Columbia River Gorge

After picking up all of our new gear at the Portland REI we headed out to the Columbia River Gorge and got there about 2 hours before sunset.  We set up a quick camp and then trekked down to the Eagle Creek Trailhead and hiked out while the sun set.

Eagle Creek Trail

We shot for about an hour in the low light as the sun set.  We shot a bunch of Nicole, and long exposures of the two upper and lower waterfalls.  We recently bought a 10 stop B+W neutral density filter and absolutely love it.

Long Exposure of Upper Punchbowl Falls

We shot until the sun set and trucked it back to the campsite.  The hike took over an hour to get back, and my headlamp died about 5 minutes in (I had plenty of extra batteries in my pack..which was of course at the campsite).  It was a little precarious heading back out along those high cliffs in the dark with only one headlamp between us, I kept my camping knife ready thinking every little sound was a giant mountain lion.  Along one of the cliffs I ran my hand along the metal safety line to keep hold in the dark, and immediately felt a shooting pain in my hand.  The wire had frayed at one point and little jagged pieces of steel stabbed into my hand.  Bleeding, check.   No Headlamp, check.  Mountain lions, check?  I added tetanus to my list of paranoia as we moved slowly single file down the trail.  We finally made it out safely back to our campsite.  Also, it's been weeks and I am assuming I don't have tetanus..

Nicole reading Black Hole Focus, by Isaiah Hankel at our campsite at the Eagle Creek Campground

The campground was a bit too people friendly for our liking, and the hum of the interstate drowned out any forest noises. It was nice, we just tend to like camping in the middle of nowhere.  We set out for a trip to Oneonta Gorge, photographing several other waterfalls along the way.

Nicole entering the first part of the water at the Oneonta Falls hike.

The gorge was beautiful.   The first part of the hike takes you through some lush vegetation, until you tech a giant stack of fallen trees.  You have to walk over them, and parts of it are a little precarious with wet shoes, but really fun.  Once you pass the tree dam area you continue through the gorge.  You have to get wet at this point, at least chest deep.  We held our cameras and packs over our head.  The water was freezing, but the sheer awesomeness of everything pushed you on.  A rock fall had nearly taken me out while taking a photo.  I framed a shot, decided something wasn't right about it, took one step forward to get closer, and as I did a huge rock crashed down from the hundred foot cliffs to the ground.  The group of people around us all turned quickly to see what the noise was, we all nervously laughed when we realized the rock came within a foot of my head.  A nice reminder that life's too short to not get out and enjoy awesome waterfalls in hypothermic water.

Nicole Fording the River.  REI featured this photo as part of their #rei1440project It was a nice little surprise to wake up to the next day.

The falls are massive, and below is an area where you can wade/swim in.  I went in for a few minutes swimming around, and brought my tripod to take some long exposures of the falls.  It was awesome, but the type of energy sucking cold that eventually leaves your limbs useless.  The kind of delay from your brain to your finger where there's a noticeable lag.  For some reason that always happens in the best places to take pictures.  I remember camping on the top of Mt. Washington once and I couldn't click the shutter anymore in the 5 degree weather.  Another time we stayed in a huge adjacent to Mt. Cook in New Zealand.  I took night shots until I couldn't change any of the setting on my camera anymore because my fingers decided they didn't want to listen to my commands anymore.  Here's a shot of it during sunrise.

This is a composite of different aspects of the hike.  This is what it felt like.  Often we take an artistic license in our photographs to evoke the mood/atmosphere of the place.  You can't quite see the waterfall from this view, but it sums up all of the cool experiences of the journey.

The falls and the journey are fantastic.  It's a fairly quick, fairly easy hike, with a huuuge payoff.  Great for any weekend warrior.  The water is cold, and you do have to climb over some semi-trecherous terrain, but a few hundred people made the journey during the few hours we were there, along with several dogs and children.   So get out there!