Elowa Falls: Accessible, yet secluded

Not everyone who goes looking for waterfalls wants to embark on long, arduous hikes or scramble up talus slopes to see them. Sometimes you just want a nice, moderate walk on your way to getting your waterfall fix. And if you’re trying to cool down on an already sultry summer’s day, what’s the point of sweating even more?

If strolling is more in your wheelhouse than scrambling, consider a trip to Elowah Falls, located just 30 minutes from Hood River. Like the more popular Multnomah Falls 6 miles to the west, Elowah Falls is accessible and has parking located right off of Interstate 84, but most importantly, features a gorgeous, 220-foot single-drop waterfall that rivals the beauty of Multnomah.

The distinct advantage Elowah has over Multnomah is that the waterfall is significantly less visited — it isn’t visible from the interstate — and you likely won’t have to wait for a parking spot, even on the weekends. The Elowah Falls Trail starts at the west end of the parking lot for John B. Yeon State Park, located directly off I-84. A sign in the parking lot lists other attractions reachable from the trail if you’re feeling extra adventurous, including Upper McCord Creek Falls, which lies just above Elowah.

An easy to moderate uphill (mostly) hike of about 15 minutes is all you’ll need to reach the falls, but make sure you take the right path. After hiking through an enchanting forest of ferns and moss-draped maples for .4 miles, the trail splits with no indication as to which path provides a direct route to the falls. Not to condone vandalism, but thankfully, some Sharpie-wielding vigilante recently took it upon his or herself to scrawl “ß ELOWAH FALLS” on a rustic wood trail sign at the fork that previously had no mention of the sought-after cataract. Go left at the split.

As it is fairly close to the freeway, the sights and sounds of traffic on I-84 may offend the eyes and ears of those walking the trail, but don’t despair! As the path bends and descends into a gorge, you face away from the road and the top of Elowah Falls comes into view. The sound of McCord Creek tumbling over a 220-foot-high lichen-spattered basalt cliff quickly drowns out any freeway noise.

With every step, the temperature drops as the switchback trail descends to the bottom of the cool, shady gorge, where Elowah falls splashes down into a plunge pool framed by mossy boulders. Hop over the boulders, wade in and have a seat to cool off while watching the falls. Or if you feel like staying dry, a nearby wooden bridge provides a great place for waterfall viewing, photography, or enjoying summer breezes that are cooled as they drop over the basalt cliff in tandem with the falls.

To get to Elowah Falls from Hood River, travel west on I-84 and take Exit 37 (Warrendale). Continue down the exit road for .4 miles, turn left under the overpass, then turn left again onto N.E. Frontage Rd. Turnoff will be on your right after .3 miles.

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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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