Picture of the Week: Ramona Falls

10 06 2013

I like this shot of Ramona Falls taken on a recent hike. It features sun breaks and highlights on the cascade as well as my girlfriend, Stephanie, introducing herself to the lower segment of the falls. Click on pic for larger view. For more information on the hike, read my column about it here.


Video: Wahclella Falls

8 05 2013

Wahclella Falls receives far fewer visitors than the average Columbia River Gorge waterfall, perhaps due to lack of stature and visibility, as well as length of hike. Although it is often overlooked by hikers feeling the need for more exercise, Wahclella rates as high as any hike in the area in terms of beauty, if not distance. For more information on the Wahclella Falls hike, including directions, click here.


Picture of the Week: Coopey Falls

11 02 2013

One of the lesser known and least visited waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, the top of Coopey Falls is visible from a viewpoint on the Angel’s Rest Trail. However, the best view of the falls is at the base, which happens to be on the grounds of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist Convent. Not to worry though. If you ask for permission the sisters are more than happy to let you visit the falls. Click on pic for larger view.


2013 Tillamook Area Visitor’s Guide: Three Capes Scenic Loop

30 01 2013

The following is a feature I wrote about the Three Capes Scenic Loop Drive for the 2013 Tillamook Area Visitor’s Guide. You can find out more about Tillamook County by picking up the free guide or visiting gotillamook.com.

I’m certainly no stranger to the Oregon Coast. Living in Portland, I’ve had many an occasion when a trip to the coast was just what the Doctor ordered. That being said, I had never taken the Three Capes Scenic Loop drive. I’ve enjoyed many of its highlights individually, but until recently never took the time to take it in as its own adventure; to appreciate its merits as an experience unto itself.

The loop is a 40-mile Scenic Byway that can take you anywhere from a handful of hours to a handful of lifetimes to explore. The drive is of course, scenic, and well worth an extended day long, or multi-day, trip just to drive it. But the real beauty of the loop is exposed when you park the car and explore some of the features along the way. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese natural and man-made wonders dot the loop and anyone you talk to along the way is more than happy to share their favorites.

The fact that it’s a loop means you can tailor your journey to start anywhere along the route and go in one of two directions; which is helpful. We decided to leave Tillamook heading south along the 101. It didn’t take long before we arrived at our first stop, Munson Creek Falls State Park. If ever there was a leg-stretch of less than a mile worth taking, this is it. From the trailhead, the short stroll to Munson Creek Falls is set amongst massive old-growth western red cedars and Sitka spruce that literally drip with moss and lichen. The falls are 319 feet of three-tiered, awe-inspiring, cascade goodness. They are the tallest in the Coast Range and perhaps the tallest in the state west of the Willamette River.

Completely amped from that little diversion, we got back in the car and preceded south through farmlands and the small towns of Beaver, Hebo, and Cloverdale. Along the way we were treated to sightings of blue heron, peregrine falcon, and even a juvenile bald eagle, before arriving at the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

If you consider wildlife viewing or sweeping ocean vistas enticing in the slightest, the Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge should occupy a spot on your dance card. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Refuge supports several subspecies of geese including the world’s population of Semidi Islands Aleutian Canada geese. Viewing platforms and a short trail also provide visitors with potential glimpses of a wide array of wildlife, as well as Haystack Rock, Cape Kiwanda, and the Bob Straub State Park, our next destination.

At the Bob Straub State Park a pair of wonderful family-friendly hiking trails show off the beauty of the Pacific Ocean as well as the Nestucca River. Legendarily large Chinook salmon and harbor seals are commonly seen near the mouth of the Nestucca spit.

Lunch was now on the agenda and Pacific City was a fine choice. We parked at Cape Kiwanda and first made our way down to the beach to take pictures of the Oregon Coast’s lesser known, albeit larger, Haystack Rock. We then ascended the sand dunes of Cape Kiwanda and watched as the tide assaulted the Cape in a combination of picture-worthy patterns. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe bounced down the sand dunes and entered the Pelican Pub & Brewery for lunch proper. The award-winning beer of the Pelican is a draw for many, but the “beer cuisine” that was born there is its own draw.

Now paralleling the Pacific Ocean as we drove north, we were treated to a series of beautiful views before stopping at the Clay Myers State Natural Area at Whalen Island. This was special. Prior to stopping there, I had never heard of the place. But with the embarrassment of natural riches the Oregon Coast harbors, it’s understandable that a place like this might fly under the radar from time to time. A remarkable trail carves a path through a lush coastal estuarine ecosystem comprised of mixed woodlands, grasslands, fresh and saltwater wetlands, and a rare native dune sedgeland. My only regret here was not scheduling in enough time to hike every inch of the trail system.

Completely amazed by the unique Natural Area, we traded smiles, made plans to return, and loaded back into the car to continue up the coast. The route, now beautifully narrowed by encroaching old-growth trees, climbed into the Cape Lookout State Park. Here, yet another set of trails travels more than 8 miles through the popular campground and day-use area. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAViews abound, including the one from Anderson’s Viewpoint which looked down upon Netarts Bay and our home for the evening, the Cape Lookout Bed & Breakfast.

Katie and Jim, owners of the Cape Lookout Bed & Breakfast, gave us a tour of the lovingly maintained property that they call their home. Jim, a Chef by trade, turned his full attention to the B&B when business became so robust that Katie could no longer keep up alone. We all benefited from that decision. The breakfast end of a B&B doesn’t get much better than what we had the next morning; a complete four course meal that concluded with a smoked local ham, garden-fresh wilted spinach, and grilled tomato Benedict with rosemary roasted potatoes.

Well rested and very well fed, we continued our journey up the coast to the town of Oceanside. The charming town boasts some wonderful dining options, but at that moment we were quite taken care of in that department. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInstead we were there to photograph the Three Arch Rocks and visit something that Jim had told us about just that morning, a tunnel. A short walk along the beach that leaves from the Oceanside Beach State Recreation Site leads to a tunnel that goes through Maxwell Point and leads to the aptly named Tunnel Beach. Constructed by the Rosenberg family in 1926, the tunnel is still passable when the tide is low enough. Our timing was perfect that day as we managed to make it to the tunnel, snap some pictures, and made our way back to the beach as the tide was beginning to lap at our heels.

We spent a short time in the car excitedly reviewing our pictures before heading to one of my personal favorite spots on the coast, Cape Meares. More trails, more life-affirming views, and even a lighthouse are all great reasons to stop here. But in addition to the lighthouse, Cape Meares has something else that won’t be found at any other stop along the loop, the Octopus Tree! IMAG0175The giant, multi-trunked Sitka spruce remains a bit of a mystery. Scientists aren’t completely sure why the tree formed in such a way, but wind, insects, and one particular Native American legend have all been offered up as probable causes.

With the last of the Capes under our belt, it was time to finish off the loop, but not before a quick stop at the Bayocean Peninsula County Park for our last chance to take in ocean views. Back on the road, the final stretch along Bayocean Road that leads into Tillamook is inspiring yet serene; a wonderful way to end our drive.

For me, the Three Capes Scenic Loop begs to be explored in every season, which I plan on doing. The main theme is the scenic drive, but it’s the stops along the way that made the experience. The food, the lodging, and the natural beauty we were able to take in by foot, the history, and the people we met along the way, all make the Three Capes Scenic Loop greater than the sum of its parts.

Picture of the Week: Latourell Falls

15 01 2013

Stephanie and I went out this morning to get GPS tracks of the Latourell Falls Loop hike for the Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon guidebook. This is Stephanie at the base of the falls, getting what will undoubtedly be a somewhat misty I-Phone shot. Here’s a full shot of the falls just in case you’re curious.


Picture of the Week: Abiqua Falls

7 01 2013

If you’ve followed this blog for a while or know me personally, then it’s probably no surprise that this particular cascade is Picture of the Week again. I made a trip to my favorite waterfall this week to get the GPS tracks for the forthcoming Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon guidebook I’m currently putting together. Here’s a shot from the trip. Click on pic for larger view.


Picture of the Week: The Top of Golden Falls

24 12 2012

On a recent waterfall trip to the Coos Bay area I stayed at the Below the Falls Lodge. The lodge is quite literally about 1.5 miles downstream from the Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. Both falls were great and the trail leading above Golden Falls was particularly unique. Low clouds and fog swept in and out of the canyon the entire time we were there, making for some interesting photos. This shot is from the top of Golden Falls, looking out into the clouds and sun as Glen Creek takes a plunge.


Picture of the Week: Upper McCord Creek Falls

3 12 2012

More GPS tracking for the “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” guidebook led me to Upper McCord Creek Falls this week. This beautiful double-waterfall is just above the massive Elowah Falls. You can learn more about that hike, including directions, here.


Picture of the Week: Ponytail Falls

26 11 2012

Ponytail is one of those wonderful Northwest cascades that you get to walk behind; which is wonderful. I always loved the little section of trail leading up to it, however.You turn a blind corner and you see it up in the distance. There’s suddenly a scenic creek, a lush grotto, an inviting waterfall; the whole scene is pretty damn magical. Click on pic for larger view.


“Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” Central Oregon Day: 1

19 11 2012

This year I inked a contract with Falcon Guides to write my first book. The guidebook, “Hiking Waterfalls in Oregon” will be a comprehensive list of what I consider to be the best waterfall hikes in the entire state of Oregon. And even though some of the state’s most scenic cascades require little or no hiking at all, I’m throwing those in as well just so folks don’t miss them.

Obviously this is a bit of an undertaking. There will be a lot of road hours, hiking, waterfall hunting, picture taking, camping, lodging, and eating involved. Bummer. Lucky for me the state of Oregon is chock-full of, and I mean chock-full of people that want to help me make this guidebook: Visitors Associations, hotels, resorts, restaurants, Chambers of Commerce, helpful locals, etc, etc. This book will be an amazing amount of work, but imagine; I’m getting paid to travel the state and hike to waterfalls. For me, this is the gig I’d always hoped to land when I left the information technology field a few years ago, and it is un-flipping believable.

It seemed like a good idea to do a blog post about some of the major “research” trips I take for the guidebook. So here we go….Central Oregon!

First and foremost, massive, heaping piles of thanks go to Kristine McConnell from the Central Oregon Visitors Association for putting this trip together. She put hours of work and research into coming up with an itinerary that would optimize my time out there. She also assembled a “Coalition of the Willing” that would generously provide lodging for the trip.

I would be joined on this expedition by my best friend, housemate, and fellow waterfall enthusiast, Kassidy. As a man without wheels I rely on friends to take me out on waterfall research excursions. While the promise of an appearance in the Acknowledgements section of a guidebook might seem like a carrot to some, the opportunity for a nearly free waterfall hunting vacation appears to be what does it for my friends. These arrangements are win/win in the truest sense.

On day 1 Kass and I loaded up and left Portland for Central Oregon. It was a magnificent fall day for a drive. A drive that got all the better when we made it to the McKenzie Scenic Byway. I have to chuckle to myself in retrospect because calling this drive “scenic” is like calling Marilyn Monroe “cute”. Our first official stop was along the McKenzie River. We took a 4 mile loop hike that gave us every conceivable view of Sahalie and Koosah Falls. Thundering waterfalls, clean rushing waters, and lush forest all played an equal role in the appeal of this hike. I had never done this hike before, and it was a heck of a way to kick off the trip.

We continued on to Proxy Falls. Upper and Lower Proxy Falls were perhaps, more than any other waterfalls we were scheduled to see, the ones I was looking forward to the most. Before this trip I had never seen them with my own eyes, but lower Proxy is one of the most renowned falls in all of Oregon. It draws photographers in droves and is one of those “Must be seen in person” waterfalls. Those are my favorite. They lived up to and even exceeded my expectations, in part because Lower Proxy is just so large. Look at this picture. If you gaze hard enough you can spot Kass in the lower left-hand corner. This is just a small segment of the left branch of the lower falls! What also made these falls well worth the trip was the hike to them. It’s a short 2 miles, but along the way you get 2 waterfalls in a dense forest setting as well as a delightful open and arid lava field. This I would come to find out is one of the most incredible things about the region. Remarkable geographic diversity, often within a single hike!

We were done with waterfalls for the day but that didn’t mean we were done checking out the things that needed to be checked out. Along the Scenic Byway on the drive into the town of Sisters, is the Dee Wright Observatory. Constructed out of lava rock, the observatory sits like a witch’s castle at the summit of the McKenzie Pass. Within the structure there are “lava tubes” or little viewing windows showing all of the named peaks in the area. If you’re in the area and you fail to stop at it you will bring shame upon your family.

After a leg stretch at the observatory we got back into the car and made the final push to our home for the night; the Five Pine Lodge in the town of Sisters. The green built Five Pine Lodge is an amazing place. It is essentially a campus with a gift shop, a spa, the Three Creeks Brewing Company, the Sisters Athletic Club, and the Sisters Movie House all on the property; and of course, the cabins. We stayed in one of the Classic Cabins, and by no stretch of the imagination were we roughing it. Our rustic little guy was equipped with two beds, including a king deluxe, pillow top Simmons FivePine mattress, a 42” plasma flat screen television, a fireplace, an Italian tiled shower and a Kohler Purist waterfall soaking tub. How’s that for a classic cabin?

It was a very memorable and productive day, and this was just the start. We settled in for the evening and were both asleep relatively early. Unfortunately as we rested, illness would settle in on the both of us.