Earlier this week, when we wanted to take a break from printing, we decided to try a hike we'd never done before - Latourell Falls. It's one of the closest hikes in the gorge to Portland, only about a half an hour away. The description in our hiking book looked nice and the weather was supposed to be sunny so we decided to go for it.
The hike started out with a pretty view of Latourell Falls at a viewing platform right by the parking lot, where the non-hikers took family photos, but it quickly climbed off to the side and up to the top of the falls. When we got to the top, we had a nice view of the sunny gorge through the trees -
We didn't realize we'd be leaving behind Latourell Falls so quickly! I hadn't really read the trail description that closely and assumed that we'd be ending at the falls instead of beginning there (I was partially right). Instead, the first half of the hike followed the stream that feeds the falls, through the shady forest.
It was easy going, although slightly uphill the whole time - we passed lots of little streams that fed into the bigger stream, heard birds chirping all around, and only passed two people the whole way back - about a mile. There were flowers everywhere, and tons and tons of unripe salmonberries - a fruit similar to raspberries but wild. They ripen in June, so we'll probably have to come back just for them!
...and the trail turned around by a waterfall after all! Upper Latourell Falls was huge because of the spring melts and we had it (almost) to ourselves. It was about 10° cooler near the waterfall because of all the spray. After pausing for a bit, we continued on the loop and crossed a footbridge to the other side of the creek. This side was sunny the whole way back!
After a little while, the trail curved away from the stream and we got to experience a different part of the forest (and we saw a golden eagle!) It was less dense, had more deciduous trees, and came close to some private houses. The end of the trail curved around past a nice picnic area and under the historic highway's old bridge. The trail ended right where we started, at (lower) Latourell Falls - but with a much better view, since we were at the bottom. We were so glad we decided to try the hike! It was pretty much the perfect day, weather-wise, but I bet it's just as nice in the autumn or winter. It's just really peaceful hike since it follows the stream nearly the whole time, with its nice water sounds. And it's only a half an hour away.
Here's the path we travelled, thanks to my GPS/exercise tracking app! I forgot to start it until we were halfway up the first hill to the lower falls, which is why the blue line doesn't connect near the highway.
On the way back, we stopped at a viewpoint off of I-84 that's a nice place to take pictures of the gorge - not bad, not bad. It's times like this that we remind ourselves that 30 minutes from our apartment in Brooklyn was...Brooklyn!