Today was truly a banner day. My morning work shift flew by crazy fast, I immediately went out afterwards on a gorgeous hike, was home shortly after 1pm, and indulged in a glorious nap followed by serious R & R in my living room. It was truly the trifecta of great: earning my rent, getting out into nature, and relaxing without limits. Golden day.
I wasn’t really sure which hike I was choosing until right when I was leaving work. I changed from my work clothes into my hiking clothes at work, then sat down for a few minutes with my trail book to pick out a trail. I chose a hike in the Columbia River Gorge (one of my fave hiking areas) called the Elowah and Upper McCord Falls. It’s basically two hikes that begin at the same trailhead. You start at the trailhead and a bit of a ways in come to a junction that splits off for each of the waterfalls. I chose to hike to Upper McCord Falls first, then come back to the junction and hike out to Elowah Falls second. It was a perfect day for a hike. The trail was cool thanks to forest shade (and starting out early in the day) and not very crowded at all. In fact, I didn’t pass by a single person until I was already coming back from Upper McCord Falls.
The trail itself was fantastic, too. There was some great incline and elevation, so I got in a good work out, but none of the terrain was too challenging in the least. The ascent to Upper McCord Falls was about 400 feet (or 40 stories if you want to compare it to stairs), and while you initially descend to Elowah Falls, coming back up the trail ascends another 250 feet. Overall, the full trail covering both waterfalls is about 3.5 miles. My hike, however, was nearly 4.5 miles, because coming back from Upper McCord Falls I wasn’t paying attention and completely brushed past the junction to Elowah Falls. It wasn’t until I was almost entirely back at the trailhead when I realized my mistake. I made the decision to backtrack the half mile back up the steepest part of the trail to the junction so I could hike out to Elowah Falls. In a way this surprised me, and I don’t entirely know why. I feel like a less ambitious me would have found myself back at the trailhead, realized my mistake, claimed defeat after not wanting to hike back up that incline, and just gone to my car and called it a day, justifying that at least I saw one of the waterfalls. But that thought didn’t even cross my mind today. I realized my mistake, turned back to the ascent and powered through it to the junction. In a way I almost did myself a favor by intensifying my hike to a more serious work out. And it was so worth it! Elowah Falls was super lovely. In total, I hiked 4.47 miles, climbed 72 stories, burned nearly 1,000 calories and completed the hike in just under two hours. Not shabby at all. I’m getting freakishly good at this.
Just a few trail/viewpoint photos (including one I took with my of myself using my camera’s timer):
A couple of things about this hike and day that I’m particularly proud of:
1) I went hiking right after work. I didn’t even stop at home, I just drove the 40ish minutes straight to the trail. This is pretty huge, considering how wiped out after an early morning shift I usually feel. This was a first. An awesome, awesome first.
2) After missing a junction to where I wanted to go, I didn’t even hesitate to backtrack. After descending pretty steeply back to the trailhead, I turned around and went straight back up the ascent. That’s pretty baller.
3) I faced my trail nemesis: screes (also known as talus slopes). These are sections of trail built into steep stone ridges where you basically have to navigate and balance yourself over rocky hellfire. One wrong step and you lose your footing entirely and plummet to your death (for reals). Andrew and I battled miles of these on our Cape Horn hike, and I swore I’d avoid all trails with screes again. So I surprised myself when I saw that this trail had scree slopes in my trail book’s description, and decided to do the hike anyway. And you know what? The screes on this trail weren’t bad at all. I’m glad I didn’t write this hike off. It was exhilarating to face a fear and succeed.
After my hike I came home, showered, and promptly took an extremely indulgent nap. After which I woke up, watched a movie, and cooked dinner. It was a perfect cap to the day.
Tomorrow is my day off and I am definitely heading out on another hike, though I’m not sure which one I’ll choose. I’d like to take advantage of my free time and go on a nice long hike, perhaps this time up by Mt. Hood (another fave hiking area, esp. in summer when the snow is mostly gone leaving the trails less treacherous). I think I’ll wake up, flip through my guidebook and go with what my mood settles for. Should be good 🙂