This holiday weekend has been all about hiking. My parents visited and we went hiking to Wahclella Falls and Elowah Falls, both rather stunning in dramatically different ways. I didn’t write, but hiking among all that beauty did knock loose some ideas. I’ve been stuck on the YA book for a while, and while I didn’t get unstuck on Saturday, I did get a flood of great ideas for the unfinished Nano 2011 book that I’ve let rest so far this year.
I was raring to write, naturally, and snuck some time in Sunday afternoon after my parents left, but I also didn’t want to miss the Monday holiday with Ben, so decided the rest of the ideas could wait and I’d go hiking again. While looking at places to hike to with my parents, we’d debated something called “Hole-in-the-wall Falls” supposedly an oddity created by the need to divert a stream for building the highway. A tunnel was bored through the rock of one of the points along the gorge to let it drain. We made a lot of jokes that it might turn out to be just a pipe coming out of the rock with water and the tackiest waterfall in the gorge, and didn’t get around to it in favor of the others.
I was still curious though, so Ben and I went on Monday. The trail is located at Starvation Creek, a site I was sure had to do with dying pioneers, but instead is named after a marooned train that hit a snow drift there in the 1910s where the passengers were stuck there for three week. Despite the name, no one actually starved, they were just quite hungry (food was skied in from Hood River eventually). To get to Hole-in-the-Wall Falls, you have to hike a trail that goes back west along 84 for about half a mile. Its noisy since you’re near the cars, but it finally does go back into the woods.
Hole-in-the-wall Falls is surprisingly beautiful. Perhaps its techincally man-made, but from the ground the only sign of that is the fact it comes out of the middle of the rock. Otherwise its graceful and natural looking. If you climb the rocks off the trail a bit, you can get a view of the tunnel, but overall quite worth it (although not as stunning as Wahclella and Elowah).
Even better, there were a couple of other small waterfalls along the trail. So despite being near 84 we felt the whole thing was a great success. After Hole-in-the-wall we keep going, and some other people on the trail suggest we go up just a short ways on the Mount Defiance trail for yet another small waterfall. Rather than go back down though and walk back along 84, we decided to try to make a loop by taking the Starvation Ridge trail.
This gave us some stunning views of Wind Mountain and Dog Mountain across the Columbia. In college I worked at a girl scout camp between the two of them so I’m familiar with them both. It’s a lovely section of river and slightly different than the one I’m used to at Mitchell Point or Moiser tunnels. We also saw what I think was a couple of ospreys… they certainly weren’t turkey vultures anyway. It makes me wish they’d get around to reintroducing the California Condor to the gorge, yet another wonderful bird that used to be native here.
While the views were great, I must say the trail was often steep and harrowing. There were a couple rather scary points. Most people seemed to be walking it the other direction, and on the descent we found out why, it’s easier to go steeply up than down. It seemed a toss up though which way was better or worse to me though, since the scariest point of the trail (along a sheer drop off) I was relieved to be going up on instead of down. Not one to bring young children on for sure.
Probably the biggest surprise though was Starvation Creek Falls itself right by the picnic area. It’s the best roadside picnic waterfall I’ve yet seen, even better than Wahkeena I think if you can get the table right under the waterfall. Even better, there’s a section of mile long section of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail going East to Viento State Park. Since that comes out round trip to about what my usually hike on the highway trail in Hood River is, I tried it out this morning, parking at Viento and walking to Starvation Creek.
Its a little shorter, and you have to start out near 84 again, with traffic a bit noise, but the fact that you end with a reward of a gorgeous waterfall, as well as a couple of great view of the river, I think I’m going to favor this one as my daily walk until the weather gets nasty. And, during my walks ideas for the middle grade novel are still boiling away.