Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Non-Invasive Species Invades the Northwest: Sarah and Wahclella Falls

"Toto, I have a feeling we are not in Kansas anymore" - Dorothy, The Wizard of Oz

You may remember my friend Sarah from North Carolina. Some of you have even had the pleasure of meeting her in person, or talk to her almost daily via the internet as I do. I have given her my blue ribbon tour of the Columbia River Gorge, and a round trip around Mount Hood on her visits out west. It's been a pleasure to view the beauty in my backyard through her eyes. I wanted you all to have that same experience, so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog on our trip to Wahclella Falls, one of my favorite hikes. I hope you enjoy seeing the Northwest from her point of view as much as I have!! 

Her words and pictures follow.

As an East-Coaster, I really know very little about the Pacific Northwest. On my recent trips out there, some of the most fun I’ve had has been the times that Cari has “kidnapped” me to show me the beauties of The Columbia River Gorge and Mount Hood. She always refuses to tell me where we are going (as though I would know where she was talking about anyway), throws me in the back seat of the car with one or both of her kids, and tells me that if I see anything I want to stop to take pictures of to let her know.

On our latest little adventure, we had a gorgeous, blue-skied Sunday morning that was perfect for opening the windows and roaming the world. Cari, her youngest—Odessa, and I hopped into the car and did just that. 

When Cari put the car in “Park” we were at Wahclella Falls Trail. I, of course, had never heard of this. But one of the things I’ve learned with Cari is that if she takes me there, it is worth seeing. We slathered on some sunblock, made sure we had full water bottles, slung our cameras over our shoulders, and headed up the trail. 

The trail featured some of my favorite things about the trails of the Pacific Northwest: rocky streams, moss-covered trees, and plenty of shade. No sooner had I framed a shot than Miss Odessa decided that this moss-covered rock was the perfect place to take a break. I think she improved my shot. What do you think?

Once we started back on the trail, it suddenly took a sharp “upward” turn. 

Okay, maybe not such a sharp turn for a regular hiker, but for this gal who usually only traipses around the Coastal Plain of North Carolina, which is decidedly flat, it was sharp. But between the shade and the little hillside “trickles” along the way, it was a pretty pleasant climb.

When we got to this little bridge with its nice little waterfall “trickle,” I thought Cari had found Heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so relaxed and completely in her element. When I got closer, I realized why. To be this close to the rush of the waterfall is both exhilarating and hypnotic.

But alas, we had another, larger waterfall to see, so we headed upward. One of the cool things about hiking upward is that you get to look back downward as you climb. It’s really a cool feeling to look back down at the treetops. It gives you a completely different perspective on nature’s majesty and our place in it.

I’ll be honest. There was a point in the hike when I was praying, “Lord, if I don’t make it out of here, it’s been a nice life.” But about fifteen steps later, I saw the waterfall and realized that it had been worth every step. There’s just nothing like getting as close as you can to a waterfall, leaning back against a mossy rock, and feeling the spray in your face. This picture doesn’t begin to do it justice. I wish I could capture the symphony of hearing the waterfall crash into the creek below. For me, it was an almost religious experience. 

At this point, I think Cari could look at me and see that if I didn’t have a break, she was going to lose me on the trail back. We crawled down to a calmer section of stream and found some large, lumpy rocks to sit on. I peeled my socks and shoes off, dug my flip flops out of my bag, and waded in the F-R-I-G-I-D water for a few minutes. Now, Cari asked me not to divulge her secret for cooling down one’s water bottle after a long, hot, climb. But maybe I can slip in a picture…

While we sat on our rocks and rested our feet, Odessa decided to teach us some lessons about rocks. We told her that if she found some gold in that there stream, Miss Sarah could afford to move to the Pacific Northwest. (I’m writing from North Carolina. Does that tell you how that turned out?)

Happily, since the trip to Wahclella Falls was mostly uphill, the trip back to the car was mostly downhill. And though we were all worn out when we got back to the car, I think it was a good tired. Like we had done something special and worthwhile. I can definitely say that it’s a trip that I would suggest to other hikers and it’s definitely one I would make again.


  1. Cari - I always love reading your blogs and taking my mini-mental vacations to the treasures of the PNW. I, too, love reading Sarah's writing. Now I can have my cake and eat it too! (and by cake, I mean waterfalls, gorgeous photos, adventure, and peace in my soul)(although I'm not sure soul peace is as tasty as cake, but I digress)
    I absolutely Can.Not.Wait until the day I can hike with you two beautiful, inspiring women into the wilderness to share in that peace and healing only being in nature can bring to this weary dingbat.

  2. Awwww! One day SarahBee! One day, we will hike together! I look forward to it! :-)

    And you are NOT a dingbat! Weary, yes. Dingbat, NEVER!