over the cliffs towering above. A short climb uphill and about ten stairs is followed by the only split in the trail, which is actually a loop that takes hikers around the falls and back over two more wooden bridges.

Hikers should be very careful on the rocks at the end of the trail surrounding the waterfall and pool; they are extremely slippery. Northwest Forest Passes are required for parking.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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